Insights Paytech World-Region-Country

Most Successful Real-Time Payments Regions Are APAC and MEA Finds ACI Worldwide and GlobalData

ACI Worldwide, the payments system company, and GlobalData, the data and analytics firm have worked together on a new report revealing which real-time payments markets across the world are the most successful.

In its fifth iteration, the 2024 Prime Time for Real-Time report takes a different approach from its predecessors. Previous reports by ACI Worldwide and GlobalData have looked at economic benefits and consumer uptake of real-time payments. However, this one delves into the driving factors and use cases that have allowed certain regions and countries to develop a thriving real-time payment ecosystem.

The report is aptly timed as global real-time payments growth has reached sustainable levels with 266.2 billion real-time payments transactions recorded in 2023. This was a year-over-year (YoY) growth of 42.2 per cent. Explaining the reasons behind this growth, the report explores how newer market entrants are catching up in the space.

It also identifies how lawmakers and central banks are pushing for adoption, determined to reap the economic benefits of real-time payments and drive financial inclusion for their citizens.

Looking to the future, ACI Worldwide and GlobalData find that Globally, 575.1 billion real-time transactions are forecast by 2028. This represents a 2023-2028 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.7 per cent. By 2028, real-time payments are expected to account for 27.1 per cent of all electronic payments globally.

India, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Netherlands are the primary countries analysed in the report.

Debbie Guerra, chief product officer, ACI Worldwide
Debbie Guerra, chief product officer, ACI Worldwide

“Real-time payments—and especially cross-border payments—are the future. They remove payments friction, provide greater liquidity in the financial system, and ultimately drive economic growth and financial inclusion,” said Debbie Guerra, chief product officer, ACI Worldwide.

“Banks should consider whether they are truly maximising the real-time rails in their market, and whether limiting their commitment to the minimum also means limiting their potential share of the future of payments.”

Regional differences

India continues to dominate the global real-time payments market. In 2023, there were 129.3 billion transactions – more than the rest of the world’s top 10 real-time payments markets combined. Of all electronic payments made in India, 84 per cent are now real-time.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, 37.4 billion real-time payments transactions took place in 2023. This was YoY growth of 77.9 per cent. The country is responsible for 75 per cent of all transactions in Latin America (LatAm), establishing itself as the undisputed real-time payments leader.

Nonetheless, other Latin American countries are pushing ahead with real-time payments modernisation initiatives. Peru and Colombia are predicted to have the highest 2023-2028 CAGRs in the region. Respectively they are estimated to have growth rates of 51.2 per cent and 42.6 per cent as look to emulate Brazil’s success.

Nigeria is the undisputed real-time payments leader in Africa, another major growth market. The country recorded 7.9 billion transactions in 2023; real-time payments had an impressive 82.1 per cent share of all electronic payments in 2023.

Craig Ramsey, head of real-time payments at ACI Worldwide
Craig Ramsey, head of real-time payments, ACI Worldwide

“This year’s report highlights the key success factors that have allowed some countries to forge ahead with real-time payments modernisation and reap enormous benefits for consumers and businesses,” said Craig Ramsey, global head of real-time payments, ACI Worldwide.

He continued: “Modern real-time payments require collaboration. They encourage a new generation of market entrants for banks to either compete or cooperate with – often both. The world’s most successful real-time payments schemes, notably those in India and Brazil, also feature use cases that have proved popular beyond imagination.”

The bigger picture

While certain countries are leading the way in the real-time payments market, regionally, Asia Pacific (APAC) is the largest ecosystem. It had 185.8 billion transactions in 2023, representing 24.0 per cent of all electronic payments in the region. With four of the top five real-time payments markets by volume, the APAC region is projected to see over 351.5 billion real-time transactions by 2028. This is a 2023-2028 CAGR of 13.6 per cent.

The Middle East is the fastest-growing real-time payments market globally. Oman, Kuwait and Qatar all launched schemes in 2023. Consequently, they joined more established regional players like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE. The 2023-2028 CAGR for the region is 28.8 per cent – transactions are expected to rise from 855 million to 3.0 billion by 2028.

The European Union (EU) Instant Payments Regulation, passed in February 2024, is expected to drive instant payments volume across the Single Euro Payments Area. This also includes the 27 EU member states. By 2028, instant payments are forecast to account for 13 per cent of all electronic payments in Europe, up fro eight per cent in 2023.

North America is a major growth market to watch—primarily due to the launch of the FedNow service in the US in 2023—with a projected 2023-2028 CAGR of 27.1 per cent.

Market deep-dives: Lessons from the most successful real-time payments markets
The power of collaboration

Whether by government mandate or industry consensus, real-time payments systems thrive through active collaboration. Financial institutions, payment service providers, central banks and government institutions, merchants and third-party stakeholders must work together to build and operate successful real-time payments ecosystems.

Open and inclusive payments ecosystems

The most successful real-time payments markets are fostering fintech-rich environments. The research shows that fintechs and smaller banks play an increasingly significant role in the real-time payment ecosystems of the world’s leading markets. Therefore, larger banks will need to reevaluate strategies and forge new partnerships with fintechs to remain competitive.

Strong incentives for merchants

Merchant adoption and uptake are crucial for real-time payments growth. The Indian government, for example, removed merchant discount rates and issued all merchants with QR codes for UPI acceptance. Consequently, this actively incentivised merchants of all sizes to accept UPI payments.

Constant flow of new, user-friendly use cases

Real-time payments thrive in countries where innovative use cases have found mass adoption by consumers or businesses. Whether utility or tax bills, transport tickets or road tolls, subscription payments, or the weekly grocery shop, consumers in the most successful markets are now paying in real-time.

Cross-border real-time payments links are the next big frontier

Efforts to extend real-time to cross-border payments are finally paying off, and Asian countries are leading the way. Payments using India’s popular UPI scheme can now be made in Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE and France, and users of Malaysia’s DuitNow can now make QR code real-time payments from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and China.

Real-time payments fraud

Generative AI is changing the nature and scale of fraud attacks, but the industry is rising to the challenge. Consumer rights initiatives, education programs and government interventions—combined with new AI-based anti-fraud technology and methods—are starting to make an impact.


  • 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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