In a Linkedin Post, Bryan D’Souza, Head of Business Development and Partnerships MENA at R3 expressed his positivity to be back in Oman discussing the Central Bank of Oman’s interest in CBDC and digital tokenization.
He had recently moved to the region and settled in Abu Dhabi UAE to expand R3 partnerships in the GCC and MENA region.
He stated, “It’s fantastic to be back in Muscat, Oman with David E Rutter and Robert Wigley visiting senior representatives of the Central Bank of Oman today to discuss their interest in CBDC and digital tokenization.”
In June 2022, The Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman, Mr. Tahir Salim Al Amri, commented during the 7th Edition of the new Age Banking Summit on the topic of CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies) the interest of the bank in a CBDC project.
Furthermore at the end of July 2023, the Oman Capital Market Authority issued a Public Consultation Paper on its Virtual Assets Regulatory Framework.
R3 has been working with Central banks, FMIs, commercial banks, FinTech, providing practical solutions for digital assets tokenization and regulated digital currencies, including CBDCs.
D’Souza had previously visited several countries including Kuwait, KSA, and Qatar.
R3 is also working with both the UAE Central Bank on its CBDC project as well as Saudi Central Bank.
In addition the Qatar Financial Centre Authority and R3 signed an MOU to develop and grow Qatar’s fintech industry using technologies such as DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) back in April 2023.
Pave Bank, digital bank for businesses to transact in stablecoins, Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), and tokenized Real World Assets (RWAs) is seeking regulatory license in UAE as it expands its operations to MENA.
Pave Bank, an approved digital banking license from Georgia and a US$5.2M seed funding round led by 468 Capital with participation from Quona Capital, FT Partners, BR Capital, w3.fund, Daedalus and angel investors has launched.
Pave Bank is the world’s first fully regulated commercial bank where clients can not only get the best in class business banking products (such as multi-currency operating accounts, global payment connectivity, and treasury management solutions) but will also have access to multi-asset custody, virtual IBANs, safeguarding accounts and PaveNet, which is a multi-asset, always instant and always on network of Pave Bank customers.
Salim Dhanani, Co-Founder & CEO of Pave Bank commented: “We have set out to address limitations of today’s financial system that lacks transparency, remains restricted to certain time-windows (clearing and settlement, for example) and is riddled with intermediaries. All of this increases costs, management complexity and also limits the products and services which can be accessed by the majority of businesses and especially, for those operating globally. In parallel, we have seen a number of innovative products that have been created in the digital asset space, but sometimes with a lack of regulation and safety for users. We are championing a new path where Pave Bank customers will get access to the financial products that they are used to, but also a range of digital asset enabled products which will help them bank more efficiently within a regulated and secure environment.”
As programmability in financial services takes off, Pave Bank offers a fresh, secure and regulated platform for businesses to transact in stablecoins, Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), and tokenized Real World Assets (RWAs). Salim Dhanani added: “There are two major trends that led us to create Pave Bank. Firstly, blockchain is being integrated into the traditional financial system – with stablecoins, CBDCs included, and tokenized RWAs. We are seeing the financial system be built on new operating languages for the first time in over fifty years. Secondly, regulation is here, it’s here to stay, and for the better. We are seeing this narrative evolve around the world – in Singapore, Hong Kong, Georgia, UAE, UK, across the EU and the green shoots in the USA, amongst many others. As a fully regulated digital bank with a proprietary technology stack, we are right at the swell of the programmable financial system wave.”
Pave Bank has started the regulatory journey with a digital commercial banking license in Georgia and plans to continue to build its regulatory infrastructure globally. Georgia is strategically positioned between Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with close ties to the European Union. Its robust and transparent regulatory architecture has attracted a large number of businesses as it seeks to become a financial services hub in the region.
The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) and the People’s Bank of China has signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to enhance technical and technological cooperation in the development of central bank digital currencies (CBDC), going beyond initial collaboration on mBridge CBDC project.
As per the UAE Central Bank press release, the signings will enhance the strategic partnership between the two friendly nations and expand the bilateral relations in the financial and economic fields.
His Excellency Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of CBUAE, and His Excellency Pan Gongsheng, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, signed the MOU in Hong Kong in presence of the UAE Counsel General in Hong Kong, H.E. Shaikh Saoud Ali Almualla.
