ACI Worldwide report shows that the fastest growing real-time payments market globally is the Middle East

For the second consecutive year, the Middle East is the fastest-growing real-time payments market globally, according to the 2024 Prime Time for Real-Time report, published by ACI Worldwide (NASDAQ: ACIW), a global leader in mission-critical, real-time payments software, in partnership with GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

In the Middle East, real-time payments are swiftly emerging as a bedrock of modern economies. With governments in the region implementing real-time payment schemes, businesses and consumers are experiencing tangible benefits, propelling the region into a new era of financial transformation and opportunity.

The region saw a remarkable YoY growth of 33.6% in 2023 with 855 million real-time payment transactions, which is projected to grow to 3 billion by 2028, a 2023-2028 CAGR of 28.8%.

Last year marked a significant milestone as Oman, Kuwait and Qatar each launched their national real-time payment schemes, joining the more established regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE. With all six GCC member states now running real-time payment programs, transaction value in the Middle East is projected to rise from US$230 billion in 2023 to US$903 billion by 2028.

Bahrain is one of the most developed payment markets in the Middle East, with real-time payments accounting for nearly 50% of the total payment volume in the country and the majority of all electronic payments.

“Real-time payments eliminate payment friction, inject greater liquidity into the system, and promote economic growth and financial inclusion. Yet, their full potential can only be realized when banks transcend legacy silo systems. With real-time payment schemes now operational in every GCC nation, local banks are at a pivotal juncture where they must harness technological evolution as the catalyst for innovation. The path to innovation lies in modernizing and future-proofing their infrastructure, enabling them to fully leverage the potential of real-time payments,” said Santhosh Rao, Senior Vice President, Sales at ACI Worldwide MEASA.

The surge in real-time and electronic payments signals the Middle East’s determined shift towards a cashless economy. In 2023, electronic transactions dominated, comprising over 50% of all transactions in the region and a staggering 95% of the transaction value.

Notably, real-time payments accounted for 12% of the region’s electronic transactions last year, a figure set to soar to 22% by 2028, outpacing Europe and North America. The ACI report paints a compelling vision of a cashless economy — by 2028, cash-based transactions will dwindle to a mere 3% of all transaction value in the region.

Drawing on the insights gained from the report’s analysis of factors driving the success of real-time payments in the countries that currently lead global adoption, Rao said, “Active collaboration is the cornerstone of a thriving real-time payment ecosystem, fostering an environment where banks must navigate a delicate balance of competition and cooperation with emerging market players. The world’s most successful real-time payment schemes, exemplified by India’s achievements, showcase a myriad of real-time payment methods via QR codes, mobile apps, or online accounts, pushing the boundaries of innovative use cases. With the Middle East leading the world in real-time payments growth, financial institutions should seize the opportunity to carefully study these successes and extract valuable insights to inspire the launch of their own pioneering real-time payment solutions.”

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