Growth of Middle East e-commerce transactions to surpass 15 per cent in 2010
E-commerce transactions in the Middle East are expected to grow beyond 15 per cent in 2010, driven by infrastructural development, strong government focus on online services, and rapidly growing internet penetration.
The region posted the world’s highest internet usage growth for the 2000-2009 period at 1,648.2 per cent and is home to more than 60 million internet users and over 80 million mobile phone users, making it a huge market for online and mobile commercial transactions. However, Saudi-based online payments solutions provider OneCard notes that several issues have to be addressed to maximize the potential of electronic commerce and payments, such as the lack of region-wide laws covering the sector and growing security threats as a result of the Middle East’s expanding internet population.
“There are definitely a lot of growth opportunities in regional e-commerce, especially in major free market economies such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The region has a young, tech-savvy middle income group who are already patronizing e-commerce as a more convenient transaction method. However, there are several obstacles to the smooth growth of this sector as well, so it is important to constantly monitor market trends, invest more in infrastructure, encourage policy development, and create high-quality services. For online payment providers such as ourselves, the major challenges are to be constantly innovative, offer services to as many types of customers as possible, and create resilient security measures,” said Muhannad Ebwini, General Manager, OneCard.
Travel and gaming have emerged as the region’s top two e-commerce segments. Travel has been one of the largest and most competitive online sectors for the past three years, especially as many low-cost airlines have been deploying advanced e-ticketing systems to gain more market share from major carriers. Online gaming, on the other hand, has benefitted from the introduction of updated versions of popular gaming consoles such as Sony’s Playstation 3 and the Microsoft Xbox, which enable players to download and play several massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs).
OneCard has undertaken various initiatives to leverage the Middle East’s surging e-commerce sector. The company has signed various online payment agreements with low cost airlines and will launch online travel-related products under parent company National Net Ventures (N2V) in 2010. It will also be introducing two online applications that will allow its customers to access their OneCard accounts from their mobile phones. On the reseller front, the company will be introducing a new reseller program which will provide resellers with more flexibility in directly selling products from OneCard merchants.
Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2004, OneCard has helped develop internet services in the KSA, the Middle East, and other Islamic communities throughout the world.