How buy-now-pay-later platforms can revive consumer demand in MENA region

Use of fintech applications was observed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) bloc, where the fintech market is projected to hit $2.5 billion by 2022. (AFP/File Photo)
Use of fintech applications was observed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) bloc, where the fintech market is projected to hit $2.5 billion by 2022. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 19 December 2020

How buy-now-pay-later platforms can revive consumer demand in MENA region

Use of fintech applications was observed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) bloc, where the fintech market is projected to hit $2.5 billion by 2022. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Startups capable of combating the COVID-19 recession are seeking capital to finance their growth and expansion
  • Online shopping and the use of credit and installment payments grew exponentially in MENA during the pandemic 

DUBAI: The pandemic has ravaged businesses worldwide across many sectors and continues to do so in a way that nobody anticipated, pushing some of the strongest economies into recession. At the same time, it has proved a blessing for some business models, particularly in the technology industry, driving unprecedented growth over the past few months.

Among the lucky ones is the fintech market, which has made significant gains. The pandemic forced physical outlets to shut down for an extended period, and concerned consumers avoided traditional shopping even as stores reopened, paving the way for remote and cashless payment solutions. Europe saw a 72 percent increase in the use of fintech applications in just one week early during the pandemic, as per a study by deVere Group.

A similar trend was observed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) bloc, where the fintech market is projected to hit $2.5 billion by 2022.

“As a result of the recent pandemic, online shopping spiked 55 percent globally as people tend to shift more towards contactless interactions and started using pickup areas and delivery services to avoid the risk of being infected,” said Ashraf Sabry, CEO of Fawry Banking and Payment Technology Services.

A digital payments cum fintech platform, Fawry recently became Egypt’s first-ever technology unicorn — its market value hit 20 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.3 billion) after quadrupling during the pandemic.

Given the developing nature of the region’s fintech sector, the pandemic was also an opportunity for local ventures to solve new problems and prove their offerings worthy to wary customers.

Companies from the region have been working hard to revolutionize the payment experience for shoppers. Among other things, their efforts have made the concept of paying in instalments popular again and more accessible to both consumers and businesses.

“In collaboration with the government and central bank of Egypt, fintech companies have contributed to increasing awareness among customers of using (credit) instead of cash and emphasizing more that this kind of transactions are secured, eliminate fraud and have more benefits than cash,” Sabry said when describing the scene in Egypt.

INNUMBERS

Buy-now-pay-later

* $2.5bn - Projected size of MENA fintech market by 2022.

* $1.3bn - Market value of Egypt’s Fawry technology services.

* $7m - Funding secured by UAE’s Tabby aided by Raed Ventures.

His company currently operates a portfolio of services enabling cashless payments for government services, utility bills, university tuition fees, retail stores and even donations. Fawry payments are accepted in a network of more than 165,000 points of sale across the country, in addition to the FawryPay online payment gateway.

Both platforms allow credit-card holders to seamlessly split transactions into fixed equal instalments based on available three-, six-, nine- and 12-month plans. This option eliminates much of the complexities and added costs of working with banks and makes buying now and paying later much more accessible to customers.

Launched in 2019, Tabby is a fintech company from the UAE that also enables businesses to offer shoppers delayed payment options without the need for any bank transactions or even a credit card.




Given the developing nature of the region’s fintech sector, the pandemic was also an opportunity for local ventures to solve new problems and prove their offerings worthy to wary customers. (AFP/File Photo)

Consumers can either pay 14 days after product delivery with no interest or pay in instalments over several months. Three months after the pandemic hit the region, Tabby secured $7 million in a funding round led by Raed Ventures. The company needs capital to finance its growth and expansion into Saudi Arabia.

“The importance of a solution that addresses slowing consumer demand became even more apparent,” Tabby CEO Hosam Arab told Entrepreneur Middle East magazine as he explained why it has become more important to have these simple credit payment options in the region following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fintech shows no signs of slowing down in this part of the world. Egypt’s Vision 2030 targets complete digital transformation as a strategic objective to achieve development goals and enhance the country’s position in the global economy.

