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MENA Fintech Association Divulges the State of the Region’s Payment Ecosystem in New SHIFT Report

The MENA Fintech Association (MFTA) has released the first volume of its SHIFT report; a comprehensive guide that is set to allow the global fintech community to better navigate the payment landscape of the Middle East and North Africa region.

The SHIFT report is set to be fully published over the course of several volumes, with each delving into the core aspects of payments, from regulation, technology and processing to information on trends in specific countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq and others.

More on the authors

‘SHIFT’ is the name of the working group formed by the association’s members. These members are focused on payment technology solutions and services, financial education and regulation, and international card networks.

The working group includes the likes of The London Institute of Banking and 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 group was formed with the objectives of progressing meaningful conversations on regional prime payment topics and fostering a shift towards the future of payments.

Between the covers of volume one

The release of the first volume, entitled ‘SHIFT – MENA Payments Landscaping‘, sets the scene for these conversations to happen. It covers a plethora of need-to-know subject matters for anyone, fintech or otherwise, that’s interested in the current state of the region’s payments market.

It draws a picture of a diverse region undergoing a significant transformation in how payments are made.

Although the banking sector has been relatively slow to adopt digital payments compared to other parts of the world, a number of factors and trends that are discussed in this report indicate that digital payments are becoming more commonplace across MENA and are disrupting the traditional value chain for payments.

The report describes interesting and continuing developments in the region that are key drivers for change. These include the rise of real-time electronic payment methods, the growth of embedded payments and buy now pay later (BNPL) systems, the region’s appetite for cash and the rise of substitute fintech offerings.

Arjun Singh, partner and head of financial services Middle East at Arthur D. Little
Arjun Singh

Arjun Singh, partner and head of financial services Middle East at Arthur D. Little and a contributor to the SHIFT report, commented: ‘’What’s driving the rapid change in the MENA payments landscape is the region’s demographically young societies, who are well versed in the use of digital technology and are contributing to the trend of moving away from cash as a traditional medium of exchange.’’

He continued: ‘’Recent developments in regulatory initiatives that support a digital economy and cashless society and the impact of pandemic-driven digitalisation on all aspects of daily life have led to an increase in the number of fintechs in the region. These businesses are now replicating successful global models. Moreover, there is an increasing investment from VC and PE firms in the region within the payments sector.’’

Nameer Khan, chairman of MENA Fintech Association
Nameer Khan

Nameer Khan, chairman of MFTA further commented: “Payment is the heart of fintech and backbone of our economies, plus at the pace we are becoming cashless as a society, it’s pivotal for the industry to support its development.

“This is the first time that the industry has come together to share their knowledge in an all-in-one guide that will serve to foster healthy payment competition and innovation in the MENA region.”

Christian Kunz, head of group strategy and innovation at DIFC Authority
Christian Kunz

Christian Kunz, head of group strategy and innovation at DIFC Authority, commented: “The fintech sector is witnessing rapid growth and we are delighted to be taking part in creating a comprehensive guide for the fintech community.

“At DIFC, we are committed to developing start-up companies through our acceleration programmes that provide innovative solutions and stimulate the growth of companies’ businesses within integrated regulatory frameworks.”

Subsequent volumes of the report will cover regulatory and know-your-customer (KYC) prerequisites, card-issuing models and best practices, cross-border payments and trending products, such as store value cards.


  • Tyler is a fintech journalist with specific interests in online banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

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