99% of Saudis have access to the internet.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has adopted a regulatory-driven approach supervised by The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA). The open banking framework and implementations were launched in 2022.
Some Fintechs built universal API platforms to link banks with third-party providers in the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region, increasing interoperability between Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched its OB lab for OB implementation, conformance and certification of TPPs and PASPs.
According to The Global Findex Database, 74% of Saudi Arabian adults had bank accounts in 2021, leaving 26% unbanked. Open Banking is predicted to increase financial inclusion in Saudi Arabia by expanding access to credit for a larger portion of individuals and therefore increasing financial health and financial awareness. This includes helping lower-income customers to reduce excessive expenditures, improving savings behaviours, and, in general, encouraging better control of financials. Furthermore, Open Banking improves the design of new financial products and services for specific customer segments.
Eleven banks were looking to be certified for open banking before the March 2023 deadline.
The government sees Open Banking as an opportunity to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil while generating job opportunities. As part of the Vision 2030 agenda, Open Banking is seen as an opportunity to generate revenue and digital competitiveness.
In 2021, 155 Fintechs were registered with the country’s Fintech hub, FintechSaudi; 29 of these come under Saudi Central Bank SAMA’s jurisdiction, while 16 fall under its Capital Market Authority (CMA). The Fintech sector is driven by young, first-gen entrepreneurs. The Fintech sector is one of the many sectors that Saudi Arabia is leveraging as part of its Vision 2030 agenda, which aims to support entrepreneurship and the enhancement of financial technology (Fintech) services. The country aims to diversify its economy away from oil while generating job opportunities. Its National Fintech Strategy – the FintechSaudi initiative launched by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) – is in the final stage of government approval and includes 25 programs of work to support the Fintech sector in the country.
Open Banking is expected to improve the direct innovation, competition and efficiency of the banking sector.
A recent report from Fintech Saudi, for instance, shows that hiring qualified talent was the primary challenge for 40% of startups in the Fintech space. Without qualified workers to power the work of startups, they might either stall or be forced to move their activities and profits elsewhere.
In November 2021, Oman and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding and launched the Saudi-Omani Digital Skills Initiative, which includes training programmes in fields such as Fintech, data and artificial intelligence.
Saudi Arabia ranked 28th out of 134 countries in Wiley’s Digital Skills Global Index 2021.
The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) has established a regulatory sandbox in 2018 to drive the strategy and development of the Fintech ecosystem by allowing financial institutions (FIs) and Fintechs to offer their products in an innovative and safe environment.