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South Africa Seeks Innovative Solutions to Payments Systems

How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.

Harald Merckel




News has been circulating that high-level players in South Africa are working hard to introduce structural changes in payments solutions. Some of the biggest players in the industry, including the Payments Association of South Africa, and BankservAfrica have begun work in earnest on facilitating expedited transactions settlements, by adding new payments systems and features into the market.

Financial technology, a.k.a. FinTech is powering the payments gateway to cost-effective solutions for South African businesses, consumers, domestic and international stakeholders. According to industry pundits, the payment system that currently exists in South Africa was formulated in the 1980s. At the time, it was highly regarded by world standards. However, the rampant innovation that has taken place with the Internet of things since then necessitates updating.

Various solutions have been touted, to rethink the infrastructure framework that currently exists in South Africa. The economy is rapidly changing, and mobile technology is being embraced across the board. The South African payments system is long overdue for an upgrade, as shifting priorities and the widespread digitisation of the economy take place. For starters, payments solutions across South Africa must factor in the large underbanked and unbanked sectors of society.

Related: 6 Lessons The Founders Of iKhokha Used To Launch An African Fintech Start-up

A key industry player, Bankserv which is owned and operated by Standard Bank, ABSA, and Nedbank among others is ringing the changes. Back in 2017, this financial entity processed R188.2 billion worth of ATM transactions. The total number of transactions numbered 452.6 million additionally. It processed 52.5 billion POS transactions valued at R290.9 billion in credit card authorizations in the same year. Electronic funds transfers (EFTs) to the value of R9.4 trillion were also processed by Bankserv. These are significant figures, and they point to a shift in financial transactions processing in South Africa.

Groundbreaking POS Systems to Debut in SA

The widespread innovation currently taking place in POS systems is reshaping retail industry, the food and beverage service, and other merchant networks across the board. One of the industry leaders in this regard is revel systems POS. It is fully integrated with a robust selection of features, the likes of which include superior reporting features, full kiosk functionality, and a modern kitchen display system for the thriving restaurant industry in South Africa. The technology was created back in 2010 by Chris Ciabarra and Lisa Falzone as an innovative Apple iPad point-of-sale system. It was tested in the San Francisco Bay Area and became an instant hit.

Today, the Revel POS system sports 25,000+ terminals around the world, at high profile company such as Cinnabon, Goodwill, Smoothie King and others. South African restaurants and food industry businesses can enjoy monthly subscription fees, and the software license is included in the monthly subscription fee. Flexible pricing is another advantage of using this POS system. Plus, users get to enjoy industry-specific software and integrations that can be used by quick service businesses and restaurants.

It’s ideally suited to businesses that have 500,000 SKUs, although it’s equally adept at serving smaller SA businesses. In terms of ease-of-use, this POS is intuitive for front-end use, and training videos facilitate backend learning and integration. The backend management is particularly effective in terms of training regimens, navigation, and utilisation. All that’s required to get started is an Apple iOS device, and any standard barcode scanner is fully compatible with the system.

Related: How Fintech Zoona Is Solving Customers’ Real Problems

Among the many features include the following:

  • Fully Functional point-of-sale systems
  • Real-Time Inventory control of SKUs, including cost considerations, pricing, inventory, size, colour, style etc. Digital menu boards, kitchen display systems, and kiosk point-of-sale systems are also available
  • Purchase Order Management and QuickBooks integration
  • Customer Management in terms of purchases, details and personal data is also available.

What Are the Current FinTech Challenges in South Africa?

Contrary to widespread belief, South Africa has one of the most sophisticated payments infrastructures. This is certainly a feather in the cap for South Africa’s financial and FinTech sector. Given that Internet usage is widespread, and the telecom network that facilitates Internet functionality is highly developed, South Africa ranks on par with the best of them.

There are effectively 2 parallel economies operating in South Africa – the first world developed FinTech economy, and the informal economy which dominates the outlying areas. South Africa has a challenge on its hands: How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.

