The payment market in MEA

Insights from our local expert Ramy Fouda

“The Middle East and Africa region is a very interesting place for payments and innovation. E-commerce is growing rapidly in double digits year after year and almost 90% of UAE customers, for example, are converted to e-commerce. Of course, the adaptation of digital payments varies a lot within the region between GCC to North Africa to Sub-Saharan Africa, but the main theme is still very positive towards identifying the importance of such technologies. The e-commerce market alone will be worth $50bn in 2025 rising from $5.3bn in 2015. Yet we still have a lot of challenges and opportunities to solve and explore together.” Ramy Fouda, Director Sales and Business Development Middle East

Which countries does your team serve and where do you see the most potential?

Based in Dubai, UAE, most of our energy goes to the Gulf countries (known as GCC). This includes focus countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar beside UAE, of course. Nevertheless, we see developments in other parts of the region, such as Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

We started to focus on Secure Digital Payments in the last quarter of 2018, with our first win in UAE for Network International and ever since, we are trying to offer the right value to issuers and acquirers in the region that helps them deliver innovative payment services to their end customers.

In the last two years, we managed to convert many customers from their existing platforms to Netcetera 3-D Secure smoothly either in direct wins or through our partners’ network in cooperation with the Channel sales team. Our vision for the coming years is first to be known in our focus countries as a trusted advisor for secure digital payments, and secondly, to expand our portfolio for the existing and prospect customers to grow further and to allow Netcetera provide more products and services to the same account raising its value to these customers. 

How important is it to be on site and have a local presence?

The short answer: it is extremely important. The MEA region sales eco-system is based on networking. The statement of “People buy from People” is very true here, even more than in other areas of the world. Being near to our customers is so crucial to their decision criteria and that they feel safe with their choices.

Is Dubai the gateway to Middle East, what’s the role of Dubai in the region in relation to Payment industry?

Dubai is a focal point to the MEA region. The Dubai office is not only a sales office but also provides personalized services to this part of the world in terms of sales, pre-sales, customer success and more.

What are the main topics and issues that the payment industry is facing now? Are there any significant differences for individual countries in this region?

To simplify the answer, let’s first clarify that MEA is not one region. It consists of different sub-regions that are different in characteristics, trends and consequently their Go-To-Market plans.

On one side, the mature markets like GCC are very competitive with heavy utilization of cards and e-commerce. The main topics for most of the customers are around distinguishing themselves from others by providing the latest and futuristic payment methods. We see that clearly in markets like UAE and KSA.

One the other side, the emerging markets are showing their muscles with double digits growth in e-commerce year-over-year but with the challenge of lower financial inclusions rates and lower infrastructures. In countries like Egypt, Nigeria and Pakistan, central banks have the challenge of increasing the adaptation and usage of financial system and cards. Young people (around 30% of the population in the Middle East are aged between 15 and 29, this is a market force of 110 million people) are the dynamo driving the issuers and acquirers towards innovation and technology.

In what stage of development is the payment and banking market in MEA?

It varies a lot! For example, UAE and KSA are still leading in this field while Egypt and Nigeria are trying to follow strongly. Most of these countries are now almost compliant with EMV 3DS protocol 2.0 or having deadlines towards this goal.

In UAE, a pioneer bank just launched biometric authentication for the first time in the region. Many issuers showed interest in using the frictionless flows and risk-based authentication tools while the largest bank in Qatar still prefers to authenticate every transaction.

Another example of development is tokenization, which is not yet widely spread in Africa, except in the four countries Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, and Morocco. Also, Apple Pay shows great interest to go into the Egyptian market as their next new regional target.

How can Netcetera help the PSPs, acquirers, and issuers to tackle and solve these issues?

Netcetera has great potential to help the payment eco-system in this region. Our most noticeable impact is on customers seeking technology agnostic solutions like aggregators and some banks, which enables them to be more agile in the market and reduce the strong grip of schemes over them.

Our portfolio is rich with products to issuers and acquirers in terms of 3-D Secure, risk-based authentication, exemptions, and Biometric Authentication. Based on Netcetera capabilities and our long history in software engineering, we can do more in fintech solutions helping our customers to deliver more innovative services to their end users. The sky is the limit to target more markets in the region and address their requirements and be part of their success journeys.

Ramy Fouda

Director Sales and Business Development, MEA

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