South Africa's PayFast Enables Bitcoin for 30,000 Merchants

PayFast, which processes payments for over 30,000 merchants, is teaming up with international exchange BitX to accept bitcoin.

AccessTimeIconJul 18, 2014 at 5:11 a.m. UTC
Updated Dec 12, 2022 at 12:56 p.m. UTC

There is more good news from South Africa as major payment gateway PayFast enables bitcoin access to over 30,000 online merchants, adding it as a payment option to its platform.

The company has partnered with bitcoin exchange BitX to process the payments, allowing sellers to receive South African local currency (rand, or ZAR) and avoid bitcoin price volatility.

Jonathan Smit, Managing Director and founder of PayFast, said:

"We are not really sure what will happen with bitcoin going forward as it is still early days for the 'currency', but we’re interested in contributing to the ecosystem and seeing where it goes."

He told CoinDesk that PayFast had been asked in the past about accepting bitcoin, but didn't want to be involved in the volatility. The partnership with BitX drove his decision and it was the synergy between the two companies that allowed the process to happen, and swiftly.

"Being a techie, the concept of a cryptocurrency and how it works fascinates me, and while I have been following bitcoin for a while, I'm not really an early adopter, so only very recently have I actually acquired and used bitcoin myself."

"At this stage we view bitcoin as a payment mechanism rather than a currency," he added.

Listings, payments in fiat

Merchants' actual interaction with bitcoin will be minimal. Prices on a seller's website will still be listed in rand and users will be charged that amount, whatever the current exchange rate. According to the company's blog, merchants will still need to manually enable bitcoin in their account settings, as they do with other existing payment options.

They will still, however, enjoy bitcoin's advantages like low processing fees, no chargebacks or reversals, speed, and international availability.

Marcus Swanepoel, CEO of BitX, said he was excited about the deal, which brought the benefits of digital currency to a much broader market and represented a major leap in potential volume for his company.

He said:

"At BitX we continuously aim to make it easier for individuals and businesses to buy, sell, spend and receive their bitcoin, and this partnership is a testimony of our commitment to this promise."

Regulation and tax issues

Smit said there were no clear guidelines for bitcoin use in South Africa yet, but both PayFast and BitX were "committed to complying with any applicable regulation and have been proactively engaging with the South African regulators regarding it".

In any case, PayFast was still dealing exclusively in ZAR, and didn't expect to face any new regulatory hurdles. BitX, an established bitcoin company with extensive experience dealing with regulators around the world, would take care of bitcoin issues.

BitX and PayFast background

BitX began as a South Africa-based exchange, but aims to take its technology to the world and emerging markets in particular.

It operates an internationally-available wallet and has been in discussions with local authorities to set up exchanges and local customer support centers in 12 key emerging markets.

PayFast, which started in 2007, is a turnkey online payment processor for businesses, charities and individuals. It doesn't charge any fixed monthly costs, and integrates with over 50 e-commerce systems and accepts credit cards, Instant EFT and voucher payment methods.

Cape Town image via michaeljung / Shutterstock


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