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SHIFT report: A guide to the Middle East payments industry

The MENA FinTech Association (MFTA), has released the first volume of the SHIFT report, a comprehensive guide that supports the FinTech community in navigating the MENA payment landscape.

The release of the first volume, “SHIFT – MENA Payments Landscaping”, sets the scene. It contains everything a FinTech needs to know about the Middle East payments industry. It draws a picture of a diverse region undergoing a significant transformation in how payments are made.

Although the banking sector has been relatively slow to adopt digital payments compared to other parts of the world, a number of factors and trends that are discussed in this report indicate that digital payments are becoming more commonplace across MENA and are disrupting the traditional value chain for payments.

Due to the population’s inclination to use cash as well as the banking industry’s relatively slow modernisation, the adoption of digital payments in the MENA region has lagged behind other parts of the world.

However, due to a multitude of factors, digital payments are becoming more commonplace across MENA and are disrupting the traditional payment value chain.

As per a report, the MENA e-commerce market is the world’s fastest growing and is expected to reach $49 billion by 2022.

In the UAE alone, non-cash payments are expected to account for 73% of transaction volume by 2023 (compared to 39% in 2018) and are growing strongly across all payment types (B2B, B2C, B2G etc.).

The report describes interesting and continuing developments in the region that are key drivers for change:

  • The rise in real-time and faster electronic payment methods
  • The growth of embedded payments
  • The blurring of lines between payments and lending/investments, such as buy now pay later
  • How cash is still a significant element of the overall payments landscape
  • The shift in the competitive landscape with the rise of substitute fintech offerings

“What’s driving the rapid change in the MENA payments landscape is the region’s demographically young societies, who are well versed in the use of digital technology and are contributing to the trend of moving away from cash as a traditional medium of exchange,’’ says Arjun Singh, Partner and Head of Financial Services Middle East at Arthur D. Little.

“Recent developments in regulatory initiatives that support a digital economy and cashless society and the impact of pandemic-driven digitalisation on all aspects of daily life have led to an increase in the number of FinTechs in the region.

These businesses are now replicating successful global models. Moreover, there is an increasing investment from VC and PE firms in the region within the payments sector.’’

“Payment is the heart of fintech and the backbone of our economies, plus at the pace we are becoming cashless as a society, it’s pivotal for the industry to support its development.

This is the first time that the industry has come together to share their knowledge in an all-in-one guide that will serve to foster healthy payment competition and innovation in the MENA region,” concludes Nameer Khan, Chairman of MENA Fintech Association further commented”

“SHIFT” is the name of the working group, which is composed of the association’s members. These industry leaders are focused on payment technology solutions and services, financial education and regulation, and international card networks.

They include The London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF), Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Arthur D. Little, BPC,, Codebase Technologies, GPS, Karm, Mastercard, M2P Solutions, Marshal, Taptap Send and YAP.

The working group was formed with the objectives of stimulating insightful conversations on regional prime payment topics and fostering a shift towards the future of payments.

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