Share of digital payments in Saudi Arabia hits 62%, says SAMA official

The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing.
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The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. Supplied
The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
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The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
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The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing. AN photo by Nadin Hassan
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Updated 04 September 2023
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Share of digital payments in Saudi Arabia hits 62%, says SAMA official

Share of digital payments in Saudi Arabia hits 62%, says SAMA official

RIYADH: The fintech sector is thriving in the Kingdom, which could be gauged through the fact that the share of digital payments reached 62 percent close enough to Saudi Arabia’s target of 70 percent by the end of 2025, said a top official of the central bank.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day Seamless Saudi Arabia 2023 in Riyadh, Khalid Walid Al-Dhaher, vice governor for supervision and technology at the Saudi Central Bank, highlighted the growth of the Saudi financial sector since the launch of Vision 2030.

“We have witnessed a significant increase in the number of financial technology companies, reaching 183 companies by the end of the second quarter of 2023. This achievement represents 80 percent of the target set for the year 2025, which is 230 companies,” he said.

SAMA’s aim is to enable financial institutions to promote the expansion of the private sector, create possibilities for new categories of stakeholders, and accelerate the digitization of payments.

Al-Dhaher said the growth of fintech will support “institutions and enable small and emerging businesses to introduce innovative and modern financial products such as e-wallets and digital financing platforms.”

The official said the Regulatory Sandbox Strategy is open to both international and domestic firms interested in testing fintech solutions in a real environment.

There are now 45 fintech companies operating in the regulatory sandbox, he said. “It also aims to achieve a cumulative value of bold financial investment reaching SR12.2 billion ($3.2 billion). The goal is for the fintech sector to contribute SR13.3 billion to the gross domestic product by 2030,” Al-Dhaher said.

Saudi Arabia’s digital economy is witnessing significant expansion, as the Kingdom recorded more than 8 billion transactions with a value of SR1.6 trillion in 2022, up from around SR6 billion transactions in 2021, according to a statement by the managing director of Saudi Payments, also known as Mada.

Speaking during a panel discussion, Abdulaziz Al-Afaleg highlighted how the financial ecosystem has grown in the Kingdom.

He said Mada will launch a new digital platform soon, which will be combined with data services and provide valuable inputs to the markets regarding the data flowing through the payment systems.

In another panel discussion, Nezar Alhaidar, managing director of Fintech Saudi underlined how Vision 2030 is serving as a catalyst for the growth and evolution of various industries including fintech.

“Back then in 2018, we had almost $300 million invested in the ecosystem. Today, we have over 180 fintech (firms) operating in Saudi Arabia and the invested amount is close to SR1.5 billion,” Alhaidar said.

The event witnessed the participation of experts from different financial sectors such as banking technology, payments and fintech, and retail, e-commerce, and marketing, hosting over 500 exhibitors to showcase innovative solutions and startups from across the region.

On the payment front, Saudi Arabia is seamlessly leading in terms of NFC payments, as the Kingdom has experienced a remarkable surge in mobile payment usage accounting for about 45 percent of transactions, Nassir Ghrous, vice president of Thales, Banking and Payment Services, told Arab News in an interview on the sidelines of the event.

“The fintech segment is key to drive and steer innovation in the payment industry. I think this is something that is fully aligned with Vision 2030, and that has been promoted by the Kingdom very successfully. So, what we do with the fintech is to allow them to get the space and to help modernization,” he said.

According to Checkout.com, e-commerce in the Kingdom has entered a steady phase of high growth, presenting expanded opportunities for both emerging entrepreneurs and well-established financial institutions.

“Ninety-one percent of consumers in the Kingdom now prefer to shop online and 14 percent of them shop every day,” Checkout.com’s Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, general manager for Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News.

“When the trend started to boom in the region, specifically in Saudi Arabia we saw homegrown companies such as Tamara growing and taking the lead. That is why we wanted to support these payment methods,” Abbondandolo said.

As a knowledge partner at the conference, the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, also known as Monsha’at, is actively participating in Seamless.


Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 
Updated 6 sec ago
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Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

CAIRO: The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday that larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal and external accounts. 

“Iraq needs to increase non-oil exports and government revenue, and reduce the economy’s vulnerability to oil price shocks,” they said in a concluding statement. 


