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FinTech Surge in MENA: 5 Key Enablers Driving Growth in the Industry

The Middle East’s FinTech ecosystem, though relatively young, has experienced remarkable growth since the establishment of its first start-ups in 2015. Today, the MENA region hosts over 800 FinTech startups valued collectively at $15.5 billion, with the majority based in the United Arab Emirates.

A report by MAGNiTT highlighted a staggering 183% year-over-year growth in funding for MENA FinTech startups in 2021, marking the highest annual growth rate in the past five years. Furthermore, predictions from Saudi Arabian technology venture capital indicate the emergence of 45 unicorns worth over $100 billion by 2030.

Let’s explore the five key enablers driving this exponential growth in the MENA FinTech industry.

  1. Government Initiatives

Government reforms and initiatives have played a crucial role in fostering the FinTech ecosystem in the MENA region. Middle Eastern governments are actively promoting privatization, increasing public-private partnerships, and monetizing infrastructure assets to drive financial inclusion. By implementing FinTech-friendly regulations, they support the growth of home-grown startups and attract global players. Regulatory sandboxes across the region have been established to facilitate the adoption of digital financial solutions, further accelerating FinTech growth.

For example, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been at the forefront, launching initiatives such as National Instant Payments Platforms (IPPs) to digitalize payments and enhance financial inclusion. This supportive regulatory environment has been instrumental in creating a fertile ground for FinTech innovation.

  1. Financial Inclusion

One of the primary drivers of FinTech growth in the Middle East is the urgent need to address financial exclusion. Over 70% of the population in the region does not have access to traditional banking services. FinTech startups have emerged as a solution to bridge this gap, offering innovative financial products and services where traditional banks have struggled.

The launch of instant payment platforms by the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s central banks exemplifies the region’s commitment to enhancing financial inclusion. These platforms aim to streamline and digitalize payments, making financial services more accessible to a broader population.

  1. Demographics

The MENA region boasts a young and tech-savvy population, which has been a significant factor in the growth of the FinTech sector. With over 450 million people, more than half of whom are under 25 years old, the region represents a vast market of potential customers who are eager to adopt new technologies. This youthful demographic is driving demand for digital financial solutions, creating a robust market for FinTech startups.

High mobile penetration rates further support this growth. The Middle East has achieved 100% mobile penetration, providing a solid foundation for FinTech companies to reach a large and receptive audience. As digital natives, this young population is more likely to embrace innovative financial technologies, fuelling the expansion of the FinTech sector in the region.

  1. Investment and Funding

The influx of investment and funding into the MENA FinTech sector has been another critical enabler of growth. In 2021, the region saw a 183% increase in funding for FinTech startups, indicating strong investor confidence in the market’s potential. This surge in investment has provided startups with the necessary capital to scale their operations, develop new products, and expand their reach.

The rise in funding has also led to an increase in the number of financial firms in the region. As of February 2022, the MENA region was home to more than 3,600 financial firms, a 25% increase from the previous year.

  1. Infrastructure Development

The development of robust infrastructure has been fundamental to the success of the FinTech industry in MENA. Governments have invested heavily in building the necessary infrastructure to support digital financial services. This includes high-speed internet connectivity, secure payment gateways, and regulatory frameworks that ensure a safe and efficient financial ecosystem.

For instance, the establishment of digital-only banks and the introduction of blockchain technology for secure transactions are examples of how infrastructure development is driving FinTech growth. The conducive environment for innovation in the region, is attracting both local and international FinTech companies.

As these enablers continue to evolve and strengthen, the MENA region is poised to become a global hub for FinTech innovation, offering exciting opportunities for startups, investors, and consumers. Much like Cedar-IBSi FinTech lab, which has been home to global technology companies who need a “soft-landing” opportunity into MENA and India. Join the FinTech Lab to tap into the Middle East banking technology today.