The Saudi Arabian, Communications, Space, and Technology Commission  has extended the registration period for the Emerging Technologies Regulatory Sandbox to March 31, 2024. The Emerging Technologies regulatory sandbox is open for technologies such as Blockchain, IoT, and cloud computing, space technology, AR/VR/XR and 3D printing.

This decision supports the nation’s commitment to innovation and technological advancements, offering entrepreneurs and innovators the opportunity to experiment with cutting-edge products, solutions, and business models within a flexible regulatory framework.

By allowing additional time for registrations, the CST is inviting a broader spectrum of innovators to leverage this platform, thereby enhancing inclusivity and diversity in the market. This initiative is part of a broader effort to foster a conducive environment for launching innovative business models, solutions, or services, with the ultimate aim of supporting entrepreneurs and innovators in bringing their visions to life.

The commission’s recent collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the announcement of the winners of the Internet of Things Challenge 2023 are prime examples of its active involvement in nurturing talent and encouraging technological innovation.

This comes at the heel of the signing of the Deep tech Venture Studio between The Hashgraph Association and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment.

All this is a reflection of the Kingdom’s aim to attract more emerging tech startups and companies to the country.

UAE based DMCC ( Dubai Multi Commodities Center) has partnered with the Dubai-based artificial intelligence firm Qx Lab AI as it gears up to launch the DMCC AI Center later this year.

Through its ‘Ask Qx’ platform, Qx Lab AI offers generative AI capabilities that can be integrated into services such as online chat functions or used by businesses and individuals to enhance productivity.

Ask QX’s unique neural architecture offers unprecedented scalability for the product, providing a digital infrastructure that can benefit firms by reducing overall computational power costs, building up platform security, and creating a protective shield against potential data breaches.

With this groundbreaking technology, QX Lab AI aims to become the first AGI company in the world to access and leverage 372 billion parameters.

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, DMCC said: “In a short space of time AI has emerged as the single biggest force reshaping the way we do business – and we have barely scratched the surface of its potential. As we prepare for the imminent launch of DMCC’s AI Center, I am delighted to be partnering with Qx Lab AI whose unique generative AI platform and revolutionary neural architecture will provide DMCC and its members with unprecedented opportunities to enhance efficiency, productivity, and platform security at scale. This is just one example of the innovations we are pioneering from DMCC, reinforcing Dubai’s status as one of the world’s leading technology and AI hubs for years to come.”

Tilakraj Parmar, Co-Founder and CEO, QX Lab AI, added: “The significant amount of money invested globally in AI research and deployment is just the start of a seismic shift in the way we all operate – both professionally and personally. We are glad to bring our AI capabilities to DMCC and its 24,000 member companies as we position Dubai at the forefront of AI research and deployment.”

Today the DMCC Crypto Centre is home to over 600 Web3 firms, making it the largest concentration of crypto and blockchain companies in the region. Since its launch in 2023, the DMCC Gaming Centre has welcomed over 100 gaming companies, from developers and publishers to esports teams and software engineers, positioning Dubai as a hub for the immersive form of entertainment.

In 2023 DMCC Crypto Center had announced it had 500 crypto and blockchain companies in the center. Since then DMCC crypto center has signed partnership agreements with Solana and others.

The Hashgraph Association (THA), the Swiss-based organization at the forefront of global Blockchain digital enablement, has during the Swiss Economic Mission to Saudi Arabia in the presence of the Swiss Federal Councillor, Guy Parmelin,signed a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) to launch a “DeepTech Venture Studio” in Riyadh worth $250M USD over five years (2024-2028).

As part of the Swiss Economic Delegation traveling to Saudi Arabia under the patronage of Guy Parmelin, Head of the Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), The Hashgraph Association, which fosters the Hedera Blockchain ecosystem, will launch a custom-designed DeepTech Venture Studio to enable local Saudi companies, as well as international portfolio companies seeking to establish operations in the Kingdom, to develop innovative solutions, leveraging deep tech such as AI, DLT, Robotics, IoT, VR, and Quantum Computing.