Saudi ‘Sah’ savings product second round opens, offering 5.63% return 

Saudi ‘Sah’ savings product second round opens, offering 5.63% return 
Updated 19 min 15 sec ago
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Saudi ‘Sah’ savings product second round opens, offering 5.63% return 

Saudi ‘Sah’ savings product second round opens, offering 5.63% return 

RIYADH: Saudi residents can once again boost their savings rates with the commencement of the second round of subscriptions for the savings product “Sah” on March 3. 

The Shariah-compliant, government-backed sukuk offers a return of 5.63 percent, and redemption amounts are scheduled to be paid within a year, as disclosed by the National Debt Management Center in a release on X. 

These sukuk are issued by the Ministry of Finance and organized by the NDMC. 


Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest

Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest
Updated 3 min 54 sec ago
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Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest

Ireland trade minister: Saudi Arabia offers ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for Irish firms looking to invest
  • Simon Coveney appeared on the “Frankly Speaking” show, the full episode of which will be released on Sunday
  • Described Gulf region as a “really good example of how international trade can create wealth and employment”

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia offers an “extraordinary opportunity” for Irish firms looking to invest in everything from technology to tourism, according to Ireland’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment.

Appearing on the Arab News current-affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” Simon Coveney singled out the Gulf region as a “really good example of how international trade can create wealth, can create employment, and also can ultimately provide stability and an absence of conflict.”

 

 

As part of a Gulf tour, Coveney recently paid a visit to Riyadh to meet with Majid Al-Qasabi, Saudi Arabia’s minister of commerce, and other high-level officials.

“The main topic of discussion was Saudi ambition, in terms of the vision for 2030, the extraordinary scale of project development that is currently happening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”

“Whether that’s on the Red Sea coast in terms of tourism, or whether it’s the scale of development in terms of some of the other projects around Saudi Arabia, and the opportunity for international business that comes from that.

“Whether it’s construction, whether it’s technology, whether it’s energy, whether it’s transport and tourism, whether it’s medtech and the pharmaceutical industry.”

Former Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney being interviewed by Frankly Speaking host Katie Jensen. (AN photo)

He added: “All of these sectors are very, very strong in Ireland. We have a lot of capacity. Ireland has become a very globalized economy, and some of the largest companies in the world, in many of these sectors already have a very large international presence in Ireland.”

The primary focus of Coveney’s visit to the region was the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference, which took place between Feb. 26 and 29 in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

There, trade ministers discussed a new dispute-resolution mechanism designed to even the playing field between larger and smaller economies.

Ireland is keen to see reforms to ensure that the WTO is able to meet the challenges of the modern economy, including a boost for digital trade — known as e-commerce — and stronger action on climate change — issues the body has been slow to adapt to.

 

 

“Ireland, like every small country, wants to see the WTO working, because the WTO and its dispute-resolution mechanisms and support programs is in many ways the great leveler to allow small countries to trade under agreed rules with larger countries and larger blocs of countries,” he said.

“Ireland is a big believer in the WTO as a basis for international trade. But like many others, we’ve been somewhat frustrated at the inability of the WTO membership to get agreement on certain things.

“We’re trying to get agreement on a functioning dispute-resolution mechanism so that small and large countries can operate under the same rules. And if they don’t, there’s a mechanism that countries can refer to, to get a resolution to breakdowns.”

However, Coveney said the prevailing climate of protectionism meant that very few breakthroughs were made in the talks, adding that the apparent “retreat” of globalization provides little room for positivity.


Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality

Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality
Updated 02 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality

Saudi Arabia takes bold strides toward greener future and carbon neutrality
  • The Kingdom is actively contributing to offsetting emissions through a comprehensive carbon credit program

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has emerged as a key player when it comes to environmental responsibility, setting ambitious targets to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions via carbon credit offsets.

At the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives is the dynamic approach to carbon neutrality. The Kingdom is determined to not only reduce its carbon footprint but also actively contribute to offsetting emissions through a comprehensive carbon credit program.

In an interview with Arab News, Louis Corapi, chief financial officer at Gulf Cryo, a Dubai-based gas firm, shed light on the significance of this initiative, following the company’s launch of a carbon capture and utilization facility in Rabigh.

“Through Vision 2030 and the 2060 commitment to carbon neutrality, Saudi Arabia set clear sustainability goals. Carbon credits are an important component of this strategy. Having an exchange is itself a signal to companies that this commitment is about action and requires broad participation,” Corapi said.

