Raast Aims to Create Pakistan's Unified Digital Payments Infrastructure

Pakistan's central bankers have taken the plunge into the world of digital payments with their own offering: Raast. It aims to create an instant low-cost payment system that can seamlessly and securely connect government entities, a variety of banks and State Bank authorized private payment processors like 1Link and NIFT which may choose to take advantage of it.  Currency and coins in circulation account for about 43% of Pakistan's total money supply. The introduction of Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion. It will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. 

Raast Digital Payment System. Source: State Bank of Pakistan

Raast Digital Payments:

Raast is a system of digital payment infrastructure. It is essentially a pipe that is intended to connect government and financial institutions with consumers and merchants with each other to process payments instantly at very low cost.  

Raast will be boosted by Pakistan government's decision to use it to pay salaries, pensions and pay welfare recipients under Benazir Income Support and Ehsaas Emergency Cash programs. 


It has been developed in-house by the State Bank of Pakistan  in collaboration with Karandaaz, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and supported by the World Bank, the British government and the United Nations.
Private Payment Apps:
Several private payment apps, including EasyPaisa and JazzCash, are already operating in Pakistan. These apps lack interoperability with each other. Each operates in its own silo. Neither of these offer links to financial institutions and government entities. 
There are also several EMIs (Electronic Money institutions) in Pakistan. These include NayaPay, SadaPay and Finja.  EMIs are not banks, but can store deposits. These are not tied to any banks or telcos. They could all use back-end plumbing offered by Raast. 
Private Payment Processors:
1Link and NIFT payment and switch networks, supported by different groups of Pakistani financial institutions, currently process the bulk of credit/debit card and ATM transactions as well as e-payments in Pakistan. State Bank's Raast promises to be cheaper and faster than these networks,. Raast also offers processing of e-payments by government entities. 
Raast Future Roadmap:

State Bank of Pakistan  intends to demonstrate Raast's usefulness by first processing government payments to individuals, including government employees and Ehsaas welfare beneficiaries, before expanding it for business applications.  SBP’s plan is to start person-to-person (P2P) payments in Q3/2021 and then bring merchants on board by Q1/2022. 

Summary:
State Bank of Pakistan's launch of Raast digital payment infrastructure represents a great leap forward for the use of financial technology (FinTech) and financial inclusion in the  country.  It will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion.  Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize payment systems and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on February 11, 2021 at 10:21am

SBP, after approval of the Federal Government, has introduced three new categories of investment abroad under its revised policy governing equity investment abroad and banks have been authorized to allow remittances under newly introduced categories.

https://propakistani.pk/2021/02/10/sbp-modernizes-foreign-exchange-...


1. Establishment of Holding Company abroad by residents for raising capital from abroad: Pakistan’s investment regime is quite liberal that allows full freedom to repatriate profit, dividend, and capital. However, some international investors prefer to invest indirectly through a holding company established abroad specially in the Fintech and Startup firms. SBP’s revised policy will enable the Pakistani Fintech and startup companies to channelize foreign direct investment in the country by establishing a holding company abroad against remittance of up to USD 10,000 and subsequent swapping of shares to mirror the shareholding of a local company in the holding company.

2. Establishment of subsidiary/branch office abroad by export-oriented companies/firms for promoting exports: The policy will enable the export-oriented companies to establish subsidiary/branch office abroad against remittance of 10 percent of their average annual export earnings of last three calendar years, or USD 100,000 whichever is higher. This will facilitate exploring new and non-traditional markets and capturing more export orders, as international buyers prefer dealing with subsidiaries/representative offices of foreign companies present in their country. Accordingly, the proposed policy would help in the growth of export-oriented companies and boost the exports of the country.


3. Investment abroad by Resident Individuals: The policy will allow the Resident Individuals of Pakistan to acquire an equity stake in international firms through share option plans or investment in listed securities subject to observance of the annual ceiling of foreign exchange defined in the policy. In the case of sweat equity, a person can acquire up to twenty percent shareholding in a foreign company. These policy provisions will provide opportunities to individuals to earn foreign exchange for the country in the form of repatriation of dividend/ capital gains to Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on Sunday

#Unilever’s #Pakistan #Delivery Service Partner blueEX Plans #IPO on #KSE to Expand Network. #Karachi-based courier service plans to sell new shares equal to 25% of the company within the next two months. #ecommerce #economy #tech https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-19/unilever-s-pakis...

Universal Network System Ltd., a Pakistan courier service that counts the local units of Unilever Plc and Nestle SA as clients, is planning an initial public offering to expand its network and bolster its technology backbone.

The Karachi-based company, which operates the blueEX courier service, plans to sell new shares equal to 25% of the company within the next two months, said Chief Executive Officer Imran Baxamoosa. He didn’t disclose financial details.

The initial share sale will make it the first logistics company to list in Pakistan and lure investors to a business that’s crucial for the nation’s booming e-commerce industry, according to Topline Securities Pakistan Ltd., financial adviser for the IPO.

“There is some crazy exponential growth that is being foreseen right now,” Baxamoosa said in a phone interview. “We have grown organically so far but now it’s about time that we get aggressive.”


The courier company that started by handling cargo in 2005 entered the e-commerce business six years later by going door-to-door and convincing companies to start online sales. It even made websites, back-end software and set up a call center for its clients.

It now has about 1,000 employees and over 350 vehicles. The company will use the proceeds to boost its network fourfold. It will also add servers and other IT equipment.

The nation’s e-commerce industry is in its infancy but is growing rapidly as internet and smartphone penetration jump, according to Ruchir Desai, fund manager at Hong Kong-based Asia Frontier Capital Ltd. The pandemic could be a big trigger for the market, he said.

The company handled 2.1 million shipments and 4.5 billion rupees in cash deliveries in the year ended June. It has grown annually by about 70% on average since 2012. The company forecasts revenue will rise more than three times to 4.3 billion rupees in fiscal 2023, according to Baxamoosa.

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