Security as a Strategy
With the shift to digital payments reshaping the threat landscape in CEMEA, efforts in Kenya, UAE, Morocco and Pakistan as well as in many other countries, show that industry and government working together holds the route to security – and educating the consumer is key to this effort.
Across the Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region, as has been seen around the world, the pandemic triggered an acceleration in the shift towards digital payments. Mobile money, for example, has experienced rapid growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with $697.7bn worth of mobile money transactions made in 20211. This has been driven by improved access to technology, difficulties accessing traditional financial services and an increase in contactless payments related to the pandemic.
Accelerated eCommerce in CEMEA
SSA is one of the newer regions in the eCommerce landscape, that is changing, led by markets such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. A survey by Visa found 59% to 81% of consumers in these three countries had attempted online shopping for the first time for groceries, pharmaceuticals or food delivery services2 and, crucially, consumer spending on digital channels in SSA remained elevated even once governments lifted restrictions – emerging as 1.8 times higher as a share of total consumer spending in the post-lockdown period3. Macroeconomic and demographic fundamentals, such as a projected near-term rise in household incomes as well as greater technological adoption and young, growing populations, are set to support continued eCommerce growth across SSA.
Meanwhile, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, digital payments are forecasted to see a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% between 2020 and 20254. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), online shopping transactions have almost doubled, while over 60% of consumers report high levels of confidence in them5.
This rapid change has brought benefits – but also new threats to the payments ecosystem. Addressing this is a growing priority for the region’s governments, from the launch of the UAE’s National Cybersecurity Strategy 20196; to the establishment of the National Cybersecurity Authority in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in 20177; to Kuwait’s current National Cybersecurity Strategy to promote safe cyberspace usage8.
In SSA, where Interpol recently flagged “the need for a change in the approach to cybercrime within Africa as a region that is embracing digital transformation”9 the Central Bank of Kenya’s National Payments Strategy 2022-2025 to achieve a secure and collaborative payments system, flags that “ensuring that existing and new users are adequately protected will be a core focus … recognizing that threats keep shifting constantly”10.
In tandem, Visa’s commitment to security – seven cents for every $100 transacted on its network – has kept fraud at historic lows, while maintaining “always-on” network reliability11. Across Visa’s network in CEMEA, issuing card-not-present (CNP) fraud rate fell 24% last year compared to 202012. Visa believes security is a collective effort and continues to work with its partners and other stakeholders in the payments ecosystem as a strong proponent of consumer education.
Lessons from Kenya
Efforts in Kenya demonstrate just how this goal can best be achieved. As much as 90% of African businesses operate without the necessary cybersecurity protocols in place13 , resulting in cybercrime reducing GDP within Africa by more than 10% in 202114. As Aida Diarra, Senior Vice President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, Visa, says: “Digital payments have become ever more important to economic progress. As such, there is an ever-greater imperative to maintain and enhance the security of our network, and the money movement ecosystem more broadly.”
To support this, Visa partnered with the Central Bank of Kenya to host the Payments Industry Cybersecurity Summit in March this year, bringing together 400-plus in-person and virtual attendees to discuss the changing threat landscape, and recognize the increased need for industry players to raise awareness and share enhanced security strategies.
In addition to promoting knowledge-sharing within the sector, Visa has spoken to consumers directly through its support of the Kaa Chonjo! (Be Alert!) campaign, a bi-annual initiative by the Kenya Bankers Association. This month-long campaign in May 2021 worked to raise public awareness on card, mobile and online safety. “Consumer education plays a central role in addressing emerging security challenges,” says Diarra.
Insights from the MENA region
Complementing the targeted activity in markets such as Kenya and the UAE, Visa’s annual Stay Secure campaign will launch in June for its seventh year to promote safe digital payments habits across the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, and Pakistan and with the addition of Qatar this year. In line with its collaborative approach, Visa is partnering with government and industry stakeholders – including, software company HPS in Morocco, the Kuwait Banking Association, Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism Development and Dubai Police in the UAE.
As in previous years, the 2022 Stay Secure campaign involves listening to the Voice of the Consumer through surveys to obtain the latest insights. “What’s different this year,” explains Charles Lobo, Senior Vice President and Regional Risk Officer for CEMEA, “is the survey looks at consumer attitudes towards emerging payment trends like buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) and Digital Currencies. Every year, we update our social media assets based on the latest learnings, to ensure we are creating and providing content that is not only informative but also engaging.” In the process, the campaign empowers consumers as the ‘first line of defense’ against fraud. This in turn raises consumer awareness and confidence whenever and wherever they use their Visa credentials to pay.
As Lobo says: “It is critical that Visa and industry partners continue to educate consumers, so that they can confidently use digital payments and reap the benefits it brings to themselves, businesses, communities and economies across the globe.”
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1-Mobile Money in Africa - Statistics & Facts, Arne von See, Statista, 7 February 2022
2- Visa COVID-19 Impact Tracker, 6,614 consumer interviews and 1,583 merchants across 7 key CEMEA markets
3- Visa Business and Economic Insights, VisaNet. Value of CNP/total transactions, June 2020
4- https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/07/30/2070068/0/en/MENA-Digital-Payments-Markets- 2020-2025-and-the-Post-Pandemic-Industry-Scenario-of-COVID-19.html
9- African Cyberthreat Assessment Report 2021, Interpol interpol.int/en/News-and-Events/News/2021/INTERPOL-report-identifies-top-cyberthreats-in-Africa
12- TC40 reports, VisaNet + Collections Only data as of 30 May 2022
13- CGTN, Rights group launches tool to stem cybercrime in Africa, Odonkor, A, 27 October 2020. Available at: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-10-27/Unveiling-the-cost-of-cybercrime-in-AfricaUVhmu1PJeM/index.html
14- Physorg, Rights group launches tool to stem cybercrime in Africa. Available at: [https://phys.org/news/2021- 05-rights-group-tool-stem-cybercrime.html]