How well does South Africa comply with global payments standards?

Issue 1 2023 News, Security Services & Risk Management

South Africa is not only at the forefront of implementing global payment standards within the country. It is also an active contributor to those standards.

This is according to Mariekie Mincher, Manager: Operations Support at the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA). "PASA developed the world's first authenticated collections system and the related payment messages that were added to ISO20022 will be used by other countries going forward," she says.

ISO 20022 is a universal standard for financial transaction messaging that aims to seamlessly integrate and enrich transactional systems across the payments, securities, trade services and forex domains. PASA's use of the standard will ensure South Africans enjoy access to easier, faster, safer and more innovative digital payments in the future.

The body has led the implementation of three main projects to align the country's payment systems with ISO20022 requirements and remain current with payment best practice.


PASA’s authenticated collections platform, DebiCheck, is a groundbreaking project that electronically alerts payers to first-time early debit order mandates against their bank account. This allows them to conveniently confirm or deny these requests through their devices.

It can be used by a range of domestic providers, such as insurance companies, to collect monthly instalments while lowering the risk of collection errors. This is good news for consumers who will have more control over early debit orders collected from their accounts.

As mentioned, PASA defined the ISO20022 message set that will be used by countries developing similar systems in the future.

Modernisation of High Value Credits

PASA's Modernisation of Payments High Value Credits project was carried out in conjunction with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). This initiative modernises the South African Multiple Option Settlement (SAMOS) system by following the global trend of migrating from current messaging standards to ISO20022.

Owned and operated by SARB, SAMOS handles high-value payments, mostly above 5 million rand. It is used by banks, corporations and others to facilitate large transfer amounts and executes securities transactions.


BankservAfrica's Rapid Payments Programme (RPP), delivering a new real-time payments system branded as PayShap, will use ISO20022. It is expected to launch in 2023. Under the leadership of BankservAfrica and PASA, this industry-led initiative promises a cost-effective instant payment service across banks, a proxy service to embed user banking details (e.g. the ability to pay to a mobile number), a request-to-pay service, and support for several known retail payment use cases.

Importantly, the new system will provide rapid payment functionality to unbanked consumers who would benefit from digital payment facilities. Of course, banked consumers will also enjoy greater convenience and easier transacting with the introduction of PayShap.

Cross-border payments

The participants in the market are also currently busy with the migration of cross-border payments from current standards to ISO20022 as part of global migration programme.

The Southern African Development Community Real-Time Gross Settlement system enables the settlement of interbank transactions in the SADC region. The participants, as part of the SADC-RTGS community, are also currently busy with the migration of cross-border SADC payments from current MT standards to ISO20022 as part of global migration programme.

All of these platforms are systems upon which modern payment applications, services and business processes can be built. They are not the only initiatives PASA is pursuing to enhance the National Payment System in support of the SARB Vision 2025 strategic plan.

"By developing our platforms around, or upgrading them to, ISO20022, we can inject more details about transactions into payment messages, allowing downstream vendors to develop richer digital payment services that offer greater value to their users," says Mincher.

Because of this work, consumers and vendors can expect better transparency when processing payments. "PASA continues to ensure South Africa stays ahead of international trends and remains an active contributor to the ISO20022 global standard," says Mincher.

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