Growing Smartphone Usage Boosts MENA Non-Cash Payments

Capiter Nets $33M for Expansion Across MENA

Long gone are the days when making mobile or digital purchases in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was an almost impossible task.

According to Sahar Salama, CEO and founder of Cairo-based TPay Mobile, even though millions of people in the region have limited access to conventional bank accounts and reliable financial infrastructure, the combination of high smartphone penetration and a young, tech-savvy population have helped to bridge this gap over the years.

The merger has also brought millions of unbanked and underbanked individuals into the financial fold, enabling them to pay for goods and services using their mobile devices.

She claimed TPay Mobile, which she founded back in 2014, has played a key role in accelerating this growth by tackling the regional issue right from the onset, a strategy that has led to making huge strides over time.

“We built the only infrastructure network and a payment gateway allowing micro payments for the digital commercial use cases. And in the first three years we had already 12 markets covered 100%,” Salama told PYMNTS in an interview.

Today, when connected to TPay’s APIs, merchants or service providers are given access to millions of people across 12 countries in the region, enabling them to receive transactions from an average of $3 in some countries to as high as $100 in others, she explained.

She said by focusing on lower transactions, TPay has successfully increased access to digital goods and services, particularly for consumers without access to traditional banking infrastructure and services. “We [believe] low transaction commerce is underserved and will be a big portion of the future economy.”

Seamless Cross-Border Payments

One of the goals of the full-service, end-to-end mobile payments platform is to facilitate low cross-border payments for merchants, a hugely underserved market that struggles to meet the myriad of licensing requirements in the ecosystem.

For Salama, this is where TPay Mobile comes into play, leveraging its strong local presence in countries across the region and its understanding of national licensing schemes to effectively take on the role of a microtransaction payment, revenue-generation gateway for digital commerce players.

“When you connect to TPay you can almost immediately commercialize across borders, collect money from those countries, or launch your service in Kenya, Tanzania, or anywhere else,” she explained.

The Egypt-based FinTech firm also enables merchants to convert all their income in one currency, a particularly useful feature for developers, content creators and consultancy startups that might have clients from all over the world.

And it appears the efforts made in the complex micropayment space have paid off over the years. Last year, the MENA-focused Fintech processed almost $350 million across the region, and in the last two years has invested heavily in the gaming sector — a key sector to watch going forward, she added.

Gaming Industry Leader

According to Salama, MENA is leading the world when it comes to gaming, with the region accounting for close to a quarter of the global gaming marketplace.

“This is not even about the quality of service, but simply in terms of consumer consumption, registered users, onboarding and year-over-year growth percentages,” she explained.

Here again, she said the region’s young, educated and tech-savvy population has been the catalyst of this growth, and coupled with the high smartphone and internet penetration, have spearheaded the shift in consumption and consumer behavior in the region.

“We’re not talking about old-fashioned commerce, we’re talking about a new wave of commerce, which is primarily led by this [young] generation,” she said.

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