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Rapid Growth in Digital Payments in Gulf Countries

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According to a recent survey released by the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia, the proportion of digital payments in Saudi Arabia will reach 57% in 2021, far exceeding the 36% two years ago. Last year, Saudi Arabia generated 5.5 billion bank card transactions through the POS system, an increase of 243% over two years ago, of which 95% were contactless transactions.

In the Gulf countries, digital payments are growing rapidly. According to a survey by credit card group MasterCard, 88 percent of UAE residents used at least one emerging payment method in the last year. Among them, the most people use mobile phones to pay, followed by services such as "buy now, pay later" launched by shopping platforms. The majority of respondents indicated that their top reason for choosing digital payments was security, followed by convenience. According to data released by McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, from 2014 to 2019, the digital payment transaction volume of UAE consumers has grown at an annual rate of more than 9%, which is higher than the average annual growth rate of 4% to 5% in Europe. The agency believes that the UAE is on track to go cashless for all transactions by 2030.

Oman has mandated that shopping malls, restaurants, supermarkets and other places must accept digital payments since January this year; Kuwait's electronic payment volume in 2021 will increase by 46% compared with the previous year; Bahrain is the first country in the Gulf to launch digital payment services, Bahrain Statistics from the central bank show that in July this year, digital payments in Bahrain increased by 13.1% year-on-year; the Central Bank of Qatar issued the first batch of digital payment business licenses to two financial technology companies on August 30 this year, allowing them to carry out related services.

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Some analysts believe that the vigorous development of e-commerce is an important driving force for the rapid popularization of digital payment in the Gulf countries. The Internet penetration rate and per capita income of the Gulf countries are relatively high, coupled with the late start of e-commerce, the future development potential is huge. During the prevention and control of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, the development of e-commerce in the Gulf countries has further accelerated. E-commerce is expected to grow from $24 billion in 2020 to $50 billion in 2025.

Gulf countries generally adopt incentive policies for digital payments. Khalil, MasterCard’s Middle East and North Africa representative, said the Gulf countries’ enthusiasm for digital payments was heartening. Saudi Arabia's 2030 vision regards digital transformation as an important goal, including increasing the proportion of digital payments to 70%. Dubai, United Arab Emirates has set up a "Cashless Dubai Working Group", aiming to gradually transfer the existing payment transactions in various industries in Dubai to a safer and easier-to-use cashless transaction platform.

The Gulf countries actively carry out international cooperation in digital payments, the common digital currency project Aber between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Buna payment platform that supports multi-currency transactions among the member states of the Arab Monetary Fund, and the AFAQ system that connects to the real-time total settlement system of the Gulf countries, etc. Both support digital payments between countries.

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China has played an important role in promoting the rapid development of digital payment in the Gulf countries, and the digital cooperation between the two sides has been continuously strengthened. Chinese technology companies are actively participating in the digital construction of the Gulf countries and jointly building the "Digital Silk Road". Zhong Hong, deputy director of the Bank of China Research Institute, told our reporter that digital payment provides a safe, efficient, and low-cost transaction environment, helps more people enjoy financial services, and improves the well-being of the people in the Gulf countries. At the same time, digital payment will give full play to the technological advantages of big data and artificial intelligence to help the digital transformation of the Gulf countries and provide new impetus for economic development.

(Newspaper from Dubai)

"People's Daily" (version 14, November 28, 2022)

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(Editors in charge: Zhao Xinyue, Liu Yeting)

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