Partnerships that bring complementary services and technologies can enable the growth of super apps in the region, according to the Economist Impact study

  • The second in a two-part series of reports commissioned by Mastercard Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, the paper was compiled by Economist Impact, the research and analysis arm of The Economist Group.
  • The study further reveals important lessons not only for tech companies on their way to becoming super apps, but also for existing players, especially those in the financial services industry.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The digital transformation of business and society has found fertile ground with early promise for the super-app model, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, even as mobile digital platforms continue to offer proprietary and third-party functions under a single brand.

The second in a two-part report series commissioned by Mastercard Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa and produced by Economist Impact, entitled “The Super-App Model in the Middle East and Africa: Partnering with incumbents, leveraging new technologies,” takes a close look at the business model of super apps and the factors shaping their growth.

The report reveals that with digital technology and the easy availability of affordable mobile devices, the market for goods and services has shifted away from the physical world towards mobile devices in consumers’ pockets. Today, businesses deliver a host of services – from carpooling to e-commerce, from money transfers to education – directly through mobile phones, reaching consumers who were previously hard to reach. Today, super apps – apps that combine many functions into a single app – take the proposition even further.

“As the region grapples with the technologies and business models that have transformed global commerce over the past decades, it must also prepare for the next waves of innovation and digitalization, particularly in mobile financial services. “said Ngozi Megwa, Senior Vice President, Digital Partnerships, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.

“Thanks to our digital-first approach, Mastercard is well placed to interconnect players from multiple sectors, such as banks, fintechs, digital giants, etc. Allowing them to capitalize on the opportunities offered by super- apps, providing them with the most innovative technological solutions, platforms and proposals New technologies such as quantum computing, blockchain or open banking will present new challenges and opportunities and bring profound changes to the trajectory of growth of super apps in the region,” Megwa said.

Super-apps challenge existing players who face competition from players outside their industry and complicate the situation for regulators, as these companies no longer fall into well-defined industry categories. In this new digital world, a company that offers ride-sharing services can also offer loans and one that offers groceries can also allow money transfers.

The report goes on to reveal that the growth of aspiring super-app players lies in having a large base of trusted users, which is essential for a successful transition from a single service to a super-app. Consumers who have already been won over by the original service are more likely to adopt a new offering delivered in the same app rather than using a different app which could take time, and this is where partnerships play a role. essential to driving the growth of super apps.

In the region, mobile payment systems typically involve a partnership between super apps and a licensed traditional financial institution. This model presents both benefits and challenges for traditional financial services companies and super-apps in the region. For both, this expands their reach into market segments they otherwise could not serve profitably.

The study pointed out that for non-financial services businesses, it can equip them with the capabilities and critical infrastructure needed to perform money transfers, which would not have been possible otherwise. For the banks, on the other hand, these partnerships allow them to access remote consumers or consumer segments that they had chosen not to serve. These partnerships can also allow banks to experiment with innovative digital offerings without upfront investment or associated risk. Banks can also use these tech companies as a pool of specialized skills that they would find difficult and expensive to bring together on their own.

The report explores the partnerships that have been forged that are propelling the development of super apps and the technological advancements that could shape the next stage of growth. Key findings include:

  • Trust, a large consumer base, and local expertise are key competitive advantages for super apps.
  • A number of super apps choose to partner with other companies, while others go their own way. However, what brings their strategies together is a focus on building a large user base and building trust as a key enabler in ensuring customer loyalty and adoption of new offerings.
  • Superapps and traditional financial institutions need each other and choose to partner.
  • There have been a good number of partnerships between existing businesses and super apps in the Middle East and Africa region. Super apps need access to payment infrastructure that only licensed financial institutions can provide. Likewise, by partnering with super apps, financial institutions can tap into new customer segments.
  • Some banks and financial service providers are taking on fintechs and digital startups, including super apps, at their own game.
  • Since the arrival of mobile banking services fifteen years ago, institutions have been able to develop a hybrid strategy that consists of combining the advantages of a physical branch network with the agility and reach of a mobile-centric offer. When a bank can offer mobile digital services under its own brand, it can compete with digital start-ups on its own terms and retain the primary relationship with its customers.
  • Partnerships that bring complementary services and technologies are key to the emergence of super apps in the Middle East and Africa region.
  • Collaboration is at the heart of developing wide-reaching service platforms that can scale into super-applications. Partnerships reduce operational costs, bringing together the expertise in areas such as payments, financial services and technology innovation that are needed to bring super apps to life.

“Given the importance of getting the right payment component, companies vying for super app status in the region must have a thorough understanding of the existing financial services landscape and the perspectives of existing players in this space. This study sheds light on this question and will enable players in the super apps ecosystem to gain important insights that will contribute to the growth of super apps in the region,” said Walter Pasquarelli, Research Director, Tech & Society, Economist Impact.

In the Middle East and Africa, locally or regionally developed super apps have the advantage of expanding internationally, but a few have chosen to make geographic or local specialization their unique selling point. because they have a full understanding of local cultural norms and preferences. At the same time, the report highlights that companies in the region have many regulatory and operational hurdles to overcome despite the many advantages that apps with a large user base can possess when transitioning to a super app.

Download report here.



The super-application model in the Middle East and Africa: partnership with incumbent operators, exploitation of new technologies is a report written by Economist Impact and supported by Mastercard. This is the second in a two-part report series exploring the rise of super apps in the Middle East and Africa. The first report examined the enabling environment for super apps in the region, from changing consumer behavior to the supporting regulatory framework. It takes a closer look at the business model of super apps and the factors shaping their growth trajectory. The findings of this report are based on a program of in-depth interviews with experts alongside desk research. The following subject matter experts were interviewed:

    • Armstrong Takang, Special Minister (ICT) to the Minister of Finance of Nigeria
    • Adeoye Ojuroye, Chief Financial Officer, Providus Bank
    • Karen S Puah, President of the FinTech Association of Malaysia
    • Nameer Khan, Founding Board Member, MENA FinTech Association
    • Nejoud al Mulaik, Director, FinTech Saudi
    • Reuben Lai, Senior Managing Director, Grab
    • Miguel Rio Tinto, Group Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer, Emirates NBD
    • Sameer Hirjii, Executive Director, Selcom
    • Shadab Tayibi, Chairman, Singapore Fintech Association
    • Tino Waked, Middle East and Africa Manager, Uber

About Mastercard

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