Startups Opt for Fixed-Price Payments to Bank MENA’s Unbanked


In the last couple of decades, consumers’ preferences for cross-border payments have been shifting, and more and more people are demanding convenience, speed, security, and above all, value for money, said Kaushik Sthankiya, chief commercial officer of subscription-based global payments provider Sokin.

But compared to the rapid growth in innovative payment and remittance solutions for consumers in developing markets, millions of financially-excluded consumers and businesses in emerging markets across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region still lack access to easy and instant payment and money transfer opportunities.

“We’ve seen consumers and businesses becoming really tired of paying expensive payment charges to transfer money globally, often taking one to five business days to complete, and then they’re also dealing with ailing legacy banking infrastructure,” Sthankiya told PYMNTS in an interview.

The myriad of regulatory frameworks across those fragmented markets hasn’t helped either, creating bumps that have limited progress in achieving seamless cross-border payments across the MENA region.

It’s these challenges that U.K.-based currency account provider Sokin has set out to solve, recently expanding an existing partnership with Mastercard to offer consumers in almost 40 new markets across the MENA region easy and transparent fixed-price payment and money transfer services.

Related: Sokin, Mastercard Expand Digital Banking Partnership Across MENA

As part of the deal, the firm will leverage Mastercard’s digital-first banking solutions and card services to launch its global currency account app and wallet across 39 different MENA countries, providing millions of unbanked consumers and migrant workers access to cheaper, frictionless global money transfers and currency exchange services.

“The ability to sign up to our app and get a multicurrency account [with a Mastercard virtual card] to send and receive money to friends and family, or pay for goods and services either online or in-store wherever Mastercard is accepted, is an appealing proposition,” Sthankiya noted.

MENA Abounds in Opportunities

For global payment and financial services firms, emerging markets across MENA present a largely untapped, rapidly growing opportunity.

In recent years, countries like Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have become booming hotspots for FinTech startups, and the region’s young, tech-savvy consumers continue to drive the shift from cash payments to digital payments methods.

“Consumers and businesses in the MENA region are adopting new forms of payments, almost leapfrogging some of the legacy financial services and instruments used by consumers in the West and moving directly on to new forms of payments such as QR code or wearable technology,” Sthankiya said.

That growing opportunity, he added, is one that Sokin will be looking to tap into moving forward as part of its goal to provide an inclusive, transparent and hassle-free payment and transfer experience for consumers and businesses in the region.

Read more: Sokin Launching eCommerce Metaverse World

To also jump aboard the disruptive innovation train, the U.K. company recently made its first foray into the metaverse, enabling retailers and brands to grow from their brick-and-mortar locations into the virtual world.

In that metaverse world — where full eCommerce transactions will be processed — Sokin will host a 3D community of brands and businesses, including fashion and sporting goods, that allow consumers to interact, transact and make purchases through a mobile app.

As Sthankiya said: “We’re always looking at innovative trends and seeking ways to satisfy [evolving] consumer demands around different forms of payment methods.”

See also: Sokin To Launch Enterprise Platform For X-Border Payments


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