Bahrain projected to be world leader in real-time payments

Bahrain is projected to be the world leader in consumer adoption of real-time payments, says a new report, putting it ahead of Brazil, Thailand and its closest regional competitors, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Published by ACI Worldwide, a leader in mission-critical, real-time payments software, in partnership with data and analytics company GlobalData, the 2023 Prime Time for Real-Time report notes that by 2027, Bahraini citizens are expected to make an average of 83.3 real-time transactions per month.

Total real-time payments in the country are expected to grow from 276 million in 2022 to 1.3 billion in 2027, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.5 per cent, outpacing any other market in the Gulf.

Real-time payments are those that are initiated and settled almost instantaneously.

Highlighting that instant transactions are strongly embedded in the everyday lives of consumers and businesses in Bahrain, the report notes their penetration to all levels of the economy including salaries, peer-to-peer, consumer to business, in-store and online merchant payments, bill payments and QR-code payments.

In 2015, Benefit, the operator of the national electronic fund transfer system (EFTS), launched Fawri+, a real-time payments system that sets the standard for instant payments in the region.

Following a major upswing in its usage during 2020, nearly 60pc of electronic payments in the country today are processed in real-time and they are forecast to rise to 78.6pc by 2027.

A cash-dominated market previously, the kingdom is reaping the rewards of central bank mandates and the waiving of fees up to a certain threshold, which have contributed to a sudden uptake of the superapp-like BenefitPay, which supports cards and account-to-account real-time payments, explains the report.

Instant payments are also helping promote financial inclusion and increase financial stability across the economy, leading to stronger economic growth.

“Real-time payments growth and adoption in Bahrain has been remarkable, making it a regional and global leader in the field. Bahrain’s government and Central Bank support, as well as its innovative digital infrastructure, have made it an ideal environment for businesses and consumers to take advantage of real-time payments,” said Santhosh Rao, senior vice-president for Middle East Africa South Asia at ACI Worldwide.

“This year’s report highlights how consumer and business adoption of real-time payments accelerates when the conditions are right,” continued Mr Rao. “Bahrain as a relatively recent enabler of real-time payments shows that concerted industry collaboration, widespread merchant adoption, strong brand recognition for a scheme and related services, such as digital wallets, are the perfect combination for strong growth.”

The report finds that the Middle East is the fastest-growing real-time payments market globally, with transactions expected to grow from $675m in 2022 to $2.6bn by 2027, a CAGR of 30.6pc.

With consumers and businesses in the Middle East demanding cheaper, faster and more efficient ways to pay, and merchant acceptance of real-time payments on the rise, consumer and business adoption via popular new use cases is heating up, it adds.

Saudi Arabia is currently the biggest instant payments market in the region, closely followed by Bahrain.




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