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Saudi Arabia world's fastest growing market for contactless payments: Visa – Arab News

by Nov 3, 2022Blog0 comments
RIYADH: Global digital payment firm Visa has said that Saudi Arabia’s contactless payment adoption has seen the fastest growth in the world.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 6th edition of Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh, Visa’s regional president Andrew Torre, told Arab News that the Kingdom saw the highest digital payment growth curves in the world.
“In 2017, only 4 percent of all face-to-face transactions were contactless. If you fast forward to the end of 2021, it was the highest adoption curve in the world. We’ve seen it go from 4 percent to 97 percent,” Torre told Arab News.
He added that contactless transactions were not just made with physical cards, but also through mobile phones, as he noted the huge shift in the Kingdom’s financial technology sector.
“This is certainly a very fast growth market. It’s probably one of the fastest growing markets in the world and in the Middle East,” Torre said.
Contactless payments are transactions made by tapping either a contactless chip card or payment-enabled mobile or wearable device over a contactless-enabled payment terminal.
Torre further added that 60 percent of all payments made in the Kingdom were digital.
The company has been pushing out many initiatives to support Saudi Arabia’s financial technology sector. During the forum it announced the launch of its Global Innovation Center in the Kingdom.
The innovation hub is set to open by the end of 2023 in Riyadh, as the company aims to provide its partners with cutting-edge financial technology to bolster the creation of domestic solutions.
Torre stated that the innovation center aims to make $40 billion in remittances sent abroad from Saudi Arabia faster, cheaper and near real-time.
“We will bring fintechs here and partners and clients here to be able to not only innovate in the Kingdom but also innovate outside of the Kingdom as well and grow their businesses across the MENA region,” he added.
The company has also been supporting female entrepreneurs with the launch of its ‘She’s Next’ initiative earlier this year.
Torre explained that the initiative provided around 20 female entrepreneurs with financing, expertise and knowledge on growing their businesses in multiple fields besides fintech.
The company works with many private and public institutions, as it aims to focus more on the rise of entrepreneurship and startups in the Kingdom.
LONDON: The long-standing relationship between the UK and the Arab world will continue irrespective of the issues of the day, which include the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit and the global economy, a senior British government official has said.
“The Gulf total trade both ways, just prior to COVID-19, was £44 billion ($50.4 billion). It fell nearly 30 percent during the pandemic but, I’m delighted to say actually, that the most recent numbers show that the trade between the UK and the Arab countries has actually returned to almost exactly the same number it was before,” Simon Penney, UK trade commissioner for the Middle East, told Arab News.
“So you’ll see that we’ll have these cyclical events, but I think what it demonstrates is the underlying strength and depth of the trading relationship, which has huge potential to grow much, much further, and a free trade agreement will obviously be one part of enabling that further growth.”
His comments came during the second Arab-British Economic Summit, organized by the UK-based Arab-British Chamber of Commerce in London, and attended by around 750 senior government and private sector officials.
Penney added: “One of the really big differences for me, or accomplishments, is when I was here in 2019 we said that we wanted to do a free trade agreement with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).
“Standing here today in 2022, I’m delighted to say that we’ve now officially launched negotiations for a free trade agreement, we’ve spearheaded toward Brexit and we’ve passed a negotiation stage toward exiting the European Union.
“Brexit and the pandemic basically have created new opportunities between the Arab world and the UK. It opened the gap for countries to be replaced as new trade partners with the UK.
“In terms of COVID-19, the UK was one of the key players, providing food and medical supplies to the Arab world, and especially the GCC countries.”
Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim, chairman of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the Gulf countries have special relations with the UK in various fields, especially regarding trade and the economy, and the GCC nations are considered the seventh largest market for UK exports, the total volume of trade exchange between them amounting to more than £33 billion in the last year. 
He said: “While we welcome the free trade negotiations between the United Kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which began a few months ago and comes in the wake of the British exit from the European Union, we hope that an agreement will be reached soon, as the signing of a free trade agreement is expected to lead to the two parties increasing the volume of intra-regional trade to higher levels, in addition to providing more investment opportunities between both parties.”
Chief Executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Richard Burge said that London, as a global city, was “particularly interested in a post-pandemic world of learning, joining together and pulling together the lessons both the Arab world and London have learned during that period.”
He added that London could look at new ventures and opportunities for investment, business growth and development in the Arab world.
