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KARACHI: Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region are recognizing digitalization as essential to staying competitive in transformed business and economic environment.

The insight is one of many in a new ‘white paper’ by payments technology leader Mastercard, which explores the way small businesses are viewing digital payments, online presence and the benefits of an evolving cashless economy.

The white paper, titled ‘The Digital SME: How Are Small and Medium Enterprises in the Middle East and Africa Embracing a Digital Future’, is an in-depth follow-on study from the data-rich Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index 2021. This piece of research released findings about the importance of digitalization and rising confidence levels as SMEs across sectors, products, and services in the region, adapt to the new and evolving economic landscape.

It revealed that SMEs in MEA recognize faster access to revenue as the biggest benefit of a cashless economy to their business (44%). Other benefits identified include the ease of not handling or processing cash (50%) and having more convenient ways of paying suppliers and employees (50%).

Overall, 67% of MEA SMEs say e-commerce will have a positive impact on their business.

The white paper also found that digitalization has progressed globally since 2018, but has seen higher traction among larger corporations and financial institutions than among SMEs. It accelerated in 2020-21 to enable continuity of business, with the OECD estimating 70% of SMEs globally intensifying their use of digital technologies due to COVID-19 restrictions. Currently, according to the Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index, digital payment methods used by MEA SMEs include mobile (59%), online (49%), and cards (48%).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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