South African retailer Pick n Pay has announced that all 1,628 stores across the country are now accepting Bitcoin payments over the Lightning Network. This step follows a successful three-month test phase in 39 branches.
Pick n Pay is the largest retailer in South Africa after Shoprite with over 85,000 employees and annual sales of USD 6.5 billion. The chain's customers can now pay for items with Bitcoin via a smartphone app. To make a transaction, customers only need a Bitcoin Lightning wallet and the CryptoQR scanner app. The move reflects the growing adoption of bitcoin as a means of payment in South Africa.
Pick n Pay's long-standing Bitcoin project
The retail chain had been testing the service in select stores for several years and last November announced plans to roll out bitcoin payments nationwide. Pick n Pay first experimented with cryptocurrencies in 2017 when the Cape Town company accepted bitcoin as payment. However, transaction costs and waiting times posed a challenge.
Good news, everyone! CryptoQR is now active at all Pick-n-Pay stores across South Africa, including PnP express and clothing shops! You can also buy Airtime and Electricity, Plane and Bus tickets, and pay your municipal bills with #Bitcoin at the till! pic.twitter.com/3hVhgIJdTb
— CryptoQR 🇿🇦⚡️ (@CryptoConverted) February 1, 2023
During the pilot program, Pick n Pay partnered with Electrum and CryptoConvert to allow customers to pay through the Bitcoin Lightning network. Lightning is a so-called Layer 2 payment protocol that is based on the Bitcoin blockchain. It enables faster, cheaper, and more private transactions by moving the majority of payments off the blockchain to a multi-layered network of payment channels. In this way, the Lightning Network reduces the load on the Bitcoin blockchain, which helps reduce transaction fees and speed up the network.
South Africa increasingly crypto-friendly
The retail giant's move follows changes to financial laws by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA). As a temporary solution, cryptocurrencies are classified as financial instruments to facilitate crypto activities for service providers. Since October, South African companies have been allowed to offer crypto assets both domestically and internationally. The FSCA already has broader crypto regulation in its sights.
Finally, South Africa is making significant strides in cryptocurrency adoption. The country is ranked 30th globally in Chainalysis’ 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index, with Nigeria representing the African continent in the top 10. It is estimated that between 10% and 13% of the South African population hold Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.