He added: “Secondly, credits will need to be independently verified to be counted. This field is still developing, but we’re confident that it will help to stratify the most and least effective projects.”

Corapi further added that the assignment of dollar values to carbon credits represents a transformative shift in incentivizing sustainability initiatives for companies. By attaching a monetary value to these credits, businesses gain a financial mechanism to support projects that might face challenges in traditional boardroom approvals. 

“We also recognize that there are industries that are both hard to abate and vital to global economies,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is pursuing carbon neutrality with a multi-pronged approach that touches on everything from transportation to energy.

The Kingdom realizes how critical it is to actively pursue offsetting measures in addition to actively reducing its own emissions.

“What’s less discussed is that there are also many industries that require carbon dioxide as a key component to their manufacturing process. That started to change in 2014 when Gulf Cryo, together with our partner Equate, started a carbon capture plant in Kuwait,” Corapi explained.

He added: “We just commissioned a new CO2 capture plant in Petro Rabigh and are constructing the plant at Ma’aden. Together these plants will capture over 1,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per day which means 1,000 tonnes per day of fossil fuel burning is permanently stopped.”

For many years, carbon dioxide emissions have been removed and stored using carbon capture utilization and storage methods, which also enhance the quality of natural gas.

In addition to ensuring fossil fuels satisfy the world’s pressing energy demands, carbon capture simultaneously lowers emission levels and provides a means of assisting in the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Saudi Arabia declared a target of 44 million tonnes of carbon capture year by 2035, setting a high standard for emission reduction.

By 2027, Aramco and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy hope to build a hub in Jubail with a 9 million tonne annual storage capacity.

“Today, projects are only viable when there is a clear end user for the CO2.  As long as businesses continue to evaluate investments with classical financial models, decisions are delayed, and emissions continue unabated,” Corapi said.

Furthermore, when asked for his opinion on what could be done better to implement carbon credit offset strategies, Corapi noted that “there is so much more to do, and that we don’t have time to waste,” adding: “We’ve demonstrated that effective technologies exist, but equipment is expensive to install.” 

He went on to say: “Today, projects are only viable when there is a clear end user for the CO2.  As long as businesses continue to evaluate investments with classical financial models, decisions are delayed, and emissions continue unabated.” 

FASTFACT

Saudi Arabia declared a target of 44 million tonnes of carbon capture year by 2035, setting a high standard for emission reduction. By 2027, Aramco and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy hope to build a hub in Jubail with a 9 million tonne annual storage capacity.

Corapi further emphasized that governments have the ability to influence investment decisions in sustainability by introducing new incentives. By strategically implementing policies, governments can sway the choices made by investors and businesses towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable options.

“In coordination with other countries across the region, decisions are needed on what standard credits will be certified to and experts are needed to verify the effectiveness of local projects,” Corapi explained.

Additionally, he highlighted that Saudi Arabia is actively pursuing a leadership role in the realm of sustainability through a comprehensive and proactive approach.

According to Corapi, the Kingdom achieves this “through its publicly stated commitments, forums and action platforms it hosts and participates in, to bring different interests together, funding sources it makes available, and openness to ideas from concerned individuals, international organizations, business and government agencies.”

He said: “Saudi Arabia is working hard to establish a leadership position in sustainability and to urgently implement actions that will make a real difference.” 

The new carbon capture and utilization facility further steps up Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainability efforts. (Supplied)

The new carbon capture and utilization facility, a collaborative project between Petro Rabigh and Gulf Cryo — the first of its kind in the western region of Saudi Arabia dedicated to the merchant market and the second overall in the Kingdom — further steps up Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainability efforts.

The plant, which opened on Dec. 21, resulted from a long-term strategic partnership inked in March 2022 between the two companies to develop Petro Rabigh’s mono ethylene glycol facility in the Red Sea town of Rabigh.

The newly launched facility can directly capture 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day from the MEG plant.  It is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 100,000 tonnes annually, achieving an 85 percent reduction in its total annual carbon footprint. 

The plant will process the captured carbon dioxide to a high-purity food-grade level and transport it in liquid form for reuse. 

“This landmark project anchors our leading position in CCUS solutions in the region and marks our first carbon capture project in the Kingdom,” said Abdul Salam Al-Mazro, vice chairman of Gulf Cryo, in a statement.

