Cross Border Payments

‘A Deep Dive Into Cross-Border Payments’ Released by MENA Fintech Association as v.2 of SHIFT Report

The MENA Fintech Association (MFTA), a voice of the region’s fintech community, has published the second volume of its SHIFT report. The first volume, ‘SHIFT – MENA Payments Landscaping’, was published earlier this year and contained everything a fintech needs to know about the region’s payments sector. In continuation to that, MFTA released the second volume titled ‘A Deep Dive into Cross-Border Payments’, a comprehensive report co-authored by M2P Solutions and Mastercard on the cross-border payment landscape in the MENA region.

“SHIFT” is the name of the working group, which is composed of the association’s members. These industry leaders are focused on payment technology solutions and services, financial education and regulation, and international card networks. They include The London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF), Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Arthur D. Little, BPC,, Codebase Technologies, GPS, Karm, Mastercard, M2P Solutions, Marshal, Taptap Send and YAP. The working group was formed with the objectives of stimulating insightful conversations on regional prime payment topics and fostering a shift towards the future of payments.

Cross-border payments are vital to the financial ecosystem in the MENA region, with two of the world’s three largest remittance corridors located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia (KSA). Both the UAE and KSA have handled $78billion in payments in 2020 (source McKinsey) as millions of unbanked and underbanked expats reside across both countries.

The report provides an understanding of the cross-border payments scenario in the MENA region, making a case that there is a strong need for new and innovative technologies to help boost financial inclusion and access to financial services. A few key insights from the report are:

  • With more people living in other countries for work or business, globalisation and outsourcing of firms, the openness of economies (FDI, FII), international tourism, and international e-commerce, cross-border payments are becoming an important aspect of business and daily life.
  • The volume of remittances transmitted from MENA to other nations is 20 per cent Intra- MENA and 80 per cent Inter-MENA region, indicating a solid use case for MENA’s cross-border payment infrastructure.
  • Fintechs have introduced new channels for cross-border transactions and helped legacy players like banks and MSBs improve their cross-border payment products through APIs, digital onboarding, e-KYC, digital channels like Apps and Kiosks, payment gateways, and blockchain.

“The MENA region is well poised for a fintech revolution’’ said Vaanathi Mohanakrishnan, business head, MENA, M2P Solutions. “Due to the significant migrant population of about 45 per cent in each country in the GCC, remittances are a vital part of the payment ecosystem. Creating a frictionless channel for end-users and promoting financial inclusion through the enablement of seamless and affordable digital experiences for cross-border payments are some of the key objectives of the MENA region’s SHIFT initiatives.” Vaanathi added.

Mohit Gupta, director of cross-border services, EEMEA, Mastercard, said: “With its burgeoning expat population and its position as a gateway between the east and west, the MENA region is at the very heart of the cross-border payments landscape. GCC countries alone occupy five of the top 20 positions when it comes to outward remittances, while MENA volumes for B2B transactions are forecast to pass $30 trillion by the end of this year. The only way we’re going to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth is by building a more connected ecosystem and thriving world beyond cash, where everyone has equal access to a better life. At Mastercard we lead innovation across multiple payment rails, adding value and connecting information, while fostering financial inclusion, enabling people and organisations to transact across any channel and to any end point.”

Nameer Khan, chairman, MFTA added “This is an essential piece of work on cross border focusing on wide spectrum of key factors and indicators in this vertical. With the increasing number of expats in this region and the increased adoption of a cashless society, Total GDP of the region being $2.26trillion we can see from this joint industry study that cross-border payments will play a vital role. Congratulations to all the SHIFT members and the fintech community for such a comprehensive guide on cross border payments.“

The complete SHIFT guide will be published in multiple volumes that cover the fundamental components of payments, such as regulation, technology, and processing, as well as trends in individual countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Iraq. Subsequent volumes of the report will cover regulatory and know-your-customer prerequisites, card-issuing models and best practices, and trending products, such as store value cards.


  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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