A new person-to-person money transfer system announced today means South Africans can now do a lot more than just pick up a bag of groceries at their local Spar, they can also send money to any friend or family member in South Africa who owns a cell phone.

Instant Money, from Standard Bank, will use Spar’s 850-store footprint to reach communities in some of the most remote parts of the country. Instant Money allows money to be sent and received at Spar outlets using a cell phone to transfer information.
Instant Money will initially be available only in SPAR stores in the Eastern Cape.
Roelf Venter, chairman of the Spar Guild, says that mobile money transfers not only offer a safer, more reliable way to send cash, but could also breathe new life into the economies of remote areas.
“Like many developing countries, South Africa has countless breadwinners who live and work in urban economic hubs, but have extended families back home in poorer rural areas. We see a high demand for smart banking services that will make sending money back home simple and cheap,” says Venter.
Sim Tshabalala, CEO of Standard Bank South Africa, who is heading up the Instant Money roll-out, says the new service means people no longer have to risk giving an envelope full of cash to a middleman – like a friend or a taxi driver – and asking them to deliver it to a recipient in a remote area.
“It’s a way for people who don't have a bank account to gain access to financial services,” he says. “At present, financial services are not always available in rural areas, mainly because of the expense of rolling out banks and services in less affluent places. This has meant that most people in rural areas operate on a cash basis.”
Gartner predicts that money transfers and payment systems using mobile phones will be among the top 10 most important mobile applications by 2012 – ahead of location-based services, search and browsing. Money transfers are already popular in a number of developing countries, and will continue to attract more users.
Tshabalala adds: ”With Instant Money, people can now send and receive money without the need for a bank account. It is estimated that some 35-million people in South Africa have a cell phone, while only 11-million have a bank account. Instant Money has been developed in such a way that the service can be accessed on even the simplest mobile phone models and across networks."