SOUTH AFRICA

AFRICA

South Africa’s scheme, Real-Time Clearing (RTC), is an interbank IP system founded by Absa and Capitec in 2006, with Bankserv Africa as its service operator. It enables users to make credit transfers instantly and in real time, with payments credited to the beneficiary’s account within 60 seconds.

RTC supports P2P, C2B, B2C and B2B payments, and is offered to both retail and corporate customers. Payments can be made online, via mobile and at bank branches. The system is offered by a majority of clearing banks and operates 24/7/365. There is a transaction limit of up to ZAR5m ($347,577) per transaction during regular banking hours, but this drops to ZAR250,000 ($17,379) during non-banking hours, including weekends and public holidays.

Despite its 15-year presence in South Africa, the RTC network has recently experienced a surge in transaction volumes, up nearly 74% YOY and growth is expected to continue over the next five years.

Timeline

MARKET DEVELOPMENT

ACCEPTANCE
  • Consumers
  • Banks
  • Merchants
  • Billers

MAJORITY

of clearing banks

Population banking level

1.55

Number of debit, credit and charge cards per adult

62

Index to global average

U

Underbanked

Key statistics

2006

IP launch year

Immediate payments types

Single instance, bulk payments

Initiation & authorization

Bank account, mobile number

ISO 8583

Message standard

Transactions

53m

2019

295m

2024f

41%

F5 Yr CAGR

28%

% of adults who have a mobile wallet and have used it in the past year

Share of volumes by payments instrument

Transactions

2019
2024

Spend (USD)

2019
2024
  • Paper-based payments
  • Electronic payments
  • Immediate payments

Immediate payments volume and its share in overall non-paper-based transactions, 2014-24f

% of total electronic payments transaction volume

Insight

Several factors have hindered RTC from reaching its full potential, including high fees charged by banks on RTC transactions and limited customer awareness of the scheme and its benefits.

Despite being available for nearly 15 years in South Africa, IP has only really started to take off in the past year or so, with more aggressive growth forecast to come in the next five years. Contributing to this growth is increased adoption of mobile wallets, which saw a 3.3x rise in adult users between 2014 and 2019 and is one of the main digital payment options enabling financial inclusion to the underbanked population in South Africa.

The strong forecast of continued growth is also backed up by historically high usage of paper-based payments and low ownership of payment cards; the combination of which results in a market that is primed for the convenient digital alternative that IP offers. However, with high fees inhibiting usage thus far, rates must be reduced or eliminated — at least for consumers — to capitalize on the ample opportunity to expand adoption.

In addition, RTC and any other new IP entrants in the market would benefit strongly from increased consumer awareness and education. As more consumers adopt the method, growth within the payments ecosystem — particularly through the addition of billers and expansion of merchants — could make IP one the most used payment instruments in South Africa.

ACI’s take

To combat the low RTC adoption rates associated with high transaction fees, South Africa is developing a new RTC/IP system called the Rapid Payments Programme (RPP). This will shift the system from ISO 8583 to ISO 20022.

The biggest challenge South Africa faces is inequality across the social spectrum. Only once a certain level of personal income is reached do banking and payment mechanisms become an option. Many citizens only use bank accounts as a staging zone for their money, typically withdrawing all the funds in a single transaction once received. The adoption of basic savings products and a move away from a predominantly cash-based society is essential if IPs are to become the dominant payment method of choice.

Banks have a huge challenge to grapple with as access to cash will remain a necessity for underbanked South Africans for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, there are other countries around the world (like India) who have successfully driven financial inclusion by utilizing IP capabilities — and these can act as an example.

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