The CBDC MoU aims to enhance collaboration central bank digital currency development and strengthen cooperation between CBUAE and the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China in the field of financial technology. The MoU will enable the exchange of information on best practices and regulations relating to digital currencies and support the implementation of joint initiatives and projects, including the “mBridge” project which is a multi central bank digital currencies platform in facilitating cross-border trade payments instantly and securely.
The MoU also includes cooperation in training and skills development for specialists on both sides and the exchange of bilateral visits to discuss matters of common interest.
Commenting on the signing, H.E Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of CBUAE, stated, “We look forward to strengthening cooperation with our partners on innovation and solutions in financial technology including central bank digital currency to support the growth of our economy and society.”
Earlier,according to a Chinese media article, the Bank of China announced during The 3rd “Belt and Road” Summit Forum a list of 369 practical cooperation projects of which was an MOU signed with FAB bank of cooperation in digital currency.
Concurrently Standard Chartered announced its participation in the pilot testing program of China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) known as the digital Yuan (e-CNY or digital RMB). This move makes Standard Chartered the first foreign bank to engage with the country’s CBDC. According to the announcement, Standard Chartered, in collaboration with City Bank Clearing Services Co, will facilitate e-CNY transactions for its clients. It will allow them to purchase exchange and redeem e-CNY within their bank accounts.
It is noteworthy that Standard Chartered’s backed digital asset platform, Zodia markets, received an In-Principle Approval (IPA) fulfilling the pre-requisites to receive a Financial Services Permission (FSP) for OTC broker-dealer in virtual assets by Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Abu Dhabi’s international financial center.
Standard Chartered’s , venture arm SC Ventures, an innovation and fintech investment arm recently partnered with Japanese SBI Holdings to establish a Digital Asset Joint Venture investment company in UAE. The parties intend to capitalize the vehicle with $100 million. The company will invest in DeFi, tokenization, consumer payments and metaverse.
As many know the R3 team developed Corda the first native private, permissioned DLT platform that is not only secure and regulatory-compliant by design, but has facilitated hundreds of networks across financial services.
As per R3 applications developed on their tokenization platform Corda, harness the power of R3’s distributed ledger technology (DLT), connected networks and regulated markets expertise all aimed at driving transformation in digital finance.
R3 has been a strong proponent in the Middle East and GCC region working with governments and enterprise on several projects, most prominently the CBDC projects in Saudi Arabia and UAE.
In addition the Qatar Financial Centre Authority and R3 signed an MOU to develop and grow Qatar’s fintech industry using technologies such as DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) back in April 2023.
So it was not surprising to read on LinkedIn that Bryan D’Souza, Strategic Alliances & Partner Ecosystem Lead for EMEA at R3 stated, “I am thrilled to have experienced my first trip to Kuwait over the last couple of days as part of a mini GCC tour. I am grateful for the warm welcome from our great partners and potential clients. The hospitality of the Kuwaiti people left a lasting impression; warm, friendly, and eager to collaborate.”
He added, “Exciting opportunities ahead and looking forward to returning back to Kuwait soon!”
It sounds like the beginning of a project or several in Kuwait, which has been slow when it comes to blockchain adoption and implementation.
It seems Kuwait’s stance on Blockchain is changing as recently Salman Salah Bader Ali Naqi, who began his PhD study in the Department of Economics in January 2023, has been awarded the 2022 Kuwaiti Economic Student Award for his research titled “Digitalizing the Trade Finance Industry in Kuwait: A Transaction Cost Perspective of Blockchain-based Letters of Credit”.
The Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) held a ceremony to honor the top three winners of the Kuwaiti Economic Student Award on November 9th 2023. The CBK Governor and Chairman of the Institute of Banking Studies (IBS), Basel Ahmed Al-Haroon, attended alongside a number of key figures from the banking and finance sector.
The winners were presented with certificates of merit and commemorative gifts, and Salman’s paper, as first-prize winning research paper, will be printed, published and distributed “to serve as a reference for those wishing to benefit from sound research”.
The Kuwaiti Economic Student Award is part of the Kafa’a initiative, set up to encourage scientific research in the economic and banking fields through motivating young people to enhance their research competence in the banking and finance areas.
