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South Africa: Slogans and credit cards

South Africa’s banks have to work harder for market share.

Three-word slogans: just one of the many areas in which South African banks are battling for dominance. Barclays’ Absa (“Today, tomorrow, together”), Nedbank, (“Making things happen”), Standard Bank (“Inspired. Motivated. Involved.”) and FirstRand (spoilsports that have not devised a slogan) constitute the big four of South African banking and they are all battling aggressively for market share as demand for credit increases with the improving economy.

“The banking environment in South Africa is definitely becoming more competitive,” says Andre Traverso, an analyst at Credit Suisse, “and this is especially noticeable in the massive increase in credit card issuance.” Local low-cost airline kulula has followed Virgin’s lead in launching a credit card, and the banks are starting to market their own cards more aggressively. According to central bank figures, credit card debt has grown by 40% in the year to June, despite new laws aimed specifically at curbing consumers’ accumulation of debt. Gabriel Davel, CEO of the newly created National Credit Regulator, announced at his appointment in April that more needed to be done to protect the consumer in South Africa.

“More honest disclosure by both the credit provider and consumers, and harsh penalties on credit providers that approve loan applications knowing that clients cannot afford the repayments, would help in creating an environment in which people can benefit from access to credit, without being damaged by credit,” Davel said.

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