Digital Transactions in Pakistan Soared 30% to $500 Billion in Fiscal Year 2020-21
Digital transactions in Pakistan soared 31.1% to Rs. 88 trillion or $500 Billion in fiscal year 2020-21, according to the nation's top central banker. “If the figure is $500 billion now, you can imagine the pace at which we are digitizing,” said Dr. Baqir Raza, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, adding that those transactions showed a year-on-year growth of 30.6% in volume and 31.1% in value. The nation's central bank also reported that the large-value payments segment, known as Real-time Inter-Bank Settlement Mechanism (PRISM), saw growth of 60% by volume and 12.8% by value to Rs. 444.6 trillion or $2.5 trillion in FY 2020-21. There are several factors driving rapid shift to digital technology, including expanding digital infrastructure, new technologies and the government's efforts to document Pakistan's huge undocumented economy. Grey-listing of Pakistan by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has also played a role.
|Internet & Mobile Banking in Pakistan. Source: SBP|
Digital Transactions Growth:
Growth in digital transactions was led by major uptake in mobile banking (29% increase in the number of users and 133.6% and 178.7% hike in volume and value, respectively) and internet banking (32% increase in the number of users and 65.1% and 91.7% up in volume and value, respectively), according to the State Bank of Pakistan. “If the figure is $500 billion now, you can imagine the pace at which we are digitizing,” said Dr. Baqir Raza, the head of Pakistan's central bank.“Therefore, there is a huge potential for enhancing financial inclusion,” he added.
|E-Banking in Pakistan. Source: Dawn|
Pakistan's central bankers have taken the plunge into the world of digital payments with their own offering: Raast. It aims to create an instant low-cost payment system that can seamlessly and securely connect government entities, a variety of banks, including microfinance banks (MFBs), electronic money institutions (EMIs) and State Bank authorized payment service providers (PSPs) like 1Link and NIFT which may choose to take advantage of it. Currency and coins in circulation account for about 43% of Pakistan's total money supply. The introduction of Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion. Digital financial services will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan.
|Raast Digital Payment System. Source: State Bank of Pakistan|
Raast Digital Payments:
Raast is a system of digital payment infrastructure. It is essentially a pipe that is intended to connect government and financial institutions with consumers and merchants with each other to process payments instantly at very low cost.
Raast will be boosted by Pakistan government's decision to use it to pay salaries, pensions and pay welfare recipients under Benazir Income Support and Ehsaas Emergency Cash programs.
State Bank of Pakistan intends to demonstrate Raast's usefulness by first processing government payments to individuals, including government employees and Ehsaas welfare beneficiaries, before expanding it for business applications. SBP’s plan is to start person-to-person (P2P) payments using just the phone numbers in Q3/2021 and then bring merchants on board with QR codes by Q1/2022.
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Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin confident of 6% sustainable GDP growth to reduce dependence on IMF; Aims at over $100 billion exports in next five years; ‘Super cycle’ is a serious threat to global economic recovery
“We don’t need the IMF if we achieve sustainable growth of six per cent. I don’t think we need another IMF programme once we complete the ongoing extended fund facility (EFF) in Setptember,” Tarin told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview in Dubai.
The IMF, which forecasts four per cent GDP growth for Pakistan, said the EFF programme had strengthened Pakistan’s fiscal buffers before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a strong economic recovery has taken hold since the summer of 2020.
Pakistan, which secured more than 20 bailouts from the IMF in the past five decades, signed a $6 billion loan programme in July 2019. It completed the fund’s six reviews and drew $3 billion so far to support the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which currently stood firm at $23 billion.
“We are going to start a two-week process of seventh IMF review of Pakistan economy on Monday [March 7, 2022]. The successful review will help draw another $1 billion tranche as we have already achieved the targets in December,” Tarin said, and adding that the eighth and ninth reviews will bring the remaining $2 billion to the national kitty by September.
The IMF, which forecasts four per cent GDP growth for Pakistan, said the EFF programme had strengthened Pakistan’s fiscal buffers before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a strong economic recovery has taken hold since the summer of 2020. It also warned that Pakistan’s economy remains vulnerable to flare-ups of Covid-19, tighter international financial conditions, a rise in geopolitical tensions and delayed implementations of structural reforms.
No more IMF help
“The sustainable growth of five to six per cent is the only way to reduce dependence on IMF and other multinational donars, and we are confident of achieving this target under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” the finance minister said.
Elaborating, he said the government’s economic reforms had revived sick industries, improved the agriculture sector and boosted exports despite commodity price shock in international markets. However, the country still needs to increase saving rates and revenue collection to sustain the growth momentum in coming years.