Regarding its relationship with Saudi Arabia, Burge said the LCCI was looking for long-term partnerships and warned that “the danger at the moment, particularly with exciting projects like Neom, is everyone is in a rush at trying to do something that starts to yield fruit this year or next year.”
He added that he believes the focus should be on the next decade and the one after that.
Sameer Nass, president of the Union of Arab Chambers, said countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are looking to become hubs in specific fields and will enhance the economies of Arab countries for the next 20 years.
“Saudi Arabia is taking a quantum leap in renewable energy, we are seeing a huge transformation, and are looking at harnessing energy production,” he said, adding that the same applied to Jordan, which is leading the way in solar energy production, and Morocco.
“I think it (Saudi Arabia) is just going to be an economy to be reckoned with in the world, and I’m very confident the way they are moving and I think it will be very hard to catch up with them, but I believe that the Arab countries should complement each other.
“My ambition and my wish is to create an Arab-Arab trade, to increase the trade between Arab countries, as well as investments with each other.”
Bandar Reda, secretary-general and CEO of ABCC, said the whole idea of the first and second summits was to bring both regions together.
He said: “The Arabs and the UK, especially now the UK, has been going through a tough time with Brexit and so many other turnarounds, and the world economy is getting affected.”
Reda added he believes the UK is looking for new partners with which to engage, and that “the 22 Arab countries are the best partners from our perspective for the UK.”
RIYADH: Monstarlab, the global digital consultancy leader, has announced that it has commenced the business acquisition of Pioneers Consulting, a leader in design and implementation of strategies, founded by Faisal Alamro, Abdullah Aldakheel and Ahmed Alghofaily and developed in Saudi Arabia.
Pioneers Consulting was established in 2014 and has become one of the fastest growing consulting firms in the region. Created and established by Saudi nationals, Pioneers has since developed a diverse international workforce from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America.
Pioneers Consulting is a strategy consulting firm that provides services to a range of customers, including ministries, Government agencies, private companies and several publicly listed firms.
The business acquisition will enable Pioneers to utilise Monstarlab’s world-class digital capabilities, supporting its vision to provide its clients with consulting solutions that have real impact.
The agreement will also enable Monstarlab and Pioneers to expand their regional and global reach, and attract new potential projects in the Middle East, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council region, as well as Africa and Europe.
“This business acquisition is an exciting milestone for Monstarlab, as it will provide the springboard for us to further grow our presence in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and beyond, and will penetrate  new customer segments. We are committed to actively supporting the strategic vision of the Saudi government as it seeks to diversify the nation’s economy, develop local talent and attract inward investment,” said Hiroki Inagawa, Monstarlab Group CEO.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a key strategic market for Monstarlab, which is investing heavily in advanced technology as well as the development of local skills and capabilities. Digitalisation is a key strand of the economic transformation currently taking place in the Kingdom, and we are delighted to be a catalyst for future sustainable and innovative growth,” Inagawa added.
Following the business acquisition, Monstarlab plans to double its headcount in its Riyadh office and scout for talent within Saudi Arabia and the wider region to fill most of the new roles created. The deal will also accelerate and enhance digital transformation for Pioneers Consulting’s existing customer base present across a number of key segments in the public and private sectors in the kingdom, including financial services, healthcare, fintech, housing, labour and social development. The agreement will also enable Pioneers to provide its customers with a wider range of services and  deliver tangible impact.
Faisal Alamro commented: “We are delighted to join the Monstarlab Group, a company that has advanced digital technologies that will support Pioneers’ growth in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and further afield. As a home-grown, Saudi organisation, our role is to support the development of people and businesses across a range of sectors. Through this agreement with Monstarlab, we will be able to further enhance our services and solutions and support our clients in the kingdom, in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“We will also be expanding into new verticals and geographies, utilising Monstarlab’s international reach combined with our deep understanding of customer requirements. Monstarlab’s leadership has a genuine commitment to the development of local talent and we are excited to take part in its journey of hiring and building talent in Saudi Arabia”.
Saudi Arabia has placed technology and people at the heart of its vision and strategy for the future. For example, the Information Communication Technology strategy 2023 aims to increase the ICT sector’s contribution to GDP, grow levels of Saudization in the sector, increase women’s participation in the sector by 50 percent, boost IT and emerging technologies market size, and create more than 25,000 jobs in the sector.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and South Korea have agreed to increase cooperation in the field of renewable energy, clean hydrogen, and electricity, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 
This came during a virtual meeting held between Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman and South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Lee Chang-yang on Nov. 2. 
