Financial Cards and Payments in Middle East and Africa

November 2021

While consumer payments have been declining in 2020 and 2021 due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), card payments have continued growing. Consumers have been favouring contactless payments, seen as the most hygienic means of paying for goods, as well as using e-commerce more due to periods of home seclusion, which has served to speed up the move away from cash. M-commerce has also been receiving further impetus from the pandemic, with dynamic growth across most of the region.

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Key Findings

COVID-19 disrupts the payments environment

Consumer spending patterns in Middle East and Africa have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is both in terms of the direct impact of the measures to slow the spread of the virus, which have generally been favouring cashless transactions, or the economic impact of these measures, which have been hitting overall consumer spending, with some countries, eg Nigeria, worse hit than others by this.

Cash continuing to lose ground

While cash remains an important payment mode across the region, particularly in many African countries, it continues to lose out to alternative forms of payment. The pandemic seems to have helped increase the banked population and financial inclusion, while increasing use of e-commerce and m-commerce is also driving the move away from cash.

M-commerce a major growth area

M-commerce continues to gain momentum across the region, supported by improving internet penetration and widespread smartphone ownership. Evolving shopping habits, with mobile becoming a multifunctional tool, will continue to help drive further m-commerce growth. Tablet m-commerce as well as mobile m-commerce (both remote and proximity) will record double-digit CAGRs over the forecast period.

Return to growth expected from 2022

In spite of the economic impact of COVID-19, the post-pandemic period is expected to see a return to positive annual growth rates for consumer payments, albeit only from 2022. While growth in card payment transaction value slowed significantly in 2020, it still, just, remained in positive territory, with a return to dynamic growth expected from 2021. Government policies will also continue to encourage the trend towards cashless transactions in the coming years.


Key findings


Middle East and Africa with the lowest per capita figure
Cash takes a hit during the pandemic in Middle East and Africa
Bounceback expected from 2022 after declines during the pandemic
Card transactions remain in positive territory during the pandemic

Regional Overview

Nigeria experiences a major decline in cash payments
Saudi Vision 2030 pushing drive towards a cashless economy
Debit cards continue to gain ground in Saudi Arabia
Charge cards continue to dominate Israeli consumer payments
M-commerce continues to thrive during the pandemic


Card operators competitive landscape extremely concentrated

Leading Companies and Brands

Visa and Mastercard with a wide presence across the region
Visa and Mastercard remain the dominant financial card operators
Players will increasingly look to digital banking to help drive growth

Forecast Projections

Consumer payments to return to positive growth from 2022…
…but not reach pre-pandemic levels again until 2023
Card payments record a strong rebound in 2021…
…with Saudi Arabia leading the way
Further strong growth expected for m-commerce
Mobile m-commerce will continue to dominate sales


Egypt: Market Context
Egypt: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Egypt: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Israel: Market Context
Israel: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Israel: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Morocco: Market Context
Morocco: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Morocco: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Nigeria: Market Context
Nigeria: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Nigeria: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Saudi Arabia: Market Context
Saudi Arabia: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Saudi Arabia: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
South Africa: Market Context
South Africa: Competitive and Retail Landscape
South Africa: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
United Arab Emirates: Market Context
United Arab Emirates: Competitive and Retail Landscape
United Arab Emirates: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value


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