Digital Payments in Africa: A report by Yoco

17th December 2019

The cover of Unlocking Digital Payments in Africa by Yoco.

This report presents our research and analysis of the major opportunities and challenges of unlocking digital payment ecosystems across Africa.

Report compiled by Marcello Schermer.


By first becoming intimately acquainted with the current challenges, in the adoption of cashless payments at the point of sale in each region, we focused our analysis on how to accelerate market maturity for cashless transactions. The spirit of this report is to look forward, propose approaches based on international best practice examples, and to support and develop cashless payments markets for SMEs around the continent. 

It is encouraging to have seen governments, central banks, financial service companies and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) across the African continent promote the benefits of cashless payments – in particular at POS – with big announcements and investments. As a result, mobile money, and to a lesser extent card payments, have elbowed into the daily lives of many African consumers. But cash is still the dominant mode of payment, accounting for over 95% of transactions in most African countries.

We are convinced that cash is no longer king - the customer is.

To better understand the state of digital payments, what drives the development of cashless societies and how to effectively amplify its progress, Yoco set out to study 15 African markets. We met with regulators, banks, telcos and local entrepreneurs in each country to get a better sense of the local environment and find common trends and narratives across markets. This report highlights our main findings on the current state of digital merchant payments, what factors are limiting the evolution of these markets, and our recommendations on how to take better advantage of these opportunities, to accelerate the development of cashless societies and financial inclusion across Africa. 

 Our research indicates that despite the significant philosophical, structural, technical, economical and regulatory barriers to sustainable development that remain today, the key to developing cashless markets is to drive consumer demand for digital payments. Across the continent, we have seen both mobile money usage grow at double digits per year, and even card terminal penetration growing on average of 20%. We propose a shift in mindset that puts the consumer at the centre of the cashless society and helps them go cashless through economic incentives, making it more appealing to store money in their digital account and build rewarding structures for them to use it at the point of sale – ultimately making a digital payment feel more rewarding than a cash payment…


Gugulethu is a writer, was a copywriter and has always been a reader. Previously he has worked in advertising, corporate communications & PR and as an editor of an online magazine.