Saudi Arabia aims to become regional fintech Mecca: official

Source: Xinhua| 2018-04-16 05:15:19|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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DUBAI, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Saudi Arabia aims to attract the leading financial technology (fintech) companies and plans to become a cashless society, said official of Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) Sunday.

Ziad Al-Yousef, Director General of Payment Systems at SAMA, the Saudi central bank, made the remarks at the opening of the two-day Seamless conference on payments, fintech and e-commerce.

Saudi Arabia also plans to build an ecosystem to develop local fintech startups, Yousef said, adding that fintech firms "can increase financial inclusion in the kingdom and improve the speed and efficiency of fund flows through electronic means."

The fintech plan fits into the Saudi Vision 2030 reform scheme to reduce the kingdom's dependence on oil, launched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman a year ago, said Yousef.

To better develop the fintech plan, Saudi government plans to relax the work visa policy for talented entrepreneurs, said Yousef. "We at SAMA work together with SAGIA, the Saudi General Investment Authority, to develop such a work visa scheme," he added.

SAMA will launch within the next two months a strategy to lead the Gulf Arab state towards a cashless society by 2030, said Al-Yousef.

The number of point-of-sale terminals, such as credit or debit card payment facilities at shops, increased to 303,464 across Saudi Arabia in 2017 from 225,372 in 2015, and "it is expected to surge to 526,889 units by 2021," he said.

Saudi Arabia is not alone with its fintech ambitions. In early 2016, the Dubai International Financial Center launched the fintech Hive as an incubator in the field of financial big data, e-payment systems and artificial intelligence in finance.

Abu Dhabi and Bahrain have also set up fintech hubs since then.

However, according to global consultancy EY, not a single Arab country was in 2017 among the top 20 countries in relation to fintech adoption, a ranking which was led by China.