The Russian news state agency reported that the Central Bank of Russia is ready to cooperate with UAE regulators to build a system for fast payments and settlements using digital ruble CBDC. The CBDC will be used by both individuals as well as businesses once the issue of KYC is resolved.
The comments were made by First Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova said at the Finopolis forum.
Skorobogatova stated, “We will work out the fast payment system and the CBDC [central banks digital currency – TASS] because the colleagues are ready with the digital ruble and we are ready. If we solve the issue of client identification, then I think we will be able to build up a normal system of payments for citizens and the business between the two our countries in a year at the least,” she said.
Moveover, the Bank of Russia continues testing the digital ruble in a limited pilot program that started in August with 13 private banks. At Finopolis, head of the Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina said the pilot is on track and will expand next year to more users.
As for the UAE, it is also piloting its CBDC project working with Blockchain tech players such as R3.
The Ethereum Riyadh 2023 conference held on October 11th brought together an array of blockchain experts and entities, including Saudi Digital advisor for a Saudi governmental entity, who gave a presentation on embracing DeFi for business excellence. As per the press release, Abdulelah Aloshayni, digital transformation advisor at a Saudi Governmental entity provided a clear understanding of DeFi and discussed potential applications for large companies and government organizations.
This is no surprise given the work that for example SAMA ( Saudi Central Bank) is doing on CBDC, virtual assets and DeFi. Saudi Central Bank had hired Mohsen Al Zahrani to lead their digital assets and CBDC projects.
Abdulelah Aloshayni gave a presentation on “Embrace DeFi for Business Excellence.” He provided a clear understanding of DeFi and discussed potential applications for large companies and government organizations.
ETH Riyadh 2023 conference successfully took place at the CODE Lab of King Saud University at Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. ETH Riyadh 2023, Web3 technology summit, was dedicated to the Ethereum ecosystem and blockchain technology, aiming to gather developers and builders from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and other regions in the Middle East.
ETH Riyadh emphasized a strong technical focus and aimed to provide insights from industry experts, fostering discussions on blockchain and Web3 cutting-edge technologies.
The ETH Riyadh organizing committee was composed of Tharawat Technology, Studio1727, ChainIDE, Coffee with Crypto, and Mask Network. The event received guidance and support from the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Internet Association, and the KACST Digital Entrepreneurship Center. It was generously sponsored by Ankr (Title Sponsor), with presenting sponsorship from Chiliz, as well as support from Zilliqa, Adaverse, SAO Network, Onekey, Matrix World, and more than ten other Web3 projects.
Over 150 participants attended the event. The ETH Riyadh 2023 conference kicked off with a keynote address by Tim Beiko, a representative of the Ethereum Foundation, who presented “Ethereum Governance Overview.” Tim Beiko outlined various ways to engage in Ethereum technology development and contributions, along with collaboration opportunities.
In the first roundtable discussion, Anton Agafonov, Product Lead at Zilliqa, Arpit Sharma, Managing Partner for the Middle East, India, and East Asia at the Near Foundation, and Aqeel Mohammad from the Ethereum Foundation discussed “L1/L2: Web3 Infrastructures and Innovations from various perspectives, sharing their insights on Web3 infrastructure and innovation.
Xiao Wu, the founder of ChainIDE, then spoke on “The Road to Mass Adoption: Web3 Ecosystem in East Asia x Middle East Africa Region.” He shared insights into the development of Web3 ecosystems in East Asia and the Middle East and Africa regions, discussed the digital economy’s opportunities, and analyzed attempts and cases of large-scale applications in different regions.
While Dr. Waleed Aloriny, Chairman of the Saudi Internet Association, delivered a welcome address and moderated a special roundtable discussion on “Opportunities of Web3 Technology in Saudi.” Yasser Alobaidan, CEO of Tharawat Technology, Xiao Wu, Founder of ChainIDE, Stanley Wu, CTO of Ankr, and Alex Dreyfus, CEO of Chiliz, participated in the discussion. Representatives from various sectors engaged in lively discussions on Saudi’s entrepreneurial environment, policy regulations, Web3 development, digital economic opportunities, and international cooperation. Web3 entrepreneurs present recognized Saudi Arabia as a significant opportunity and expressed their desire to deepen their business and collaborations in the region.
