Open Banking and Payments Survey

14 Nov 2022

Cash remains the most preferred payment method in Africa, new survey shows 

Johannesburg, 14 November 2022 — Cash remains the most dominant payment type on the African continent, with debit cards coming in as a close second, according to new data from PwC Strategy&’s Payments and Open Banking Survey 2022.

The survey is a biannual study of consumers’ payment and open banking preferences. For the first time since its inception in 2018, PwC Africa participated in the study. Respondents were interviewed across three key African economies, namely South Africa (representing the South market), Kenya (representing the East market) and Nigeria (representing the West market). These countries were chosen as they represent the largest economies across each market area. 

Of the 1,357 respondents who participated in the survey between September and October 2022, a third said cash was their preferred payment method. In South Africa, the heaviest cash users were youth aged 18 to 25. Half (50%) of respondents said they pay with cash because there is no alternative payment option available, or because merchants ask for it. 

Chantal Maritz, PwC Africa Payments Transformation Leader, says: “This highlights the lack of varied digital payment acceptance mediums and infrastructure across all three African countries. However, another key driver of cash prevalence across Africa is a lack of financial education. Consumers with low financial literacy often overlook indirect costs of cash, such as the cost of their transportation to cash access points, security risks, and loss of interest. This could result in respondents not finding digital payment alternatives intuitive, making them revert to what they know.”  

Debit cards and the rise of smartphone penetration

Across the three regions, debit cards were the second most utilised payment method, with high use in South Africa (32%) and Nigeria (41%). In South Africa, the high use may be attributed to the country’s large banked population of ~84%, Maritz says. In Nigeria, the banked population increased to 45.3% in 2021, but the high adoption of debit cards is likely due to its large number of point of sale (POS) devices. These POS agents are enabled by a variety of service providers, including banks, fintechs, and telcos. 

Maritz says: “With a growing smartphone penetration and new payment options available, almost 63% of respondents are either already using their mobile phone at a POS or plan to do so in the future.”

In both South Africa and Kenya, the number of mobile phone subscriptions has exceeded the population at 1.7 and 1.08 times the population respectively. In Nigeria, mobile phone subscriptions are almost 90% of the total population.

The number of respondents already using mobile phones to make POS payments in Kenya (69%) is almost double that in South Africa (28%) and Nigeria (39%), and this is expected to grow over the next few years as mobile phone penetration and mobile money increase further.

Open banking and the willingness to open accounts with non-banks

While the concept of Open Banking remains new, the survey found that respondents are willing to share their data with reputable companies, provided that it benefits them.

The majority of all respondents (29%) also cited the importance of a good mobile banking app. However, in contrast with the importance of digital channels, the second and third most important criteria were low-cost cash withdrawals (24%) and proximity of branches or ATMs (14%). “This speaks to Africa’s underbanked individuals who own bank accounts but still choose to transact only in cash,” Maritz says. “In South Africa alone, the majority of the population have bank accounts, although 25% (8.3m individuals) prefer to withdraw all of their money and transact in cash.

This phenomenon is confirmed in the survey, where only South African respondents believed low cost withdrawals to be more important than a good mobile banking app.

While the majority of South African respondents are hesitant to open bank accounts with companies other than banks, Kenyan and Nigerian respondents are two times more willing to open bank accounts with non-banks. South African respondents said they were more likely to open an account with a retailer (27%), compared to the other markets, which highlights the many South Africans who already hold clothing and loyalty accounts with some long-standing retailers. 

Considering both data sharing and opening a bank account, the survey reflects that 25% of Africans placed higher trust in banks than any other company. 

The survey also highlights how in comparison to South Africa and Nigeria, Kenya demonstrates how the pervasive use of mobile wallets grows the formal economy and increases trust in non-bank payment service providers. The findings also cover consumers’ longstanding trust in traditional banks, proving that non-incumbents will need to invest in building consumer confidence to unlock the opportunity for open banking.

A summary of some of the survey’s insightful findings include:

  • Cash leads across Africa at one third of all payments
  • 50% of respondents pay with cash because there is no alternative, or merchant requests it
  • Debit cards are second to cash in South Africa and Nigeria at 27%, while non-bank wallets are in second place in Kenya at 39%
  • 69% of Kenyan respondents already pay with mobile phones in store
  • Over 70% of respondents across South Africa and Nigeria use bank cards and EFT for online shopping; 44% of Kenyans use mobile phones
  • 63% of respondents pay with their mobile phones in store, or plan to do so in future
  • 28% of South African respondents would not open bank accounts with non-banks, compared to 14% of Kenyan and Nigerian respondents
  • A good mobile banking app followed by low-cost cash withdrawals are most important to Africans choosing a bank
  • 39% of respondents are not willing to share their data, even for their benefit


Contact us

 Rianté Padayachee

Rianté Padayachee

Media and Communications Specialist, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 5727

Verena Koobair

Verena Koobair

Integrated Content Lead, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 4873

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