Renminbi (Rmb) usage is on the up in South Africa, with the latest data from Swift showing that payments in the Chinese currency rose by 65% over the past 12 months.

That figure expands to 112% if you consider the past two years, with South Africa now occupying 24th place in the world in Rmb payment settlements, up from 30th in July 2014.

While the African market for China’s currency is relatively nascent, it is expected to grow substantially over the next few years, following the signature of a memorandum jointly signed by China and 50 African countries to boost trade and investment links.

As well as promoting Chinese investment in infrastructure projects it will also give priority to those African businesses engaging in PPPs with Chinese partners and is expected to increase the number of commercial exchanges and the usage of the Rmb on the continent.

Swift’s head of banking Harry Newman points to the establishment of an Rmb clearing centre in South Africa in July 2015, as well as its increasing use by Singaporean traders as the catalysts for the currency’s growth.

China and Hong Kong account for 50% of payments into South Africa, with Singapore occupying second place on 34%. A year ago, Singapore was responsible for just 7% of Rmb payments into South Africa.

“South Africa is still in the early stages of Rmb adoption but we believe there is considerable potential for growth in payments exchanged with this key African economy and other emerging markets,” says Vina Cheung, global head of Rmb internationalisation at HSBC.

Looking at the bigger picture, the Chinese currency is back up to number five in global payments based on July’s data. It had recently fallen behind the Canadian dollar, but has increased its share of payments from 1.72% to 1.9%.

Interestingly, the value of Chinese currency payments has fallen – but not nearly as dramatically as the global decline, which points to the ongoing slump in world trade. Global payments declined by 10.08% in July, with Rmb falling by 0.68%.