Building the resilience of South African spazas through digitization

Co-authored by: Shirley Mburu and Jacob Winiecki
December 1, 2022 - 4 mins read

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably impacted the global economy, requiring governments to take rapid action to restrict physical movement and activities to contain the spread of the virus. While urgent and necessary, these lockdowns hit Micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in South Africa particularly hard early in the pandemic as they struggled to keep their doors open and maintain their financial health with limited access to products and services designed for such shocks. As the pandemic progressed, it set the stage for rapid uptake and use of digital tools as the world quickly adapted to lockdowns, remote work and communication, contactless transactions, and other restrictions. 

In this post, we explore the high-level learnings from the development and testing of digital innovations with the Digital Spazas program’s three partner innovators. Specifically, these digital onboarding and digital engagement insights are derived from the following solutions pilot-tested in the South African market: 

Key learnings






In the next post in this blog series, we will provide a summary of the credit offerings co-developed with the three innovators, evidence of how these solutions are impacting the financial health and growth ambitions of participating spazas, and explore lessons that the broader sector can take from these experiences. Stay tuned!


 JPMC and BFA Global launched Digital Spazas, a program focused on strengthening the financial health and resilience of ‘spazas,’ informal retailers in the South African townships, and helping them digitize to be more resilient in the face of future crises. The program set out to demonstrate that digitally-enabled MSEs are better equipped to survive and bounce back from unexpected shocks,  better suited to grow through higher sales and operational efficiencies, and can ultimately access an expanding suite of financial services.  

The Digital Spazas program partnered with three South African innovators – A2Pay, Vuleka, and Yebo Fresh – with boots on the ground and products already serving spazas in the township economy. For two years, BFA Global worked with these innovators to design and deploy new digital and digitally-enabled solutions that help spazas access credit to restock their shops and continue to sell through the pandemic, access credit for store expansion or asset purchase, increase their income opportunities, and improve their ability to invest in the long-term needs of their business. 

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