ETH Riyadh 2023 marked a significant milestone as the first dedicated Web3 developer and blockchain technology summit in the Saudi Arabian region, particularly in Riyadh. This event represents a major advancement in the Web3 developer ecosystem of Saudi Arabia. ETH Riyadh has contributed to the flourishing of the local blockchain developer community, providing a platform for learning and networking for local developers and entrepreneurs.
The event has not only attracted local participants but also garnered attention from experts and investors from around the world. It serves as a crucial role in driving the development of blockchain technology in Saudi Arabia, offering a pivotal opportunity for exploring and shaping the future of the blockchain field. Furthermore, it plays a role in promoting digital innovation and economic growth in Saudi Arabia.
Xiao Wu, Founder of ChainIDE and a member of the ETH Riyadh organizing committee, expressed, “ETH Riyadh is the first summit in the Saudi region that focuses on blockchain technology and Web3 developers. It serves as a superhub for the local technology community and ecosystem development. Saudi Arabia is currently experiencing a pivotal period of rapid growth in the digital economy, and blockchain and Web3 technologies are integral components of the next generation of digital economies. We look forward to ETH Riyadh 2024, expecting to attract more builders in blockchain technology and facilitate increased collaboration and exchange among developers in the East Asia and Middle East and Africa regions.”
According to a recent Chinese media article, the Bank of China announced during The 3rd “Belt and Road” Summit Forum a list of 369 practical cooperation projects of which was an MOU signed with FAB bank of cooperation in digital currency.
The 32nd project listed cited, “Bank of China signed a digital currency cooperation memorandum with the First Bank of Abu Dhabi, and signed a global strategic cooperation memorandum with the Saudi International Electric Power and Water Company. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Hungarian Ministry of Economic Development signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation.”
UAE FAB bank, (First Abu Dhabi Bank), recently announced the successful completion of its J.P Morgan’s Coin blockchain based cross border payments.
This comes as China and the UAE work together on the CBDC Mbridge project which is supposed to launch its MVP (Minimum viable Product) form soon.
In addition the Central Bank of the UAE is also preparing for its on CBDC issuance which is expected sometime in 2024. The Central Bank of UAE as well as The Saudi Central Bank SAMA are working both with R3 on their CBDC projects.
In a speech given by Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) CEO Eddie Yue, he discussed the whole sale CBDC ( Central Bank Digital Currency) project Mbridge stating that the launch of a minimal viable product ( MVP) would be soon, with participation of UAE Central Bank, Bank of China, BIS, Bank of Thailand and some new entrants.
In May 2023, The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in a bilateral meeting in Abu Dhabi agreed to enhance collaboration between the two jurisdictions on virtual asset regulations and development.
Mbridge is the creation of Innovation Hub of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, BIS (Bank of International Settlements). In September 2022, the Central Bank of the UAE announced the completion of the first CBDC pilot involving real value transactions and four jurisdictions, using mBridge, custom developed DLT platform.
As per the news 20 banks participated in the final CBDC pilot, with over 160 transfers and FX exchanges carried out, totaling $171 million HK dollars ( $22 million) in transfers and FX exchanges and $91 HK million in issuances equivalent to ( $12 million) .”
The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) participated in “mBridge” project with partners from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Innovation Hub Centre in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the Bank of Thailand (BoT), and the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China (PBoC).
According to Yue, “ Our mBridge project, which is a collaboration with the BIS and a number of central banks including the People’s Bank of China is also pressing ahead. Our latest pilot test has demonstrated that this wholesale central bank digital currency platform can speed up cross-border payments at reduced cost and with better transparency. We are expecting to welcome more fellow central banks to join this open platform. And very soon we will launch what we call a minimum viable product, with the aim of paving the way for the gradual commercialisation of mBridge.”
He expressed his hope that this new innovative platform will help resolve longstanding pain points in cross-border payments and enhance the efficiency of the global value chain.
UAE headquartered Fuze, a digital assets infrastructure provider, has raised a seed round of $14mn, the largest Seed investment in a digital assets startup in the history of the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The investment was led by Abu Dhabi-based Further Ventures, along with participation by US-based Liberty City Ventures.
Fuze will benefit from the strategic capital and network of these investors, acting as a catalyst for the business as it builds the digital asset infrastructure that will drive the future of finance.