“We are working very hard to increase saving rates and tax collections as well as bridge the gap between exports and imports. Revenue collections have already hit Rs6 trillion, and next year we will achieve Rs8 trillion taxes,” Tarin said.
Economic experts said the rate of savings, which is currently around 15 per cent, should be increased to 25 per cent in Pakistan. They also said the tax-to-GDP ratio should also be increased to 20 per cent from 10 per cent to sustain higher growth momentum.
“Pakistan’s information technology has an immense potential to grow, and the government is keen to revolutionise this sector to boost exports in coming years. We can double our traditional exports in next four to five years and lift IT exports by providing incentives to the sector and building a strong ecosystem for startups in the country,” the finance minister said.
“In the next five years, our traditional exports will touch $60 billion plus while IT exports could be at $50 billion, pushing the tally to over a $100 billion annually. In addition, $30 billion remittances per annum will help ensure a sustainable current account surpluses,” he added.
Bilal I Gilani
Pakistani banking system processed 227 trillion Rs of transactions in one quarter
That too when only 5% transaction are through banking channels
Pakistan's true potential is yet to be explored and exploited
The ride-hailing company widened its offerings from food delivery to money transfer
Careem is, in its own words, ‘driven by the purpose of simplifying people’s lives and building an awesome organization’
Careem saw at least a two-fold increase in its services across 13 markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan in 2021.
It completed a total of 109 million rides, the firm said in its 2021 customer and business trends report.
Cars and bikes transactions grew by 2.6 times compared to December 2020, while delivery and bill payments services grew 2.4 times and 2 times respectively.
In 2021, one in seven customers in Saudi Arabia used multiple services on the app, and the most popular combination of services was ride hailing and food delivery.
The airports with the most Careem journeys in 2021 were Jeddah with 57,000 trips, Karachi with 211,000 trips, and Dubai with 207,000 trips.
In Q1 2021, Careem revealed a new, disruptive food delivery business model that replaced traditional high-percentage aggregator commissions with a 0 percent commission, giving restaurants of all sizes fair and transparent pricing to grow profitably. It reduced delivery bills by nearly 50 percent and increased the number of orders by up to 20 percent in some restaurants.
The number of the new restaurant outlets that joined Careem in 2021 increased by 58 percent over 2020.
Careem Pay registered over 66 million transactions across six core markets in 2021. Pakistan had the highest use of peer-to-peer payments and mobile recharge, with over 443,000 transactions. Careem Captains topped-up their phones 32.6 million times in 2021, amounting to a total of $1.5 billion.
Private credit off take reported at Rs. 911 billion from July to March 11, 2022, vs Rs. 357 billion for same period last year. The substantial increase is indicating robust economic activity. Meanwhile, GoP has retired Rs. 291 billion to SBP, creating room for private sector.
Private sector borrowings swell to Rs911bn
KARACHI: The private sector credit off-take jumped by 155 per cent to Rs911 billion during the July-mid March period compared to Rs357bn in the same period of last fiscal year, data shared by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) showed on Friday.
The increase in borrowings indicates higher economic activities that could lead to achieving the growth target set by the government.
The increase in terms of percentage is the biggest growth in the last five years while it has already crossed the total private sector credit off-take witnessed in FY21 when Rs766bn was borrowed. Initially, growth was announced at 3.9pc but later it was reviewed by National Accounts Committee which found the growth as 5.37pc in FY21. It was unexpected for most analysts and economists and the growth rate was termed as surprising.
The SBP in its last monetary policy predicted that the economic growth rate could be in the mid of 4-5pc for FY22 which is encouraging for the government facing challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, record oil and commodity prices and huge traded deficit.
The higher oil prices and costly imports increased inflation ultimately forcing the SBP to increase interest rate which is currently at 9.75pc. Despite costly borrowings, the private sector kept increasing its economic activities which are reflected from the credit off-take during FY22.
The conventional banks were at the forefront as they extended loans worth Rs567bn to the private sector during this period which was much higher than Rs174bn credit off-take during the same period in FY21.
The Islamic banks also increased their lending to the private sector but the size of the increase was much less than conventional banks. The lending to the private sector by Islamic banks reached Rs127bn during this period compared to Rs71bn in the same period in FY21.
The lending to the private sector by Islamic branches of the conventional banks was double than the previous fiscal year. These branches extended loans worth Rs217bn compared to Rs111bn in the same period in FY21.
The current private sector credit off-take has surpassed the total loans extended in the entire FY21. In the previous fiscal year, the private sector credit off-take was Rs766bn.
Some banking analysts believe that the private sector is getting higher loans due to low intake by the federal government from the banking system while deposits also increased this year.
