The economy and society are undergoing profound changes as a result of digitalisation. It fuels entrepreneurial innovation, regional economic growth, and productivity. Additionally, it has consequences for economic growth, the labour market, and political engagement. And it imposes new educational and training requirements – not just in the realm of information and communication technologies.
Today, as the world prepares for 5G technology, the IT think tanks in Pakistan must seriously consider efficient ways to catch up with the world and maximise economic benefits.
Despite considerable expansions of ICT access prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the ICT availability and use remained far from universal. The COVID-19 crisis expedited advanced economies’ digitalisation and made catching up more difficult for nations or areas trailing before. We must explore the current state of digitisation in Pakistan, its economic impact, and how should we pave the way for future technologies.
Digitisation is regarded as the fourth industrial revolution. However, in Pakistan’s case, we may not be at par with the world. The biggest challenge that the country faces is the overall readiness to completely make use of digitisation. According to the World Bank 5G readiness plan, the Government of Pakistan (aligned with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) must devise a strategy to attract multinational organizations to invest in a digital transformation infrastructure. There remain multifaceted challenges to Pakistan’s adaption of 5G technology. Despite a huge growth potential, we see that the Foreign Direct Investment in the telecommunication sector has dropped from a staggering US$763 million in the FY 2019-20 to a meagre US$202 in the FY 2020-1. The primary reason for this drastic drop in investment is the poor adaptability of technology amongst the population.
The economic contribution of the mobile industry in Pakistan might reach $24 billion by 2023, accounting for 6.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
5G technology offers endless economic and industrial benefits. Up to $3.5 trillion in revenue is expected to be generated by the 5G value chain by 2035, with up to 22 million employment being supported.
The Global GDP growth will increase by $3 trillion cumulatively between 2020 and 2035, according to projections based on 5G deployment. By 2035, 5G-related services, such as mission-critical services, increased mobile broadband, and enormous IoT improvements, would be worth over $12 trillion, according to estimates. Retail, healthcare, education, transportation, and entertainment are among the areas projected to benefit from 5G technology.
According to the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA), the country has over 98 million 3G/4G subscribers or 43.51 per cent penetration. Despite network advancements such as the addition of new 4G towers, over 90 per cent of mobile devices constructed or manufactured in the country are only compatible with 2G technology. At the moment, roughly 53 per cent of all SIM subscribers utilize 2G devices. The experts believe that for a successful transition to the 5G technology, at least 60 per cent of the population must be connected to the 4G technology.
The broadband penetration is only about 46.4 per cent in Pakistan, which must be expanded drastically to ensure economic benefits. Amongst many challenges that hinder the technology adaption in Pakistan are, “the lack of large contiguous blocks of the affordable spectrum”, “broader access to fibre backhaul” and “widespread availability of affordable 5G smartphones and other devices.”
Pakistan’s IMT spectrum management policy has been identified as the primary impediment to the sector investing fully in 4G development and sector competitiveness.
The current government does seem to have a good plan of action to boost the 5G technology in the country – some of which include:
o Tax rebate, tax rationalization, and elimination of duty tariff on import of all components of high end 4G and 5G devices;
o Duty-free IMT/5G network-ready equipment imports to facilitate 5G readiness and mobile broadband to support wider mobile broadband and 5G networks deployment;
o Special incentives for global Telecom equipment vendors to establish assembly and production lines in Pakistan to promote local assembly of IMT/5G and IoT ecosystem devices including chipsets, and
o Licensee shall establish at least one 5G Innovation and test centre/lab to scale up 5G ecosystem for start-ups and entrepreneurship activities at their own cost for citizens.
All these are indeed solid items on the action list but the Mobile Economy Asia Pacific Report 2021 projected, “Pakistan will be at the lowest end in terms of smartphone users as well the 5G coverage among the selected countries of Asia Pacific region by 2025.” According to the GSMA estimate, the economic contribution of the mobile industry in Pakistan might reach $24 billion by 2023, accounting for 6.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. The same report estimates, smartphones will account for over 80 per cent of all connections in the Asia Pacific by 2025, up from 68 per cent in 2020. However, Pakistan was near the tail-end of the list of 12 major countries, just above Bangladesh, and it is expected that neither of these two countries will meet the 80 per cent target in the near future.
The 5G technology will be a game-changer for Pakistan. The Small and Medium Industries could benefit greatly by adopting online selling techniques, reaching global markets, and learning from international best practices, supply chain, and business operation strategies. Pakistan’s education and medicine industry is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the 5G technology with its low latency and widespread applications, which can help overcome the poor student-teacher ratio that currently stands at 29 to one.
