INTERVIEW: Visa working with Egypt to implement new service to transfer remittances via Instapay: VP Serhan

Doaa A.Moneim from Dubai, Thursday 7 Mar 2024

Egypt's recent economic movements in line with its economic reform program will benefit the Egyptian economy, senior vice president and group country manager for North Africa, Levant, and Pakistan (NALP) at Visa Leila Sarhan told Ahram Online, adding that Visa is closely following the developments in Egypt.

Leila Serhan
File Photo: Leila Serhan, senior vice president and group country manager for North Africa, Levant, and Pakistan (NALP) pose for an image. Photo courtesy of Forbesmiddleeast.


Serhan made her comments in an interview with Ahram Online on the sidelines of the Visa CEMEA Security Summit 2024, which kicked off on Wednesday in Dubai and lasted two days.

The event shed light on the cybersecurity challenges in Central Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and the role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in reshaping the future of these regions.

On Wednesday, Egypt took several actions meant to address the challenging economic situation it has experienced for over two years, including hiking key interest rates by six percent (600 bps) and floating the local currency.

Additionally, Egypt has signed a long-awaited deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that allows Egypt to increase its loan to $8 billion instead of the $3 billion the fund approved for the country in December 2022.

The country has also begun gradually releasing $12 billion worth of stockpiled goods in the ports, and the government announced that it would secure other soft finances from international institutions, including the World Bank and the European Union, along with Japan.

“These are tough times in Egypt; we also live through tough times as a company; we rise and fall with the economies of the markets we work in; these reforms take time, and the country will probably need them; we are hence watching very closely, and we are hopeful that this would be the right thing for Egypt,” Serhan told Ahram Online.

Partnerships with Egypt are in the pipeline

During the interview, Ahram Online also discussed with Serhan the future partnerships and collaborations between Visa and the Egyptian government.

Serhan explained that Visa is currently developing solutions with the Egyptian Banks Company (EBC), the operator and developer of the national payment networks and ecosystems, for more seamless transactions for the remittances of Egyptian expats and by using the national payments application InstaPay.

“This strategic partnership is aimed towards enhancing the scope of instant payments and streamlining the reception of international remittances from Egyptian expatriates, leveraging Visa's cutting-edge digital financial services and expertise, as well as the advanced technological infrastructure managed by EBC, to introduce innovative solutions for electronic payment services, digital wallets, and more,” said Serhan.

According to Serhan, this partnership includes two key projects: the first proposes the addition of a service to the InstaPay application, allowing users to initiate transfers from Visa-linked accounts outside Egypt, with funds seamlessly deposited into registered customers' accounts or transferred to other customers via the Instant Payments Network (IPN), while the second focuses on cooperating with banks and financial institutions to facilitate transfers to beneficiaries in Egypt using IPN's phone number or username directory.

"Remittances from Egyptian expatriates play a pivotal role in the national income and foreign currency inflow, providing vital support to countless families in Egypt and abroad, especially amid the ongoing challenging economic situation locally. Egypt's diaspora spanning numerous countries underscores its position as the fifth largest recipient of remittances globally. Egyptian talents and experts working abroad generate foreign currency and support the domestic economy,” Serhan elaborated.

She added that this collaboration, under the auspices of the CBE, is instrumental in leveraging Visa's global network strength, unlocking the full potential of the Egyptian payment ecosystem, and working closely with EBC to map a path toward financial inclusion through the digitization of payments in Egypt.

“We see InstaPay as a growing application used by many people, and it's kind of this last mile that is getting to the Egyptian citizen fastly, conveniently, securely, and cheaply because we know that the problem with cross-border remittance is that there are so many intermediaries in the middle, which makes the cost very high at the end of the day. Furthermore, we know that most remittances are small tickets that go to people who need this money. So we are working on this currently with EBC and will launch it soon,” Serhan told Ahram Online.

Serhan also stated that Visa launched the pilot of the citizen card in Port Said governorate, issuing 500,000 cards for obtaining subsidies in an easy, cashless way.

“This action is important as we want to encourage people to adopt cashless solutions. I think the next step is trying to think of incentive campaigns that we can run for those cardholders, such as points through loyalty accumulation or cash back as rewards for using such cards. We're very proud of this project because it touches the people,” Serhan highlighted.

Furthermore, Serhan explained to Ahram Online that the tourism sector is an essential part of the country’s GDP, noting that this collaboration centres on promoting Egypt as a destination by providing tourists who are Visa cardholders with a good, seamless experience.

She also stressed that the opportunity for financial inclusion in Egypt is tremendous, noting that such inclusion goes beyond being merely a payment solution. 

Serhan further explained the crucial role that digital banks can play in this regard. These banks, she said, will reduce the cost of acquiring such customers and provide them with the product that they need and can afford.

Key challenges Egypt’s cybersecurity counters

Serhan said that Visa is working with Egypt to accelerate tokenization and encourage the launching of digital banks in Egypt. These banks, she explained, will demonstrate absolute caution from a security perspective, owing to their digital nature. They will also concentrate on investing in security.

Moreover, Serhan told Ahram Online that Egypt is required to expand digital payment to more areas than just Cairo.

“We're working with many of the payment facilitators in the Egyptian market to provide those digital payment facilities to people across Egypt. Currently, Egypt has around a million acceptance points. This number of acceptance points is too small for a country of over 100 million in population,” according to Serhan.

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