Regional Director of Visa for North Africa, Ahmed Gaber, affirmed that Egypt is eligible for a large dissemination of electronic payments.
One of the reasons he sees for this is the widespread use of mobile phones which are used as a means of completing electronic payments. This is in addition to increasing citizens’ awareness of the importance of electronic payments, and their impact on the economy in general, and on their lives in particular.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Gaber said that Visa seeks to expand the acceptance of digital payments in Egypt, in cooperation with financial institutions, the Egyptian government, and other partners, such as the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC) and service providers.
How do you evaluate the status of electronic payments in Egypt currently?
The tendency to use electronic or digital payments is steadily growing in Egypt, especially with the current government steps to improve the efficiency of services provided to citizens. This is through the provision of electronic payments for many public services, and with the announcement of the establishment of the National Payments Council. I believe that the basis here is a clear government orientation which encourages all parties concerned with digital payments to work and offer new products and services that meet these needs.
What are your expectations for the future of electronic payments in Egypt?
I think that the coming period will see double momentum, especially since Egypt is significantly eligible for the spread of electronic payments. One reason is the widespread use of mobile phones, which are used as a means of completing electronic payments. The second factor is the increase in citizens’ awareness of the importance of electronic payments and their impact on the economy in general, and on their lives in particular.
How do you see the importance of electronic payments for Egypt and different countries?
Electronic or digital payments are a means to achieve economic and political goals that establish a digital economy, based on technological infrastructure, the provision of financial services, and access to community segments that have been absent from the attention of banks for decades for various reasons. These include discouraging legislation and procedures for dealing with financial institutions; culture spread in societies; banks’ inability to reach lower classes in rural or remote areas; the cost associated with dealing with financial institutions, and the impact of risk studies on financial institutions’ decisions to deal with broad segments of citizens and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Payment technology is safe, and it saves time and effort, enhances the transparency of the financial system, and allows the informal economy to be integrated into the system, as well as contributes to the country’s GDP.
What about financial inclusion and its importance?
Financial inclusion is a situation in which every working-age person is entitled to financial services of considerable quality, at an affordable cost, in a manner that preserves dignity. Financial services intended by this definition are not limited to opening bank accounts, but a broader and more comprehensive expression under which all financial services, which one is entitled to enjoy. This includes bank accounts; the ability to save easily and conveniently; financial products and solutions to suit their needs; the means and products to receive money and payment in an easy and convenient manner; an infrastructure that enables customers to use payment methods; widespread points for accepting payments in various forms; a sufficient number of branches of financial institutions in different geographic areas, and the right to access credit, finance, and insurance services.
What is the role played by Visa to spread electronic payments in the Egyptian market?
Through its partnership with its financial institutions, the Egyptian government and other partners, such as the FEDCOC and service providers, Visa seeks to create an enabling environment to enhance financial inclusion efforts, spread the culture of digital payments, and increase their dependence by providing safe and smooth financial products and solutions that are very creative. Visa also aims to contribute to the expansion of the acceptance of digital payments among different categories of merchants, especially those who deal with citizens on a daily basis. Visa also cooperates with the Egyptian government on several levels, including in partnership with its financial institution partners such as salary cards for government employees, pensions, and government service providers. Visa also collaborates in providing advice on best practices and knowledge in the digital payment technology industry, clarifying the positive impact of spreading the culture of payments on the economy as a whole, increasing financial transparency, and achieving financial inclusion.
What are the most important challenges facing the deployment of electronic payments in Egypt?
One of the most important challenges and opportunities at the same time is to expand the acceptance of digital payments in Egypt. Expanding acceptance means more options for cardholders and business expansion for merchants, because they will be able to provide a service that gives buyers and dealers access to all their needs, no matter how much cash they have. We are continuing our cooperation with the FEDCOC and we are expanding the scope of this cooperation. This is through communication with various segments of merchants under the umbrella of the FEDCOC, which is carrying out a variety of different activities, aimed at serving these traders in particular, and society in general. The cooperation with the FEDCOC comes within the framework of the agreement signed by Visa at the end of 2016. The agreement reflects our awareness of the importance of the FEDCOC, which includes more than 4 million merchants, meaning a huge segment we can work with to expand the acceptance of digital payments in the Egyptian market. Our work with the FEDCOC aims to expand the acceptance of electronic payments between merchants and SMEs, in line with the general strategy of the state to curb the parallel economy and enhance financial transparency. This is through introducing to the various commercial groups the benefits of electronic payments, and helping them to accept them, whether through points of sale (POS) or over the phone, plus e-commerce tools to achieve the principles of financial inclusion.
In the same context, Visa has signed an agreement with Banque Misr and ExxonMobil Egypt to launch a strategic partnership in order to expand the acceptance of electronic payments, and provide digital payment services in 100 Mobil petrol stations in Egypt. This is the first stage, aiming to advance the efforts of financial inclusion, which is an axis of economic development. Visa also recently launched the Card Security Week campaign in Egypt, in partnership with ExxonMobil. The initiative aims to promote the safe use of cards among consumers in Egypt, and to provide advice and guidance to protect cardholders from payment fraud. In addition to these efforts, Visa also launched the first Egyptian game of financial education, and increased financial management skills under the name of City of Dreams. This game allows all ages to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship, through the management of a number of shops, and reduce the dependence on cash, by opening a bank account, and the deployment of various means of accepting digital payments in these shops. Visa has also reinforced its commitment to women’s empowerment by launching the first global women’s version of the Visa Everywhere initiative. Since 2015, the Visa Everywhere initiative has provided solutions to the future challenges of the trade and payments sectors.
What about Visa’s Fast Track programme for financial technology companies in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa?
Launched earlier in Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, this programme provides innovative financial technology companies with greater ease and speed in integrating with the global Visa network (Visa Net) as well as a wide range of customised digital solutions that ensure growth. Through this programme, financial technology companies in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will have access to the global Visa network within a short period of time of under four weeks.