With the global expansion of formal financial services, digital payments have experienced a major boom in recent years. According to the 2021 Global Financial Inclusion Index, more than two-thirds of adults worldwide have bank accounts, up from 51 percent in 2011, which demonstrates the positive effects of this expansion on the global economy.
In developing countries generally and sub-Saharan Africa specifically, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the use of mobile financial transaction accounts and digital payments, spurring a sharp increase in financial inclusion. The percentage of adults in developing economies who make or receive digital payments has risen from 35 percent in 2014 to 57 percent in 2021, representing two-thirds of adults globally.
The recent decision by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to raise the maximum limits of all transactions made through the Instant Payment Network (InstaPay) as of 15 March 2023 is a significant step toward increasing the percentage of the population with access to the formal financial system, integrating more people into the formal financial system, and shrinking the size of the informal economy.
The InstaPay application was created by the Egyptian Banks Company (EBC), which is owned by four financial institutions, including the CBE, the National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr, and the National Investment Bank, to facilitate real-time money transfers.
This helps the banking industry stay current with technological advancements, makes it easier for citizens to use electronic payment methods and channels, encourages them to continue doing so, meets the needs of various customer categories to improve financial services, and draws in new clients.
This article provides a concise analysis of the most important indicators of financial inclusion in Egypt, future projections for the growth of the use of electronic payment services, and the most important challenges and obstacles facing the growth of electronic dealing since the advent of the InstaPay app.
I- Indicators of Financial Inclusion in Egypt
According to GFI Index surveys in 2021, approximately 27 percent of adults (+15 years) in Egypt had bank accounts, up from 14 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2011. Despite this increase, this percentage is still below the regional average of 48 percent and the global average of roughly 76 percent, as shown in figure 1.
Additionally, about 10 percent of adults use the mobile payments service, and only about 22 percent have access to a debit or payment card, compared to about 55 percent globally in 2021.
Figure 1: Percentage of people with bank accounts and bankcards, 2011-2021
Source: Financial Inclusion Database, World Bank, 2022
According to a World Bank survey on the main deterrents to opening a bank account for adults in Egypt (who do not already have one, more than 90 percent stated that they do not have a bank account because they lack the necessary resources, and more than 22 percent stated that the cost of opening an account is prohibitive. The lack of required documentation to open accounts and the financial institutions’ remote locations both contributed to people’s hesitation to open accounts, but only about 6 percent of people said they were hesitant for religious reasons. Figure 2 depicts these reasons.
Figure 2: Barriers to opening a bank account
Source: Financial Inclusion Database, World Bank, 2022
II- Prevalent Uses of InstaPay
Currently, InstaPay works with over 25 different Egyptian banks. Among the many benefits that make the InstaPay app the best option for interbank transfers and monetary dealings are the following:
- Real-time, seven-day-a-week money transfers are made possible by the Instant Payment Network (IPN), which expedites the processing of payments and transfers to supported financial institutions.
- Linking and managing bank accounts in one place as the application lets the user link all of their bank accounts in one place, as long as they are all registered with the same mobile phone number. This makes it easy for users to manage their bank accounts, such as checking their account balances and account statements that list all withdrawals and transferring money between bank accounts linked to different banks.
- Transferring and receiving funds using a variety of methods, including bank accounts and mobile phone bank wallets.
All of these features enable InstaPay to play a prominent role in achieving financial inclusion for individuals and businesses by reducing transfer fees and saving time, and by encouraging individuals to open bank accounts and become part of the formal financial system. The CBE disclosed that the volume of transactions made through the application increased dramatically, exceeding EGP 45 billion for more than 8 million transactions in less than 8 months only through the InstaPay application and the banks’ electronic channels, with the number of users of the service surpassing one million.
Recent decisions by the CBE increased the maximum transaction value to EGP 70,000 from EGP 50,000, the maximum daily value of transactions to EGP 120,000 from EGP 60,000, and the maximum monthly value to EGP 400,000 from EGP 200,000.
The foregoing makes it abundantly clear that Egypt’s rate of financial inclusion is low when compared to other countries around the world, thus highlighting the critical importance of the role of modern applications in boosting financial inclusion and raising coverage rates to levels that are comparable to those of other countries and regions.