GFG powers payments in the Middle East

Phase one will be rolled out in August, followed by a second phase that will add enhanced services

New Zealand payment systems vendor GFG Group is about to roll out a multi-million-dollar full-service mobile payment system for Etisalat, the largest telco in the Middle East.

“It’s a very important deal because of the region,” says GFG CEO Grant Halverson. “There are three prime markets: the emerging markets, such as Mongolia and Angola; the middle market, which includes the Middle East; and the developed market, which has been very slow to move into mobile payments because of the reluctance of the banks and telcos to get together.”

The statistics are compelling. He says there are 2.5 billion individual handset users in the world but just 90 million of these are using their phones to make sophisticated payments. “We’ve got 25 million of those consumers using our software. The potential is great.”

The contract with Etisalat, which has entered into agreements with all the major banks in the region, was signed 18 months ago and the system is now in final testing. Phase one will be rolled out in August, followed by a second phase that will add enhanced services.

“Mobile products are very complex, hence the lengthy time to roll-out,” Halverson says. “There are a lot of interface requirements and local variations, but that’s true of any financial system.”

All the development work has been done in New Zealand but the scoping was done in Dubai where GFG has an almost-permanent team on the ground. It has also signed up a local distributor. Etisalat has sent its people to New Zealand as the project has developed.

GFG also has projects in Europe, Canada, the Philippines and with Vodafone in New Zealand. The company was founded in Wellington in 1990 by several former banking executives.

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