Dr. Munirah Alaboudi, General Manager, Human Capital & Innovation at the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia, stated, “The Ministry of Investment welcomes the launch of a DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh by The Hashgraph Association. With human capital and innovation at the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030, we look forward to the empowerment of entrepreneurship for a vibrant society in Saudi Arabia.”

The DeepTech Venture Studio, which aims to onboard and empower over 500 companies during the five-year program, will receive dedicated support from the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia through the facilitation of entrepreneurial licenses and the entrance of companies under Saudi laws and regulations, including connecting with key government stakeholders, strategic partners, and investors. With an investment commitment of $50M USD, THA will be working closely with MISA to onboard other co-investors to participate in this global deep-tech venture-building studio.

Kamal Youssefi, President of The Hashgraph Association, adds, “We are delighted to sign this major strategic partnership with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia. We are committed to investing in a digital future through our DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh that will positively contribute to the three pillars of Vision 2030 and foster a thriving digital economy in Saudi Arabia.”

The DeepTech Venture Studio, which will provide technical engineering, training and certification, project delivery, product development, business strategy, commercialization, marketing, legal and regulatory compliance, and venture capital investments – including IPO listing support on the Saudi Exchange (“Tadāwul”) – will be managed by The Hashgraph Group (THG). THG is the service delivery organization of The Hashgraph Association that currently oversees the delivery of the Hashgraph Innovation Program, a professional training and innovation program launched out of Canton Schwyz worth $165M USD over five years (2022-2026). The program is focused on enabling startups, enterprises, and government institutions to develop enterprise-grade solutions and decentralized applications on the Hedera DLT/ Blockchain network. The partnership will also include a cross-border “Entrepreneurship Exchange Program” to facilitate knowledge-sharing and the exchange of entrepreneurial, engineering, and management experience.

Urs Durrer – Head of Office for Economy, Canton Schwyz, said: “We welcome this strategic partnership between THA and MISA to launch a DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh, fostering knowledge-sharing and technology innovation through a Swiss-Saudi entrepreneurship exchange program out of Canton Schwyz.”

The initial phase (Phase A) of the Venture Studio will focus on ramping up local operations within 12 months and onboarding the first batch of 100 projects. The second phase (Phase B) will focus on accelerating the Venture Studio over 24 months and ensuring steady-state operations, while onboarding and investing in a new batch of 200 projects. The final phase (Phase C) of the five-year program will focus on scaling up the Venture Studio operations into new strategic markets globally, and onboarding the next and final batch of 200 projects. Startups qualifying for the program will receive up to $250,000 USD in venture capital investment, with enterprises receiving up to $500,000 USD.

Stefan Deiss, Co-Founder & CEO of The Hashgraph Group, noted “We are excited to launch our Swiss/Saudi government-endorsed DeepTech Venture Studio in Riyadh that will empower the next generation of Web3 entrepreneurs through technological, business, and capital-enablement programs, while leveraging the power and convergence of deep technologies.”

With an experienced team of over 40 professionals and practitioners, THG will begin recruiting and onboarding local talented engineers, industry experts, and professionals, as well as forming a robust local ecosystem of leading Saudi-based technology partners, academic institutions, and international organizations, including leveraging its existing partnerships with IBM, BCGX, and many other leading firms. Interested applicants, partners, and investors, can already register their interest on the registration webpage of the DeepTech Venture Studio: hashgraph-saudi.com.

The Hashgraph Association, also partnered with Tunisian Dar Blockchain to nurture projects, facilitate growth, and profoundly shape the MENA technology landscape

UAE vintage pop culture group, AGSpeedy announced a joint venture with Speedy Comics called AGSpeedy Technologies which will use AI and Blockchain to authenticate memorabilia and verify them immutably.

The joint venture, AGSpeedy Technologies will utilize the Sui layer 1 blockchain and smart contract platform.