A first-of-its-kind infrastructure provider in MENA, Fuze enables any bank, fintech or traditional enterprise to easily offer regulated digital assets products to their customers through their native apps.
Fuze was founded by an expert team of fintech, traditional finance (TradFi) and decentralized finance (DeFi) leaders, with its co-founders holding extensive knowledge from experience in global hypergrowth businesses.
CEO, Mohammed Ali Yusuf (Mo Ali Yusuf) has held prominent roles at Checkout.com and Visa; Arpit Mehta (COO) was previously in the leadership team at fintech leaders like Simpl and Clear; Srijan Shetty (CTO) built algorithmic trading systems at Goldman Sachs and worked at tech leader Microsoft.
With a regional digital asset market worth $566bn, and growing at 48% YoY, Fuze co-founder and CEO, Mohammed Ali Yusuf believes the Middle East is the perfect home to establish a digital assets infrastructure business.
Yusuf states, “We are excited to build the future of regulated financial infrastructure and digital assets out of the UAE. Regulations have played a pivotal role in propelling the UAE into a central position within the global Digital Assets industry. To receive the backing of Abu Dhabi-headquartered Further Ventures combined with the deep expertise of US-based Liberty City Ventures, confirms the relevancy and potential of Fuze’s mission to rapidly expand our cutting-edge infrastructure across the region.”
Further Ventures commented, “This is an important strategic investment into digital assets, one of our core verticals. The team at Fuze is highly experienced and has a clear vision to develop a trusted, world-class digital assets proposition. Technology that enables a range of stakeholders is vital for the future of the financial ecosystem and Fuze is well placed to be a leader in digital assets across the MENA region and beyond.”
In September 2022, Abu Dhabi’s ADQ and Further Ventures, an investment firm back by ADQ launched a $200 million fund focused on Fintech, digital assets and supplychain.
Fuze was founded in December 2022 and selected earlier this year to join Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem through its Company Building Program. Its white label solutions handle the complexities of blockchain and regulatory overheads for enterprises, enabling these organizations to readily offer digital assets such as stablecoins, cryptocurrencies, CBDCs and tokenized assets.
The funding will propel Fuze’s growth as it obtains regulatory licensing, adds strategic hires in key roles, continues to expand its technological capabilities, and accelerates its geographic expansion across the region. Its products, such as Fuze Trader and Fuze Loyalty, allow banks, brokerages and superapps to offer digital asset products in a simple, easy and trusted manner.
“We are building a suite of products that addresses the growing demand for regulated digital asset capabilities through trusted channels. Our technology first approach is a game-changer for the region and offers our customers a reliable bridge to the new era of investments and to the future of finance,” adds Yusuf.
In a recent report by Singaapore funded UnaFinancial, the group said that Fintech funding in UAE could reach $2.8 billion in 2028 from $1.8 billion in 2023. This is boosted by a strong economy and favourable environment.
UAE based BitOasis crypto broker exchange has announced that it has secured an investment from CoinDCX, India’s biggest crypt exchange. This comes after BitOasis’s license was suspended by VARA for not meeting requirements. The latest investment will give BitOasis a new life line.
As per the news, the new capital injection will help to support BitOasis’s vision to amplify its regional presence and secure further licenses in the region.
Commenting on the news, Ola Doudin, Co-Founder and CEO of BitOasis said: “We are delighted to be working with CoinDCX, India’s leading crypto platform. From our first conversations, it was clear we share a common vision and synergies across our markets that we look forward to building towards. The investment will allow us to sharpen our focus on perfecting our existing products and expanding across our markets. We are very excited about the opportunities the funding will unlock for us.”
Sumit Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO of CoinDCX stated: “We are immensely excited about investing in BitOasis, the largest crypto trading platform in the Mena region. We have been impressed by BitOasis’s excellent product offering, strong leadership and their persistence to serve customers in the most secure and compliant manner.”
The investment comes after news that CoinDCX was in talks to acquire BitOasis. BitOasis in the past month had let go of more than 30 employees.
Prior to that VARA had freezed BitOasis’s MVP operational license for non compliance to requirements set by the Dubai virtual asset regulator.
With this an Indian crypto exchange now has a foothold in the MENA region with the investment in BitOasis.