Jordan, a country with a cash-based economy, is among those countries with a large unbanked population that is seeing its fair share of fintech innovation, according to Wamda, a Mideast financial news site. Both the banking and technology industries have recognized the fintech opportunity.
The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) last May introduced an electronic payment platform called eFawateerCom to allow people to pay bills from ATMs, POS terminals, kiosks, and computers. Emerging Markets Payments (EMP) is an e-payment service provider developed by eFawateerCom.
GreenWallet, an online lending platform that allows users to request and receive a loan within 15 minutes, launched in early February. The system uses a proprietary scoring formula that determines a user’s creditworthiness.
Ali Tabbalat, who developed GreenWallet, said he wanted to start a fintech company since he believes it can help solve the global challenge of financial inclusion. He said more than 2.5 billion people globally have no access to formal financial services, and a large portion are in the Middle East and Africa.
Jordan, like many Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, has a lot of unbanked people. About 24 percent of the people have a bank account, Tabbalat said, and fewer have access to credit.
The problem in Jordan includes the cost of starting a bank account, the paucity of bank branches in rural areas, and bureaucratic barriers. Traditional banks find it costly to bank many of the people.
Jordan has a rising youth population and a growing rate of Internet penetration. More than 70% of the population is under the age of 30, and 86% of the population uses the Internet, which indicates a big consumer market is emerging that is prone to seek alternatives to a cash-based lifestyle.
The Jordanian economy is also dependent in part on remittances, with about $900 million transferring back to the country in 2015. Many of the country’s highly-skilled laborers move to the Gulf States and abroad for better-paying jobs. For these laborers, sending funds back home incurs wire transfer fees as high as 10%.
Fintech is positioned to address such issues.
Entrepreneurs such as EMP, GreenWallet, and Madfoo3atCom offer a variety of ways to challenge the financial status quo. There are startups besides Madfoo3atCom seeking to innovate payments in Jordan.
PayFellow is an e-payment provider.
Middle East Payment Services (MEPS), which works in Iraq and Palestine in addition to Jordan, works with regional banks to provide secure payment processing services for mobile payment services, ATM management and credit and debit card purchases.
Mobile payment and e-payment firms seek to update the existing infrastructure. Other Jordanian startups look to create new financial services and industries.
Peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding are options for those looking to raise funds via the Internet. Companies like MENA have emerged to offer alternative fundraising options in light of regional turmoil that scares foreign investors and many banks’ lack of willingness to make loans.
Liwwa, a Shiria-compliant investing and crowdfunding platform, offers an alternative lending option, in addition to GreenWallet.
Liwwa is designed so that investors on the platform get a return on a regular schedule based on a lease-to-own structure. Since there is no interest or equity in the equation, Liwwa remains Sharia-compliant.
Financial Engineers, another startup, addresses the need to change the way companies and individuals manage money. Financial Engineers specializes in reengineering financial planning, analysis and reporting, along with a finance-related process automation.
Data collection and big data, while not exclusively fintech, also impact the finance industry. Engage Master offers companies access to data-driven marketing and web analytics, both of which can help companies prepare consumers to adopt e-commerce and e-payments.
The local funding apparatus has shown an interest in fintech, but a leading player has yet to emerge. Both GreenWallet and Madfoo3atCom are part of the Oasis500 portfolio, a business incubator, while MENA Apps supports Payfellow and MEPS.
Tabbalat noted that Jordan is still a cash-based economy, but the potential to adopt user-friendly, innovative payment solutions will have strong growth potential in the coming years.
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