Bee for electronic payment solutions prepares to expand new products and services as well as increase the number of its outlets based on the investment recently obtained by the company for EGP 156m for an acquisition by MM Group over 60% of the company.
According to Mohamed Abo Khadra, head of marketing in the company, said during an interview with Daily News Egypt that the payment market is witnessing several growth opportunities, supported by Egypt’s vision for financial inclusion in which electronic payment companies are a cornerstone.
Abo Khadra revealed that the company is working to provide services of electricity metre cards recharging, in addition to a contract with two companies in the aviation sector to provide services of flight tickets payment through Bee’s outlets.
How do you see the changes that took place in the electronic payment market?
This market has changed greatly over the past period. The changes are divided into two groups, where one is positive and the other negative.
Positive changes include an increased awareness of electronic payment services. Consumers started using these services albeit in a limited way to pay the bills of basic utilities, such as electricity, gas, and water.
All merchants and shop owners also have become fully aware of electronic payment services. Consumers, on the other hand, now have awareness of the services, their types, and the companies that offer them.
The government now has full awareness of the importance of electronic payments. About a year ago, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi issued a decision to establish the Supreme Council for Electronic Payments. The decision was preceded by the collection of taxes and customs electronically. These are all strong decisions taken by decision-makers in Egypt, and the proof is the launching of the financial inclusion week several days ago.
On the other hand, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is exerting great efforts. There is a special unit in the CBE that works on preparing a draft law to organise the market of electronic payments. Meetings were held between banks and all companies that offer these kinds of services in order to be acquainted with their requirements before preparing the draft law.
The most recent positive change is the existence of many electronic payment companies, which helped increase the awareness between customers and lead to the spread of services and to the increase in the market’s volume in terms of electronic payment operations and number of consumers who use the services.
Regarding negative changes, they include the delay of banks playing their roles as one of the parties implementing financial inclusion plans in Egypt. Financial inclusion in Egypt is no more than 15%. The Principal Bank for Development and Agriculture Credit (PBDAC) contributes by 50% in the a loans agency for farmers and other services for the agricultural sector, whereas financial inclusion in some Gulf countries reached 60%, such as the case in Saudi Arabia.
There are concerns from customers in terms of dealing with banks. A large segment does not have confidence in banks and little knowledge about the fact that a mistake made by the ATM can be fixed. This is negative for the entire electronic payment sector.
How can we overcome the negative side you mentioned?
All players have to work on enhancing the quality of services offered to the market and to work on an integrated solution. Providing banks with electronic payments is the only way to offer something tangible to customers.
It is inconceivable that the CBE plays this role, because it has more important tasks in regard with the monetary policy of Egypt.
From your point of view, what are the most prominent growth opportunities in the market?
The government’s vision of financial inclusion will not be possible without electronic wallets, because they represent one of the most important investment opportunities. The CBE has launched an advertising campaign during last Ramadan to promote e-wallet services. The campaign targeted banks and electronic payment companies to prompt them to participate in providing e-wallet services sponsored by the CBE.
In cooperation with MasterCard, the CBE formed a unified e-wallet, and our company is the only electronic payment company that linked its services to the e-wallet provided by MasterCard. Therefore, any bank willing to offer e-wallet services will use Bee’s services, such as bills payment, university fees, and others.
There are three main axes of e-wallet services’ growth. First, the increase of payment service outlets, which depends on the spread of electronic payment companies. Second, the increase of e-wallet services, which requires creating more distinctive service for customers to increase competitiveness, and the next period will witness the launch of new electronic payment services in many sectors, increasing the opportunity of growth. Third, the increase of electronic payments’ volume, which depends on the other axes.
What are your expectations for e-payments’ growth rates in the next year?
I expect the electronic payment market will grow by 20-30% in the next year, especially since this year witnessed the recovery of the local market from the effects of floating the exchange rate.
Moreover, the CBE and electronic payment companies’ initiatives will lead to a significant increase in this sector.
How do you intend to use the recently obtained investment?
BPE Partners (formerly Belton Private Equity) announced the acquisition of 60% of Bee jointly through its non-banking financial services vehicle, Ebtikar and MTI.
We will use this investment to expand our services through increasing the number of outlets and creating new products to cover new sectors.
What products are now in the pipeline?
If you are asking about the Satellite Solutions Telecom (SST) in the Orabi Central Office, this is a pilot project with “We”. Based on the results, we will both agree on the expansion plan, and we are proud to be part of the launching of “We” and the trust they put in our solutions, from the launching date with Bee SST machines spread in all Orange-owned shops.
In 2017, we made a breakthrough in terms of new products. We made our payment application available on PlayStore and iOS. We also allowed the payment service for Visa and MasterCard holders through the application, in which the customer recharge his account and use the application to pay any bills or transfer credit to other mobile phones.
We also have a partnership deal with MasterCard to provide our electronic payment services through MasterCard’s online wallet.
Regarding community services, we offered electronic donations through Bee’s outlets in favour of the Egyptian Food Bank, Misr El-Kheir Foundation, and the Dar Al Orman Charity. The services included a sacrifice voucher programme, Ramadan bags and other services in the voluntary sector.
In addition, Bee launch a new service of the electronic collection of electricity bills in collaboration with the financial services company e-finance to enable citizens to pay their electricity bills at the nearest outlet to smooth the payment process.
We also launched electronic payment service for travel booking companies, such as Travelstart Egypt and EgyptAir, and we have signed recently two more contracts with two airliners but they have not been officially announced.
The company offered its services as well in the collective transport sector in which we contracted with Go and Back company for smart collective transport. Bee also contracted with Mubasher in the stock market to pay the value of registration through Bee outlets.
We now aim to increase the number of our outlets, currently at 35,000.