Visa Bullish on Nationwide Growth in Myanmar


S ONLY 0.5 per cent of the population has access to electronic payments so far, Visa Inc, the global payments firm, sees a lot of room for improvement in Myanmar.

Arturo Planell, Visa country manager for Myanmar, said at a press conference last week that the number of Visa cards in the country had increased by 80 per cent last year, and he expected the growth to continue this year.

He declined to reveal the exact number of Visa cards in Myanmar, due to business confidentiality.

“We have seen very strong growth here, and we are very excited about that. There is a lot of demand, as the country opens up. A lot more Myanmar nationals are flying and travelling abroad,” Planell said.

Last year, the value of transactions made by Myanmar cardholders while travelling overseas grew by 54 per cent.

Meanwhile, the value of e-commerce transactions made on international websites expanded by 108 per cent, mostly from sales of air tickets and accommodation. Currently, the Visa cards available in Myanmar are prepaid cards, issued by four local banks: KBZ, CB, Aya and Myanmar Apex Bank.

This year, the number of retailers that accept Visa cards in Myanmar has increased by 49 per cent to approximately 3,500, while the number of ATMs has risen by 39 per cent, growing to about 2,000 across the country.

At the press conference, Planell was proud to report that the number of Visa card transactions made by international tourists visiting Myanmar had increased by 42 per cent so far this year.

Tourists’ card spending has grown by 22 per cent outside of Yangon, compared to total spending growth of 4.8 per cent across the country.

In terms of the current proportion of nationwide sales volume, Yangon constitutes about 75 per cent, he added.

According to Planell, Visa will work with its partners to expand acceptances outside of Yangon, primarily by maximising acceptance in key tourist destinations such as Mandalay, Inle lake, Taunggyi, Ngapali beach and Bagan.

He foresees a pretty high growth rate outside of Yangon.

“We will make sure there are more and more opportunities for people to use our cards outside of Yangon. That will automatically balance the ratio. We are aiming to have more balance in terms of acceptance ratio,” he said.

“As many people are finding new destinations, we need to make sure that we have more acceptances in those locations. Our focus was in Yangon. Now we are making sure that we drive as much acceptance as we can outside of Yangon,” he explained. Although many foreign investors consider Myanmar’s infrastructure as a business obstacle, Planell is optimistic about the situation.

“Infrastructure has actually advanced a lot. If you went back to a few years ago, internet connectivity was a problem. Now, with the big push by three telecom companies here, connectivity is no longer an issue. There is still definitely a lot of room for improvement, but we are very encouraged to see that the infrastructure is moving in the right direction,” he said.

“In terms of technology infrastructure, it has actually come a long way. Connectivity is no longer an issue. The biggest infrastructure [requirement] is capacity. Human capital with proper know-how is now a No.1 constraint,” he told the press. In an effort to help Myanmar with capacity-building, the firm has conducted many seminars and workshops by bringing specialists from Singapore to the country to train the staff of its partner banks.

Visa also plans to promote clients’ financial literacy by educating them about electronic payments. However, Planell acknowledged that it was very hard to change the culture of cash in a cash-dominated society like Myanmar.

“That is going to be a long journey. In Myanmar, for a long time there has been a strong preference for cash. Consumers like to use cash. The whole system is to make cash easy to transact. So, it is going to take some time to change that behaviour to educate consumers about the benefits of electronic payments,” he stressed.

“It will take investment and time. But, that is something we are definitely committed to continuing to drive for,” he added.

Planell believes the demand for electronic payments from both Myanmar citizens and international tourists is on the rise. To him, Myanmar can benefit from expanding access to electronic payments, which bring convenience, transparency and security to both consumers and retailers.


Source: Eleven Myanmar

NB: The best way to find information on this website is to key in your search terms into the Search Box in the top right corner of this web page. E.g. of search terms would be “property research report”, ”condominium law”, "Puma Energy", “MOGE”, “yangon new town”,"MECTEL", "hydropower", etc.