The Qatar Central Bank’s (QCB) instant payment system is expected to be operational by early next year, according to a top official.
“By the beginning of next year, we are hoping to launch our instant payment system,” QCB assistant governor (Financial Instruments and Payment Systems) Sheikh Ahmed bin Khalid al-Thani told Qatar Investment Conference 2023, organised by The Business Year.
With this and other digital initiatives, it would bring new era for innovation and transformation of the country’s financial services sector, he said, indicating that the QCB is open to global and regional collaboration with fintechs, venture capitalists and other players as it builds on this system, especially in the light of future digital assets.
Qatar is contemplating legal recognition of digital assets as part of efforts to put in place legislation for a tokenisation framework. In this regard, the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and the QFC Authority have jointly developed the QFC digital assets framework.
Finding that the financial institutions in the country are in their cusp of digital transformation; he said “we are seeing interests in blockchain based trade finance and cloud based finance.”
“We are attracting startups and other entities in the digital innovation space and we are also transforming our market infrastructure,” Sheikh Ahmed said.
Highlighting that digital payment landscape is growing in Qatar; he said Qatar has more than 70,000 POS (point-of-sale) machines and it is growing 40% annually. Transactions through the POS amount to QR8bn a month and those through the ATMs stood at QR3.4bn each month with a growth of 12%, he added.
Through its fintech strategy, the central bank is aiming to enhance the economic value addition to the local economy, according to Sheikh Ahmed. The Qatar Fintech Strategy 2023 has set out ambitious targets for 2027, which, among other things, include at least triple the number of licensed fintech companies in the country, increase by 20 to 25 times the number of fintech jobs, generate 40 to 50 times direct economic value add, and improve financial inclusion.
The central bank is in the process of developing advanced regulatory rules, especially in the fields of digital banking; crowdfunding; open banking; buy now, pay later (BNPL); wealthtech; electronic know-your-customer (e-KYC); and insurtech, to foster fintech innovation.
New rules tackling emerging technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledger technology (DLT) are being introduced.
On the international front, Sheikh Ahmed said the World Bank has estimated that more than 15% of the global gross domestic product is through digital economy and that more than 90% of the central banks are exploring the introduction of CBDCs (central bank digital currencies).
Addressing one of the panel sessions, Ahmed al-Munayes, managing director, Qatar Tap Payment, said the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), including Qatar, not only has advanced tech environment and young population but also the highest smartphone penetration and high speed Internet, which played crucial role in E-commerce in the region.
Finding that the level of technology adoption in Qatar has pervaded to public services as well; he said most of the government services are being moved to digital platform. Terming market size as an issue, specifically for Qatar; Sami Zaitoon, managing partner, Moore Qatar, said the fintech industry should seriously consider catering to the wider region and globally.
David Earl Cook, chief executive officer of Sharq Insurance, explained how technology such as artificial intelligence has helped the sector in terms of widening the coverage and better claims management.
QCB assistant governor (Financial Instruments and Payment Systems) Sheikh Ahmed bin Khalid al-Thani addressing Qatar Investment Conference, organised by The Business Year. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam