Bahrain Central Bank reveals cashless payments in the Kingdom hit $3.62bn in 2021
Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has revealed that more than 11.3 million digital transactions in Bahrain in August, valued at BD279.6 million ($743.7 million) following a record $3.62 billion in the first half of 2021. According to the report from CBB, POS and Ecommerce transactions in Bahrain were up by 65 percent in August, year-on-year, and more than 53 million digital payments in the first half of 2021.
The figures reflect the trend in the rest of the GCC, which is currently experiencing a region-wide surge in online and digital payments as countries accelerate their transition towards cashless societies in the wake of the pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, lockdowns caused a dramatic shift towards digital payment systems. Bahrain’s national electronic wallet, BenefitPay, announced a 785 percent increase in the number of remittances through its Fawri+ service (an online payment service introduced under the Electronic Funds Transfer System) in 2020 – exceeding $5 million. And research from the European Payments Council indicates that the MENA region will process around 139 billion individual non-cash transactions in 2022, which is 90 billion more than five years ago.
Reforms to open banking are expected to have broader ramifications for the payments business, according to a recent survey from McKinsey. When respondents to the survey were asked what government- or regulator-driven action would be most effective in steering customers to digital payments, 27 percent nominated regulatory approval for open banking. In 2018, Bahrain made a leap forward in the financial services sector, issuing open banking rules, followed by a framework with guidelines on data sharing and governance in 2020.
Dalal Buhejji, Executive Director of Business Development Investment Origination at the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said: “Even before the pandemic, the GCC was embracing digital and mobile banking and payments. Bahrain has anticipated the trends that were catalysed by the pandemic. Our regulatory approach, along with our advanced digital infrastructure, is why we are at the forefront of developing the technologies, solutions and ecosystems that will form the future of the region’s digital economy.”