76% of SMEs in food, beverage, entertainment across Middle East and Africa are optimistic about future growth as many regional economies gradually ease social restrictions. This is guided by potential for access to training, upskilling staff and digitization, according to a Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index.

Research conducted by Mastercard identified key areas with the greatest potential for growth with almost half of SMEs projecting an increase in revenues in the next 1 year.

For many small businesses, reducing their dependence on cash through digital payments acceptance has played a major factor in being able to receive payments and maintain revenues.

Mastercard offers technology, data-driven insights, consulting and predictive analytics solutions to empower businesses to acquire new customers, enhance customer loyalty and improve operations.

Mastercard has pledged Ksh. 27 billion ($250 million) and committed to connect 50 million MSMEs globally to the digital economy by 2025 using its technology, network, expertise and resources. This is also in support of the company’s goal of building a more sustainable and inclusive digital economy. As part of these efforts, Mastercard is focused on connecting 25 million women entrepreneurs.

“Due to their very nature, restaurants and entertainment venues rely on physical presence for the best experience, and pandemic restrictions have made this incredibly challenging for SMEs in this sector. But we’ve also seen some wonderful creativity, including virtual experiences, online cooking classes, and pay-now-enjoy-later vouchers to support cashflow. Supporting the ecosystem in which they and other SMEs operate, through varied products and services that resolve pain points, is something Mastercard will continue to do,” said Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.

From an operational perspective, concerns for the next year include maintaining current staff levels at 44%, training and upskilling staff at 43%, finding the right talent for new needs 40% and mental and physical wellbeing at 39%.

As consumer trends evolve in a post-pandemic world, businesses have been encouraged to adapt and prepare for the future. Late last year, a Mastercard study showed that 73% of consumers in the Middle East and Africa are shopping more online than they did since the start of the pandemic.

Furthermore, new payments methods are gaining ground and 90% of shoppers would consider making a purchase with an emerging payment technology over the next year. This includes cryptocurrency, biometrics, contactless, QR codes, digital wallets and wearables.