Middle East Visa cardholders nearing six million
In the year to the end of September, Middle East Visa card numbers rose 31 percent to more than 5.7 million and spending went up 23 percent to almost $29.3 billion. The number of transactions grew 25 percent to more than 118 million. There was a 30 percent increase in the number of sales in shops and other outlets. Over the last five years, retail sales volume in the region has risen by 132 percent.
Peter Scriven, general manager of Visa in the Middle East, says, ”These figures reveal the changing patterns of payment in a rapidly-developing market. In early 1996, most people relied on cash and Visa cards were largely used by affluent international travelers. Only a few years ago, card use was low and largely confined to international travel expenditure and cash withdrawals. Over time, people have grown to rely on their Visa cards for every kind of spending, increasingly for everyday buys such as supermarket shopping and petrol.”
The number of Visa cards in both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) passed the million mark and the Saudi Arabian market celebrated reaching two million Visa cards. The average amount spent in shops and other outlets in Bahrain continues to be well ahead of other Middle East markets, while spending by foreign cardholders in the country’s merchants rose by 32 percent, the steepest increase in the region.
Visa card numbers in Jordan more than doubled from 235,201 to 591,293. Sales volumes were up 18 percent from $592.1 million to $701.4 million. There are now more than 1.076 million Visa cards in Kuwait, an increase of more than 18 percent on last year. Spending is up more than 11 percent to almost $6.9 billion.
In Lebanon, cardholder spending outpaced the 28 percent rise in card numbers, with sales up an astonishing 52 percent. Foreign cardholders clearly appreciated the country’s Visa acceptance network—spending went up 80 percent, from almost $16.9 million to almost $30.5 million, in 31 percent more transactions.
Oman remains one of the fastest-growing Visa markets in the world. Card numbers were up 61 percent to almost 421,000 and spending rose more than 91 percent to $1.14 billion. Over the last five years, card numbers have risen from 12,500 and expenditure from $28.9 million. In the last year, transaction numbers have almost doubled, from 3.7 million to more than 6.9 million, with transactions at point-of-sale rising 50 percent and retail sales volume growing almost 28 percent.
Qatar has seen cardholder expenditure rise 30 percent to $758 million—largely in transactions made in shops and other outlets—which rose 34 percent, rather than cash withdrawals.
In Saudi Arabia, where Visa member banks passed the one-million card barrier only two years ago, they reached the two million milestone in June. By the end of September, there were more than 2.13 million Visa cards in the Kingdom, an increase of 28 percent on the September 2000 figure. Spending rose by 26 percent to almost $14 billion over the 12 months.
Compared, however, to international Visa figures, the Middle East still has a long way to go before realizing its full market potential. In the year ending March 2001, $1.294 trillion worth of transactions were completed using visa products worldwide. Out the total, only $10.1 billion took place in the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and African region (CEMEA), compared with $667 billion in the United States. This purchase volume was made up of 26.57 billion transactions of which 645 million executed in the CEMEA, compared to 11.6 billion in the United States.
Visa is the largest payment system worldwide. Visa-branded cards generate almost two trillion dollars in annual volume and are accepted at over 22 million locations around the world. Visa also generates revenues from Internet-based payments and is working to create universal commerce. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)