SA startup partners Mastercard to bring cashless payments to informal economy

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South African mobile payments startup iKhokha has partnered Mastercard in an initiative that aims to significantly boost payment card acceptance at micro, small and medium enterprises in informal settlements.

The partnership also aims to educate consumers and business owners on the benefits of using electronic payments instead of cash.

Durban-based iKhokha supplies SMEs nationwide with its low-cost device, which helps merchants accept card payments by linking to a secure application on a connected smartphone or tablet. Disrupt Africa reported in June the startup had widened its offering to include merchant cash advance.

Over the next six months, iKhokha aims to roll out 700 mobile point of sale terminals to cash-based micro-enterprises, including spaza shops, taverns and food outlets, in KwaMashu, north of Durban, and Ladybrand in the eastern Free State. This pilot project will act as a blueprint for the direct expansion into other informal settlements nationally.

iKhokha managing director Matt Putman said card acceptance helps small business owners formalise their businesses, increase sales and minimise their risks.

“We are focusing on businesses at the main trade and transit points where volumes of people are high and cash-related crime is a serious problem. We explain to entrepreneurs that they can grow their sales with iKhokha and then gain access to unsecured capital for growth needs. If customers would prefer to pay with a card, then it’s time to move beyond cash only acceptance,” he said.

“While the number of South Africans with access to formal financial products has increased significantly over the last five years, the true potential of electronic payments is going to remain dormant unless payment cards are accepted at the stores and outlets where the newly-banked would normally shop,” said Mark Elliott, division president for Mastercard South Africa.

“Our association with iKhokha not only extends financial inclusion to merchants and consumers, but educates them on the benefits of using payment cards instead of unsafe and costly cash.”

iKhokha presently has more than 3,000 merchants using its devices, and recently won the MTN Enterprise App of the year award. The company has been funded by Capital Eye Investments, a Gauteng-based private equity investor with a key focus on payment technology, since its inception.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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