Qatar poised to reap rewards of digital transformation

As Qatar ramps up its national digitization plans, the country’s digital economy is gearing up to deliver a world of countless possibilities to consumers and businesses alike. 

As Qatar continues its journey of becoming a world-leading knowledge and innovation hub, the local economy is preparing to provide millions of residents and visitors with a host of safe, seamless, and ultra-convenient digital experiences. With the public and private sector at the forefront of cutting-edge eCommerce and digital payment technologies, Qatar’s digital transformational legacy is set to unlock countless, inclusive, and long-lasting economic opportunities for many future generations to come.

The foundations for this legacy derive from robust national digital strategies, Qatar’s enormous smartphone penetration and its fast-growing youth demographic. Qatar has been touted as one of the fastest growing economies in the MENA region, and one that is already technologically poised to reap the rewards of digital transformation. In fact, estimates show that by 2023, digital spending in the country will increase to $3.2bn.

Qatari residents have also embraced eCommerce and digital payments.

A recent example of the government’s digital strategy includes the Tasmu Smart Qatar Programme, a flagship initiative launched by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) in October 2020. This aims to develop a refreshed national digital inclusion strategy that enhances digital access, skills, motivation, and trust across the population, especially those at risk of digital exclusion. 

This forward-looking strategy will help to ensure that Qatari residents and citizens (not just inbound visitors) are ready, willing, and able to engage with and benefit from digital services now and in the future. 

Furthermore, a new government data portal – called the ‘Qatar Open Data Portal’ – was also launched last year to facilitate the process of disseminating government data through a single national platform available to the public. 

These national strategies are complemented by banks, fintechs, mobile network operators and payments technology companies, which are all playing their roles in accelerating the shift towards a digital economy.

Through fintech innovations, small business acceptance solutions, mobile wallets, and secure transaction choices to grow consumer adoption and build partner trust, the cashless landscape is maturing into one that inspires, through multiple initiatives benefiting different sectors. 

In 2018, QNB launched QNB-Simplify, a first-of-its-kind cloud-based eCommerce platform powered by Mastercard Payment Gateway Services. This partnership allowed merchants to create an online shop and sell their products on the web, supporting SME growth and advancing the digital economy. These are fundamental dynamics of the fintech ecosystem, which QNB has pioneered for many years. 

The Qatar digital economy and fintech ecosystem were further enriched when in January 2021, QNB partnered with Garmin and Fitbit to launch ‘Garmin Pay’ and ‘Fitbit Pay’ for QNB customers in Qatar through its contactless payments’ platform, QNB Pay. As well as providing consumers with a greater choice of digital payments, the launch also encourages consumers to live a healthier lifestyle, while also promoting the growth of the local digital payments’ ecosystem. 

More recently, in March 2021, Ooredoo Qatar, Mastercard and QNB announced the launch of the first-of-its-kind Ooredoo Money Virtual Prepaid Card and Contactless Tap & Go Mastercard cards in Qatar. The new products enable the immediate issuance of digital cards for an easier, safer, and more secure online payment and contactless checkout experience: yet another example of how enduring partnerships between fintech innovators can pioneer transformative digital payment solutions. 

As the choice of digital payment options widens, so does Qatar’s choice of bespoke and exclusive credit cards. Explaining how Mastercard is catering for ever-changing consumer needs, Nadia Ghissassi, Mastercard’s Country Manager for Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Oman, said: “In January 2021 we debuted Qatar’s first Mastercard World Elite Exclusive with our longstanding partner QNB. This is the most exclusive offering in our product suite and solely available to QNB Private Banking customers on an invitation-only basis. The stylish metal-hybrid card has been designed to suit the requirements of QNB Elite customers, and give them a safe, secure and seamless payment experience.” 

By leveraging its expertise in introducing advanced digital payments and placing itself at the heart of the design process, Mastercard is enriching and accelerating Qatar’s shift towards a safer, faster, and more inclusive digital economy: making it easier for merchants to transact at home and further afield. These innovations serve as economic enablers and growth generating solutions for entrepreneurs and SMEs. 
Businesses are now much better equipped to transition to eCommerce, which is a fundamental shift as consumers adapt their shopping behaviors in the wake of COVID-19. Moreover, both contactless and digital payments are essential for Qatari merchants, as they leave them well placed to serve Qatari’s as well as the millions of tourists that will enter the country for football’s ultimate showdown in 2022.

The benefits of digital transformation also have a far-reaching impact beyond Qatar’s borders. In June 2020, QNB Group became the first bank in Sudan to successfully perform an international payment card transaction using a Mastercard virtual prepaid card product. The bank also became the first Bank in Sudan to obtain an issuance license from Mastercard.

Ultimately, Qatar’s economy and business ecosystem face enormous opportunities thanks to enduring private sector partnerships and the significant work being done by the government of Qatar to drive digital transformation. And in the long-term, not only will this play a huge role in the growth of the digital economy, but also in ensuring that Qatar retains its position as a leading hub for technological advancement and innovation.

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