THE BOTTOM LINE
MTN, Vodacom wake up as Sassa talks of ‘mobile money’
Agency is looking for new ways to distribute grants when its contract with Cash Paymaster Services ends
“Mobile money” could make a resurgence if talks by network operators with the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) progress well.
If the technology gets the go-ahead, the use of mobile money to distribute grants would probably be a win-win for operators and beneficiaries. It could reduce fraud, cut costs, save recipients from having to travel long distances to collect cash, and, importantly, it could help to formalise the informal economy.Mobile money largely disappeared from the South African market in 2016, when Vodacom and MTN pulled the plug on their respective offerings. But a Sassa spokesperson said the technology “is under consideration for future use, and consultations are under way”.
Vodacom has confirmed that it is in talks with the agency, which is looking for new ways to distribute grants when its contract with Cash Paymaster Services comes to an end.Mobile money could be used to facilitate trade in the informal economy – much the same as the M-Pesa platform in Kenya. The technology can also operate on the most basic of handsets, which makes it highly accessible and efficient.
Johan Meyer, CEO of Cape Town-based Wallettec, which says it pitched the idea to Bathabile Dlamini when she was minister of social development, said that Sassa could build a network of approved shop owners and merchants.
That would give Sassa the ability to control what the state’s grants are spent on, Meyer says. For instance, it could bar purchases of alcohol using grant money.
If Sassa can agree on sound terms with mobile operators, using this technology would seem to be a no-brainer.