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AccessPoints revitalise small, women-owned businesses hit by the recession

"Standard Bank came to the rescue." This is how Gladys Mashike, owner of the Mapetla General Dealer's Store in the North West, describes the difference AccessPoint banking facilities has made to her small business.

Standard Bank South Africa's innovative AccessPoint model takes banking to customers in their communities. Through facilities installed at existing local traders and spaza shops, customers can do basic banking in store, removing the need to travel to a branch or ATM. Store owners that add an AccessPoint to their business are trained to help their customers draw, deposit, and transfer money, do balance enquiries on their accounts, and buy airtime and electricity.

There are close to 7 000 AccessPoints across the country- and 37.7% are owned by women. Female AccessPoint owners have processed around R5.3 million in transactions through their small businesses in the first half of this year alone.

Gladys is one of the three top performing women in the country wide AccessPoint network. All three women own and run their businesses and are raising children or grandchildren on their own. Through the AccessPoint concept, they are earning extra income through commissions earned on bank transactions, while also playing a significant role in bringing banking facilities to remote or rural areas. Their shops have processed the highest number of bank transactions on a monthly basis.

Gladys and her husband started the Mapetla General Dealer Store in 1988 and their business flourished. However, it started struggling when her husband passed away in 2005, and the recession and opening of spaza shops in the area reduced revenues and profits even more.

When a Standard Bank representative asked her whether she would consider having an AccessPoint, Gladys hesitated. "I didn't know anything about banking and I knew that the people in the community would question my ability to handle money like a bank," she says. "But the world is changing all the time and I thought it was time for me to change too. I had to be brave, to trust myself. Now, the AccessPoint brings a lot of business to my shop. Even people who are just driving through the community stop to do their banking."

In the first six months of 2013, Gladys processed over 5 000 banking transactions and is the top-performing female AccessPoint owner in the country. She attributes her AccessPoint success to taking the time to explain to her customers how the AccessPoint can make their lives easier and save them the transport costs they would normally use to travel to the bank.

In Orlando East, Soweto, Snowy Letsie is another success story, this year processing close to 3 000 banking transactions at her store in just six months, thanks to the AccessPoint. She took over her husband's liquor store, 'Snowy's Place', when he passed away 20 years ago. She also had to help her customers understand the value of an AccessPoint at first. Now, however, the banking part of her business runs itself. "I'm open until two every morning, so it's very convenient for people in the area to do their banking here when they want to. I've even got one customer who asks people to pay him through his AccessAccount for washing their dustbins."

Nomalanga Phandle runs a My Store fast food franchise in Botshabela, Free State. She agrees that the AccessPoint sign brings more people in to her shop than would otherwise be the case. Just over 2 000 of the transactions processed at her store in the first half of this year were banking transactions. "It's not just because customers can get cash out. They appreciate being able to do other kinds of banking outside of working hours and without leaving the area," she says.

Nomalanga had no business training but took over the franchise from a previous owner for whom she had worked. "As a franchisee, you're given guidelines for running your business the right way, but running a business is not easy. Getting to grips with banking and understanding how to use the AccessPoint machine added a bit of pressure in the beginning, but I'm glad I made the choice. It's been worth it."

Audrey Mothupi, head of inclusive banking at Standard Bank South Africa, says that Standard Bank has a unique banking presence in South Africa through the AccessPoints network. "We changes our approach to banking and introduced this model of distribution to bring bank services to those who do not have easy access to traditional bank infrastructure," she says. "Not only does this drive financial inclusion among people, it has beneficial effects for the communities too, as money is circulated within communities rather than being spent in other areas.

"A significant number of the AccessPoints are owned and run by women, who are typically the main breadwinners and supporting extended families. The AccessPoint network has helped make small local businesses more sustainable, saving and creating jobs."

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