Why Bitcoin in The Middle East?
A lot of Bitcoin’s benefits discussed in Why Should I Use Bitcoin? apply anywhere around the world. More specifically, Bitcoin holds many promising and impactful applications for the Middle East. Here are a few of them:
Banking the Unbanked
The Middle East, unfortunately, ranks among the lowest in terms of access to financial services. However it also has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world, and Bitcoin has the potential to bring financial services to anyone with a phone. According to the World Bank, as little as 20% of the adult population have access to bank accounts or basic financials services—saving, borrowing, or transferring money. In contrast, mobile phone penetration in MENA is 110%—including those with multiple subscriptions. Using Bitcoin, anyone with a cellphone or internet connection can send, receive, and store money. As soon as mobile-based Bitcoin services are robust enough, every person in the MENA region will have instant access to easy and affordable financial services.
Boosting the e-Commerce Industry
For Middle East (ME) e-commerce companies accepting payments online is costly and cumbersome. Most people in the Middle East don’t have credit cards meaning most (up to 85%) of online purchases are paid Cash-on-Delivery. Transferring cash from the shopper’s home to the merchant is not only expensive, but it can mean long delays between when the product is shipped and the merchant finally gets paid. Even when a shopper is able to pay with a credit card, PayPal, or other online payment, the fees to the merchant are often higher than those found in Europe or the US. (sometimes more than twice as high). Bitcoin can change all this. As instant, online “cash” Bitcoin does away with the costs and delays of credit cards and Cash-on-Delivery. Cheap, convenient online payments hold the promise of accelerating the growth of the region’s e-commerce industry.