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Standard Bank leads mass rollout of contactless cards across Africa

Source: Standard Bank

Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest financial services organisation by assets, is championing efforts to increase contactless payment across Africa as consumers look for safer ways to pay in the wake of Covid-19.

“The pandemic has created heightened concern among consumers on cash usage with many increasingly recognising contactless as a safer, cleaner, and faster way to pay, especially as they seek out ways to quickly get in and out of stores without touching terminals or handing over their card,” says Israel Skosana, Head of Card Issuing, Pan Africa at Standard Bank.

Standard Bank is currently enabling the contactless payment capability for customers across 15 markets on the continent including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, eSwatini, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“The introduction of this payment method will improve customer convenience, with shorter transaction times and eliminates the need to withdraw or handle cash. Security is also enhanced as a customer keeps their card with them rather than handing it to someone else,” explains Mr Skosana.

Cash still accounts for most payments in many of the African countries. Yet, as well as being inefficient to process and expensive to sustain, cash is inherently insecure, and its use fuels the shadow economy. The displacement of cash is therefore a strategic objective for many governments, banks, payment providers and, increasingly, merchants. Contactless represents a viable cash displacement tool.

In many countries around the world, the use of contactless payments has quickly become deeply embedded into everyday payment habits. The perceptions around convenience and safety have spurred the preference for contactless cards.

“As market needs and trends evolve, Standard Bank continues to innovate and bring forward products and services that are aligned to these trends and customer needs,” says Mr. Skosana. “It is critical for us to ensure that our customers can access the most convenient payment options to suit their lifestyle as they continue to navigate the current challenges brought about by Covid-19.”

Covid-19 accelerates contactless adoption across Africa
He adds: “Covid-19 has accelerated the issuance of contactless enabled cards and the upgrading of merchant terminals to accept contactless payments. This comes in response to increasing demand from both consumers and merchants alike. Businesses are more reluctant to accept cash, consumers don’t wish to touch payment terminals, and everyone is more conscious of reducing their human contact.”

Prior to the pandemic, contactless payments were already emerging and growing within African regions, however Covid-19 has encourages consumers to further embrace the technology.

“As many countries in Africa imposed necessary restrictions on social distancing, the act of running to the store to buy everyday supplies changed dramatically. This shift in consumer behaviour is particularly clear at till checkout points, with customers and merchants expressing a desire cleanliness and safety at the point of sale.”

The benefits of contactless technology extend well beyond health and safety. The use of contactless opens the door to payments in many other forms such as smartphones and wearables. The same underlying technology is used to process transactions, and the potential for mobile and wearable-enabled payments is significant.

“As Standard Bank, we are supporting the shift away from cash in our African markets to limit crime rates, improve convenience and safety for customers and bring more people into the formal financial system to stimulate the continent’s growth and development,” concludes Mr. Skosana.

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