The truth is that it is not as easy as it may seem to the officials, from 2017 through 2035, the world will need to invest $3.7 trillion, or 4.1 per cent of global annual GDP per year, on infrastructure to overcome existing gaps. Of this amount, 54 per cent will go towards meeting the needs of Asian countries. Therefore, experts in Pakistan must carefully consider their approach to resolving the challenges in 5G technology and adopting a single national strategy.
Fintech NayaPay Secures $13M As It Rolls Out Digital Payments In Pakistan
NayaPay, a Pakistan-based fintech platform, has raised $13 million in one of the largest seed rounds in South Asia. Bringing together a diverse mix of leading global institutional and angel investors, the round was led by Zayn Capital, global fund manager MSA Novo and early-stage VC Graph Ventures from Silicon Valley.
Singapore-based Saison Capital, Waleed Saigol’s Maple Leaf Capital, and Warren Hogarth, CEO Empower Finance, also participated in the round, alongside a major investment from the sponsors of the Lakson Group – a Pakistani conglomerate with interests in media, telecom, industrials, financial services as well as controlling stake in Colgate-Palmolive Pakistan and McDonald’s Pakistan.
NayaPay is the first fintech of its kind in Pakistan having recently secured the first E-Money Institution license from the central bank, State Bank of Pakistan. It is on a mission to make financial services simpler and accessible to millions of Pakistani users. NayaPay aims to be at the forefront in the digitization of Pakistan with its two-sided platform for the underbanked.
Pakistan presents a significant market opportunity for NayaPay, where over 50 million adults are unbanked and only 33% of women have a bank account. With 70% of the population under 35 years old, there is a significant mobile-first generation.
Almost $4tn payments are made each year but only 1% of these are made digitally currently. On the merchant side, the majority of SMBs in Pakistan are unregistered, have traditionally dealt primarily in cash, and have very limited access to business banking.
The fintech has launched its chat-led super app targeted primarily at students and freelancers, and is building a SaaS-based platform called NayaPay Arc offering universal payment acceptance and financial management tools for SMBs.
NayaPay’s platform strategy will harness the network effects between consumers and merchants, as seen in platforms such as Square Cash/Square, WeChat Pay, AliPay, and Venmo in their native markets.
NayaPay CEO and Founder, Danish A. Lakhani, commented, “NayaPay is empowering young Pakistani adults starting their financial journey, from students stepping into adulthood to freelancers and entrepreneurs taking an active role in managing their finances. In many senses, it’s a coming-of-age moment for many and our goal is to continue to innovate and build functionality to become a part of their daily lives, for the rest of their lives.”
Danish A. Lakhani added, “Micro, small and medium businesses make up 90% of the merchant base in Pakistan, and yet they are underserved when it comes to access to basic financial services. NayaPay Arc will provide universal payments acceptance and a range of business financial management tools to empower entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
“The tools are intended to give business owners visibility of their cash flows, pay suppliers and grow sales. Our goal is to enable them to focus on growth while we take care of the rest. By helping small businesses harness the power of technology, we believe we can transform the Pakistani economy,” he added.
Faisal Aftab, Managing Partner and Co-Founder at Zayn Capital Frontier, said, “We are very bullish on fintech in Pakistan. While just beginning to emerge, Pakistani fintechs have the advantage of learning from peers and placing better informed strategic bets.”
“We were impressed by the completeness of the vision of the founding team at NayaPay, and their differentiated platform-based strategy — first focused on servicing the needs of underbanked consumers and SMBs with specific use cases and building out from there. With a proven ability to execute on the ground, the founder has an impressive track record of building and scaling businesses in Pakistan, including the country’s largest fiber broadband service (StormFiber),” he added.ADVERTISEMENT
Omar Siddiqui, General Partner at Graph Ventures, added, “We are excited to partner with Danish and the NayaPay team as they scale their leading digital payments platform for consumers and merchants in Pakistan. We have been early-stage investors in 300+ companies over the past decade in the United States, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, and we are excited to see the mobile and fintech technology trends that have empowered consumers in these markets also emerge in Pakistan.”
“NayaPay already offers the most robust solution for consumers to access next-generation financial conveniences in Pakistan, and we look forward to working with the team as they roll out new products and grow their consumer base,” he further said.