This created higher liquidity for the banks, forcing them to lend maximum to the private sector.
The Minister noted that growth of LSM is imperative to enhance manufacturing base and job creation in the country.
He said recently Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan announced Industrial Promotion Package which would not only revitalize industrialization in the country but also enhance our manufacturing sector. According to PBS data reported on Friday, the industry output increased by 8.2 percent during the month of January 2022 compared to the growth of January 2021 on year on year basis.
The major sectors that showed positive growth during July-January (2021-22) included textile (2.9pc), food (3.4pc), beverages (2.5pc), tobacco (21.9pc), wearing apparel (18.3pc), leather products (4.5pc), wood products (172.2pc), paper and board (8.2pc), coke and petroleum products (0.5pc), chemicals (5.4), Chemical products (15.5pc), automobiles (63.5pc), iron and steel products (17.52pc), furniture (553.pc),automobiles (63.5pc) and other manufacturing (22.2pc).
LSM growth jumps 7.6 pc in 7 months
ISLAMABAD, Mar 18 (APP): Large Scale Manufacturing Industries (LSMI) production grew by 7.6 percent during the first seven months of the current fiscal year as compared to the corresponding period of last year, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported Friday.
The LSMI Quantum Index Number (QIM) was recorded at 120 points during July-January (2021-22) against 111.5 points during July-January (2020-21), showing growth of 7.6 percent, according to latest PBS data.
The highest increase of 9.7 percent was witnessed in the indices monitored by the Provincial Board of Statistics (BOS), followed by 6.9 percent increase in indices monitored by Ministry of Industries and 0.5 percent increase in the products monitored by the Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC).
On year-on-year basis (YoY), the industry rose by 8.2 percent during the month of January 2022 compared to the growth of January 2021, according to PBS latest data.
The major sectors that showed positive growth during July-January (2021-22) included textile (2.9%), food (3.4%), beverages (2.5%), tobacco (21.9%), wearing apparel (18.3%), leather products (4.5%), wood products (172.2%), paper and board (8.2%), coke and petroleum products (0.5%), chemicals (5.4), Chemical products (15.5%), automobiles (63.5%), iron and steel products (17.52%), furniture (553.%),automobiles (63.5%) and other manufacturing (22.2%).
The commodities that witnessed negative growth included pharmaceuticals (3.5%), rubber products (25.5%) and electrical equipment (1.2%).
It is pertinent to mention here that the provisional QIM is being computed on the basis of the latest production data received from sources, including OCAC, Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP), and PBS.
Egypt’s digital payments provider Paymob plans to start its operations in Pakistan this month, taking advantage of a market that has seen a funding frenzy in its startups.
The Cairo-based company, which allows online businesses and offline merchants to accept and send payments, sees a significant opportunity in Pakistan, Islam Shawky, CEO and co-founder of Paymob, said in an interview. The company plans to have 100,000 merchants in its first two years in Pakistan, he said and added it currently operates in Egypt, Jordan and Kenya and aims to enter Saudi Arabia later this year.
1/2 #SBP issues Q2FY22 report on Payment Systems that shows encouraging growth in digital banking. Overall e-banking transactions volume grew by 10.7% to 400mn whereas value by 22.8% to over Rs33tn. During CY2021 volume increased by 41% to 1.4bn and value by 45% to Rs106tn.
2/2 Mobile banking volume were up by 18.8% & value by 35.4%. Similarly, internet banking volume increased by 13.9% & value by 28%. See PR:
The fintech has signed an agreement with Bank Alfalah to activate and support merchant acquisition and integration services across the country. This collaboration will enable an instant onboarding feature in Pakistan using Paymob’s solutions such as payment gateway integration, POS terminals, and SoftPOS.
The instant onboarding feature is supported by the digital onboarding regulations recently published by the State Bank of Pakistan and comes as one of the steps the State Bank has led to enable MSME merchants in order to further digitise the ecosystem.
The partnership follows the launch of Paymob’s ‘Tap-on-Phone’ payment acceptance mechanism in Egypt. The Tap-on-Phone service will also be accessible for Pakistan-based merchants, enabling them to use mobile phones directly to service payments. The company aims to onboard over 100,000 merchants across Pakistan, until 2024, and improve ecommerce acceptance for online merchants.
The market opportunity in the country is increased given the range of retail outlets and SME businesses across the country’s cities. With over 4 million SMEs using just over 80,000 POS terminals and less than 3000 ecommerce payment gateways, the market is suited to meet Paymob’s criteria and strategy to expand globally, and bridge the digital financial gap, according to the press release.
