The United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia feature among the world’s top emerging markets for global retail expansion, according to Alex Mifsud, Founder and CEO of Ixaris.
Mifsud addressed 150 delegates at the Prepaid Summit: Middle East in Dubai earlier this week (March 19), joining more than twenty leading executives to discuss the very real opportunities of the prepaid sector. The region’s fifth annual conference dedicated to the prepaid sector explored the development of mobile wallets, opportunities and threats, best practices and projects and customer service.
The event saw the announcement of a major partnership – said to be a first – between Saudi Post and 3Omlti which according to side-line discussions looks poised to re-revolutionise safe and secure online shopping in the Kingdom with similar developments expected to follow in UAE and the greater Middle East.
Delegates heard that recent Gulf-focussed surveys place card-related fraud as one of the main barriers of growth for e-commerce across the board, with 46 per cent of consumers not willing to use their credit or debit cards online.
The findings also confirmed that while many have access to e-enabled devices they are ‘bankless’ – do not have a bank account or bank cards that are internet enabled – and cannot shop online.
“This partnership sees prepaid cards and prepaid virtual accounts addressing actual consumer concerns by enabling them to shop safely without exposing bank, debit, credit or personal data when making payments online,” explained Khalid Al Holan, Founder and CEO of 3Omlti.
He said that consumers will be able to purchase vouchers at their local post office and convert them online into prepaid cards which will be acceptable by any internet shopping site.
Meanwhile, Rich Bialek, Visa’s Senior Director, Prepaid, Central Europe Middle East and Africa, representing the event’s title sponsor, noted that the United States is driven by government programs and will continue to represent at least two-thirds of the total global prepaid value, and that Central Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) – including MENA – is the fastest growing market presently doubling in volume, year on year.
“To date in CEMEA payroll programmes, gift and incentive cards have driven growth. Now programmes targeting travel and online commerce are on the increase, along with government programmes designed to promote financial literacy and financial inclusion,” he said.
Bialek indicated that strong travel demand, online commerce and government programmes promoting financial literacy and inclusion are all real signs of market opportunity and growth.
“We expect prepaid to continue to enjoy strong double digit growth and outpace the growth of other payment products by converting cash transactions into prepaid card transactions.
“For the MENA region in particular this growth can be attributed to the globalisation of the work force that has driven the use of prepaid remittance cards and increased spending power among youth, and in turn has driven the need for more convenient spending mechanisms that don’t require credit qualification”, he explained.
Echoing these sentiments Douglas Blakey, Group Editor Consumer Finance at leading business information provider Timetric Financial Services said that regional and global demand for new consumer experiences is driving the popularity of prepaid.
“Prepaid is a practical, transparent and cost-effective international payment gateway for both business and individuals, and the only way for the sector to go is up,” he concluded.