Plan to get rid of cash in South Africa

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has said that the lack of affordable mobile Internet access is a major limiting factor to creating a cashless society.

This was reported in the SARB’s Digital Payments Roadmap, which sets out a plan to create a more sustainable and accessible digital payments society in South Africa.

The report cites research by FinScope showing that only 66% of the country has access to the Internet at home.

If only two-thirds of the country can access the Internet, this is a major limiting factor to fully implementing digital payments in the future.

Further evidence of this is cited from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), which shows that only 17% of South Africans living in big metros had access to the Internet at home in 2023.

The amount drops to 1% for those living in rural areas.

Stats SA’s general household survey for 2023 showed that 78.6% of South Africans have access to the Internet anywhere in the country.

Mobile access is a significant contributor to this number, with 72.6% of the country having access compared to only 14.5% having a fixed Internet connection at home.

Icasa points to cost, lack of skills, and lack of relevant content as reasons why South Africans covered by a 2G,3G, or 4G signal still don’t have access.

The Reserve Bank highlights the high costs relative to other parts of the world as disincentivising the frequent use of digital payments, which is more pronounced in lower-income communities.

At R85 per gigabyte, mobile data prices in 2022 were three times as high as in North Africa and double the price in Western Europe, according to the report.

“In some instances, free banking apps are not necessarily free as updates to the latest security features or functionalities require regular updates, and data/Wi-Fi availability is not always affordable,” the Reserve Bank says.

Stats SA’s household survey shows that the national average household access was 14.5% for 2023, increasing from 13% in 2022.

This number has seen very little change over the past 14 years, with year-to-year declines in seven of the 13 years.

Home access was 10.6% in 2010, eventually climbing to 11.1% in 2011. A period of stagnation followed, and it dropped to 8.3% in 2020. Since then, it has consistently improved.

These figures include all means of accessing the Internet.

Percentage distribution of households with access to the Internet at home or through all means. Source: Stats SA General Household Survey 2023

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Plan to get rid of cash in South Africa