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Visa has announced the winners of the Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman edition of the 2024 Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI), a global open innovation program and competition for fintech startups to pitch their solutions to solve tomorrow’s payment and commerce challenges. In addition to monetary prizes, VEI winners receive global exposure, and validation from one of the world’s most trusted brands.

First place and prize money of BHD15,000 ($40,000) for Bahrain went to Cnpsecure, a turnkey solutions provider for issuers to adopt dynamic CVV and virtual cards. The fintech company will also participate in the CEMEA regional finals for VEI, which will take place on July 23, competing for a total of BHD7,500 ($20,000).

Also honored at the VEI finale, MoneyLoop, a digital rotating savings and credit association that employs KYC to ensure low risk to users, was awarded the winner for Saudi Arabia with prize money of BHD15,000 ($40,000) and HAL Capital, a Sharia-compliant embedded direct financing FinTech platform for underbanked Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and individuals, was the Oman winner, receiving a total of BHD15,000 ($40,000).

The third edition of VEI brought back the Impact Prize to the competitor whose solution has a positive social impact on the communities it operates in. Examples include initiatives that boost financial inclusion, promote sustainability, or safeguard the environment. Bahrain-based Ryalize, a liquidity solution provider that provides easy access to financial products to individuals with predictable income won the Impact Prize for this Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman edition of VEI, receiving BD3,700 ($10,000) in prize money.

Malak AlSaffar, Visa’s Country Manager for Bahrain said: “We are delighted to announce the winners of the third edition of the Visa Everywhere Initiative in Saudi, Bahrain and Oman. My congratulations to Cnpsecure – our first-place winner for Bahrain who will now also compete at next month’s CEMEA regional finals, and to Bahrain’s Ryalize for winning this edition’s Impact Award. This year’s competition showcased a remarkable array of innovative solutions from our finalists, reflecting the dynamic and evolving nature of Bahrain’s fintech sector. We are excited to see the transformative impact these solutions will have on the payments landscape in the region.

AlSaffar added: “Bahrain’s fintech community holds immense potential to drive the digital payments revolution and contribute significantly to the broader economy. It is crucial that we provide them with the necessary support to flourish, including access to infrastructure, resources, and expert guidance. We look forward to collaborating with our winners to shape the future of payments in Bahrain and beyond.”

Each of the finalists presented their solutions to the payment challenges of tomorrow to an expert panel of judges, which included Nezar Alhaidar, CEO, Fintech Saudi,  Yousif AlNefaiei, Deputy CEO, BENEFIT, Majid AlAmri, CEO, Thawani Pay, Godfrey Sullivan, SVP and Head of Strategy for CEMEA – Visa, Malak AlSaffar, Country Manager for Bahrain – Visa, and Thereshini Peter, VP, Chief Financial Officer – GCC, Visa.

To better understand the challenges and opportunities of fintechs in GCC, Visa commissioned an independent study that identified themes for empowerment. The key themes that emerged from the “Understanding the Fintech Landscape – GCC” study:

The Big Picture

  • 71% attribute fintech growth in GCC to government support and regulatory initiatives.
  • Top 3 sources of funding: Corporate investors (25%), angel investors (21%), and Bootstrapping (self-funding) (19%).
  • 73% of fintechs state AI will play a pivotal role in their future growth.
  • 58% of fintechs acknowledge that payments is the most prominent emerging space.
  • GCC banks and fintechs are increasingly collaborative, addressing the needs of diverse customer segments.

Emerging Spaces

  • Payments is the largest sector and will continue to grow.
  • Surge in BNPL / Installments.
  • Artificial Intelligence creating new opportunities.
  • Web3 moving beyond the hype.
  • Stablecoins and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are a nascent trend.
  • Crypto remains a high interest area.
  • Open banking to drive the next wave of fintech unicorns.

Understanding the Gaps

  • Top founder inspiration includes addressing a specific market need (70%) and filling a gap in financial services (61%).
  • 40% of fintech players said talent acquisition and retention is the biggest challenge.
  • 25% of fintechs surveyed find it challenging to build trust with customers.

“In Bahrain, we’re seeing some trends in AI, digital payments, and blockchain. Generative AI like ChatGPT is set to change the game by creating new industries and job types. Blockchain, similar to the initial hype around AI, is another area where we’ve seen irrational exuberance. Many startups jumped on the bandwagon without clear objectives. However, these technologies, along with digital banks and wallets, are driving substantial shifts in the fintech landscape here,” said Khalid Saad, Founder & Managing Partner BunatVentures, who was one of the industry leaders who contributed to Visa’s study.

Since launching in 2015, the Visa Everywhere Initiative has helped more than 15,000 startups from over 100 countries collectively secure more than $48 billion in funding. For more information on Visa Everywhere Initiative, please click here.