Stepping Closer to the Kingdom’s Grand Vision for Financial Inclusion

12 Oct 2023|

By Dastak Desk

Seamless Arabia 2023 once again takes centre stage as one of the influential conferences to showcase the payments and fintech landscape in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

We, at Dastak, were honoured to be a part of Seamless KSA 2023 as the only Pakistani startup as an exhibitor. Seamless KSA was a great opportunity for us to explore new pathways for value creation through collaborative partnerships in the MENA region. 

Before we dive into discourse, let us walk you through our engagement in Riyadh.

Learn More: Dastak’s Post Seamless KSA 2023 Reflection

In this edition, we shall be taking a brief look at how far the Kingdom’s fintech landscape has evolved and how events like Seamless KSA add to it.

The first Seamless Arabia event was held in Riyadh back in 2022 and the conference was undoubtedly a step in the right direction for financial inclusion in the MENA region. Seamless KSA 2022 was home to thousands of speakers, with people coming in from 71 countries to attend 311 exhibitions, making the total count of attendees up to a whopping 21,601. These stats suggest the rapid growth of the fintech revolution in the region and prophesize the expansion of the fintech industry in the years to come.

A survey of the attendees, conducted by Terrapin gives us insights into what brought the attendees to Seamless KSA 2022. Some of the key findings suggest that 

  • The majority (21.48%) of attendees’ motivation was learning more about payments, banking, or fintech technology and strategies.
  • Gathering information about e-commerce and retail technology and strategies was also a major reason for attendance, with 19.59% of attendees.
  • Gaining insight into identification and authentication strategies (15.20%)
  • Supply-chain technology and strategies (8.45%) were also a major reason for attendance.
  • Other motivations for attendance include finding new ways to source solutions (15.89%), identifying potential partners (15.61%), and excavating new opportunities for start-ups (3.79%).

The traction that fintech took in Seamless 2022 supports the efforts of the Saudi Central Bank – SCB, formerly known as the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority – SAMA, to bring financial revolution to KSA.

KSA Fintech Revolution 2022-23

KSA experienced a fintech revolution in the past few years, with the number of fintech firms in KSA doubling in the past year. According to Ayman Al-Sayari, governor of the Saudi Central Bank, as of August 2023, over 200 fintech firms are now present in the economy, up from 89 in 2022. 

The number of fintech companies operating in Saudi Arabia has also increased by around 300% in less than two years, from 51 in 2021 to 153 in 2023. 

Arab News reports that a total revenue of SAR2.8 billion ($746.4 million) was generated by fintechs in 2022, an increase from SR2 billion in 2021. These developments along with a focus on payments, open banking, and fintech trends are likely to increase the traction of fintech in conferences like Seamless KSA. 
Collectively, this will work to fulfil the 2025 milestones for the fintech strategy as set by the Financial Sector Development Program – FSDP.

KSA Fintech Strategy – A Pivotal Pillar of FSDP

Recent advancements in FSDP have placed fintech strategy as the fourth pillar, reiterating the necessity for fintech advancements in the region. This can be understood by reading the most important two out of the six transformational drivers to bolster the KSA fintech ecosystem, as indicated by SCB in their last report. These are:

KSA Global Fintech Positioning

Strategic global positioning & marketing campaigns to build the image of KSA as a Fintech leader & boost global awareness of KSA market

International conferences like Seamless KSA bolster this image further and help put KSA as a fintech leader on the globe. Hosting attendees from all around the world, seamless integration of the program, and featuring Seamless as a platform for networking is truly a step in the right direction.


Build bridges with global strategic partners and Fintech hubs” 

Collaboration and positioning work as mutual drivers for each other. Greater strategic partnerships in terms of program development or funding lead to bolstering KSA’s fintech impression and a good impression leads to more interested players moving to the region to collaborate with firms and create value.

Payments and Fintech Ecosystem in KSA

According to the SAMA’s Annual Fintech Report 2022, the adoption of digital channels for payments saw a massive boom in the market. The total number of payment app downloads grew from SAR315k (2018) to SAR17M (2022) and this was followed by yet another revolution. The volume of deposits in EMI wallets almost doubled from SAR400M to SAR878M from 2021 to 2022 alone with an estimated monetary value of SAR69.8B in EMI wallets as of 2022. The volume of QR  code payments grew by about 1 m each year from 2019 – 2022, closing in at a value of SAR3M in 2022.

FSDP Grooving For Financial Revolution

The growth in digital payments also plays into FSDP’s vision of digital infrastructure leading to a cashless society where non-cash transactions account for 80% of payments in 2030. This also accounts for FSDP’s vision to increase financial inclusion as compared to some of its peers. To support this vision, FSDP announced its goal to take 1,000 fintechs on board, almost doubling the previous target of 500. FSDP has also identified the five key trends to look out for which include: 

  • The rise of fintech
  • The emergence of Open Banking
  • Advancements in tech
  • ESG  guidelines
  • Automation of the insurance sector

At Dastak, we see the evolution of the fintech landscape in the Kingdom as an encouraging sign of progress and are pleased to play a role and offer our services to incumbent banks and fintechs in the MENAPT region who are set to transform this space in ambitious ways. 

With our open API platform and unique data aggregation, contextualization, and sharing model, we’re ready to play a part in the financial revolution of MENAPT.

To learn more about our services and prospects and to roll out your growth plans within the Fintech sector in KSA, reach out to our open banking and embedded finance consultants for the MENAPT region.

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