Mobile money

By Drum Digital
08 October 2010

FIVE YEARS ago a friend introduced Bongani Tshabalala (31) to mobile banking. The businessman from Midrand jumped at the opportunity immediately and has never looked back.

He became a client of Wizzit, a cellphone-based banking facility which allows users to pay their bills and send money to family and friends even if they don’t have a bank account.

For Bongani, the convenience of mobile banking – or m-banking as it’s known – has made his life much easier. The telecommunications and advertising entrepreneur used to spend a lot of his time doing banking. “Now it’s so much easier because I just do it all on my cellphone,” he explains.

The aim behind mobile banking is to make banking more user-friendly to people who can’t afford to open a mainstream bank account, are intimidated by the process – which can be complicated – or live in a rural area.

It’s estimated that only 11 million South Africans have bank accounts – but 35 million have cellphones.

M-banking allows people with cellphones, with even the most basic pay-as-you-go contracts, to make personal and account payments, transfer money, buy pre-paid electricity vouchers and airtime. Mobile banking is also a much safer and more reliable option when it comes to sending money to relatives in rural areas.

Wizzit, the first m-banking facility of its kind in the world, started operating five years ago and has revolutionised banking in South Africa.

CEO and co-founder Brian Richardson says the idea came about at a business conference a few years ago. “I was chatting to businessman and former politician Cyril Ramaphosa, who’d had a very frustrating day trying to open a bank account for his son.

“Another colleague mentioned that people in the rural areas and townships also battled to open bank accounts, especially if they didn’t have ID documents. My colleagues and I started thinking about why we have this problem.”

After doing research Brian discovered one in six South Africans didn’t have a bank account. “Right now there’s about R12 billion stuck under peoples’ mattresses across South Africa,” he says.

Read the full article in DRUM of 14 October 2010.

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