AGSpeedy Technologies is the brainchild of AGS, an AI-based card grading system that provides authentication and grading services for physical collectibles, from sports trading cards to trading card games like Pokemon and Magic The Gathering, and Speedy Comics ME, the Middle East’s leading destination for vintage comics and collectibles.

Parent company AGS is responsible for grading nearly one hundred thousand cards in 2023, while its AI database covers millions more.

Collectibles have always had a tight grasp on the imagination of consumers – from stamps to the trading card games of the 90s and beyond, consumers love to collect, trade, and own.

 AGSpeedy’s system scans physical collectibles and uses its AI engine to verify and grade the item, generating an authenticity certificate which includes the item’s grade and uploads it to Sui. The certificate serves as an immutable digital twin of the collectible item, which is tradable or sellable, and any change in ownership will be recorded.

Using Sui’s native feature zkLogin, any user can create an account on Sui with credentials from Google, Slack, Twitch and more, abstracting away from the need for private key management. 

“One of the biggest roadblocks to digital collectibles has been onboarding users to web3,” said Alex Aleksandrovski, co-founder of AGSpeedy Technologies. “The process is difficult and confusing to the average person. Because it is so easy to create a web3 wallet using a web2 login on Sui, Sui is finally presenting the solution. AGSpeedy’s goal is to allow collectors to digitize their physical cards and collectibles and we are confident that Sui is the best partner to make that happen.”

“Through this collaboration, AGSpeedy is set to transform the collectibles industry by enhancing market confidence and liquidity,” said Rashed Mohammed Zubair Al Farooq, CEO of Speedy Comics Group and CEO of Pop Con ME. “Recording grading on Sui provides a tamper-proof, immutable record of an item’s quality and condition, increasing trust among buyers and sellers. This heightened confidence is expected to boost market activity, making it easier for collectors to trade and liquidate assets with peace of mind in a trusted and safe secondary marketplace. This technology is completely unique to this region, and this is just the beginning.”

“Collectible authentication is the perfect use case for blockchain technology,” said Evan Cheng, CEO of Mysten Labs and Original Contributor to Sui. “The combination of AI-powered grading and blockchain-based verification for collectors in the MENA region has the potential to reduce fraud while also introducing fans around the world to web3-powered technology, which is what we set out to accomplish with Sui – creating real world solutions for real world problems.”

UAE Based Maalexi, a Blockchain and AI enabled SME agri business platform has raised $3 million in a pre-series A fund raise led by Global Ventures,  a leading MENA venture capital firm. Global Ventures joins existing venture capital investors Rockstart (Amsterdam) and Ankurit Capital (New Delhi). 

UAE Maalexi will use the funds to develop its AI and Blockchain technology and enhance its full stack platform to  help SME agri-buyers procure faster, cheaper, and safer from globally placed SME sellers. It will also use the funds to drive customer acquisition – specifically more buyers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and to add sellers from 50+ origin countries.

Maalexi’s platform helps the millions of small agri-businesses active in the $3 trillion global, cross-border food trading market.

Maalexi’s proprietary technology has embedded risk management tools such as digital contracts,  AI enhanced inspections, and blockchain-authenticated documentation – all on a user-friendly web platform. Maalexi’s solution increases participation and automates trade – leading to higher customer revenues, more bankability, and more sustainable enterprises.

Maalexi has grown significantly in 2023 recording a Cumulative Monthly Growth Rate of 60%, adding hundreds of users, and helping SME buyers procure millions of kilograms of food supplies – across 70 products, from 27 countries. The Company’s overall focus and strategy is to build resilience in the food supply chain - strengthening food security in the UAE, and then to replicate the same model across the GCC.

Dr. Azam Pasha, co-founder and CEO of Maalexi, said, “We are delighted to complete our $3 million pre-Series A round – with the exclusive participation of MENA’s leading VC firm – Global Ventures. It is a very exciting time for Maalexi; we have a huge market opportunity which we know needs our solution – a proprietary automated process that makes life easier and more lucrative for SME agri-buyers and sellers. The per-transaction costs of our platform are very low, and we enable safer, faster trades cross-border.

