Apple users in South Africa can now make payments using Apple Pay following a launch of the service this week for the first time in Africa.

Apple Pay is the smartphone manufacturer’s payment and digital wallet system. Users of the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch can use the feature to pay online on various apps and at Tap and Pay NFC terminals. A bank card needs to be connected to the service. 

Three South African banks are listed on Apple’s website as partners supporting Apple Pay. They are Absa, Discovery and Nedbank; the first two support only Visa cards, while Nedbank supports Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards. 

First National Bank, one of the nation’s big five banks and the oldest, was notably absent from the launch party, but the bank said they are working to make it available, according to Business Insider. Investec Bank says it will roll out the feature soon (probably not in the coming months though).

Since it was released in October 2014, Apple Pay has grown in popularity in North America and Europe for the convenience it affords users within the iOS ecosystem. It is integrated with hundreds of banks in those regions including big banks like J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, HSBC and  Deutsche Bank.

Android currently dominates the mobile operating system market share in South Africa with 83.71% while iOS is at 15.84%. Across the continent, smartphones by Tecno, itel and Infinix (all produced by Transsion, the Chinese manufacturer) dominate shipments for being cheaper alternatives to Apple and Samsung’s more expensive brands.

But the launch of Apple Pay in South Africa speaks to Apple’s intention to increase its penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa where the adoption of digital payments has increased since the start of the pandemic.

With South Africa setting the ball rolling, it remains to be seen where next Apple Pay becomes available in Africa. Nigeria and Kenya would appear plausible destinations based on smartphone and internet penetration metrics, but it would depend on where Apple finds suitable bank partners to power users’ cards.

Apple Pay joins Samsung Pay in South Africa in the market of contactless payment options. The latter launched in August 2018 to support payments for users of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones. Samsung Pay partners the three banks currently available on Apple Pay, and includes others like FNB, Investec and Standard Bank.

Alexander Onukwue | Author

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