And so are the stakes
As the country emerges from the pandemic, however, a new pattern of growth is visible. It is unlike anything you have seen before. An indigenous tech effort is key. As the cost of technology has dropped, India has rolled out a national “tech stack”: a set of state-sponsored digital services that link ordinary Indians with an electronic identity, payments and tax systems, and bank accounts. The rapid adoption of these platforms is forcing a vast, inefficient, informal cash economy into the 21st century. It has turbocharged the world’s third-largest startup scene after America’s and China’s.
Alongside that, global trends are creating bigger business clusters. The it-services industry has doubled in size in a decade, helped by the cloud and a worldwide shortage of software workers. Where else can Western firms find half a million new engineers a year? There is a renewable-energy investment spree: India ranks third for solar installations and is pioneering green hydrogen. As firms everywhere reconfigure supply chains to lessen their reliance on China, India’s attractions as a manufacturing location have risen, helped by a $26bn subsidy scheme. Western governments are keen to forge defence and technology links. India has also found a workaround to redistribute more to ordinary folk who vote but rarely see immediate gains from economic reforms: a direct, real-time, digital welfare system that in 36 months has paid $200bn to about 950m people.
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm
Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is planning to roll out a digital identity wallet later this year in a move that will end the need for physical ID.
NADRA is tasked with digitising all citizen data in the country, which – with more than 220 million citizens – is the fifth biggest in the world in terms of population.
As part of a digital push aimed at generating benefits including greater financial inclusion, the authority is working on a significant evolution of the existing ‘Pak-ID’ smartphone app – which was itself only introduced seven months ago, the authority’s chairman Tariq Malik told Pakistani media Dawn.
Launched last September, Pak-ID allows citizens to apply for a physical ID card remotely by using their Android or iOS device to scan documents and biometric data including their fingerprints and take a picture to verify their identity. When it was introduced, NADRA proclaimed that Pakistan had become ‘the first country in the world to introduce ID technology’. Two weeks later, the authority launched a similar biometric verification service for the banking and payments industry. With five banks initially participating, the service enables customers to open bank accounts and undertake biometric authenticated financial transactions using a mobile-phone camera.
Hailing Pak-ID’s debut, prime minister Imran Khan called the app “a revolutionary step in providing convenience, especially to overseas Pakistanis”. It seems these expats have at least partly driven the decision to launch the digital identity wallet by updating the Pak-ID app. “In a short span, 75,000 overseas Pakistanis have processed their national identity cards from the comfort of their homes by using the app,” Malik told Dawn. “With successful testing on 75,000 overseas Pakistanis, NADRA will go for a digital wallet.”
The wallet would be “a leap forward putting an end to the conventional physical ID” and is to be made available “later this year”, Malik said. “The digital dividends of such technology innovation will yield positive results in contactless banking, financial inclusion, ease of doing business and e-governance initiatives by offering remote identification and e-KYC [know-your-customer procedures].”
Another milestone achieved by #SBP in the journey of digitization, as number of #Raast IDs registration crosses 10 million mark since its launch in Feb22. Aggregated value of Person to Person (P2P) Transactions using #Raast system by customers crosses Rs36bn.
NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) just recently announced the arrival of its new e-payment system which is proclaimed as the final blow to ATM usage around the country. Claimed to be the replacement for ATMs, the e-payment solution will allow users to make easy electronic payments.
Alongside NADRA, 1Link also played an important role in building the e-payment solution. Once widely in use, this will be Pakistan’s biggest and most fully accredited payment gateway system. NADRA adds this new venture into its already successful catalog of solutions named as ‘e-sahulat’.
With the launch, NADRA will start its mission of transforming over 17,000 e-Sahulat locations into full-featured ATMs. These locations will then also provide users with a number of different online payment options.
NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik and 1Link CEO Najeeb Agrawal signed the contract on Monday. Chairman Malik on the occasion said that NADRA for a long time has been trying to enhance its e-governance services by empowering organizations from both the public and private sectors.
““We are enhancing state capacity to deliver digital public goods and move towards electronic financial transactions for transparency and accountability. This would enable financial inclusion as well.” said Malik about the new e-payment solution.
Malik in his speech also claimed for NADRA’s e-sahulat is the most cutting-edge digital service for financial payments. Now with an e-payment solution coming into play, around 17,000 NADRA e-sahulat centers will be able to quadruple their capacity.
According to NADRA, we will soon see the e-payment platform in rural areas of Pakistan as well. Now, this is a great initiative since it will allow ease of business and increase rural contribution to the digital economy.
Tommy Clift | Reporter
Mobilink Microfinance Bank (MMBL) launched a trio of initiatives to accelerate financial inclusion for farmers and female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. The move echoes another by its parent company VEON to promote digital access through its subsidiary Kyvistar.
