Messaging • Last Updated 1/17/2024

How to text South Africa

Learn how to send text messages to South Africa and avoid common mistakes.

By Adeniyi Makinde

Are you struggling to send text messages to South Africa? Whether you're a business owner, marketer, or salesperson, we’ve got you covered. Sending text messages (also called SMS) to South Africa is easy, but it requires attention to detail to ensure your message gets delivered. This guide will cover the ins and outs of texting to South Africa, including formatting, country codes, and regulatory compliance.

Sending a text to South Africa

In South Africa, phone numbers typically consist of 10 digits. This includes a two-digit area code and an eight-digit phone number. Understanding this format is crucial for successful communication.

South African phone number formatting

Starting from January 16, 2007, South Africa adopted a comprehensive numbering plan, requiring the dialing of the entire 10-digit phone number for local calls, which includes the zero in its three-digit area code (for instance, dialing 011 in Johannesburg). The area codes in this system are typically arranged based on location.

In South Africa, phone numbers have 9 unique digits, but they are always preceded by a 0 for domestic calls, except for some specific services provided by Telkom, a South African provider. For international calls, the initial "0" is dropped and replaced with the respective international dialing prefix and South Africa's country code, +27.

South African country code

When texting someone in South Africa, it's essential to include the country code +27. This ensures that the mobile network correctly routes your message. You can add the country code by holding down the "0" key until a "+" symbol appears, or type "0027" before the South African phone number.

Staying compliant while texting South Africa

Compliance with local regulations is key when texting in South Africa. The country has specific rules governing SMS messaging, particularly for marketing and promotional messages. Ensure you have explicit consent from recipients and include clear opt-out instructions in your messages. You should also familiarize yourself with the regulations set by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to avoid legal issues.

Some key requirements for texting South Africa:

Obtain consent

In South Africa, consumers must opt-in to receive marketing SMS, either by explicit consent or as existing customers (implied consent). Organizations must have proof of consent or evidence that the consumer's contact details were obtained through a product or service sale. This applies to non-profits in SMS fundraising too.

Identify the sender

Due to local policies, no Sender IDs are used in South Africa. Companies or organizations must clearly identify themselves and provide contact information at the start of the SMS.

Allow recipients to unsubscribe

South African SMS messages must include a 'STOP' reply option that allows users to unsubscribe— at no extra cost to them. For marketing SMS, the sender may bear the cost. A confirmation message is required upon opting out, and records of such requests must be maintained.

Follow the rules for SMS competitions

These are capped at R1.50 per entry as per the Consumer Protection Act Regulations. Advertisements must include specific information like closing dates and SMS costs.

Adhere to timing restrictions

Marketing SMS cannot be sent on Sundays, public holidays, Saturdays before 09:00 or after 13:00, and on weekdays between 20:00 and 08:00, unless the consumer permits otherwise.

Respect the do not contact list: Launched by the Wireless Application Service Providers Association (WASPA)—a self-regulatory body—in March 2020, this list allows South African consumers to block or unblock their numbers from receiving marketing SMS. WASPA members must regularly check and respect this list.

5 steps to send a text to South Africa

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of formatting guidelines and regulatory compliance, you're ready to send your first text message to South Africa. Follow these steps to dispatch your message:

  1. Inspect the number to ensure it's in the correct format.
  2. Make sure to include South Africa’s country code (+27).
  3. Input the correctly-formatted number into the "Recipient" field.
  4. Ensure your message complies with any local or international regulations when sending texts to South Africa.
  5. Compose and send your message.

Now that you know how to format and send a text message to South Africa, it's important to follow some best practices to ensure your messages are delivered successfully and comply with local regulations.

Best practices for texting South African numbers

When texting South Africa, it's important to consider the time zone and cultural nuances. To avoid friction between you and the caller, send messages during appropriate hours and use a respectful and clear tone.

Some customer-facing SMS best practices are the same, regardless of your customers’ locations. For example, businesses should always use clear and concise language when crafting their messages. Messages should be brief and to the point, focusing on conveying the message in as few characters as possible while still making it easy to understand. It's also important to keep messages under 160 characters, as this is the technical limit for SMS messaging.

Businesses should also comply with South Africa’s strict regulations around SMS spam and privacy by ensuring they’re not sending unwanted messages and collecting and using customer data in compliance with South Africa’s data protection laws.

To avoid delivery issues, businesses should double-check phone numbers before sending messages. By following these best practices, businesses can increase the chances of their messages being delivered successfully and avoid any potential legal issues.

Choosing the right greeting for your text message to South Africa

The choice of greeting in your text messages to a South African audience can significantly impact the tone and reception of your communication. Given the rich cultural diversity in South Africa, selecting an appropriate greeting is not just a matter of politeness, but it's also an expression of cultural awareness and respect. It's important to consider the context, the time of day, and the relationship with the recipient when choosing how to initiate the conversation.

You can start with a simple "Hello" or "Hi" or use more specific greetings like "Good morning/afternoon," depending on the time of day. In a business context, it's often better to err on the side of formality.

We collected a few examples of how to break the ice here:


A common greeting in South Africa, similar to asking "How are you?" or just saying "Hello."


A friendly, informal way of greeting people in South Africa, both in cities and rural areas, equivalent to saying "Hi."


A colloquial South African term for acknowledging someone or something, or for greeting, predominantly used in the Black community.


A straightforward first person singular greeting. When greeting someone in South Africa using isiZulu, you can say "Sawubona," which translates to "greetings."

The right greeting can set a positive tone for your message. By considering factors like formality, cultural context, and the specific relationship with your South African recipient, you can choose an appropriate greeting that not only respects cultural nuances but also enhances the effectiveness of your communication.

Text South Africa: how to get started

With these tips and recommendations, you're ready to send SMS messages to South Africa with confidence. Whether you're sending a personal message or business communication, understanding the formatting and regulatory compliance is essential to ensure your message gets delivered.

If you’re looking for more guidance on global texting, Telnyx’s team of experts can help you navigate the complexities of international communication. Telnyx is a next-gen communications platform that offers a global private IP network, multi-cloud redundancy, and carrier-grade services. Our developer-friendly SMS API and intelligent features make it easy to build messaging capabilities into your existing apps. We also offer support and guidance to help you grow and scale your business.

With competitive pricing and a wide variety of phone numbers in over 140 countries, Telnyx provides cost-effective messaging solutions with unmatched expertise. Our deliverability reports help businesses optimize their messaging campaigns, while easy implementation and a complete set of features make it easy to get started.

Contact our experts today to learn how we can help your business communicate effectively with contacts in South Africa and 140+ other countries.

Note: This is not legal advice. Consult your legal team and the appropriate regulatory authorities before beginning an SMS message campaign in South Africa.

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