Mastercard SME Confidence Index: 72% of SMEs in MENA project similar or increased revenue in 2023

September 25, 2023 | Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Future growth will be driven by digitizing businesses, omnichannel payments, and training and upskilling
  • 80% of SMEs in the UAE, 85% in Saudi Arabia, and 88% in Qatar expect revenues to hold steady or grow compared to 2022
  • 92% of SMEs in Egypt see growth potential from easier access to funding
  • More than half of SMEs surveyed in MENA are concerned about the rising cost of doing business, and 46% are unsure about retaining staff


Dubai, United Arab Emirates;  25 September 2023 – From surviving to thriving in the post-COVID world, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are optimistic about 2023 revenue projections. These are the findings of the second edition of the Mastercard Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EEMEA) SME Confidence Index.

The 2021 inaugural SME Confidence Index delved into the impact of the pandemic on SMEs across sectors, products, and services, and how they are embracing a digital future. As a continuation, the second edition of the survey reveals that while SMEs across the EEMEA region are confident about business growth, digitization remains the biggest opportunity.

As companies recover from the pandemic and return to the growth phase, the research shows that 72% of SMEs in MENA project similar or increased revenue in the next 12 months. This trend is the strongest in Qatar with 88% of SMEs expecting revenues to either grow or hold steady, followed by 85% in Saudi Arabia and 80% in the UAE.

SMEs in Saudi Arabia are the most optimistic in MENA about the year ahead, followed by Qatar and the UAE

In MENA, over 7 out of 10 SMEs are confident about business growth in the next 12 months compared to 2022. Leading the region, 93% of SMEs in Saudi Arabia are optimistic about 2023, followed by Qatar at 82% and the UAE at 74%.

The survey highlights top three areas for support required by SMEs in MENA – training and upskilling staff (93%), access to a wider range of financial services (92%) and better telco infrastructure (91%).

Adoption of digital payment solutions is on the rise in MENA, with 85% of consumers in the region having used at least one emerging payment method in the last year. Mastercard works as a trusted partner of governments to enable small businesses everywhere to go digital, driving economic equality and inclusive prosperity. The company has pledged to connect 50 million SMEs worldwide to the digital economy by 2025.  

Other areas of support that SMEs indicated include access to better data and insights, mentoring by industry experts, and access to a wider range of financial services.

Access to omnichannel payment services among top drivers of growth

SMEs in MENA have identified accepting omnichannel digital payments (92%), digitizing business operations (91%), and training and upskilling staff (90%) as the main drivers of growth.

Easy access to funding remains a key factor for growth across MENA – 92% of SMEs in Egypt find access to capital and resources crucial to sustaining the upward trajectory in 2023. The International Finance Corporation (IFC)[1] estimates the value of the total financing gap for SMEs in MENA at $210 to $240 billion.

More than half of SMEs in MENA are unanimous about the rising cost of doing business

As markets navigate an increasingly dynamic economic landscape, SMEs continue to face a multitude of challenges. These include insufficient access to credit (24%), staff retention issues (46%), incline in the cost of goods and services (57%), and the lingering fallout of the pandemic in some countries (64%). Over 53% of SMEs surveyed in MENA are concerned about these factors they feel would contribute to the rising cost of doing business over the next 12 months.

Mastercard leverages its extensive network, state-of-the-art technology, and global partnerships to help SMEs to adapt to changing commercial environments and new spending patterns. The company works with governments and the private sector to build synergies that advance financial inclusion, and motivates consumers and merchants to support small businesses.

[1] IFC report:

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