South African payments provider Wallettec has partnered with BitPay to integrate bitcoin with its point-of-sale (POS) payment platform.
The new partnership is an important step forward in bringing bitcoin to brick-and-mortar retailers in South Africa.
Wallettec's founder Johan Meyer told CoinDesk that "this is the first time anybody has integrated bitcoin point-of-sale and allowed merchants to accept bitcoin payments from almost any payment device" in the country.
While bitcoin services have been appearing at a growing rate, what South Africa has been missing is a POS platform for brick-and-mortar stores to accept bitcoin at a scalable level.
Wallettec’s new partnership with BitPay changes that and aims to make POS payments with bitcoin a breeze for both merchants and their customers.
Mobile payments are the focus of Wallettec’s platform, which proves to be a good fit with both bitcoin’s technology and the people of South Africa, many of whom rely on mobile phones as their primary Internet device.
Meyer said his company’s mission is to “become a single interface point between the POS and any mobile or e-wallet solution”, adding:
"I believe bitcoin has the ability to be the first real successful alternative to traditional banking in South Africa."
The benefits of embracing bitcoin for both merchants and customers that use Wallettec are par for the course: lower transaction fees and no chargebacks to worry about for merchants, and customers can conveniently pay with bitcoin from their mobile phones – without needing a bank account.
Shopping and beyond
The company's website stresses that its POS payment platform does not interfere with merchants' existing payment processes in any way. The integration process, the company says, is "seamless and painless", with no learning curve necessary for merchants who use the platform.
On the customer end, bitcoin has the potential to improve life for South Africans – and not just when buying goods and services in-store.
Meyer told CoinDesk:
"Eighty per cent of South Africa’s population is either unbanked or under-banked. I believe that, the moment bitcoin becomes more affordable, it will be a key player if not the dominator in the way families will send money to other family members or friends. For this reason we knew that bitcoin has to form part of our platform."
In this perspective, the option to send and receive bitcoin on a mobile payments platform in South Africa has implications beyond retail shopping.
Although still a young company, Meyer said Wallettec's growing client base seems excited about the new option to accept bitcoin on their payment systems:
"Bitcoin is still a new concept in South Africa and Africa, but it has shown tremendous growth potential and almost all the franchises we are negotiating with are very keen on adding bitcoin as payment option."
South Africa is no stranger to bitcoin. In July, payment gateway PayFast began accepting bitcoin, which opened the doors for some 30,000 online merchants on its platform to accept the digital currency.
One of those merchants, Takealot, began to accept bitcoin shortly after the announcement of PayFast’s partnership with BitX. The firm is one of the country’s largest e-commerce companies, having raised $100m in venture capital this past May.
Bitcoin has also been a part of South Africa’s fight against poaching – which has become increasingly important in recent years, with the number of deaths from poaching reaching all-time highs for endangered rhino species.
In June, the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) partnered with Australian bitcoin startup BitPOS to add bitcoin donations to its current anti-poaching campaign. At the time IAPF said bitcoin donations comprised 10% of the total funds raised.
See a video about mobile take-up in South Africa below:
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.