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Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has revealed that more than 11.3 million digital transactions in Bahrain in August, valued at BD279.6 million ($743.7 million) following a record $3.62 billion in the first half of 2021. According to the report from CBB, POS and Ecommerce transactions in Bahrain were up by 65 percent in August, year-on-year, and more than 53 million digital payments in the first half of 2021.

The findings reflect the trend in the GCC region that is currently witnessing a wide surge in online and digital payments as countries speed up their transition to cashless societies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns, predictably, resulted in a dramatic shift towards digital payment systems. BenefitPay, Bahrain’s national electronic wallet, reported a 785 percent increase in remittances through its Fawri+ service (an online payment service launched under the Electronic Funds Transfer System) in 2020, surpassing $5 million. According to studies conducted by the European Payments Council, the MENA region would process about 139 billion non-cash transactions in 2022, which is 90 billion more than five years ago.

A recent McKinsey survey revealed open banking reforms are projected to have broader ramifications for the payments industry. When asked which government or regulator-driven measure would be most beneficial in encouraging customers to use digital payments, 27 percent said regulatory approval for open banking. Bahrain took a significant step forward in the financial services sector in 2018, establishing open banking legislation, followed by a framework with principles on data sharing and governance in 2020.

Dalal Buhejji, Executive Director of Business Development Investment Origination at the Bahrain Economic Development Board, said: “Even before the pandemic, the GCC was embracing digital and mobile banking and payments. Bahrain has anticipated the trends that were catalysed by the pandemic. Our regulatory approach, along with our advanced digital infrastructure, is why we are at the forefront of developing the technologies, solutions and ecosystems that will form the future of the region’s digital economy.”