The SA Reserve Bank reported a sharp decline in the amount of counterfeit currency it detected, but people just weren’t using as much cash.

  • The incidence of counterfeit money in South Africa dropped by nearly half in the last financial year, the SA Reserve Bank said this week.
  • Fewer than 7 out of every one million bank notes were fake – compared to a target of keeping that under 12.
  • But that may have a lot to do with the decline in the use of cash, the bank warns, which could mean a sharp increase again next year.
  • Last year the South African Bank Note Company delivered 892 million bank notes, with issuing not slowing significantly.
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South Africa saw a huge decline in the reported incidence of counterfeit money in the last financial year. But that may may turn out to be a one-time record low caused by pandemic-induced changes it the way people transacted, rather than a sign that counterfeiters are giving up.
In the 2020/21 financial year, it measured fake money at 5.68 parts per million, the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) said in its annual report released this week. In the previous year that number had been 10.76 part per million, for a decline of 47% in the incidence of counterfeit money in one year.
The Sarb’s target, as part of its mandate to maintain the integrity of the currency, is 12 parts per million.
It had not changed how it measures or identifies counterfeiting, the bank told Business Insider South Africa. 
“The constrained economic activity over this period has however impacted the circulation of currency and hence the expectation is that the identified counterfeits will adjust upwards in line with historic levels, as people and materials start to flow more freely.”
During the course of the reporting year, The South African Bank Note Company delivered 892 million notes to the central bank, and The South African Mint Company, its metal counterpart, delivered 811 million coins.
“Counterfeit prevalence is dependent on the design of a currency; the age of that series; and the structure of the cash industry,” said the Sarb, in response to questions.
In June, the FirstRand group says it had been stunned at the scale of the cash economy in townships, with enormous flows for wholesalers.
Various card, fintech, and crypto-token companies, as well as new and existing banks, have promised to change that, by luring businesses and their buyers to one of a range of technologies they believe easier, more secure, and safer than cash. 
(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)