PayPal hits 1 mil users SA. What’s the payments opportunity in the rest of Africa?

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paypal-logoPayPal has just announced its active user base figure in South Africa, and it’s 1 million! Great yes, that so many more people can pay using what has become the defacto payment gateway of the internet. 1 million is however still less than 1% of PayPal’s active user accounts globally of 152 million and at home in South Africa, 1 million is just 4% of the 22.5 million (2012) banked adults in the country.

No surprises here really as online payments and PayPal itself are bigger in the US, and developed markets in Europe where it started. In the US, the 1 million accounts milestone happened about 14 years ago and now the company has more than 50 million active PayPal users or 24% of the total US banked population.

In South Africa, where about 2% of the population now have active PayPal accounts, PayPal says the rapid expansion has been thanks to a deal with FNB that happened 4 years ago which allowed banked individuals to easily link their bank account to a PayPal account. The one million accounts, an FNB representative said yesterday as part of the announcement, “is an extremely significant milestone for both PayPal and FNB.”

It would have ofcourse been even greater to know what effect on PayPal active user accounts the opening up to Africa move had. What, for example, became of the “tens of thousands” of new users accounts in just a week in Nigeria?

What is clear ofcourse is that Africa represents a huge growth opportunity for PayPal. Africa’s total population is almost the same size as North America and Europe combined. Ofcourse Africa is nowhere near as technologically advanced as America was in 1999. Nor is its population as economically active in value terms as individuals are in developed economies.


Mobile based financial services on the continent have been their own story however, that is not following a path laid out by the developed countries before it. Any payment gateway startup on the continent that’s able to see these opportunities closer than PayPal may be seeing or caring to see, may be able to take the payments giant head on with a different set of tools. It will be a company that leverages a deeper understanding and therefore easier integration to mobile money. We’re guessing that’s what Paynow and PesaPal are about.

Do you use PayPal yet? How much compared to the other payment methods like Mastercard direct, Paynow and others?


  1. Mhuka Huru says:

    Because my market is mainly Zimbabwean, I will stick to Paynow, thats where Ecocash and Telecash users are, and Most Zimbos are not formally banked Viva Paynow!

    1. chanda says:

      Have u already intergrated Pay Now? How’s it working for you, if I may ask?

      1. We have had a Paynow button for two events… worked wonderfully. Anything specific you’d like to know?

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