By Abdel Razek Al-Shuwekhi
Mobile banking is set to increase numbers of credit card users from 33% to as much as 38% of Egyptians, according to Mohamed Shawky, head of Information Technology at Blom Bank Egypt.
The easy-payment service, offered by several banks in Egypt for nearly six months, allows customers to pay bills and make purchases via mobile phones. It also offers anti-theft protection and time saving benefits on making payments.
Shawky said that Blom Bank is working on making this service available to customers in the coming period, saying that “the application will offer cost savings for banks while also saving time and effort for those who take advantage of the service.”
Despite the novelty of the service, Walid Nagy, head of retail banking at National Bank of Egypt, said he hopes to increase the number of users in the future.
“We have 30,000 customers using the mobile service as a means for electronic payments,” he said. “This is a small number but in a short period of time.”
Nagy added that the existence of multiple accounts for a client does not preclude the bank from granting the client the service. There are also currently “no specific outlets” who take advantage of the use of the mobile technology as a means of payment.
Rushdi Saleh, a banking analyst at Arab International Bank, said: “The use of mobile phones [for payment] is a very sophisticated method in the Egyptian banking market, so the idea is not that there is a service but rather the extent of the service’s use, and that is what must be given interest and studied.”
Saleh explained that banking operations are not developed, so the culture of using modern tools for banking in Egypt has not spread to the extent possible.
“Egyptians prefer cash with the exception of a very small class of individuals who use these services,” he said. The proof of this, Saleh said, is that there are no more than 20m bank accounts across the country. Of this figure, 40% see limited use as a means to receive pensions and transfer funds, whether domestically or abroad, with “less than 1%” using the new technology.
Some, however, find mobile cash a very useful service. Mohamed Khaled, a food commodities trader, said: “I prefer using mobile payments due to its ease after I was exposed to several attempted thefts, especially in crowded areas.”
Despite his preference for mobile payments, Khaled said: “Using mobile banking in settling financial transactions is a good thing, but we still face the issue of shops refusing to deal with this as a payment method.”