E-commerce sales in Doha are expected to reach more than $3.2bn by 2022 as many retailers and consumers shift to online platforms, allowing substantial growth of digital payment gateways and contactless payments, according to the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC)-Refinitiv report.
Islamic fintech is expected to experience "significant" growth in coming years and Qatar has the opportunity to secure a unique advantage over other Islamic fintech hubs through Shariah-compliant venture capital, the report said.
Elaborating on the e-commerce sales, the report said this presents an opportunity for payment solution providers — that can provide world-class services — to tap the increasing demand from online retailers and e-commerce platforms in Qatar.
“The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic created new opportunities for financial innovation, which has attracted an influx of tech and FinTech companies seeking to set up operations in Qatar," QFC Authority chief executive Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida said.
The country offers Fintechs worldwide substantial opportunities domestically as an unsaturated market with ICT spending expected to reach $9bn by 2024, boosting the competitiveness of its market and strengthening its position to emerge as a Fintech hub in the region, he added.
The e-commerce sector in Qatar has witnessed a boom in recent years as the e-commerce penetration rate more than doubled in the last year, from 15% in 2018 to 37% in 2019.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) had projected in 2018 that e-commerce sales would reach $3.2bn by 2022, up from $1.3bn in 2017. This projection could potentially be exceeded as online sales were boosted by the Covid-19 outbreak, which forced many retailers and consumers to shift to online platforms.
Digital wallets could also tap into a market of 800,000 un-or under-banked low-income workers in Qatar, offering banking, payment and remittance services without having to open a bank account, it said.
On the potential of Islamic fintech, the report said Islamic venture capital investments could be deployed through QFTH programmes or by partnering with Islamic investment banks.
"Offering special incentives to set up Islamic VC funds or equity crowd-funding platforms would also drive Islamic VC investments in Qatar-based fintechs," it said, adding Islamic Regtech — a segment yet to be established — also presents an opportunity for Qatar to gain an advantage in the Islamic Fintech space. The Islamic financial institutions particularly face Shariah risk, for which Regtech could potentially offer the tools to mitigate, facilitating easier compliance with Islamic financial regulations and Shariah compliance standards, according to it.
In the current economic environment, traditional financial institutions are steering clear of lending to small and medium enterprises or SMEs, which are expected to source up to 90% of supplies for state projects in Qatar.
"This is an opportunity for digital banks and alternative lenders to tap the SME market, offering cost-efficient small business loans. These Fintechs would also be able to offer SMEs customised financial facilities, including trade credit lines and payment management facilities," it said.