The talk was held to discuss stabilizing the international crude oil market by encouraging dialogue and collaboration between producing and consuming countries.  
There was also agreement in the fields of large nuclear reactors and small modular reactors. 
The discussions over energy come against a backdrop of trade talks between the two countries, with negotiators meeting in Seoul at the end of last month. 
During the negotiations, the two sides expressed their readiness to go forward with discussions on a free trade agreement between both countries after a 13-year suspension.
Saudi Arabia is South Korea’s top economic and trade partner in the Middle East, contributing over 30 percent of Seoul’s total crude oil imports in 2021, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association. 
In January this year, Saudi Aramco signed one agreement and nine initial agreements with leading Korean entities, which aim to advance its downstream strategy and support the development of low-carbon energy solutions, while creating new financing options for the company. 
The Kingdom and the Republic of Korea have a long history of partnership, beginning with the establishment of diplomatic relationships 60 years ago. This relationship has benefitted both countries economically, with bilateral trade increasing from $3.9 billion in 1980 to $25.5 billion in 2019.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Finland have signed an agreement to bolster air services between both countries in a bid to improve trade. 
The Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation and Finland’s Ministry of Transport and Communications have signed a memorandum of understanding to monitor air transport, Saudi Press Agency reported. 
The MoU aims to further boost Saudi-Finnish economic partnerships, with the GACA, along with a total of 12 government agencies and 27 firms, already participating in cross-country business.  
The agreement tackles air transport-related organizational clauses, the designation of national carriers, defining the regular number of flights between both countries, and the commercial representation of airlines. 
The MoU also paves the way for regulatory framework cooperation and safe and secure air transport between the two sides. 
Through this agreement, GACA seeks to achieve some of the objectives in the National Transport and Logistics Strategy to enhance the competitiveness of the sector and to contribute to the transformation of the Kingdom into a global logistics hub for Asia, Africa, and Europe. 
Objectives in the National Transport and Logistics Strategy include transporting up to 330 million passengers by 2030. 
Earlier in 2022, GACA signed a similar MoU with Poland to regulate the operational framework of air transport between the two countries. 
Both MoUs are in accordance with Saudi civil aviation sector strategy, which aims to elevate the number of local and international flights to over 250 destinations and to attract many international lines to use the Kingdom’s airports. 
Saudi aviation figures tend to exceed those of Finland, with the number of passengers carried by Saudi aviation in 2020 standing at 26.9 million, compared to 3.5 million for Finland, according to latest data from the World Bank. 
In addition to this, Saudi’s air passenger numbers surged 30 percent to reach 49 million passengers in 2021 compared to the previous year according to CAPA Center for Aviation. 
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power Co. has signed an initial agreement with Egyptian entities to build a 10 gigawatts project to produce electricity from wind energy in the north African country. 
The Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed with Egypt’s New & Renewable Energy Authority and Egyptian Electricity Transmission Co., according to the Saudi Ministry of Energy’s statement.
Egypt will be providing the lands necessary to carry out feasibility studies for the project ahead of the signing of the final contracts. 
The agreement was signed during a meeting in Riyadh between Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker and Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.
During the meeting, the two ministers also followed up on the progress of the electrical interconnection between the two countries and discussed aspects of cooperation in the fields of renewable energy and hydrogen.
Earlier in June, Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power invested $1.5 billion in a wind power plant in Egypt as the company expands its horizons in renewable energy.
The 25-year agreement was signed with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Co, the PIF-owned utility said in a bourse filing.
The deal will see ACWA Power develop, build, and operate the 1,100-megawatt wind farm, located in the Gulf of Suez in Egypt.
The ACWA Power-led consortium also comprised Hassan Allam Holding, and they will work together during the development phase to complete the site studies and secure financing for the facility.
Touted to be the largest single contracted wind farm in the Middle East region and one of the largest onshore wind farms in the world, this power plant is located in the Gulf of Suez and Gabal El Zeit area.
The statement further noted that this project will also mitigate the impact of 2.4 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year and provide electricity to 1,080,000 households.
“This wind project demonstrates a commitment to realizing a greener tomorrow, despite global economic volatility, and we look forward to working with like-minded partners for a positive future,” said Mohammad Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power.
In July, Egypt topped the list of Arab countries in the production of wind power and solar energy, with 3.5 gigawatts of capacity, and plans to reach 6.8 gigawatts in 2024, according to the Information and Decision Support Center of the Egyptian Cabinet.