South Africa's banked population reaches 75%

South Africa's banked population has grown eight percent since 2012, with 75 percent (27.4 million) of the population, aged 16 and older, now banked, a new survey has revealed.

In its National Development Plan, the South African Government challenged the financial sector to achieve financial inclusion of 70 percent in the country by 2013, with a target of 90 percent set for 2030.

"The strides taken to reach the under and unbanked population to increase financial inclusion by both government and the financial services sector have had a substantial impact in 2013, reaching eight percent more South Africans than in 2012, and exceeding the 2013 target of 70 percent set by government. This places South Africa in a strong position to meet its 2030 target. However, access should be accompanied by financial education," says Dr Prega Ramsamy, CEO of FinMark Trust, the firm behind the survey, FinScope South Africa 2013.

According to Ramsamy, the increase has been driven by two key factors: the roll out of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) MasterCard Debit, which contributed 1.9 million people to the banked population in 2013, and organic banking growth.

"The success of the SASSA Debit MasterCard card roll out is having a significant impact on the South African payments system, on socio-economic development and most importantly on the cardholders who can now manage their finances in a much more dignified, convenient and safe way," says Philip Panaino, Division President, MasterCard, South Africa.

The survey also revealed that 65 percent of banked adults surveyed said that they prefer using bank cards instead of cash to make their purchases.

"It is clear that electronic payments are being embraced by millions of South Africans who are now realising the benefits of a cashless society," says Panaino. "It is our goal to continue to grow financial inclusion both in South Africa and abroad by introducing innovative payment solutions that will help make transacting quicker, safer and more convenient for everyone, everywhere and whenever needed."

Since March 2012, 10 million SASSA Debit MasterCard cards have been issued to grant recipients, following the introduction of a new grant disbursement system introduced by SASSA to minimise fraudulent grant applications and collections and reduce grant administration costs by distributing all grant payments electronically.

The SASSA Debit MasterCard card can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted, and grant recipients can make purchases, check their account balances and withdraw cash at till points without incurring transaction charges at selected South African retailers. Recipients can also withdraw cash at any ATM, which does however attract transaction charges.

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