A new report by ACI Worldwide paints a bullish picture for real-time payments in Bahrain, projecting a surge from $352 million in 2023 to $1.5 billion by 2028. This would place Bahrain among the most developed real-time payments markets in the Middle East.

The report, titled ‘Prime Time for Real-Time’, highlights Bahrain’s remarkable shift from a cash-dominant market to one where real-time payments account for nearly half of all transactions and the majority of electronic payments. The Covid-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for this rapid digitalisation, which has continued post-pandemic.

ACI hails Bahrain as a leader in the region, not just in terms of volume, but also in the adoption of real-time payment use cases. The report predicts that by 2028, real-time payments will capture a staggering 77 per cent of all transactions in the country.

This success story resonates with a wider global trend. The report notes a 42pc rise in real-time transactions globally in 2023, attributed to increased collaboration between governments, banks and fintechs. Countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Netherlands are also cited as frontrunners in this space.

The report emphasises the importance of widespread adoption and collaboration with fintechs for continued growth. It positions real-time payments as a key driver of financial inclusion, economic growth and a more efficient global payments system.

Consumers’ growing comfort with mobile apps, QR codes, and digital wallets fuels this adoption. Additionally, increased co-operation between stakeholders is fostering innovation in real-time payment use cases.

Looking ahead, ACI sees opportunities in connecting real-time schemes across borders and leveraging them for government economic initiatives. The report also acknowledges the evolving threat of fraud in real-time payments, with a dedicated report planned for 2025.

ACI Worldwide’s chief product officer, Debbie Guerra, underscored the potential of real-time payments to modernise financial systems, improve efficiency, and benefit both businesses and consumers.

Ms Guerra highlighted the role real-time payments can play in government economic growth strategies by boosting access to electronic payments and unlocking trapped capital.

Benefit chief executive Abdulwahed AlJanahi said, “We at Benefit are honoured by this major achievement given that the electronic payment infrastructure operated by Benefit is the main driver of this top rating, which emphasises our commitment towards implementing the initiatives highlighted in His Majesty King Hamad’s address in the Arab Summit, including one focused on advancing Arab co-operation in financial technology and digital transformation. Also, this goes in line with the national directions led by the Central Bank of Bahrain.”

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