Danish A. Lakhani concluded: “Customer trust is a key pillar of any platform’s success. At NayaPay, we are consumed by our obsession to simplify the lives of both consumers and merchants with our app and NayaPay Arc while supporting our customers with robust and scalable technology and fanatic customer service. We are also partnering with leading banks to provide additional value and convenience to our mutual customers, eventually leading to a full digital banking experience.”
PM for use of modern technology to bring country’s population into formal economy
Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday while terming the 220 million population of the country as ‘the biggest human resource and asset’ underlined the need of bringing all into the formal economy through use of modern technology and gadgets.
The prime minister was addressing the launching ceremony of “Raast”, Pakistan’s instant digital payment system, an initiative of the State Bank of Pakistan. The initiative would enable person to person transactions and facilitate free digital banking.
The prime minister observed that unless they utilized the modern technological revolution to bring the whole population into the loop of formal economy, this huge asset would, otherwise, become a burden.
Appreciating the efforts of SBP to facilitate people over the banking system, he said the common man often hesitated in visiting the banks, stressing that steps at ‘bottom up’ would bring the commoners into formal economy by easing their modes of payments and transactions through opening of accounts via Raast.
The prime minister said the performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government would be judged in the year 2023 on the basis of its measures to reduce poverty.The UNDP report had placed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the only province in the country where the PTI’s government during its first term had successfully reduced poverty, he added.
The prime minister said due to such achievement, the people in KPK voted for the PTI in the 2018 elections.He further opined that it would be a great success of his government to lift the people out of poverty. The Covid pandemic had affected the world population alike but the government in Pakistan took measures to save its people from the economic meltdown and inflation, he added.
The prime minister noted that saving rates and tax-GDP ratio was low in Pakistan when compared with the rest of the world and it could be increased by making technological advances and by fine tuning the formal economy.
For increasing tax revenue, he said, usage of technology was being ensured by the Federal Board of Revenue as out of 220 million population, only 2 million were paying taxes.
The prime minister said that they had collected data of those people who were living a luxurious life but not paying any taxes.
Referring to 9 million overseas Pakistanis as valuable assets for the country, the prime minister suggested establishment of a cell to further facilitate them in sending their remittances home.
He said their remittances had helped in supplementing the country’s foreign reserves.
The prime minister stressed that they must make efforts to ensure direct financial support to the lower segments of society through use of modern technology and cited the rolling out of Ehsaas Ration Programme in this regard.Speaking on the occasion, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Reza Baqir said that ‘Raast’ would bring revolution in the banking payment and transaction modes and it was part of different initiatives launched by the SBP under its digitization programme.
The SBP governor explained that the initiative had four main characteristics including opening of fast payment account, free of cost transactions, the easier way of person to person payments and availability of all banking channels.
Reza Baqir said in previous year, $500 billion e-banking transactions were made which had been more than the country’s $370 billion GDP, witnessing 30 per cent growth rate.About 190 people in the country had mobile phones and 80 million people had bank accounts, so there was a need to facilitate those who had no cell phone links with their banking accounts or have no accounts at all.
He said due to the government’s initiative to facilitate and support the lower and middle sections of society, including housing finance, about Rs131 billion worth loans had been approved by the banks.
Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin suggested that the government’s certain initiatives like Kamyab Jawan, Kamyab Pakistan and Ehsaas ration programmes could be linked with this initiative.He said the government was taking all measures to protect the lower and middle classes from the effects of inflation and in this regard, they would unveil a few new pogrammes in the next few weeks.
Karachi-based digital bookkeeping startup, CreditBook raises $1.5 million in seed funding
The Karachi-based digital bookkeeping startup CreditBook, which is trying to ensure that tracking of transactions goes digital, has announced that it has raised US$1.5 million in seed funding from international and local investors.
Key investors included Pakistan’s BitRate Venture Capital, VentureSouq from the United Arab Emirates, US-based Better Tomorrow Ventures, Ratio Ventures, Quiet Capital, Toy Ventures, and i2i Ventures.
Established in June 2020 by Hasib Malik, Iman Jamall, and Hisham Adamjee, CreditBook strives to help microentrepreneurs digitalize and track their transactions.
CreditBook aims to utilize the funding to scale its user base and diversify its product offerings. As indicated by the startup, its registered client base grew 5x in the last six months to reach 500,000.
“Before the launch in June 2020, we had planned to use a mix of digital marketing and offline acquisition. But with lockdown restrictions, we pivoted to a purely digital strategy. We were surprised when we saw thousands of users come onto the platform in the first month with less than $1,000 in total spend,” Malik told Tech in Asia. Via TechinAsia
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