“With a 42 percent emerging population, (with) age ranging between 15-40 years, (it) presents an attractive and growing market of early technology adopters,” Sabry said.

Other MENA nations show similar population dynamics and development goals. Throw into the mix a smartphone penetration rate estimated at 40 percent to 50 percent, and the region has every chance of becoming a gold mine for fintech services in a few more years.

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*This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.

 


Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
Updated 7 sec ago

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
AMMAN: Syria’s defense minister met Sunday with Jordan’s army chief in Amman after after Syrian troops captured several rebel-held areas near Jordan’s border, state media reported.
The Hala Akhbar news site, which is linked to Jordan’s military, reported that the meeting between Jordanian Gen. Yousef Huneiti and Syrian Gen. Ali Ayoub was “to increase coordination in the field of border security to serve the interests of the two brotherly countries.”
The recent push by Syrian troops in the country’s south is the biggest since government forces captured wide areas along the border in 2018, including the Nassib border crossing.
The crossing with Jordan was reopened in 2018, months after it fell under Syrian government control. Syrian rebels had seized the site in 2015, severing a lifeline for the government in Damascus and disrupting a major trade route linking Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the oil-rich Gulf countries.
Ayoub’s visit came nearly two weeks after Syrian forces entered the rebel-held district of the volatile southern city of Daraa as part of a truce negotiated by Russia to end weeks of fighting. In the days that followed, Syrian troops captured rebel-held parts of several villages near Daraa.
The latest push by Syrian troops brings all parts of southern Syria under full government control.
Petra, Jordan’s state news agency, said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border security, the situation in southern Syria, fighting terrorism and confronting narcotics smuggling.
Syrian state TV said the visit came at the invitation of Jordan’s army commander, adding that Ayoub was accompanied by top army officers. It said the talks focused on “fighting terrorism and border control.”
Jordan is a close Western ally and has long been seen as an island of stability in the turbulent Mideast. The kingdom hosts more than 650,000 Syrian refugees.
Earlier this month, ministers from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt said after meeting in Amman that Egyptian natural gas should reach Lebanon through Jordan and Syria as soon as next month, after maintenance of pipelines and the review of a deal interrupted 10 years ago.

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway
Updated 19 September 2021

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway
  • The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it was taken into Lebanon on tanker trucks on Thursday
  • Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty

DUBAI: A third tanker has sailed from Iran carrying Iranian fuel for distribution in Lebanon, TankerTrackers.com reported on Twitter on Sunday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments, imported by the Hezbollah movement, constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The Iran-aligned group says the shipments should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it was taken into Lebanon on tanker trucks on Thursday.
Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.


Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break

Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break

Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break
  • A country with a millennia-long history, Iran has an abundance of 746 museums
  • Iran’s museums attracted more than 21 million visitors in the year before the outbreak of COVID-19

TEHRAN: Iran reopened museums in Tehran and other cities Sunday after a more than year-long closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Museums in Tehran and other large cities that are no longer red-coded, meaning the risk of contracting the virus was very high, reopened on Sunday,” the director of Iran’s museums, Mohammad-Reza Kargar, said.
“Tourists and visitors are welcome to return while observing (sanitary) measures.”
A country with a millennia-long history, Iran has an abundance of 746 museums, including 170 in the capital.
“We are absolutely delighted, and we think the people are too because they were fed up with staying home, and visiting museums improves their mood,” Kargar said in his tourism and heritage ministry office.
“We have safety protocols in place of course, and the number of visitors will be dependent on the space at our sites so the public stays safe and healthy.”
Kargar said only students, researchers and staff were allowed into museums during the past 14 months.
Iran’s museums attracted more than 21 million visitors in the year before the outbreak of COVID-19 that forced museums to close in May 2020.
On Sunday, the National Museum of Iran with its magnificent collection of treasures dating back to the Bronze and Iron ages was still deserted.
“We have to wait for the news to spread and schools to reopen for people to come back,” explained Firouzeh Sepidnameh, head of the museum’s pre-Islamic collections.
Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, has confirmed more than 5.4 million cases of coronavirus, including 117,000 deaths, according to figures issued Sunday by the health ministry.
Out of a population of 83 million, 29 million Iranians have received a first dose of vaccination and almost 14 million have been fully vaccinated against the virus.


UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians

UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians
Updated 19 September 2021

UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians

UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians
  • Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: Men shot in public did not receive fair trial
  • The US Embassy to Yemen also condemned the “brutal” executions and called for such “barbarism” to end

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the Houthis on Sunday for executing nine civilians without a fair trial, one of whom was 15 at the time of detention.

Guterres’s spokesman said that the UN chief “deeply regrets” the Houthi executions and “strongly condemns these actions which are a result of judicial proceedings that do not appear to have fulfilled the requirements of fair trial and due process under international law.”

The nine men were shot in the back after they were forced to lie on the floor in public. They were charged with involvement in the killing of the Houthi leader Saleh Al-Samad in 2018 by an Arab Coalition air strike.

The group were accused of putting SIM cards in the pockets of Al-Samad’s guards, helping the coalition locate him.

Al-Samad, then president of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, was visiting Hodeidah in April 2018 to incite residents to join the war when the coalition hit his convoy, killing him along with six others, and inflicting a heavy blow to the Houthis.

Guterres said he opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and reiterated that “international law sets stringent conditions for the application of the death penalty, including compliance with fair trial and due process standards as stipulated under international law.”

The UN chief called on all parties and authorities to adopt a moratorium on carrying out of the death penalty.

He also urged all everyine to cease violence in Yemen, and work with the UN to revive peace talks.

The US Embassy to Yemen also condemned the “brutal” executions and called for such “barbarism” to end.

Charge d'Affaires Cathy Westley said that “This outrageous action is another example of the Houthis indifference to basic human rights and follows only days after their attack on the commercial port of Mocha.”

The UK embassy in Yemen also condemned the “brutal” executions and said it demonstrates the “indifference to human dignity and blatant disregard for fair trial and due process.”

“Sadly, it’s not the first time. Those responsible must change and comply with international law,” a statement said.


UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year

UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year
Updated 19 September 2021

UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year

UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year
  • The UAE government earlier introduced a booster shot drive for fully vaccinated individuals

DUBAI: Daily coronavirus cases in the UAE were at their lowest in over a year on Sunday, with the Gulf state’s high vaccination rate among its population ensuring community immunity against the highly transmissible disease.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention  (MoHAP) confirmed that 391 people had tested positive in the last 24 hours, the lowest since Aug. 30 last year with 362 cases, as well as two deaths due to COVID-19 complications.

The number of people who have tested positive in the UAE since the pandemic started stands at 732,690 with 2,075 fatalities.

MoHAP earlier said 91.93 percent of its almost 10 million population have received at least a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – one of the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world – while 81.08 percent of residents and citizens have been fully vaccinated.

The UAE government earlier introduced a booster shot drive for individuals who were inoculated particularly with the Sinopharm vaccine to increase immunity against the virus.

A total 19,412,656 doses have been administered so far, for a vaccine distribution rate equivalent to 196.28 doses per 100 people.

The continued decline in COVID-19 numbers in the UAE has prompted Abu Dhabi to lift COVID-19 testing requirements for residents before they are allowed entry into the emirate.

The COVID-19 checkpoint at the Abu Dhabi-Dubai was removed just after midnight on Sunday.

The decision follows the announcement of a decreased COVID-19 infection rate in the emirate of 0.2 percent of total tests and the activation of the green pass system to enter some public places, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee said in a statement.

The committee also approved home quarantine without the use of wristbands for international travellers and those in contact with positive cases.

COVID-19 positive individuals in the emirate are however still required to wear a wristband as part of monitoring to ensure compliance with precautionary measures.