Real-Time Payments Forecasted to Help Generate 0.68% of GDP by 2026 

The Bahrain real-time payments market is a success story – at 34.2%, the country recorded the largest real-time share by volume, according to GlobalData. 

In 2021, 142 million real-time transactions were made in Bahrain, and the strong uptake of real-time payments resulted in an estimated cost savings of $39 million for businesses and consumers. This in turn helped to unlock $246 million of additional economic output, which represents 0.63% of the country’s GDP. 

With real-time payments expected to rise to 1.1 billion in 2026, net savings for consumers and businesses are forecasted to climb to $208 million in 2026. This would help to generate an additional $310 million of economic output, equivalent to 0.68% of the country’s forecasted GDP.  

Bahrain’s real-time payments system Fawri+ has been in place since 2015 and has seen a rapid ramp-up in terms of adoption and usage, growing from less than 1% of all electronic transactions by volume in 2017 to more than 50% of electronic payments volume in 2021. Real-time payments are expected to record an impressive CAGR of 50.7% from 2021 to 2026 and dominate the overall payments market in that time, despite the historically cash-dependent nature of the market. The integration of Fawri+ with the mobile wallet BenefitPay, as well as non-bank payment providers in the market, have all served to accelerate the adoption of the service among the relatively underbanked population.  

2020 was a big year for the growth of Fawri+, with real-time payments’ share of electronic payments overall jumping from less than one in ten transactions in 2019 to more than one in three transactions by the end of 2020. This is due to consumers moving away from cash as a result of the pandemic and on to Fawri+ either through their bank or wallet providers. Bahrain is thus another success story in the MEASA region of rapid adoption of real-time payments through opening the system to third-party wallets, combined with the galvanizing effect of the pandemic in 2020. 

Key Stats

Real-Time Payment Types

Single Instance


Initiation/Authorization Methods

Bank Account


QR Code

Year of Real-Time
Payments Launch




Message Standard


ACI’s Take

Bahrain was the first member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to implement a real-time payments scheme — Fawri+. However, its current usage is limited to P2P payments and the messaging infrastructure is built using APIs.

Nevertheless, adoption is impressively high. Realtime payment volumes in 2021 reached 142 million transactions, an impressive amount for a population of just 1.7M. At around 84 transactions per person, that is on a par with the U.K.’s Faster Payments scheme.

There is a growing desire to modernize the system to push adoption to the next level.

Experience from around the world shows that the guiding star for such a journey is to increase use cases. Converting strong P2P penetration into ubiquitous adoption requires increasing payment choices so that they fit more seamlessly into consumers’ everyday lives. Further growth requires serving businesses better with options such as Request to Pay (R2P), which will enable companies to enhance the convenience of paying bills while streamlining operations with better reconciliation. Another factor would be to move to ISO 20022, improving the capture of data and potential interoperability with other payment schemes in the future.

The prospects and timing for the market to transition to a second-generation real-time payments scheme are ripe. It has a well-connected consumer base that is familiar with real-time payments, plenty of examples of success from which to draw inspiration, and strong and established central leadership.

At this stage, it is up for debate as to how far and fast the implementation of potential new use cases would need to be. For example, the market already has a QR code standard in place, which could be extended immediately to open merchant use cases. Another example would be to implement a centralized addressing service that is required to support R2P and potentially direct debits with mandate management. Increased fintech interest in building experiences around these capabilities would follow, which will attract major global names to the market.

Given where we are today, it is not inconceivable that the coming years will see Bahrain become the GCC’s leader in payments innovation and a reference point for success that others try to emulate.


Real-Time Acceptance





Real-Time Total Participants


Population Banking Level


Number of debit, credit and
charge cards per adult


Index to global average

  • Fully Banked
  • Progressing
  • Underbanked

Real-Time Transactions







Share of Volumes by Payments Instrument


  • Paper-based payments
  • Electronic payments
  • Real-time payments


Spend (USD)



Real-Time Payments Volume and Its Share in Overall Non-Paper-Based Transactions, 2015-26f

% of total electronic payments transaction volume


Situated in the Persian Gulf, The Kingdom of Bahrain is a high-income island nation and ranked as the 93rd largest global economy in 2021 (Cebr World Economic League Table, 2021).

Bahrain demonstrates a unique payments system network where real-time payments account for the largest share of transactions by volume (34.2%), followed by paper-based payments (33.8%) and non-instant electronic payments (32.0%) in 2021.

This means that compared to other countries, a relatively significant share of benefits for consumers and businesses are already realized. The adoption of real-time payments resulted in benefits of $39 million for Bahraini consumers and businesses in 2021, which was predominantly driven by net payment system cost savings. On a per-transaction basis, real-time payments in Bahrain had a 32.9% lower average payments cost, compared to non-real-time payments. Based on 2021 adoption rates, this represents a cost savings of $43.1 million for consumers and businesses across the country.

At the macroeconomic level, GDP facilitated by real-time payments amounted to $246 million of economic output in 2021. This is equivalent to the output of 6,250 workers annually, and represents a 0.63% share of formal GDP.

The forecast for a significant real-time payments uptake in the country is expected to result in realized consumer-and-business level benefits of $208 million in 2026. This is expected to stimulate $310 million in economy-wide benefits (0.68% of formal GDP); equivalent to the output of 7,732 workers annually.

For Businesses and Consumers



Net savings stimulated by real-time payments



Projected net savings stimulated by real-time payments

GDP Growth



of economic output



of GDP facilitated by real-time payments



Projected of economic output



of GDP facilitated by real-time payments


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