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Experts predict rise in reliance on e-payments in Jordan, region

By Mohammad Ghazal - Dec 12,2012 - Last updated at Dec 12,2012

AMMAN — IT experts said Wednesday that reliance on e-payments is expected to rise in Jordan during the next two years as the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) announced that work was under way to finalise regulations to encourage the practice.

The experts said e-payment usage is likely to boom due to the rise in the number of Internet users and mobile phone holders in Jordan and the rest of the region.”The Middle East is one of the regions that witnessed fast growth in volumes of e-commerce… and there is a huge demand for platforms that enable people to make online payments, whether through accessing the Internet or their mobiles,” Elias Ghanem, managing director of PayPal Middle East and North Africa, said at the Electronic and Mobile Payment Conference.

The total volume of e-commerce in the region is expected to reach $9 billion by the end of 2012 and $15 billion by the end of 2015, Ghanem noted during the conference, organised by the ICT Association of Jordan (int@j) in cooperation with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

Citing international studies, Ghanem said the region was home to about 290 million mobile subscribers and some 110 million Internet users.

Abed Shamlawi, CEO of int@j, agreed.

“With the rise in the percentage of mobile penetration in Jordan and the constant growth in Internet users, there is a need for platforms that enable them to pay for services and commodities online, which is more convenient,” Shamlawi told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the event.

In 2011, the total volume of e-commerce activities in the Kingdom stood at about $150 million, according to estimates by experts in the e-commerce sector.

In Jordan, where mobile penetration reached about 138 per cent by the end of September with 8.767 million subscribers, Internet penetration stood 63 per cent, according to official figures by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.

Smartphone penetration, which is estimated at 50 per cent, is expected to reach 55 per cent by the end of 2013.

During the event, CBJ representative Maha Al Bahu, said the bank is in the process of revising laws and legal frameworks governing e-payments to further encourage the usage of electronic payments and ensure their safety for users.

Stressing that e-payments play a key role in boosting the country’s economy as it increases the volume of commerce, Bahu said the CBJ has developed a strategy for the years 2013-2016 to encourage and regulate online payments.

But she noted that around 75 per cent of the population who are eligible to have bank accounts do not have any, saying that mobile payments will enable this segment to conduct financial transactions using their cell phones.

Societies in the region are still cash dominated, which is one of the challenges facing e-commerce, according to Abdul Malik Jaber, chairman of Middle East Payment Services.

Jaber said the vast majority of payments in Gulf countries and the Middle East are still in the form of cash, constituting around 90 per cent of transactions.

In Jordan, the total number of e-commerce users stood at around 514,000 in 2011, accounting for a penetration rate of only 8.2 per cent.

The amount of money spent online saw a significant increase, going up from $192 million in 2010, to almost double — $370 million in 2011, Jaber noted.

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