A woman is seen using the Empower app, in May 2017. (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)/

Expotech Introduces Fintech to Palestinians

Economic experts say Palestinian market has great potential for such businesses

The Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA) and the Palestine Telecommunications (Paltel) Company launched the 16th annual Palestine Technology Week with Expotech, a two-day conference in Ramallah beginning November 5.

The main topic of Expotech 2019 is financial technology, fintech, the fast-growing 21st century innovation that relies heavily on technology to improve traditional financial services. The Palestinian banking sector witnessed a significant acceleration in this area after the financial crisis in 2008.

Ishaq Seder, the Palestinian Authority’s communication and information technology minister, affirmed the importance of the event, saying fintech was a key technology that must be developed in the country.

“Again, the private sector precedes the public sector in pursuing new technologies,” Seder told The Media Line. “Fintech will open huge prospects for many working within the Palestinian financial, technology and legal sectors, in addition to other arenas.”

Seder urged Palestinian universities to focus on developing curricula commensurate with the challenges ahead.

Alaa’ Hijazi, Paltel’s head of marketing, said to The Media Line that through its sponsorship of Expotech 2019, the firm was trying to introduce fintech and show how cellular phones could be used to transfer money and make online purchases.

“The companies participating in the conference will introduce the new fintech technologies that they have developed,” he said.

Moreover, Hijazi said, Paltel group, the first telecommunications operator in Palestine, was trying to build the infrastructure to help Palestinian startups and projects introduce their services through cellphone applications, “and thus, we announced the launch of our own fintech app, called Jawwal Pay.”

Expotech’s preparatory committee decided this year to focus mainly on fintech to be in line with the Palestinian Authority government’s orientation as well the direction of the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), and to form a committee that would formulate fintech policies and launch the Financial Inclusion Act.

In addition, it would help prepare technology companies and banks in the private sector to adopt a fintech orientation.

“Expotech this year is of great importance to the financial and banking sectors since its main topic is fintech. We are interested in this new technology in order to move forward with our [financial] services,” Azzam al-Shawa, the head of the PMA, told The Media Line.

To that end, al-Shawa explained, the PMA was adopting a five-year strategy for the establishment and development of fintech in the Palestinian territories.

“We acknowledge the importance of fintech. It will help us in terms of financial inclusion. Palestinian citizens, regardless of where they are, will be receiving financial services, bankable and nonbankable. This conference will exhibit new [Palestinian] ideas and projects on how to start and establish fintech. In the past two year, fintech quickly became popular worldwide,” he said.

Jay Tikam, a top speaker at Expotech and managing director of Vedanvi, a growing fintech company, confirmed to The Media Line that Palestine was a good place to launch such businesses as it has a market that isn’t being tapped by bankers or the current key players.

“Many people have bank accounts, but based on numbers, about 63% of people [here] don’t have access to financial technology, so there is a huge market to tap into,” Tikam clarified.

He explained that in the Palestinian territories, there was room for new markets, which was very different from other parts of the world, where markets were already saturated.

“It’s very hard for fintech to make an impact [in other parts of the world, unlike here],” he added.

Moreover, Niccolo Rescia, the director of economic research at Sine Qua Non, a Paris-based think tank, told The Media Line that there was strong interest in companies coming to invest “due to the kind of enthusiasm and thrilling environment that is here in Palestine.”

The conference us hosting a large group of international experts in key areas of financial technology and related software and services. It included four main sessions highlighting all aspects of fintech.

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