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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Middle East and Africa are only gradually adopting real-time payment solutions, says new yStats.com publication

The latest publication of the Hamburg-based market research company yStats.com, “2021 Key Trends of the Payment Industry: Real-Time Payments in the Middle East and Africa” provides insights into the recent developments in the real-time payments adoptions process in the countries of the Middle East and Africa. The publication shows that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these markets have been experiencing a somewhat positive trend in demand for such kind of fund transfer services, and the central banks on par with private financial institutions were making efforts to improve the existing systems.

The Middle East still lags in the adoption of real-time payments, even with an accelerated global demand amid COVID-19

The payment industry in the Middle East has experienced significant improvements in recent years, and many countries of the region managed to introduce their own Real-Time Gross Settlement systems to the local consumers and institutions. However, despite considerably increasing global demand for payments in real-time amid the pandemic, the Middle East still lags. Many of the local “immediate” payment systems are only near real-time and lack some of the main features, such as Israel’s Zahav lacks 24/7 service availability.

In the United Arab Emirates, the Immediate Payment (IP) system, which went live last year, has been gaining momentum during 2020, but as the new yStats.com publication show, that was more of a one-time spike. Another example is Egypt, where amid the health crisis, the value of fund transfers via the Real-Time Gross Settlement system enlarged by half of the 2019 value, the second-largest historical year-on-year growth rate. That was, however, mostly attributed to the unusually high numbers at the beginning of the lockdown, while in the fourth quarter of 2020, the growth rates went down sharply.

The COVID-19 crisis further strengthened the trend of real-time payments in Africa

In Southern Africa, the leading market in terms of both values and volumes of transactions via the regional SADC-Real-Time Gross Settlement System unsurprisingly turned out to be South Africa. However, with a significantly lower number of transactions and somewhat similar values, Namibia was strongly ahead in terms of average amount per transaction, as detailed in the new yStats.com publication.

Moreover, outside the Southern African region, some other economies are gaining momentum. Ghana’s real-time payment solution GhIPSS Instant Pay (GIP) in the first half of 2020, saw an almost six-fold increase in its transaction volume year-on-year. In Nigeria, between January and August 2020, payment volume via the RTGS made up close to half of the total E-Payments in the country. Meanwhile, Kenyan’s KEPSS, while not showing significant changes in the monthly values, has been gradually increasing the volumes.