At the same time, we are strengthening food security in our home country and region. We look forward to 2024, and our regional expansion, with great confidence.”

Noor Sweid, Founder and Managing Partner of Global Ventures, commented, “We are delighted to lead Maalexi’s funding round. Focused on empowering small to medium agri-businesses, the company is streamlining the transborder exchange of agriculture products, using AI-driven risk management tools to address payment and performance risks in regional and global supply chains.  The $3 trillion global, cross-border food trading market is still weighted against SME agri-businesses. Despite the fact that they constitute 90% of global agribusinesses, they only control 30% of the cross-border trade market. Maalexi’s business model aligns with our thesis on the role of technology in disinter mediating supply chains to make them more efficient and productive, as well as reducing the GCC’s 85% dependency on food imports. We are excited to partner with Azam and Rohit as they enhance the engagement of small agri-businesses in trade, and improve food security in the Gulf, and beyond.”

According to Egypt’s communications and Information technology Minister Amr Talaat, Egypt has started with phase two of its AI strategy which will focus on increasing the scope of AI investments and conducting public awareness campaigns while pursuing integration with Big Data and blockchain technology.

Talaat confirmed that the second phase will commence in Q2 of 2024 and will cover several key economic sectors. He explained that Egypt’s AI plans will see the government introduce initiatives across governance, human resources, technology, information infrastructure, data, and environment. A significant portion of the second stage of the national strategy builds upon the accomplishments of the first round of AI initiatives introduced by the government.

He added that the second phase will roll until the middle of 2027 and will consolidate the impressive gains made by Egypt over the last two years.

The NAIS is part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s Digital Egypt initiative announced in 2017. The strategy comprises three phases until 2030. The published document only focuses on phase one, with hints about the following two. That phase “deepens the use of AI technologies to transform the economy, going beyond just adopting technology.” The ultimate goal is that companies and the government would have to “fundamentally [rethink] business models, and [make] big changes to reap productivity gains and create new areas of growth.”

Its primary focus is to introduce AI solutions in government services, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, finance and economic predictions, and natural language processing (NLP). Another emphasis is training schoolchildren, postgraduate students, and professionals in the latest AI technologies, regulations, ethics, and use cases. The strategy also aims to cooperate with international partners to ensure technology transfer.

Set for completion in May 2024, phase one explored the deployment of AI in a valiant attempt to achieve Egypt’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). A series of government-backed initiatives were introduced to explore a myriad of AI use cases and deepen the existing talent pool for local and global AI developers seeking to set up operations in Egypt.

Data from Tortoise Media shows Egypt has gone up seven places in the Global AI Index in under 12 months, buoyed by increasing adoption of the technology.

UAE IHC Holding, which bought 10 percent of UAE Phoenix Group, a leading Bitcoin mining entity continues to spur its growth in Blockchain, AI and IoT in a joint venture with Indian Adani Group.

The joint venture, Sirius Digitech will be based out of Abu Dhabi UAE. Indian based Adani Global Ltd. and UAE IHC’s Sirius International Holding Ltd. will own 49% and 51% respectively in the Sirius Digitech International Ltd. Both partners will have an equal representation on the board of new entity which will also explore Internet of Things and blockchain besides AI.

The venture aims to explore sectors ranging from Fintech and Healthtech to Greentech, leveraging Adani’s proven track record of incubating successful businesses within its extensive portfolio.

The partners emphasized their dedication to collaborative decision-making through equal representation on the board, highlighting the alignment of Adani’s innovation and IHC’s strategic vision. In addition, they aim to go beyond AI, exploring the transformative possibilities of IoT and blockchain technologies to bring about significant advancements across industries.

