Middle East and Africa the world’s fastest growing payment cards region
The Middle East and Africa (MEA) is the payment cards region increasing the quickest across the globe, according to research by Retail Banking Research (RBR).
According to RBR’s Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021, the number of cards in issue in MEA increased by 13% to 611 million in 2015, making it the world’s fastest growing region.
Large unbanked populations mean that many people do not yet have a payment card, and indicate “significant potential”. RBR forecasts that the number of cards in the region will rise to 910 million by the end of 2021.
By far the largest payment cards market in the region is Iran, where all payment cards are domestic-only, as a result of the ongoing imposition of international sanctions.
The RBR study shows that domestic schemes are also present in Israel, Morocco, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Domestic scheme cards are sometimes favoured because of their lower issuing costs – in Morocco, for example, Centre Monétique Interbancaire (CMI) cards are frequently issued as entry-level products.
Share of Cards by Scheme in the Middle East and Africa, 2015
Source: Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021 (RBR)
Mastercard and Visa make up a large and growing share of the remaining cards in the region outside of Iran and RBR’s report shows that they have made notable gains in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. This is through both organic growth and agreements for their brands to be added to domestic scheme cards to enable cardholders to use them outside the country of issuance.
Cards featuring both a domestic and international brand were most recently launched in Saudi Arabia, where Mada debit cards were introduced by the Saudi Payment Network (SPAN) in 2015.