AFS and Visa have unveiled their SME Partner Programme to launch prepaid cards for businesses in Bahrain and Oman. AFS is a digital payment solutions provider and fintech enabler in the Middle East and Africa. It is also a prominent merchant acquirer in Bahrain and Oman.

AFS and Visa said that their collaboration will pave the way for digitising merchant settlements through prepaid cards. The deal also enhances the digital credentials of AFS’s merchant bases in both countries.

AFS and Visa: plans to expand their prepaid offering to other markets

Samer Soliman, Chief Executive Officer at AFS said: “The strategic partnership between AFS and Visa represents a step forward for business’ digital payments in Bahrain and Oman as well as our shared vision of digitised payments ecosystems. This will be the first B2B use case for prepaid cards. We plan to expand this offering to other markets in the Middle East and Africa. Together, AFS and Visa can quickly bring to the market prepaid cards that are designed with security at the core. This has the potential for enhancement and growth over time. I look forward to a fruitful and ever-growing collaboration that will evolve to other areas like fintech partnerships.”
Ali Bailoun, Regional General Manager, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman at Visa, added: “Through this partnership, AFS will be enabling their merchant community with Visa prepaid credentials in Bahrain and Oman. This is in line with our mission of digitising the merchant ecosystem. We look forward to deepening our partnership with AFS and expanding our collaboration across digital acceptance and fintech enablement.
AFS is majority-owned by Bank ABC and regulated by The Central Bank of Bahrain. It offers end-to-end digital payment services and solutions. These span debit, credit, and Islamic card processing, merchant acquiring, fintech, and a suite of value-added serves.

Bahrain prepaid cards market sizing and forecasting: GlobalData

Prepaid card penetration is low in Bahrain at 6.5 cards per 100 individuals in 2022. However, there is growing consumer awareness around the benefits of prepaid cards. Transaction volume rose from 10.2 million in 2018 to 14.3 million in 2022, according to GlobalData, publishers of EPI. The market registered robust growth in terms of number of cards in circulation, volume, and value at respective CAGRs of 9.7%, 8.9%, and 11.8% over 2018–22. A similar trend is expected over 2022–26.

Cash is widely used in Oman for day-to-day transactions and accounts for 64.3% of payment transaction volume. Cards account for a share of 32%. The use of payment cards is rising in Oman. This is supported by initiatives taken by the government and banks to promote electronic payments.

Despite being a cash-dominated country, payment card usage is gradually gaining traction in Oman. GlobalData estimate that card payment value transactions and volume transactions recorded CAGRs of 27.1% and 45.1% between 2018 and 2022. The rising adoption of contactless, emerging payment methods such as QR-code-based terminals, and strong ecommerce growth are boosting electronic payments. This will fuel the shift towards cashless payments. The frequency of payment cards is expected to register a healthy CAGR of 9.1% over 2022–2026.

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