Poor South Africans have experienced rapid financial inclusion because of the now controversial South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) bank card. From 2004 to 2014 the proportion of the population with bank accounts increased from less than half to 75%. In 2012 alone, 10-million social-grant recipients were given bank cards and accounts, to make it easier to receive payments from Sassa. This was a massive, sudden expansion in the provision of financial services. If international experience is a predictor, the Sassa cards should have had positive effects. But in hindsight the operation of this programme under the auspices of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) has been embroiled in political controversy and allegations of bad practice. The handover of this function to the South African Post Office has been slow and dogged by legal battles. This has threatened to halt payments of social grants to a large group among the 17-million recipients. But the massive financial inclusion has al...

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