Leading South African payment processor PayFast has teamed up with the country’s biggest Bitcoin exchange BitX to start accepting Bitcoin payments from Thursday, expanding potential merchant clients by over 30,000 and marking a substantial leap in developing cryptocurrency awareness in South Africa.

- PayFast 

- BitX homepage

Buyers can now pay (to merchants who allow the option) for anything from shoes to property management with Bitcoin, which PayFast converts immediately to South African rand to transfer to sellers.

The new service, which is still in beta testing mode, takes advantage of the speed and cheapness of Bitcoin transactions compared to other international payment methods, while sidestepping the cryptocurrency’s price volatility problem by converting Bitcoin payments immediately to local currency.

“As [a] seller, you don’t need a Bitcoin wallet, you won’t receive Bitcoin and you don’t even need to understand Bitcoin (but it surely helps ) ;)” PayFast head of marketing Werner van Rooyen wrote on the website’s blog. “Simply know that with it enabled on your account, you’ll enable buyers to pay you from anywhere in the world using one of the most exciting new payment methods available.”

The partnership dramatically expands potential Bitcoin acceptance in South Africa through PayFast’s client base of 30,000 merchants – a point not lost on the BitX exchange team.

The exchange wrote on Twitter Thursday:

“30,000+ South African online merchants can now accept Bitcoin – very excited to partner with PayFast.”

Merchants will pay a fee of 1.9% to receive Bitcoin through the service (a promotional discount through the end of October, when the fee bumps up to 2.9%). Still, the fee is less than the company’s other international payment options: merchants pay 3.9% for credit and debit cards and 7% for payment voucher system Ukash.

PayFast founder Jonathan Smit called the move largely exploratory, given that Bitcoin development and acceptance has far to go in the African market.

We are not really seeing a demand for bitcoin from customers per se, but bitcoin is very much a hot topic on South African lips,” he told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. “Until now, bitcoin has only been accepted at a handful of online merchants in South Africa and we’re very excited to see what effect this large-scale enablement will have on the market.”


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