Dubai-based FinTech VaultsPay and US digital payments company Wibmo are to roll out a prepaid card platform that aims to accelerate financial inclusion in the Middle East by serving the needs of the underbanked.
The prepaid card will help ease the financial transactions and salary deposits of blue-collar workers who may not have bank accounts or the resources to carry out online transactions, the two companies said on Thursday.
“With millions of people who serve in unskilled jobs, their participation in seamless financial transactions and online engagement is limited,” said Mohammed Afifi, chief executive of VaultsPay.
“As the region pivots to digitalisation and the move towards cashless transactions, our solution aims to drive economic inclusion for a large pool of unbanked and underbanked people.”
About 22 per cent of the GCC's population is unbanked, compared with 60 per cent in North Africa, according to consultancy Strategy&.
Seventy-nine per cent of young adults in the Middle East and North Africa region are unbanked and 72 per cent of the poorest citizens can benefit from financial inclusion, according to the Arab Monetary Fund.
Set to go live in the third quarter of this year, the prepaid card platform will be launched across the GCC in stages.
Through the platform, companies will be able to pay employees by depositing their salaries into prepaid accounts. Employees can use the prepaid cards to withdraw money for payments in shops.
The UAE's Wage Protection System, which was introduced in 2009, requires private companies to transfer the salaries of employees to bank accounts on fixed dates to avoid fines.
All companies registered with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation must subscribe to the WPS and pay salaries through the system, according to ministerial decree No 739 of 2016.
Salary transfers can be done through banks, exchange houses and other financial institutions that have been authorised to provide the service.
Under the partnership, VaultsPay will leverage Wibmo’s prepaid platform to build card issuance capabilities that can be configured to specific requirements, the statement said.
“We will build a complete issuance ecosystem that will drive multi-institutional transaction processing and corporate payments serving both workers and corporates,” said Chitrajit Chakrabarti, head of Middle East and Africa at Wibmo.
Wibmo, which is based in California, is a subsidiary of PayU and works with more than 130 banks across 28 countries.