South Africa's Standard Bank has partnered retailer Spar on a mobile phone-based person-to-person money transfer system.
The Instant Money service lets users send and receive funds at Spar stores using their mobile phone to transfer information. The service will initially be available at shops in Eastern Cape ahead of a planned national roll out, covering 850 Spar Stores.
With 35 million South Africans owning mobile phones but just 11 million holding bank accounts, the partners say their service offers a safe and cheap way for people working in urban areas to send money back to family in rural parts of the country.
Sim Tshabalala, chief executive, Standard Bank, says: "It's a way for people who don't have a bank account to gain access to financial services. At present, financial services are not always available in rural areas, mainly because of the expense of rolling out banks and services in less affluent places. This has meant that most people in rural areas operate on a cash basis."
With mobiles becoming ubiquitous, wireless operator Vodafone recently outlined plans to launch M-Pesa, the hugely successful Kenyan money transfer service, in South Africa while microfinance group CGAP has teamed with Wizzit Bank to pilot m-banking services in the country's small towns and rural communities.
Standard Bank has also launched its own SMS-based virtual currency Mimoney and a mobile wallet in which dematerialised cash can be stored and used as a vehicle for making payments.