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FeatureAdvancing access to digital financial services in Egypt

Advancing access to digital financial services in Egypt

This article is the second in a three-part report on digital financial inclusion in Egypt. Read the first part here.

Introduction

As urbanization accelerates, the income disparity between urban and rural residents has become one of the common issues in the development stages of many countries. Given the centrality of rural residents’ income to this challenge, it has rightly garnered extensive attention. Rural residents’ income serves as a vital statistical index, comprehensively reflecting changes in quality of life and providing a basis for monitoring rural poverty alleviation. It plays a crucial role in guiding governments and macro decision-making departments in formulating effective rural economic policies and development strategies.

Ensuring equitable access to financial services for both urban and rural residents is essential. The challenges faced in rural areas, such as scattered populations, aging demographics, and a lack of collateral for small businesses and farmers, highlight the limitations of traditional finance. Overcoming these challenges is crucial for placing financial services within reach of vulnerable groups, including microenterprises, rural residents, and low-income individuals. With the majority of the Egyptian population residing in rural areas (see Figure 1), there is a need to bridge the gap and provide equally robust financial services to both urban and rural citizens through the integration of finance and technology.

Figure 1: Egypt population per urbanization and rural areas

Internet use and financial inclusion

In 2021, more than 57 million Egyptians, nearly 57% of the population, used the internet—a significant increase from 2019 and 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend as restrictions led to heightened internet usage. As in other countries, measures taken by Egyptian authorities during COVID-19 curtailed movements. Hence, people confined to their homes became more engaged with technology. Mobile devices are the primary means of internet access for 93% of users, with over 40% engaged in social media (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Digital users and subscribers in Egypt (above age 16), 2019—2021

Source: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-egypt.

Despite the growth of internet use, Egypt faces challenges in digital financial inclusion. Digital financial inclusion combines traditional inclusive finance with advanced technology, with the advantages of convenience and low cost. Yet, over 67% of Egyptians were projected to be unbanked by the end of 2021, with minimal usage of credit cards, online electronic bills, and mobile money accounts.

Figure 3: Population reporting having product and services (%)

Source: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-egypt.

Gender disparities are also evident, with women more digitally excluded than men in terms of credit card usage and online transactions (Figure 4).  More than 4% of males in Egypt use credit cards or make online transactions, whereas only 2.6% and 3.9% of Egyptian women use credit cards or make online transactions.

Figure 4: Population reporting having product and services per gender

Source: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-egypt.

In terms of devices used, over 96% of internet users aged between 16 to 64 owned mobile smartphones across Egypt in 2021 (Figure 5).  This number has jumped around 6% more compared to the previous year. However, 56% of these users also reported owning laptops and desktop computers in 2021, which is almost 10% lower than last year.

Figure 5: Device ownership among users ages 15+ in Egypt

Source: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-egypt.

Digital financial literacy

Enhancing digital financial literacy is crucial for successful digital financial inclusion. Egypt’s overall literacy rate of 76% and 65% for males and females respectively in 2021 (Figure 6) provides a foundation, but targeted efforts are needed to improve digital skills. A comprehensive approach, including courses and capacity building, is essential to boost digital and financial literacy.

Figure 6: Digital financial literacy among Egyptian users for the year 2021

Source: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-egypt.

Digital payment methods

In applying a digital financial system, consumers have multiple payment methods to select when making online payments. Therefore, it is essential for providers implementing e-commerce to know the favorite payment method that consumers use or prefer to make an online payment.  Figure 7 shows that more than 58.03% of the consumers in Egypt prefer cash payments, while 20% prefer and use digital payments in the year 2021.  Surprisingly, the use of digital payment grew from 6% in 2020 to 20% in 2021, indicating a significant shift in Egyptian consumers’ preferences regarding the method of payment used for online shopping.  The result also shows that the number of Egyptian consumers using credit card methods has declined to 12.37% in 2021 compared to 25% in 2020.

Figure 7: E-Commerce by methods of payment for the years 2020 and 2021

Source: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-egypt.

With more than 90% of internet users on smartphones, Figure 8 shows that mobile app usage is growing in Egypt.  About 49.5% of mobile apps were used for online shopping in Egypt in 2021, while 18.4% and 15.4% were used for banking and financial services, and medical services in 2021, respectively.

Figure 8:  Mobile apps users by categories for 2021

Source: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-egypt.

Case Study: Fawry’s impact

Fawry, a prominent digital payment and e-commerce solution provider in Egypt, stands out as a compelling illustration of the positive impact derived from embracing fintech. Operating in over 225,000 locations across 300 cities, Fawry plays a pivotal role in facilitating digital payments for a myriad of services, thereby contributing significantly to heightened accessibility, diminished unbanked populations, and an overall bolstering of financial inclusion.

Fawry has emerged as a dependable method for e-bill and digital financial services across various recommended channels, including ATMs, mobile wallets, and retail points. Notably, Fawry boasts an influential biller member network, enabling clients to seamlessly complete their digital payment tasks without delay. This extensive network empowers users to conduct diverse transactions, including bill payments for telecommunications, tickets, insurance, education fees, donations, car licenses, and more.

Figure 9:  Fawry Egypt Digital Platform Case Study

Source: https://fawry.com/.

The platform’s notable growth, particularly during the challenging period of the COVID-19 outbreak, underscores the potential advantages of fintech in enhancing service operations. Fawry’s e-payment solution has successfully catered to the financial needs of over 25 million clients in Egypt. In a testament to its societal impact, the Nasser Social Bank has collaborated with Fawry to disburse pensions to more than 520,000 clients through Fawry outlets and online services, a strategic response to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Fawry stands as a prime example of how the adoption of fintech can bring about substantial improvements in the financial sector’s service operations. Its contributions extend beyond mere transactional facilitation, as it has played a pivotal role in expanding access to financial services, reducing the number of unbanked citizens, fostering financial inclusion, and ultimately contributing to poverty alleviation in Egypt.

Conclusion

While Egypt has made strides in digital financial inclusion, challenges persist. The results indicate positive momentum, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, showcasing the increasing importance of digital solutions. The gender gap and preferences in payment methods present areas for improvement, emphasizing the need for continued efforts by the government, financial institutions, policymakers, developmental institutions, and international investors. A collaborative approach will be crucial in advancing digital financial inclusion in Egypt, ensuring a win-win strategy for all stakeholders.

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