Harald Merckel is a freelance writer whose primary focuses are business, e-gaming and marketing. Although he loves tech gadgetry as much as the next guy, Merkel prefers to write with pen on paper. Merkel has a B.A. in Business and Communication from HWR-Berlin, where he was active in the Studentenwerk Berlin organisation. He has been a proud Berlin resident since the late 1990s.


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Reimagine The Use Of Technology

The phenomenon of ‘big data’ is rapidly catching up with the world of tax.






As tax professionals we live in a new reality, fueled by the blinding pace of change. The digital revolution is here. Reimagine the future of the tax function through the lens of analytics.

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Enter The 2018 Entrepreneur Of The Year® Competition To Win Prizes Over R2 Million

The Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS aims to honour, benefit and uplift South African SMEs. Now in its 30th year, the competition celebrates excellence in entrepreneurship, serving as an inspiration to others to succeed in the world of business.




Amid the current political optimism, entrepreneurs should be especially inspired by the continued commitment to SME support which emerged as a consistent theme in both the 2018 State of the Nation Address and the National Budget Speech.

This is according to Christo Botes, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, who believes that this continued focus evidences Government’s recognition of the vital role played by entrepreneurs in enabling economic growth.

Continued celebration of excellence in entrepreneurship

Speaking in light of the launch of the 2018 competition in Johannesburg today, Botes says that this long-deserved recognition of the SME sector only further validates the competition’s unwavering commitment to celebrating excellence in entrepreneurship and fostering future economic growth.

“Now in our 30th year, this renowned competition continues to pay homage to the fearless South African entrepreneurs who dedicate themselves to their enterprises and businesses: driving growth, combatting unemployment and contributing towards the country’s economic development.”

“It is therefore wonderful to see the public sector taking the required steps to improving the environment in which these entrepreneurs operate in order to promote further growth in the sector.”

Related: Meet The 2017 Entrepreneur Of The Year® Winners

Botes, who is also executive director at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) has been involved in the competition since its inception in 1988, “Looking back over the last 30 years, this competition has evolved from an internal competition that recognized BUSINESS/PARTNERS’ clients only, to a nation-wide search for outstanding South African-based entrepreneurs, with Sanlam as our valued partner.”

Rewards for successful local business owners

He says that the competition continues to reward successful local business owners for the valuable contributions they make to grow their local communities and economies, and aims to inspire others to do the same. “As our 30th- anniversary year, we’re hoping to see even more entrepreneurs enter.

The competition is open to all South African-based businesses and prizes are awarded for the following categories: Overall Entrepreneur of the Year®, Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the Year®, Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year®, Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®, Job Creator of the Year and Innovator of the Year,” says Botes.

Botes adds that this year, the 2018 competition will also recognize a South African entrepreneur for a Lifetime Achievement award.

Related: 4 Success Lessons From The Entrepreneur Who Quietly Grew Pinterest Into A $12 Billion Company

“The purpose of this specially nominated award is to recognize an entrepreneur who has made a significant contribution to the South Africa economy and has grown their business from start-up to large-scale, perhaps even multi-national corporation. We want to reward the individuals who have dedicated their lives to building our economy and inspiring others to do the same.”

What the winners can expect

The 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, offers prizes valued at over R 2 million, which includes cash prizes of R 70 000 for each main category winner, and R200 000 for the overall winner.

Competition winners will also receive valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and national media exposure.

Botes says that in celebrating 30 years of searching for entrepreneurial talent in all sectors of the economy, the competition remains fiercely committed to its cause in 2018.

What the judges are looking for?

“The judges are looking for entrepreneurs that have succeeded against the odds, either by carving out a niche market for their product or service offering, or by succeeding in a very competitive environment. Perseverance and endurance, innovation and agility are some of the qualities we look for in the entrepreneur.”

Botes adds that there are also a number of quantitative competition measures, such as turnover growth, profitability, owners’ equity growth, positive cash flows and job creation that play a part in the competition’s judging process.

Entrepreneurs are encouraged to enter the competition and can do so by downloading the entry form online at They can also interact with fellow entrepreneurs, past winners and entrants on the competition’s social media platforms and The closing date for the competition is 31 May 2018.

