The amount of people interested in, and using bitcoin in South Africa is growing slowly but steadily. More people are getting interested in bitcoin as they become aware of some of the benefits of using it over traditional payment systems such as credit card, but mostly as a way to transfer money into and out of South Africa.
Businesses accepting bitcoin
There are a growing number of businesses starting to accept bitcoin in South Africa because the customers are asking for that facility. Some of the main benefits for businesses are that there are no chargebacks, and that its cheaper than accepting credit cards and all the costs that come with having that facility for most businesses.
As a business there is no reason NOT to accept bitcoin as a method of payment, as it does not cost you anything to do so, and opens you up to a larger customer base. The idea is not to replace current payment systems with bitcoin, but use it as an additional method of payment for customers. Why not give customers the option bitcoin among every other method of payment you accept? As a business, it would make sense to take payment from a customer in as many ways as possible, especially if it is not costing you anything to do so and you in turn can have a higher profit margin in doing so.
For an online business in South Africa, using bitcoin is very similar to using a service such as Snapscan, except with lower fees. Snapscan is 3% fee per transaction, while bitcoin would be 1.9% fee per transaction. The business would not receive bitcoin, but would get Rand deposited into their bank account, so would not need to worry about bitcoin price volatility.
Businesses locally have also been making use of the BitPay service which allows you to use a tablet or mobile phone as a point of sale, allowing a waitress or shop owner to put in an amount in Rand to genereate a bitcoin QR code, that a customer can pay with their mobile wallet. Bitpay will transfer the money in Rand to your S.A. bank account, or allow you to keep a percentage of it in bitcoin. Their system is very flexible and a great choice for store owners who would like to accept bitcoin at their business premises, or on your website as a button or shopping cart.
Tourists using bitcoin around the world
A growing number of tourists are starting using bitcoin when they travel, taking advantage of being able to safely have access to money anywhere they have Internet access on their mobile phones. Some travelers have even been blogging about making use of bitcoin ATMs in cities that they visit, instead of using the normal currency exchangers at airports, as a way to easily travel with money while not having to pay high exchange rates or wait for opening hours.
There are more and more websites popping up where travelers can safely purchase holidays, flights and tours using bitcoin as the method of payment. (eg: expedia.com, cheapair.com)
As tourism is one of South Africas biggest industries, it makes sense for any business that services foreigners to have bitcoin as one of the payment option available.
Recently we asked Activitybridge.com over twitter if they had plans to integrate bitcoin and they confirmed that they did. Activitybridge is part of Nightsbridge, which offers thousands of guest houses and hotels across South Africa a realtime booking and reservations system for accommodation. Activity bridge offers the same real time service for tour operators who take bookings for tours online. If integrated properly thousands of guest houses and tour operators would be able to accept bitcoin as a payment method and get Rand deposited into their bank accounts seamlessly.
There are a growing number of bitcoin traders in South Africa, who find the volatile market of bitcoin fertile ground for speculating on the price. Many users are stepping away from trading Forex, in favour of trading in cryptocurrencies instead. We now have three local bitcoin exchanges to choose from, and many traders have accounts with all three exchanges so that they can take advantage of arbitrage opportunities that might arise.
Some of the more professional traders are also using bitcoin-otc trading platform, and even wiring money to bitcoin exchanges outside of South Africa in order to purchase bitcoin at international market rates, which are generally lower than those at the local exchanges.
Bitcoin awareness is growning
So while the amount of people who know about and use bitcoin is not that big in South Africa yet, there are definite signs that it is starting to grow. From hipsters and geeks, to restaurant owners and online web stores, more and more people are starting to take an interest in bitcoin.