Prior to this IHC  purchased 10 percent of Pheonix Group which holds investments in Bitcoin mining, as well as investments in the recently launched M2 regulated crypto exchange out of Abu Dhabi. This positions IHC not only in the realm of digital assets but now more so in Blockchain, AI, and other technologies.

UAE decentralized ecommerce platform, Ayshei ( Aya Shee in Arabic), backed by Medad Holding will be launching in early 2024 as the first fully enabled Web3 AI marketplace.

Ayshei will incorporate cutting-edge features such as online auctions, virtual stores, delivery services, and AI technology, among other distinctive solutions as part of its decentralized ecommerce platform.

CEO of Ayshei, Mohammed Shaiba Al Mazrouei, emphasized that Ayshei.com represents more than just a marketplace—it signifies the dawn of a new era for online commerce in the UAE. Al Mazrouei stated that the platform empowers businesses, fosters innovation, and creates a thriving community. As the first platform to provide full transparency on fee structures and onboarding processes, Ayshei invites users to become early adopters and join the Ayshei Community, a space where limitless opportunities await.

Ayshei is positioning itself as a market enabler for SMEs, startups, and home businesses. The platform will offer an all-in-one virtual store, providing essential services such as a trade license, bank account, payment gateway, logistics (including end-to-end self-storage), and delivery. This approach aims to empower businesses to establish and flourish in the digital realm.

Being a decentralized platform leveraging web3 technology, Ayshei prioritizes user security and transparency. The platform implements multiple security measures, including profile verification through Emirates ID, UAE Pass integration, high-value product authentications, advanced transaction monitoring, property and car inspections.

The platform will offer intelligent solutions in real estate, auctions, and other domains.

The Qatar Central Bank( QCB)  sets to attract Big Tech and Fintech entities in the fields of Blockchain, AI, Tokenization, Digital assets and crypto to the country.

As per its third financial sector strategy launched by HE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohamed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatar Central Bank recommended enhancing financial inclusion, measures to facilitate building a world-class shared market infrastructure and establishing a financial technology talent center of excellence.

The third financial sector strategy is to make Qatar a leading ecosystem embracing emerging technologies to accelerate digital transformation supported by adaptable and consistent regulatory frameworks and trusted market infrastructure. The regulatory framework is one of the key initiatives and aims to develop framework for DLT ( Distributed Ledger Technology), Blockchain, Crypto and digital assets as well as Decentralized Finance (DeFi). The regulations will ensure a trusted, legal and economic environment for AML, IP rights, and KYC KYT.

Growth areas include payments ecosystem specifically retails, as well as introduction of solutions such as robo advisory, Blockchain, artificial intelligence, digital assets and tokenization.  It also includes digitization in Islamic Finance and ESG (Environmental Social Governance).

The strategy contains 48 actionable items with 20 high priority ones as per the strategy.

The Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and QFC Authority have jointly developed a QFC digital assets framework, as well as launched their digital assets lab which will work as a sandbox for incubating startups.

QCB governor Sheikh Bandar bin Mohamed bin Saoud al-Thani. Stated,”We believe in the importance of digital finance ecosystem in supporting the development process. As a result, we have adopted this ecosystem as a third pillar within our strategy to lead the digital financial transformation for the sector to be pioneer in the adoption of modern technologies.”

Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, who also serves as a Board of Trustees member and Deputy Managing Director of the Dubai Future Foundation, Vice Chair of the World Government Summit, Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, and Chairman of the Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain Council has been appointed as the Director General of the Dubai Crown Prince’s office.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has appointed Omar Sultan Al Olama as the Director General of the Dubai Crown Prince’s Office.

Olama has been committed to strong governance, effective regulation, and the provision of essential data and infrastructure positions the UAE as a prime test-bed for AI innovations. He has overseen initiatives such as the personal data protection law, the National Program for Coders, and the UAE Council for Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. As per the announcement, he aims to accelerate the growth and transformation of the digital economy, ultimately doubling its contribution to the UAE’s non-oil GDP within the next decade.