Doha's mature financial services industry, coupled with national initiatives to support digitisation across sectors, is expected to spur investments in fintech, according to the Qatar Fintech Hub (QFTH).
As part of Qatar’s fintech programme, the focus has shifted from 'B2C' to 'B2B' offerings, especially in peer-to-peer lending, merchant and e-commerce services, invoice financing, payments, and trade finance.
"This has paved the way for the domestic fintechs," said QFTH's white paper on the state of the fast-developing fintech industry in Qatar and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.
The recently launched incubator and accelerator programmes and the upcoming regulatory sandbox are making Qatar an attractive destination for international fintechs as well, the paper said, highlighting that many global firms such as Musaada, MyCash Money, PayFace, Sync, and Oscar have chosen Qatar as their launch-pad for the global market.
"Qatar’s fintech ambition is to become a global hub by promoting and empowering Qatari entrepreneurs and innovators and becoming the launch-pad for their global expansion," the report said.
Doha is actively working with global regulators (on central bank digital currency and centralised KYC utility) to ensure consistency with international standards, bring best practices to the country, and drive a country-specific regulatory focus, it said.
The white paper highlighted that Qatar has a mature financial services sector with 17 banks, which include five conventional banks, four Islamic banks, seven branches of foreign banks, along with a specialised development bank (QDB).
"The Qatar Mobile Payment System creates a robust enabling environment for payment-focused fintechs," it said.
The drive to host a cashless FIFA World Cup in 2022 and newly launched smart city programmes (TASMU) are likely to push digital adoption across the country, QFTH paper said.
Highlighting that collaborations between financial institutions and fintech players have a key role to play in developing innovative models and increasing reach to customers; it said a survey conducted by Wamda revealed that 88% of fintech entrepreneurs in the Mena region were either seeking or already benefiting from partnerships.
"Such collaborations have started taking place in Qatar, which is a good indication of maturing financial services in the country," the paper said.
Recently, fintechs also collaborated with Qatar Post to launch a fully integrated postal delivery POS that allows customers to make cashless payments when receiving parcels and other items by mail.
"As these collaborations increase, the reach of fintech services is expected to further expand," it said.
Regarding financial institutions-fintech collaboration, QFTH highlighted that Commercial Bank completed its trial of blockchain-based open-account trade finance on the 'Marco Polo' platform in January 2020.
It also cited that Ahlibank Qatar formed an alliance with Visa to foster payment innovation. Under this partnership, the companies will jointly launch card-based payment products and create advanced technology solutions to bolster the payment experience for Ahlibank customers.
On the opportunities in the wider Middle East, the white paper said fintech is at an early stage of development in the region, but it is an "attractive" destination for fintechs due to its large unbanked or under-banked young population, high cash usage, and recent regulatory developments that encourage growth.
"Fintechs in the region are focusing on remittances, insurance, and investment advisory, and online trading is gaining traction," it said.
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