Samsung Pay is committed to driving the mobile wallet movement in Africa.
Samsung Pay is committed to driving the mobile wallet movement in Africa.
Image: 123RF / Dzmitry Kliapitski

Welcome Samsung Pay. After the company announced South Africa would be the first country on the continent to have access to Samsung Pay capabilities, it finally arrived on our shores officially last week.

It was prelaunched in partnership with Absa and a “limited number” of lucky customers got access through the “Early Access Program” a few weeks ago. The guinea pigs and hype did their job as we became part of the 24 markets that have use of the Korean firm’s mobile payment service. As of now, everyone at Absa and Standard Bank, as well as those who have Avios credit cards, British Airways credit cards or a Virgin Money card, can wave their phones like magic wands and make cha-ching. There is even space for your loyalty cards in your new digital wallet.

“Samsung Pay works almost anywhere you can swipe, insert or tap a card, so as the first country in Africa to implement this, we are hugely excited about how it’s going to transform our customers’ lives,” says Craige Fleischer, vice-president of integrated mobility for Samsung South Africa.

Despite Absa’s initial grab for the tech, fresh off their controversial rebrand, it’s the move for Standard Bank to work with Samsung that is a no-brainer. The bank has already paved the way for mobile payments with its ever-popular SnapScan app. It is one of the few mobile payments apps that has crossed the brand and bank loyalty divide with roaring success. FNB, who have now partnered with Fitbit and Garmin for their own smartwatch tap-and-go payments, initially made the most waves with their award-winning banking app, but the rest of South Africa’s banks have been hot on their heels since - particularly the ever-eager and easy to use Capitec. But it is Standard Bank that seems to want to dominate the mobile pay space.

“We want to make sure that Standard Bank’s payment solutions become the preferred choice for digital experiences – whether it be traditional cards, virtual cards, tap to pay, or Samsung Pay,” says Ethel Nyembe, Standard Bank SA’s head of card issuing. “Customers retain their plastic cards but we are making sure that people who want to go beyond traditional payment methods can now participate in an exciting mobile payments world, which is getting bigger every day.”

To use Samsung Pay – after you have updated your software and downloaded the app, of course - swipe up from the home or lock screen and authenticate with your preferred unique body part. You then tap or hold the device close to any point-of-sale machine and presto! It is that scarily easy. If you have a Samsung phone, you probably have been bombarded with ads telling you just that. And yes, it’s true, any machine will do, thanks to the company’s frictionless tech “magic”. You are not exclusively beholden to the newer machines.

WATCH | Samsung Pay: Safer, simpler. Pay anywhere.

Mobile payment apps have dominated the Asian markets for over a decade and with Africa’s successful history with mobile payment apps, such as the Kenyan M-Pesa, it’s surprising the continent hasn’t been a focus for this kind of tech sooner. M-Pesa launched in 2007 and has 27.8 million active users who pay their bills and make transfers on the app. As of February, it has even become an accepted form of payment in the Google Play App Store. There are many people across the continent who don’t have credit cards, but do have cellphones, which means mobile might be the smartest way to reach them.

So, it comes as no surprise that Fleischer announced: “Samsung Pay is committed to driving the mobile wallet movement in Africa and this launch furthers Samsung’s dedication to delivering innovative services to consumers everywhere.”

There might have been a reason for the delay in the launch of this type of market in South Africa - the fact that I do not know a single person who hasn’t had their phone stolen at one time or another. Repeatedly. I have found some South Africans are a little reluctant to put their money in easy reach of long-fingered criminals. But as tech appears to become safer, thanks to the likes of Samsung’s defence-grade Knox system that couples with biometric authentication through iris or fingerprint scanning, and other banking apps displaying similar tech, we can expect people to believe perhaps their money is somewhat more secure. Not that the idea that my money is a simple swipe-up away, even when the phone is locked, doesn’t make me a somewhat hesitant, biometrics or no biometrics.

But rest assured, if they’re going to steal your phone, they probably have taken your wallet already and having your money virtual is safer than having it in plastic. If not, there is always some space for your cash under your mattress.

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