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Company Posts

This Podcast Interview Will Inspire Every Business Women On International Woman’s Day

Fumani Mthembi and Teresa Oakley-Smith, both MDs and founders of their own successful businesses, share their personal stories of fighting gender and racial stereotypes in pursuit of a dream. Mthembi and Oakley-Smith, spoke at an Investec Women in Leadership event, entitled, “The Courage to Change.” We bring you this inspirational podcast.

Investec Specialist Bank and Asset Management




International Women’s Day highlights the imperative role women play in business, the economy and households. Whilst women have come a long way in terms of recognising their worth, we’ve got a long way to go – and that starts in the boardroom. According to an EY study, there is overwhelming evidence that links gender parity to innovation and improved financial performance.

Businesses with women in top management roles experienced an increase in “innovation intensity” and were worth, on average, about US$40m more than companies with only male leaders. Yet on average, in SA, women earn about 73% of what men earn. (Ipsos 2017 survey)

In a frank and honest chat with Investec, two inspirational female leaders, Fumani Mthembi and Teresa Oakley-Smith, share their extraordinary business journey from having “a big dream” to surviving through the mean and lean times.

Fumani Mthembi, is a founding member of the Pele Energy Group – South Africa’s largest 100% black-owned independent power production and development firm – and MD of its research and development subsidiary, Knowledge Pele (KP), and Teresa Oakley-Smith, is the founder of Diversi-T, a change management consultancy with a focus on transformation and diversity training.

Listen to the podcast below for the full interview.

Here are some of the stand-out highlights from the interview:

1. Overcoming challenges female entrepreneurs face

Both Fumani and Teresa believe that, based on their respective experiences, men don’t take women seriously.

iwd_teresa_fumani_article-image-option-2“It’s very common in my industry to attend a meeting and have all the men address each other and not you,” says Fumani.“So I’ll be sitting there and they’ll all have their backs turned and they’ll be having a conversation amongst themselves.”

“I’ve had to work twice or three times as hard as male competitors to gain a contract; I’ve had to bend over backwards to actually make sure that my delivery is ten times better,” says Teresa.

2. Breaking down stereotypes

“In households of dual income, often the woman is bringing in more than the man, yet when we have to approach institutions of power, we feel somehow belittled, or we somehow lack our courage in an appreciation of the power we actually hold,” says Teresa.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

“One of my clients is a very large retail company and they only have one woman out of a board of 40, and I was challenging them by saying: Who does the shopping? Women hold the purse strings, women go to the supermarkets, so why are they not represented? Why are their voices not heard?”

3. Encouraging diversity in the workplace

Teresa work centres around helping employers create work environments that encourage intersectionality, and recognise women’s unique needs.

“Does your company provide proper facilities for breastfeeding women and supply feminine hygiene products in case a female staff member is in need?” asks Teresa.


4. Educating about the need for empowerment

Fumani’s aim when starting her company was to transform society through knowledge and power and make a difference through a legacy that creates a new kind of context in which people like herself – a young, black female entrepreneur – could operate. “We wanted to spread the justice dividend and to use our privilege responsibly,” she says.

In her experience, banks struggle to recognise the need for women to seek finance for start-ups, because “they don’t need to take on that kind of risk. And that’s the thing about this dual economy, and as women we represent that second economy,” she says

“We’re a new risk; the things we want to do in this economy are new. Everything we do and present is new and we can be disruptive. So while we can ask for change, we can also be the change, and we can create these institutions that really understand us.”

 5. Seizing the power within you

Both women agree that recognising the challenge of being a woman in South Africa, should lead to women standing together and reclaiming their power. “We can only own our power if we join together as women of all races, ages and abilities and understand each other,” says Teresa.

Related: A Great Time To Be A Woman In Business

Out of Fumani’s 25-strong staff complement, only five employees are men. She puts that down to the talent and intellect shown by her women employees. But this female-male mix is far from the norm. Why? “What I’ve often seen is that women are very risk averse they’re incredibly bright.

We just don’t want to take a bet on ourselves,” says Fumani. “All these institutions are growing on the back women’s efforts. There’s a reason why 54% of graduate are women – we can do it, it’s just a matter of taking that chance on yourself.”

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