August 3rd, 2009
VISA Brings Electronic Banking to Iraq
The Media Line Staff
Locals and foreigners will soon be able to use VISA credit cards in shops all over Iraq following the singing of an agreement between the company and 13 Iraqi banks.
The Bank of Baghdad, which won the right to issue the VISA cards, hopes to see a dramatic boost in the acceptance of VISA cards in Iraqi bank machines and shops. The move is set to provide a wider network of financial services available to residents or visitors holding foreign-issued VISA cards.
"We are expecting the issuance of around five thousand debit cards and one thousand credit cards," Elyas Nasser, a spokesperson for Bank of Baghdad, told The Media Line referring to expectations for the first year. "That's being conservative, you never know what will happen."
Bank of Baghdad is one of the largest private commercial banks in Iraq, with over 25 branches across the country.
"We have previous experience with MasterCard, having already issued about 1000 credit cards with the MasterCard logo now is in use in Iraq," Nasser said.
"We approached VISA and submitted all of the requirements such as financial statements and balance sheets and with the financial standing of the bank we were able to satisfy all the requirements of VISA International" Nasser added, explaining how the deal came about. The move to electronic banking is being guided by Al Amwal, a joint venture between the Iraqi Ministry of Trade and the National Bank, which aims to connect the Iraqi banking sector with the global market. While violence still plagues the lives of Iraqis the security situation has been steadily improving, as evidenced by the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraqi cities in late June.
Last month the Iraqi government was able to hold an auction in which foreign oil companies could bid for licenses to drill for oil in Iraq, something that would not have been possible two years ago.
Iraqi citizens have seen a dramatic increase in their annual wages, according to the government, from $700 to $4,000.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has aggressively pitched Iraq as a promising international market with much to offer in terms of infrastructure and business.