Real-Time Payments Provide Huge Opportunity for Economic Growth
Saudi Arabia recorded 175 million real-time transactions in 2021, which resulted in an estimated cost savings of $23 million for businesses and consumers. This in turn helped to unlock $166 million of additional economic output, representing 0.02% of the country’s GDP.
With real-time transactions set to rise to 473 million in 2026, net savings for consumers and businesses are forecasted to climb to $109 million. That would help to generate an additional $267 million of economic output, equivalent to 0.03% of the country’s forecasted GDP.
The untapped economic benefits of real-time payments in Saudi Arabia are large. According to the Cebr, the theoretical impact of all payments being real-time could add 2.8% to formal GDP by 2026. However, these are theoretically modeled benefits; they do not suggest that there is no place for non-instant electronic payments or paper-based payments in the future.
Saudi Arabia is one of the newest entrants to the real-time payments space. Sarie is the country’s real-time payments system launched by the Saudi Central Bank in April 2021. The system is supported by all the banks operating in the nation and enables instant fund transfers between domestic bank accounts through internet banking or mobile banking apps, using the recipient’s IBAN, mobile phone number, email address, national ID or residency number. Still at a nascent stage, future prospects for real-time payments in the country look promising, with real-time volume expected to record a CAGR of 22.1% from 2021- 2026. The government’s initiatives to push electronic payments in the country and the accelerated shift towards non-cash payment methods amid the COVID-19 pandemic will support this growth.
Real-Time Payment Types
Year of Real-Time
In light of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 for laying out goals for long-term economic success, there has been a strong government push to promote and accelerate the adoption of digital payments. Driven by strong — and welcome — central- leadership, this permeates all parts of the market. Digital payments acceptance has been chiefly driven by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), the kingdom’s central bank, carefully orchestrating and launching the real-time ecosystem in 2021, with mandates for every merchant in the Kingdom to have a digital channel for payments, regardless of size. Thanks to these moves, KSA is well placed to handle an increase in digital payments, as its real-time payments growth has a five-year CAGR of 22.1%. This represents progress in the right direction on the Kingdom’s ambitions to grow into a real-time payments leader and to do so at a faster pace than other leading global real-time markets.
Longer term, this five-year growth figure also puts KSA’s national infrastructure and regulatory environment on a strong footing for real-time payments adoption and innovation. “Sarie,” its new real-time payments system, which was taken by most banks as a mandate from the SAMA, aims to enable banks and consumers to drive usage of digital real-time payments, paving the way for business growth beyond the energy market.
Geidea, the largest fintech company in Saudi Arabia by market share, was the first non-bank institution to be granted an acquiring license by SAMA, and it is highly likely to use the real-time rails. Additionally, KSA’s biggest retail bank, Al Rajhi Bank, launched fintech company Neo Leap, which is keen to rapidly expand within and beyond KSA in the card and real-time market. Network International, a well-established major third-party fintech processor within U.A.E., has ventured into the KSA market, further recognition of the strong opportunities for growth on offer.
With two-thirds of its population under the age of 35, there is opportunity and demand for modernization. The framework and infrastructure are there, and the market has seen exponential growth over the last two years. Financial institutions have been agile and have kept pace with mandates — which they continue to do, including the mandate for open banking adoption by Q4 of 2022. This year, we will see the country step closer towards an economic transformation — financial institutions need the right partners with experience of developing real-time business models around strong, relevant use cases. With these partners, they will unlock ways of both coping with the increased volumes and driving continued innovation.
Mobile Wallet Trends
% of adults who have a mobile wallet and have
used it in the past year (2021)
Real-Time Total Participants
All Domestic Banks
F5 Yr CAGR
Payments Fraud Rate
Population who reported being a
victim of fraud in the last 4 years
Top 3 Payment Fraud Types
|% of fraud victims||Trend|
Card details stolen online
My card was lost or stolen
Share of Volumes by Payments Instrument
- Paper-based payments
- Electronic payments
- Real-time payments
Real-Time Payments Volume and Its Share in Overall Non-Paper-Based Transactions, 2015-26f
The Saudi Arabian economy is the second largest in the Middle East and is classed as high income. At the aggregate level, the Saudi Arabian economy is the world’s 19th largest (Cebr World Economic League Table, 2022).
In 2021, net benefits for businesses and consumers of real-time payments hit $23 million. The largest component of this was net savings through the reduction in the payments float. Based on current adoption rates, real-time payments in Saudi Arabia unlocked a total transaction value of $290 million per day in 2021 through a reduced float time. This working capital facilitated an estimated $9.3 million of business output in the same year.
Almost 72% of all transactions in 2021 were paper based across the country, with real-time payments accounting for only 1.7% of payments. Even by 2026, the real-time share is only anticipated to grow to 3.2%, despite a strong CAGR of 22.1%. This relatively small share of transactions does, however, support a significant increase in the business- and consumer-level benefits forecasted. By 2026, we estimate this will increase to $108.7 million.
The macroeconomic benefits of real-time in 2021 were estimated to be $166 million of economic output in Saudi Arabia, rising to $267 million by 2026. These represent 0.02% and 0.03% of current and forecasted Saudi Arabian GDP respectively, supporting the equivalent of 2,939 and 4,728 jobs.
For Businesses and Consumers
Net savings stimulated by real-time payments
Projected net savings stimulated by real-time payments
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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