He added: “It underscores the importance of managing the full CO2 value chain. We reduce emissions at source while utilizing the recovered CO2 as a vital resource to help decarbonize supply chains of various industries.”

Petro Rabigh will utilize a portion of this carbon dioxide stream internally, while Gulf Cryo will supply the remainder to various industries across the Kingdom.


Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn

Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn
Updated 02 March 2024
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Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn

Saudi non-oil exports to GCC nations surge by 42% to hit $5.55bn
  • Saudi Arabia aims to revolutionize its container shipping sector, mirroring its efforts in non-oil industries

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports to Gulf  Cooperation Council countries saw a 42 percent annual increase in the final three months  of 2023, according to official data.

Information released by the Kingdom’s General Authority of Statistics showed the total value of these transactions reached SR20.8 billion ($5.55 billion), primarily due to an increase in re-exports, which rose by 106 percent to hit SR11.34 billion. 

Re-exports – goods imported into a country and then exported to another without significant processing or alteration – accounted for 55 percent of total non-oil shipments to Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman, as well as Qatar, and the UAE.

Among these GCC nations, the UAE emerged as the top destination, receiving 67 percent of the non-oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, totaling SR14 billion. Of these transactions, approximately 61 percent were re-exports, representing a 97 percent growth during this period.

Factors contributing to this surge in re-exports could include the solid economic bonds among GCC nations, fostering a unified market that facilitates the free flow of goods and services.

Saudi Arabia’s strategic position as a central hub within the GCC region could also minimize transportation expenses and transit durations due to its proximity. 

Moreover, the Kingdom’s modern and well-developed infrastructure, encompassing ports, airports, and road networks, further streamlines the movement of goods, potentially influencing this uptick in re-exports.

Additionally, the GCC region’s strategic location on major trade routes allows for efficient redistribution of goods and services. Taking advantage of this, the countries are developing logistics hubs to facilitate the movement of both domestic and transit goods.

Saudi Arabia also aims to revolutionize its container-shipping sector, mirroring its efforts in non-oil industries like electric cars and renewable energy.

With plans to expand inland logistics hubs and improve rail connections, the country seeks to increase annual container throughput to 40 million twenty-foot equivalent units by 2030.

This ambition aligns with the grand scale of projects such as the $500 billion NEOM scheme, featuring a 170-km. city and a container port with a 9 million TEU capacity.

The giga-project will also include the Oxagon port, slated to become the largest floating structure globally, situated at the nexus of three continents.

The robust economic ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia are further demonstrated through their mutual investments.

By the end of 2022, the UAE had amassed a significant foreign direct investment stock of SR104 billion in Saudi Arabia, as reported by the General Authority of Statistics. This substantial investment
plays a pivotal role in bolstering their economic partnership, fostering growth, and has paved the way for the expansion of non-oil trade activities between the two nations.

Transport equipment accounted for 31 percent of non-oil exports to the UAE from the Kingdom in the final quarter of 2023, reaching a value of SR4.39 billion in what is a 145 percent increase. 

Machinery and electrical parts constituted another 27 percent, totaling SR3.75 billion with a 67 percent rise.

Additionally, chemical industry products accounted for 10 percent, reaching SR1.44 billion – a 17 percent increase during this period.

Among the GCC countries, trade with Qatar experienced the most substantial growth, with non-oil exports to the country soaring by 439 percent. Of these exports, 61 percent comprised transport equipment amounting to SR888 million, while 18 percent were chemical industry products totaling SR255 million.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are actively working to enhance their economic, military, sports, and cultural ties. This push comes after the meeting of the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council, attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, in December.

The leaders consider the council vital for communication and coordination, underlining the importance of expanding cooperation to drive sustainable growth and prosperity for both nations and their citizens.

The trade balance with the GCC saw a substantial 90 percent annual increase in the fourth quarter of 2023, although imports still exceeded non-oil exports by SR489 million.

Around 68 percent of Saudi Arabia’s imports from the GCC countries originated from the UAE, which saw a 22 percent rise to SR14.37 billion. 

In contrast, imports from other nations in the economic bloc decreased, with Kuwait experiencing the most significant decline of 49 percent to SR351 million.

Mineral products account for the largest share of imports from the UAE at 33 percent, amounting to SR4.8 billion, followed by pearls and other jewelry at 19 percent, totaling SR2.7 billion. 

Industrial equipment, chemicals, and plastics made up 16 percent at SR2.3 billion.