Is Education and Data Burning a Deeper Hole in The Pockets of South Africans?

Johannesburg, 23 September 2016. In the wake of the #DataMustFall campaign, it seems that the data revolution might have a valid and legitimate plea. The campaign founders made a presentation before the Parliamentary Communications and Postal Committee on the 21st of September 2016 on the costs of data in the country. According to the soon-to-be launched findings of the FinScope South Africa 2016 consumer survey, the results show that the average South African spends about 9% of their purse on airtime and data recharge, cellphone contracts, telephone lines and internet payments. The average person spends approximately R700 a month for communication-related expenses.

Parallel to the #DataMustFall campaign which is gaining traction, is the #FeesMustFall (reloaded) campaign which is also resurfacing in light of the announcement of an up to eight percent fee increase made by the Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande. While university students would like to see a zero percent increase, universities are requesting increases to sustain operations and fund research.

Therefore, in light of these developments and expenses, how does the purse of the South African consumer fair? The preliminary results of the FinScope 2016 survey shows that South Africans spend R688 per month on average on education.

Figure 1: South Africans 2016 spending purse


The FinScope findings further show that South Africa’s total personal monthly consumption (PMC) expenditure in 2016 is estimated at R220 billion (monthly). On a monthly basis, the average individual spent approximately R5 400 during the period of conducting the FinScope 2016 survey. The results show that the main components of expenditure are on food (21%), transport (11%), utilities (11%) and communication, which amount to 9% of the spending purse.

Overall, individuals’ spending on education is 6% of their purse (estimated monthly spend of R12.2 billion). Further demographic analysis of the data per race showed that Black communities still bear the greatest brunt of the education costs. For the average Black South African, education expenses constitute 7% of their purse – this is higher compared to other races for which the purse composition for Coloured, Asian, Indian and Whites are at an average of 4.3% of their purse. Furthermore, as one analysis the data further, it shows that nearly 12 million Black South Africans spend more than 10% of their purse on education-related expenses. This is further exacerbated when noting that the average income per month is R4 723, R6 294, R12 265 and R17 123 for Black, Coloured, Indian and white South Africans respectively. As such, the cost of education places a heavier burden on Black South Africans.

FinMark Trust is scheduled to release more of these results of the FinScope 2016 South Africa Consumer survey on 8th November 2016.  For more insights and information on the launch of the FinScope survey please contact:

Dr Kingstone Mutsonziwa OR Jabulani Khumalo OR Abel Motsomi


Editorial contact

FinMark Trust
Tel: 011 315-9197

About FinMark Trust

FinMark Trust (FMT) is an independent trust established in 2002 with the objective of making markets work for the poor. Initial core funding was provided by UKaid from the Department for International Development (DFID) through its Southern Africa office. Recently additional funders have come on board including the UNCDF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation as well as   private and public institutions at country level. FinMark Trust’s purpose is ‘Making financial markets work for the poor, by promoting financial inclusion and regional financial integration’. FinMark Trust does this by conducting research to identify the systemic constraints that prevent financial markets from reaching out to these consumers and by advocating for change on the basis of research findings. Please visit for more information.

About FinScope

FinScope is an evidenced-based research tool developed by FinMark Trust and aims at filling the information gap in financial markets within most developing countries. Its purpose is to establish credible benchmarks on the use of, and access to, financial services. It is designed to highlight opportunities for innovation in products and delivery. FinScope Consumer Surveys have been completed in 26 countries. This allows for cross-country comparisons and sharing of findings which are key in assisting on-going growth and strengthening the development of financial markets.