SME Champions

Powering the Fintech Engine in the Middle East and North Africa

MEED chats with Gaurang Shah, Senior Vice President, Digital Payments & Labs, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard on his views on the region’s booming startup sector and how Mastercard aims to support this growth.


KPMG’s recently launched study, The Pulse of Fintech,[1] reports that the fintech market in the Middle East and North Africa is poised for expansion and diversification, despite an overall slowdown in deal activity. This growth will be fueled by the launch of new initiatives that are geared towards supporting the fintech sector. With governments and corporations investing increasingly in fintechs and the potential they have to offer, the region is becoming a global hotbed for passionate entrepreneurs with digital solutions.

Global payments technology leader Mastercard announced in September their latest initiative to support fintechs in the region. Fintech Express is program designed to facilitate emerging fintechs’ launch and expansion. Leveraging the power of partnerships and Mastercard’s expertise, technology, and global network, startups will be able to focus on innovation that drives the digital economy.

“Evolving consumer preferences and innovative technologies are leading to digital-based, on-demand and data-driven personalized models that are reimagining the way financial services are both delivered and consumed. In this dynamic arena, fintechs are competing with large traditional players, leveraging the power of technology to disrupt the digital financial industry. With the adequate support, resources and tools, fintechs can undoubtedly play a much larger role in advancing the region’s financial services infrastructure and responding to consumer needs,” said Gaurang Shah, Senior Vice President, Digital Payments & Labs, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.

The program supports digital payment innovators by making it simple to collaborate with Mastercard and its partners to launch new fintech products. It is designed for fintechs looking to add payment solutions to their suite of products, tech-savvy startups looking at serving a new segment as well as established players with ambitions to innovate through partnerships. Becoming an Express Partner helps brands simplify the launch of payment solutions, shortening the process from a few months to a matter of days. Express Partners will also enjoy all the benefits of becoming a Qualified Mastercard Engage Partner.

Through its global network, Mastercard has brought onboard strategic partners to enhance the program and offer added value to participating startups. Within the MENA region, the technology giant has joined forces with Network International, who will act as the exclusive payments’ processor for the region’s fintechs, thus enabling and accelerating their regional market entry.

“At Mastercard, we believe in the power of partnerships, working in collaboration with all the key players involved including fintechs, governments, businesses, traditional financial institutions and other payments companies to ensure that the digital economy works for everyone. We continue to invest in those technologies, platforms, infrastructures and the right fintech partnerships that enable us to provide single platform capability across multiple use cases to our partners, as we have done with the traditional banking industry for over 50 years,” added Shah.

Mastercard Fintech Express falls under the umbrella of Mastercard Accelerate – Mastercard’s overarching fintech platform that gives start-ups and emerging brands support and assistance for every stage of their growth and transformation, from market entry to global expansion. Mastercard Accelerate is comprised of four main programs: Fintech Express, Start Path, Engage and Developers.



The Gulf Capital SME Insights is a multi-channel programme of activity providing information, intelligence, and support to the regional SME community.

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