Strategy — 2 min read

The State of Payments in the MEA: A Fragmented Market In Need of Unbiased Partners

The state of payment systems in the MENA region reflects a highly fragmented market that needs unbiased partners like MoneyHash. The good news is that despite hyper-fragmented payment systems, the spike in digital payments is growing exponentially.

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The payment landscape in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a highly fragmented market that is ready for comprehensive solutions. Despite the challenges posed by these fragmented systems, there's a noticeable and rapid growth in digital payments.

These systems are not only expanding but also introducing new digital payment methods that are quickly becoming popular among consumers. One might wonder, how is this significant growth happening amidst the fragmentation in the MENA payment ecosystem?

In this article, we'll delve into this question and examine the most popular payment gateways in MENA countries.

Digital Payment State Between Fragmentation & Flourish

The digital payment systems are swinging between two stages; fragmentation and flourishing. 

Fragmentation: According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the payment systems in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are very disjointed. Each country in the region has its own set of payment rules.

This means that the payment systems are not stable and lack a uniform approach across all countries.

Flourish: Despite the disjointed nature of the payment systems in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), digital payments are rapidly growing in the region. Current payment gateways are expanding, and new payment aggregators are entering the fintech market. This leads to a fragmented yet quickly evolving fintech ecosystem.

According to Mastercard's latest payments index, 85% of people in MENA have used at least one new payment method in the last year. 
Here are some of the new payment methods that are emerging:

  • Mobile wallets that you can tap to pay (For example, PayPal)

  • Buy Now, Pay Later services (BNPLs) (Example: VALU)

  • Direct transfers from one bank account to another (Example: Instapay)

  • Wearable devices with NFC technology for payments (Example: Thales Gemalto PayBand)

For example, digital payment transactions in the UAE have grown by 9% every year from 2014 to 2019. In comparison, Europe's average annual growth in the same period was only 4 to 5%.

In Saudi Arabia, digital transactions at points of sale doubled in 2021. The Saudi government, as part of its Vision 2030 plan, aims to have 70% of its total transactions be digital by 2030.

Fintech Products In MENA

Fintech products in MENA found a way to grow exponentially. Thanks to the nature of highly populated countries, it easily became a sweet spot for fintech products. 

Enabling Unbanked Consumers to Pay Online


A major issue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the high number of people without bank accounts. The big question has been how to include these unbanked individuals in the financial technology (fintech) world. Fortunately, emerging payment solutions, such as e-wallets, have made it possible for these unbanked people to make online payments.

E-wallets have shown great potential, especially in countries like Egypt, where a third of the population doesn't use banks. As a result, local payment providers are becoming key partners for online businesses in the region.

What Are The Preferred Payment Gateways In MENA?

Choosing between various payment methods in the Middle East and AfricaChoosing between various payment methods in the Middle East and AfricaBefore answering the question of what are the preferred payment gateways in MENA, let’s first state the fact that every customer has their payment preferences. Thus, It’s crucial for payment businesses operating in MENA, to choose a relatable payment gateway that matches the payment preferences of their target customers. 

As a result, this link will narrow the gap between the targeted customers and the service providers, increasing conversion rates, and enhancing the customer experience.

A Rundown Of Most Used Payment Gateways in MENA By Country

Let’s have a holistic view of the most used payment gateways in each country. Here's a rundown of seven countries as follows:

Egypt

Let’s start with Egypt as an active hub for fintech startups. Cash is still the most used payment method, accounting for 57% of total transactions even though card payments have increased to 22%. 

The most used payment gateways for card payments and e-wallets are: 

  • Fawry Pay

  • Payfort or APS

  • Paymob

  • InstaPay

UAE

The most used payment method in the UAE is digital wallets, followed by cards. According to a recent survey, “16 percent of 18-24 year-olds prefer digital wallets, compared to 9 percent of 25-34 year-olds.” In other words, 50% of the population prefers e-wallets

Thus, the most popular payment gateways based on transaction fees and customer service are:

Saudi Arabia

Unlike others, cards are the most common payment method in Saudi Arabia. There is a huge increase accounting for 41% of transactions in the country. Cards are followed by cash on delivery and e-wallets for online transactions. 

The most used payment gateways in Saudi Arabia are:

  • Tap

  • Hyperpay

  • Payfort

  • Paytabs

Qatar

In Qatar, cash remains a predominant payment method, according to Qatar's central bank. In 2021, the total value of cash transactions amounted to 71.5 billion versus 70.8 billion card transactions

Yet, it’s fair to say that Mobile payments especially e-wallet usage have increased during 2021 compared to 2020

The most used payment methods in Qatar are:

  • Qpay

  • Sadad

Kuwait

Cards are the first payment method used in Kuwait for online purchases or in-store transactions. The amount of card transactions has reached up to 61% versus 11% for cash transactions. 

The adoption rate of digital methods of payments is quite significant in Kuwait.

South Africa

In South Africa, cards (which reached nearly 40% of transactions) are the first payment method, followed by cash and bank transfers. 

The most prominent gateways in South Africa are:

  • Payfast

  • Yoco

  • Zapper

Nigeria

Cash and debit cards are the two most common payment methods in Nigeria. Nigerian people rely heavily on cash although there are various payment methods in the country. 

The common payment gateways used by online businesses in Nigeria are:

  • Paystack

  • Flutterwave

  • VoguePay

Conclusion: Partner with a Payment Provider for Unbiased Advice


To sum up, digital payment adoption rates vary widely across the MENA region, with each country featuring its own unique set of local payment methods and challenges.

Imagine how hectic it can be to understand each market and customize payment options for different customer groups yourself! It's a daunting task!

Instead of trying to build your own payment system from scratch, it's more efficient to leverage a payment partner like MoneyHash who can consolidate all these diverse needs into a single, centralized platform.

This approach not only simplifies your payment process but also frees up your time, allowing you to focus more on your core business activities.


FAQ:

What are the emerging payment methods in the MENA region?

  • Tappable mobile wallets (Example: PayPal)

  • BNPLs (Examples: VALU)

  • Account-to-account (Example: Instapay)

  • Payment-enabled wearable NFC tech devices (Example: Thales Gemalto PayBand)

**What Are the Common Payment Gateways in Egypt?**The most used payment gateways for card payments and e-wallets are: 

  • Fawry Pay

  • Payfort or APS

  • Paymob

  • InstaPay

Doaa Amer

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