A group of six banks are working together to establish a B2B electronic marketplace for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The banks are National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), Egypt’s Commercial International Bank (Egypt – CIB), National Bank of Dubai, Saudi American Bank (Samba), Ammanbased Arab Bank and the UAE operation of Citibank.

One of the major problems faced by B2B markets already established is that buyers and sellers meet in the e-market but conduct transactions offline, says Simon Clements, NBK’s general manager for e-business. Our platform will provide immediate access to the full range of financial services which will facilitate online transactions.

The site, which is yet to be named, will also benefit from the bank’s involved introducing it to their customers. All the participating banks bring strong corporate relationships to the market, says Clements.

And this will both support the market and accelerate the process through which critical mass will be reached.

Although the six founding banks will provide the initial capital for the project, which is expected to go live in the first quarter of next year, it is expected that other financial institutions in other MENA markets will participate. The aim is to have a leading bank from each country in the region, says Clements.

They will take equity positions, but the founding banks will collectively maintain a controlling stake.

KPMG Consulting has been selected to provide business and technical advice for the project.