Saudi Fintech Industry Grows Threefold in 2020

The establishment of Fintech companies expedites in Saudi Arabia (Reuters)
The establishment of Fintech companies expedites in Saudi Arabia (Reuters)
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Saudi Fintech Industry Grows Threefold in 2020

The establishment of Fintech companies expedites in Saudi Arabia (Reuters)
The establishment of Fintech companies expedites in Saudi Arabia (Reuters)

Fintech Saudi has revealed in its annual report 2019/20 that it is seeing the emergence of a growing fintech industry in the Kingdom.

The number of operating fintechs has increased three-fold in a year, from 20 in 2019 to 60 this year, with over 100 fintech startups at the idea or pre-commercial stage, the report noted.

The Fintech Saudi Annual Report 2019/20 provides an overview of the development of the fintech industry in Saudi Arabia over the past year and highlights a number of key developments that have taken place to support the growth of the fintech industry.

There has been an increase in fundraising deals completed in Saudi fintech for the year to date with the total investment amount already surpassing 2019 levels, it added.

“This is building up to a fintech market in Saudi Arabia that, according to Statista, is expected to reach transaction values of over $33 billion by 2023.

On the significance of this report, Director of Fintech saudi Mulaik al-Nejoud said the period extending from 2019 till 2020 has been pivotal for the fintech industry in the Kingdom.

“Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we have seen progress in regulations, infrastructure and an increasing number of investment rounds in fintech companies.”

This has built a solid foundation to support the emergence of a growing fintech industry in Saudi Arabia that will contribute in a meaningful way to its Vision 2030, she stated.

The developments include the launch of Apple Pay, the establishment of Saudi Payments, and the continued issuance of regulatory testing licenses and regulations by the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) to support fintech activities.

There have also been major initiatives, including the National Commercial Bank (NCB) / Monsha’at fintech accelerator program and the launch of Riyad Bank’s fintech fund.

The report consists of a number of sections including an overview of the fintech industry by KPMG, the view from Fintech and MAGNiTT, and interviews with the SAMA Regulatory Sandbox and the CMA FinTech Lab.



IMF Praises Saudi Arabia’s Unprecedented Economic Transformation

Efforts to diversify the economy have started to bear fruit: IMF (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Efforts to diversify the economy have started to bear fruit: IMF (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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IMF Praises Saudi Arabia’s Unprecedented Economic Transformation

Efforts to diversify the economy have started to bear fruit: IMF (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Efforts to diversify the economy have started to bear fruit: IMF (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has praised Saudi Arabia’s significant economic changes under the “Vision 2030” national transformation plan, noting improvements in public finances and business regulations.
An IMF mission expected non-oil growth in Saudi Arabia to reach around 3.5% in 2024, crediting careful economic policies and major reforms.
The mission also highlighted record-low unemployment rates and controlled inflation in the country, and welcomed recent updates to funding requirements aligned with “Vision 2030” goals.
The IMF released a concluding statement at the end of its official staff visit to Saudi Arabia.
In the statement, the IMF said: “Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented economic transformation is progressing well.”
“Prudent macroeconomic policies, transformative changes—including through fiscal reforms and in the regulatory business environment—and strong domestic demand have helped prop up non-oil growth. Inflation remains contained.”
“Spending reprioritization and recalibration of major spending programs are ongoing. Efforts to diversify the economy have started to bear fruit.”
“Building on these successes, it will be important to sustain the non-oil growth momentum, maintain financial sector stability, continue mitigating risks of overheating, reverse declining total factor productivity and ensure inter-generational equity.”
Economic Activity Remains Robust
According to the IMF, real non-oil growth decelerated from 5.3% in 2022 to a still robust 3.8% in 2023, driven mostly by private consumption and non-oil investment.
While non-oil growth for Q1-2024 indicates some moderation in economic activity— the IMF staff estimated that the output gap remains in positive territory, close to 2% of the non-oil potential GDP.
The statement also noted that the Saudi economy weathered the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East well, thanks to minimal trade and financial exposures to the affected regions and uninterrupted shipments.
Unemployment Rate Reached Historic Lows
In 2023, the Saudi economy added over one million jobs, primarily in the private sector. The overall unemployment rate for Saudis dropped to 7.7% in the last quarter of 2023—inching closer to the 2030 Vision objective of 7%.
Labor force participation rates have remained at historically high levels but relatively flat over the past year for both men and women, albeit with the women’s rate still comfortably exceeding the Vision 2030 goal of 30%.
Headline Inflation Has Decelerated Rapidly
After peaking at 3.4% in January 2023, year-on-year inflation receded to 1.6% in April 2024, helped by an appreciating nominal effective exchange rate.
However, rents are growing at a brisk rate of about 10% amid inflows of expatriate workers and large redevelopment plans in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Wholesale prices have also edged up recently, reflecting an increase in input costs. So far, some uptick has been observed in the wages of high-skilled workers.
Additionally, the current account surplus narrowed significantly.
The decline in the current account surplus from 13.7% of GDP in 2022 to 3.2% of GDP in 2023 mainly reflected lower oil exports and strong growth in investment-related imports.
These were partly mitigated by a record surplus in the services balance, including a 38 percent surge in net tourism income.
The Saudi Central Bank’s (SAMA) holding of net foreign assets reached $423.7 billion in April 2024, which was slightly above the end-2023 level.
Reserves remain ample, representing 15.6 months of imports and 208% of the IMF’s reserve adequacy metric by end-2023.