In a move to shift Palestinian society away from its heavy reliance on cash, PalPay, a Bank of Palestine Group company, has inaugurated Mahfazti, its “My Wallet” service, providing a wide range of electronic payment, money transfer, purchase and online shopping options.
Launched on August 6, My Wallet is an integrated payment system in the form of an application for smartphones. It aims to open an abundance of opportunities for hitherto underserved segments of society without the need to open a bank account.
The app lets users pay for purchases and transfer funds from one person to another. It also issues virtual Visa cards that can be used locally and internationally to shop online, pay bills and withdraw cash.
Eyad Qumsye, the head of PalPay, explained to The Media Line that the company was founded in 2010 and has since established a network of some 7,000 electronic sales points in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Since 2010, we have managed to sign contracts with 120 companies, merchants, universities, organizations and service providers covering all Palestinian governorates….,” he said. “We launched this electronic wallet to allow citizens to benefit in their homes from the services we have developed over the past 10 years.”
Qumsye emphasizes that any resident of any Palestinian city, from Jenin in the North to Rafah in the South, will be able to pay rent, university fees and other bills online, even without a bank account. Moreover, the wallet can be used to help open or expand businesses.
“PalPay has also developed the Aswaqi system, which is an online store that allows companies, service providers, merchants, craftsmen and manufacturers, whether in the store or from home, to promote their goods and services through the network,” he said. He adds that it already has about 300,000 users.
“Aswaqi assists the participating business owners and manufacturers to promote, offer and sell their products to a new market segment, which increases their income without additional cost and takes into account the preservation of the rights of the buyer, the seller and the delivery company,” he explained.
Qumsye says the service helps small and medium-sized businesses flourish.
“It will definitely save them time, effort and expenses while safeguarding their rights,” he noted.
Azam al-Shawa, head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, affirmed to The Media Line the importance of electronic payment services in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has required many financial transactions to be conducted remotely.
Shawa emphasizes the importance of such services “especially [for] entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium enterprises and the self-employed,” saying they “facilitate financial transactions and enhance financial inclusion in Palestine.”
Inas al-Shiekh, a resident of Gaza who opened an embroidery business in 2017, says she sells most of her products in the West Bank and finds it helpful.
“I can promote my products for free, send them through a trusted delivery company and, at the same time, guarantee I will receive my money,” Shiekh told The Media Line.
“Previously, I had to find a delivery company and contact a friend in Ramallah to receive the payment, which was a very long and complicated process,” she noted.
Rozan ElKhozondar, a Palestinian entrepreneur who sells custom printed products, says it helps her reach new market segments without the marketing costs.
“One of the problems I face is that the paid advertisements on Facebook are very expensive,” she told The Media Line.
ElKhozondar adds that the program protects her rights as a business-owner.
“Previously, people used to order pieces and then change their mind for one reason or another, and I had to bear the cost,” she explained. “Now, there is a penalty on the buyers if they decide to cancel the purchase.”
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