The MMBL plans include an agriculture advisory service for Pakistani farmers, e-commerce services for female entrepreneurs, and 4G handsets. VEON CEO Kaan Terzioglu believes the initiatives will play a pivotal role in digitalizing the microfinance industry in Pakistan.
VEON noted in a statement that agriculture represents nearly 23% of Pakistan’s gross domestic product and employs approximately 37% of its workforce. Recent floods in the country destroyed 3.6 million acres of crops and killed 700,000 livestock, it added.
MMBL is partnering with Pakistan-based agricultural technology company BaKhabar Kissan to provide information and guidance on livestock management, weather monitoring, crop planting – including which are profitable, and boosting agricultural yields.
“We are aiming to build a digital infrastructure that will help further economic prosperity and financial empowerment among women business owners and small and medium-sized farmers in the country, two segments that have the potential to transform Pakistan’s economic future,” MMBL President and CEO Ghazanfar Azzam stated.
Their push to incentivize and advance female entrepreneurs comes with their collaboration with Pakistan e-commerce platforms Daraz and its flagship Women Inspirational Network (WIN) program. This is intend to promote a female-focused, “digital financial ecosystem” using their subscriber base – currently accounting for 53% of the 195 million cellular subscribers in Pakistan, according to VEON.
Women make up nearly half of the country’s population, but VEON notes “their financial inclusion figure stands at 7%.”
The new program will use the Digit 4G handsets to “drive participation in the digital economy among marginalized groups within the population.” The handsets will be discounted and targeted at female entrepreneurs, coming “pre-loaded with the digital banking application, MMBL DOST, which will enable customers to obtain quick financial assistance, pay bills, make money transfers, and use a vast array of digital banking services,” VEON explained.
As internet banking, POS, and eCommerce transactions post strong growth, the digital payments ecosystem is picking up steam
The past fiscal year has seen a massive increase in the size of the digital payments ecosystem, the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) Annual Payment Systems Review for 2021-22 revealed. The report says that mobile phone banking increased by 100.4% to 387.5 million, while internet banking grew by 51.7% to 141.7 million during the year.
The impressive numbers come on the back of an important year for the ecosystem that saw a number of milestones. With the SBP backed Raast getting traction, and electronic money institutions (EMIs) gaining popularity among customers, the signs are pointing towards money quickly becoming digital. Cash transactions have also gained momentum with ATM networks proliferating and cash withdrawals from ATMs also posting double digit growth over last year.
The tools for growth
By value, mobile phone banking and internet banking grew strongly by 141.1% and 81.1%, thus, reaching to Rs11.9 trillion and Rs10.2 trillion respectively. Ecommerce transactions also witnessed similar trends as the volume grew by 107.4% to 45.5 million and the value by 74.9% to Rs106 billion.
During FY22, a total of 32,958 Point of Sales (POS) machines were deployed in the country which led to an expansion of its network by 45.8% to 104,865. The total number of transactions through POS, 137.5 million, were 54.5% higher than previous fiscal year with transaction value reaching Rs0.7 trillion growing by 56.1%.
E-commerce merchants registered with the banks increased to 4,887 in FY21-22, from 3,003 merchants during the previous year. In continuation of its efforts to promote and enhance the digital payment system in the country, SBP launched Raast Person-to-Person (P2P), which enabled payments among individuals, businesses and other entities to settle transactions in real-time. According to the report, as of June-22, there were 15 million registered P2P Raast users, carrying out 7.9 million transactions amounting to Rs 102.1 billion in value. Raast was launched in November last year.
The number of large-value transactions through the Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system of Pakistan reached 4.37 million by FY22 amounting to Rs 681.6 trillion with an annual growth of 53.3% in value. During FY22, paper-based transactions declined by 1.0% in volume though its value grew to Rs 190.4 trillion, almost 25.6% higher than last year.
According to the State Bank’s Annual Payment Systems Review, the number of conventional bank account holders increased by 4.5 million, from 63 million account holders in 2021 to 67.5 million in 2022. On the other hand, branchless banking accounts increased from 74.6 million to 88.5 million, a growth of 18.6%.
Give me the cash, but digitally
Considering cash transactions are still predominant, the ATM network in Pakistan needs to be strong to cater to needs. The ATMs network in the country also grew by 4.8% during the year reaching 17,133 ATMs.
A total of 692.3 million transactions were carried out through ATMs which amounted to Rs 9.6 trillion, 19.2% higher than FY21. Meanwhile, cash withdrawals from ATMs picked up from 577.3 million in volume and Rs7.29 trillion in value in 2020-21, to 670.6 million in volume and Rs8.6 trillion in value. That’s a growth of 16.1% in volume and 18% in value over the previous year.
