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Visa Finds 88% of UAE SMBs are Optimistic About the Future of Their Business

Visa has announced it has helped to digitally-enable 16 million small and micro businesses (SMBs) worldwide, or just over 30% of the multi-year goal it set in 2020 to digitise 50 million SMBs. Through community-based programs set in motion from Dubai to DC, Visa has provided SMBs with the tools, services and education necessary to accept digital payments and gain greater access to the digital economy.

Visa research released in the 5th edition of the Visa Back to Business global study shows just how essential it is for SMBs to continue to digitally accelerate, with 92% of consumers saying COVID-19 has permanently changed how they will pay.

“With an 18-month view into the pandemic now, we have seen that small businesses that have embraced digital commerce and cross-border selling have generally weathered the pandemic and that seemingly small pivots toward digital commerce can continue to make the difference between a small business surviving and thriving,” said Shahebaz Khan, Visa’s General Manager for the UAE. “We are proud of the work we have done to help small businesses here in the UAE access the digital economy, and we will continue to help many more, one digital payment at a time.”

A look at the evolving consumer payment preferences and optimism of SMBs in the UAE

The Visa Back to Business global research study has surveyed SMB owners and their customers since the onset of the global pandemic. With an extensive body of sentiment data accumulated through five editions, findings from the newest study highlight the economic opportunity that lies in connecting SMBs, communities and technology:

SMBs are optimistic about the future and recognise the importance of contactless payments in meeting consumer expectations: The vast majority (88%) of SMBs in the UAE are optimistic about the future of their business. This includes 64% (compared to 50% globally) who are very optimistic, which is the highest proportion of all markets surveyed. Nearly half (49% vs. 40% globally) of SMBs in the UAE say accepting contactless payments is among their top investment areas to meet consumer expectations. The majority (84% vs. 74% globally) of SMBs in the UAE believe that customers will continue to prefer contactless payments as much or more than they do today.

The shift to contactless payments is becoming more permanent: Nearly all (92%) consumers in the UAE say COVID-19 has permanently changed their payment habits (compared to 68% globally). Nearly three in four (73%) UAE consumers would not shop at a store that does not accept contactless payments (compared to 44% globally). One in three (33% vs. 21% globally) UAE consumers have not used cash in the last week, the second-highest among all markets.

The continued relevance of omnichannel commerce: More than half (56% vs. 33% globally) of UAE consumers say they are at least somewhat more likely to shop in person compared to last summer, the highest among all markets.

Unlocking Access to the Digital Economy
Recognising that greater digitisation of commerce can bring enormous benefits to small businesses, Visa has continued to deepen and localise its commitment to SMBs in the UAE over the last 18 months to help them revitalise and reinvent their businesses. Visa has:

Visa has been working with several UAE banks to pilot Tap to Phone solutions that make it easier for local merchants to accept payments using only an Android smartphone; been working with several UAE banks to pilot Tap to Phone solutions that make it easier for local merchants to accept payments using only an Android smartphone; been working with several UAE banks to pilot Tap to Phone solutions that make it easier for local merchants to accept payments using only an Android smartphone.

They have also launched ADCB Pace Pay – UAE’s first virtual point of sale (POS) payment terminal with ADCB on both android and iOS platforms; rolled out the “Rapid Seller Onboarding” to enable SMBs to accept digital payments from their customers in-store/at point-of-sale or online within just seven working days; and conducted targeted studies such as Small Business Recovery and launched the Stay Secure campaign – in collaboration with DED and Dubai Police – with the aim of understanding regional SME painpoints and providing actionable insights to small businesses.

This all builds on a $200 million, 5-year commitment from the Visa Foundation made in 2020 to support SMBs around the world, with a focus on fostering women’s economic advancement. Visa will continue to celebrate the expansive role SMBs play within local communities and the global economy, starting with the launch of a new digital series, “Voices of Access,” featuring SMB customers from around the world sharing their unique stories and empowering others to see the possibilities of the digital economy.
More information on the programs Visa has made available to small and micro businesses are available on the Visa Small Business Hub and the Visa Small Business COVID-19 relief site.


  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

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