Saudi Payments Teams With IBM, Mastercard To Launch Instant Payments

Saudi Currency

Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Payments Network is teaming up with IBM and Mastercard to launch instant payments in the kingdom. The country’s new instant payments system — called “sarie” — aligns with Saudi Vision 2030 and Saudi Arabia’s Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP). The vision plan is calling for a 70 percent increase in non-cash transactions by 2030.

The Saudi Payments Network is the only payment system used in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to a press release on Wednesday (April 21).

“The instant payments system ‘sarie’ can enable us to drive usage and engagement across the Saudi payments ecosystem of banks and businesses,” according to Fahad Al-Akeel, managing director, Saudi Payments. 

Al-Akeel added that this move will be the base for “new payments business initiatives” for Saudi financial institutions and will lead to financial inclusion and “banking reconciliation” in the country. “We welcome this momentous collaboration with IBM and Mastercard. It is a huge step forward that aligns with our ongoing smart solutions and payments modernization strategy, aimed toward achieving the assigned goals in vision 2030,” he said.

Sarie gives banking customers the ability to send and receive up to SAR 20,000 ($5,300) in real time and to send up to SAR 2,500 ($660) using aliases like a mobile number, email address, ID number or IBAN number.

Maria Medvedeva, vice president and country business development lead, Saudi Arabia, Mastercard, said the tie-up is an important step and a “significant milestone” in the company’s “real-time payments journey.” 

“Saudi Arabia is an important market for Mastercard, and we anticipate that with this real-time payment system going live in the MEA region, many doors may soon open for ongoing innovation, both in the Kingdom and further afield,” Medvedeva added.

Real-time payments in Saudi Arabia coincided with the desire of Middle Eastern governments to step back from cash in favor of digital payments. Forecasts in 2018 pointed to a regional eCommerce market uptick from $26.9 billion to $48.6 billion in 2022. A May 2020 survey indicated that 53 percent of shoppers in the Middle East started heavily relying on mobile commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saudi Arabia’s instant payment network went online last month, and Australia has mandates to push real-time payments (RTP) forward.