Plastic money on my mind
There were 42.4 million payment cards in circulation in FY22 including 71.1% or 30.16 million debit cards; 24.3% or 10.3 million social welfare cards; 4.2% or 1.79 million credit cards and the rest were pre-paid and ATM only cards.
As internet banking, POS, and eCommerce transactions post strong growth, the digital payments ecosystem is picking up steam
The overall number of payment cards, however, decreased during the year, from 45.9 million in 2020-21 to 42.4 million in 2021-22.
Bring in the fintech
According to the State Bank’s annual report, the four fully licensed EMIs (electronic money institution); Sadapay, Nayapay, Finja and CMPECC, combined had 262,558 total active accounts and 514,961 payment cards issued to their customers. Last year’s numbers on EMIs were not available for a comparison on how these numbers have grown.
The SBP has in the past has often emphasised on the potential fintech can play to boost digital payments and financial inclusion.
During his speech at the Institute of Banking Pakistan Annual Award Ceremony, Jameel Ahmad, Governor SBP stressed on the need for banks to revisit their traditional approach to service delivery and adapt quickly as digitalization shifts the balance of power from banks to tech savvy entities, hinting at the growing trend in fintech.
“Leveraging digital technology is essential not only to promote financial inclusion, but also to ensure that the industry keeps pace with emerging global trends,” opined Ahmed.
Speaking on the importance of technology, Ahmad quotes M-Pesa, a Kenyan fintech. “An often-cited success story is that of M-Pesa in Kenya, where it single-handedly drove mobile financial services availability and successfully raised financial services access in Kenya. “
Ahmad pointed out that a number of factors already exist in Pakistan that can help drive digital financial innovation and proliferation of a tech-based financial ecosystem. He pointed out that the nation has a fully functional digital ID system, ubiquity of mobile devices, penetration of mobile and broadband services, availability of faster payment rails, remote account opening process, and facilitative regulatory environment for enabling the entry of non-bank entities into the financial arena.
The Central Banker also points out that while fintech has brought competition, it also presents the sector with an opportunity to create synergies and mutually beneficial partnerships.
“Banks and Fintechs can partner with each other to provide innovative products for customers that are otherwise not viable on a standalone basis. For banks, such partnerships can help with penetration in untapped segments like retail businesses and Micro and Small Medium Enterprises, yielding beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders,” he said.
Encouraging the banks that are yet to make consistent and sustained moves toward technological transformation, Ahmad told them to make use of the digital bank frameworks and the instant payment system, RAAST, to position themselves for the future.
Banking in Pakistan flourished during the first half of the calendar year 2022; both assets and income noted a strong increase while the balance sheet of banks expanded by 16 per cent over the same period of last year.
The State Bank issued a “mid-year performance review” (MYPR) of the banking sector for 2022 on Monday.
The review covers the performance and soundness of the banking sector for the January-June period (1HCY22).
It also covers the performance of financial markets and microfinance banks (MFBs), as well as the results of Systemic Risk Survey (SRS), which represents independent respondents’ views about key risks to financial stability.
The sustained economic activity during 1HCY22 supported the expansion of banking sector balance sheet by 16pc during 1HCY22, said the report.
A robust increase in the asset base was mainly driven by the flow of private sector advances and increases in investments, particularly government securities, said the report.
Investments rose by 22.5pc (Rs3.3 trillion) during 1HCY22. “These funds were almost entirely invested in government securities,” said the SBP report.
Investments in MTBs (market treasury bills) and PIBs (Pakistan Investment Bonds) observed a rise of Rs684 billion and Rs1.7tr, respectively.
Also, Ijara Sukuk attracted substantial bank funds of Rs838 billion in the first half of the present calendar year. Accordingly, the share of MTBs in banks’ total holding of federal government securities declined to 33.6pc by the end of June this year from 46.6pc a year ago. The share of PIBs shot up to 52.6pc from 46pc in June -2021.
“Increased share of long-term investments demonstrates the government’s strategy to improve its debt maturity profile,” said the SBP. The pace of growth in private sector advances during 1HCY22 was the highest in comparable periods of the previous three years. Improved manufacturing activity, as reflected in double-digit growth in the Large-Scale Manufacturing (LSM) index during 1HCY22, higher input prices and SBP’s refinance schemes augmented the overall flow of advances.
Individuals and the sugar sector availed a major chunk of financing, followed by the textile sector.
However, the monetary policy announced on Nov 24 had said that in line with the slowdown in economic activity, private sector credit continued to moderate, increasing only by Rs86.2 billion during Q1 FY23 (July 1 to Sept 30, 2022), compared to Rs226.4 billion during the same period last year.
This deceleration was mainly due to a significant decline in working capital loans to wholesale and retail trade services, as well as to the textile sector in the wake of lower domestic cotton output, and a slowdown in consumer finance, said the monetary policy.
Jazz and Huawei have commercially deployed FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) Massive MIMO (Multiple Input and Multiple Output) solution based on 5G technology in a large scale. The solution has been developed and tailored to the needs of boosting network capacity and user experience.
This customized solution has been the first launch of Jazz and Huawei, supporting Jazz leap into the 4.9G domain. This innovative solution has tremendously enhanced the network capacities along with superior 4G experience for the valued subscribers. The average network traffic increased by around 30% and the average single user speed increased by around 170%.
Jazz’s Chief Technology Officer, Khalid Shehzad said, “We see that our customers are increasingly using high-bandwidth applications which resultantly puts pressure on existing network capabilities. Massive MIMO essentially allows us the freedom to provide more data at greater speeds, enabling our customers to use the enhanced services on their existing 4G devices. Network speeds will be faster than ever, which will significantly improve the end-user experience. Jazz is committed to developing an ecosystem that supports the government’s Digital Pakistan vision and the evolving technology needs of individuals and businesses.”
Huawei provides the industry's unique intelligent beam scheduling and intelligent beamforming technology which are native for 5G. Massive MIMO improves the capability of the handsets to transmit more efficiently. Currently Huawei FDD Massive MIMO has been deployed in more than 70 networks and over 20,000 units have been shipped. The level of collaboration between Jazz and Huawei goes beyond to more domains. For example, the first 400G transmission, the first core network cloudification, the first large-scale commercial use of VoLTE, and the first 3G sunset city. In Pakistan, Jazz maintains a leading position in network performance and innovations, and it leads the development of the entire ICT industry.
Pakistan’s vibrant technology sector has grown significantly in recent years and is well-positioned for further growth. The country produces over 20,000 Information Technology (IT) graduates each year, has nurtured over 700 tech start-ups since 2010, and has the fourth highest earning IT workforce in the world. Pakistan’s technology sector also has a large export element, with annual revenue from exports of IT and IT-enabled Services (ITeS) accounting for USD1.4 billion in 2020 – having grown at 10.8 percent per year since 2010. Furthermore, the government has identified the creation of a holistic digital ecosystem – most prominently in its “Digital Pakistan Policy” – as one of the key levers of economic growth.
Despite these significant achievements, the country can go further in its digital transformation journey. Pakistan’s online population has grown rapidly at 68 percent per annum from 2016 to 2019, and the Internet penetration rate reached 35 percent in January 2020. However, the country faces several hurdles to full digital transformation. For example, the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Index 2019” ranked Pakistan as 73rd out of 141 countries on the ability of the active working population to possess and use digital skills. Digital transformation will also be important to boost its economic recovery efforts and enhance the long-term resilience of businesses in adapting to future “black swan” events in the post-pandemic era.
There is a significant economic prize attached to accelerating Pakistan’s digital transformation. AlphaBeta’s study (commissioned by Google) finds that digital technologies can unlock PKR9.7 trillion (USD59.7 billion) worth of annual economic value in Pakistan by 2030.
Key messages from the research include:
There is a significant economic prize attached to accelerating Pakistan’s digital transformation. If fully leveraged by 2030, digital technologies could create up to PKR9.7 trillion (USD59.7 billion) in economic value. This is equivalent to about 19 percent of the country’s GDP in 2020. The sectors projected to be the largest beneficiaries are agriculture and food; consumer, retail and hospitality; and education and training. For example, machine learning algorithms have shown to be beneficial for the agricultural and food sector, where AI-powered technologies can monitor ecological conditions to determine whether crops need irrigation or not, reducing water use.
There are three areas of action required for Pakistan to fully capture its digital opportunity: i) develop infrastructure to support the local tech ecosystem; ii) create a conducive environment for IT exports, and iii) promote innovation and digital skills. A range of policies by the Pakistani government has already been introduced to accelerate digital transformation such as “Right of Way” policy, which expedites the expansion of telecom infrastructure, and the “Brand Pakistan” campaign, which promotes the country’s exports via digital platforms. However, there is further scope of actions for Pakistan to consider such as increasing Internet availability through infrastructure investments, especially in rural areas (e.g., Thailand’s “Net Pracharat” programme to expand the national broadband network), creating an accommodative tax framework and ease restrictive data policies, and forging close public-private partnerships to improve the relevance of skills trainings (e.g., “Philippines Talent Mapping Initiative” which involved Philippines’ Department of Labour and Employment consulting with employers to create a framework to analyse the competencies of Filipinos).
Pakistani fintech PostEx has acquired logistics service provider Call Courier, creating what it describes as the largest e-commerce service provider in the country. PostEx will now serve 1.3 million users with over 8,000 merchants across 500 cities in Pakistan, and is on track to having a monthly loan book of more than $12 million.
The acquisition means that Call Courier will become a whollyowned subsidiary under the group name. PostEx provides services like upfront payments in a country where more than 90% of e-commerce payments are still completed in cash, and revenue-based financing for e-commerce sellers and SMEs.
PostEx co-founder and CEO Omer Khan told TechCrunch that according to the World Bank, about 100 million adults in Pakistan don’t have a bank account. As a result, businesses have limited access to working capital and lack adequate cash flow. On the other hand, consumers are wary of digital transactions, and even many who have bank accounts still prefer to pay cash on delivery for items ordered online.
But cash on delivery is problematic for e-commerce businesses because they have a higher rejection rate at the door. Furthermore, funds from cash on delivery purchases often take up to two to three weeks to be deposited into a business’ banking account, compared to a few days for digital payments.
As a result, PostEx’s founding team decided there was potential to build a reliable logistics service provider, plus upfront cash. Upfront payments mean that online vendors no longer have to wait through long payment cycles, and have better cash flow.
“We’re out there making it simpler for businesses to reach out to more customers, take care of their delivery needs and provide them with upfront liquidity,” said Khan. “This is essential for smaller businesses that need every penny to sustain themselves.”
In terms of competition, Khan says PostEx’s novelty factor is its hybrid of fintech and logistics. It has raised $8.6 million to date, and its backers include Zayn Capital, Global Founder Capital, MSA Capital, RTP, FJ Labs and Shorooq.
In a statement, Senator Afnan Ullah Khan, a member of the Prime Minister’s IT Task Force Committee said, “This acquisition shows the importance of close collaboration between fintech and logistics highlighting the importance of access to capital. This acquisition makes PostEx the largest e-commerce service provider in the market, showing the potential of startups for challenging incumbents. It’s refreshing to see new solutions to old problems.”
Launched by Bank Alfalah, the branch seeks to provide unique digital experience and meet customers’ financial needs
Among other facilities, the branch will also provide biometrically secured digital lockers that will remain available 24/7
The top central bank official in Pakistan has praised the country’s financial sector for making technological upgrades after a private commercial bank inaugurated its first “digital lifestyle branch” in the southern Karachi port city to improve the overall customer experience and reduce the brick-and-mortar footprint earlier this week.
Launched by Bank Alfalah, a Pakistani subsidiary of a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the initiative seeks to provide a unique digital experience and meet the lifestyle and financial needs of customers.
According to the bank, the state-of-the-art branch will offer a 24/7 digital self-service banking area comprising a virtual self-service machine (VSM), biometrically secured digital lockers, cash-deposit machines (CDMs), auto-teller machines (ATMs), and tech-gadget machines along with round-the-clock Wi-Fi access, among other facilities.
The branch was launched in Karachi by Pakistan’s top central bank official on June 1.
“Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Mr. Jameel Ahmad has said that Pakistan’s banking industry was investing in technological upgrades to facilitate its customers and improve their overall banking experience,” said a statement circulated by the bank.
“He was optimistic that exciting projects like Bank Alfalah’s first digital lifestyle branch will unlock new opportunities, making banking easier to access and leading to a more financially inclusive and digitally empowered nation.”
According to the statement, Ahmad said that digitalization would entail a reduction in the brick-and-mortar footprint of the banking industry globally, adding that Pakistan was no exception.
“The governor of SBP was confident that the successful implementation of this model will show the way forward to the new entrants of the banking industry in Pakistan. In his concluding remarks, he stressed the need for a proactive approach by the banking industry in tailoring customers’ products and services based on their specific preferences and changing behavior,” it added.
The top SBP official further maintained that customers’ fair treatment and protection should be a top priority of banks.
The virtual self-service machine will allow customers to instantly open accounts, receive debit cards swiftly, and get statements printed by a video teller immediately after a transaction, the bank said.
The facility will also provide “easy-to-use and biometrically secured digital lockers” which will be accessible to customers at any time of the day or night without any staff interaction.
Bank Alfalah witnessed an exponential growth of over 95 percent in digital banking transactions with an annualized volume of over Rs3.5 trillion. The bank’s record further reveals that 77 percent of new-to-bank (NTB) account holders prefer digital transactions over conventional methods.
Over 75 percent of the bank’s transactions are now online, and 70 percent of bank accounts are opened via digital channels.