In the fourth annual Chainalysis Global crypto adoption index, identifying countries where the most people are putting the greatest share of their wealth into cryptocurrency, once again Morocco takes lead and is listed as one of the top 20 countries placing an Arab country on the map, while Turkey places the MENA region. The 2023 report states that global adoption is down, but not in one crucial subset of the world.

More specifically, there’s one crucial segment of countries where grassroots adoption has seen a much stronger recovery than anywhere else: Lower middle income (LMI) countries.

The full report will be out in October, but compared to 2022, the countries on the top 20 list are still almost the same.  In 2022 Turkey, Egypt and Morocco led not only in MENA  region but globally. All three countries were in the top thirty list of countries with most crypto savings, usage of crypto for remittance payments and permissive crypto regulations.

As for Sub Saharan Africa, the adoption of Bitcoin is the highest in the world with 9% growth rate. Nigeria was one of only six countries in the world whose transaction volume grew year-over-year. The use of homegrown Sub-Saharan Africa-based exchanges continues to outpace global exchanges.

As per Bloomberg Kraken, crypto exchange based out of Abu Dhabi UAE has closed its office  while Chainalysis lays off 4.8 percent of its global workforce, but continues to hire in the MENA region.

Kraken has closed its  third office in less than a year. The first one was its headquarters in San Francisco, then Japan and now UAE.

Kraken had received a full license to operate in the UAE in April 2022.  With these closures have come layoffs. Kraken announced back in November 2022 that it would be laying off 30 percent of its workforce, equivalent to 1,100 employees.

As per Bloomberg, Kraken laid off the majority of its team in the MENA region, a total of 8 people. Benjamin Ampen, managing director for the region, will stay with the firm. On the Abu Dhabi market registry, Kraken is no longer listed as an active exchange.

In addition the exchange has suspended support for transactions in the AED, but clients in the region will still be able to use other products and services. That doesn’t require a local license, the spokesperson said.

In parallel, Chainalysis which last year had hinted to opening an office in the UAE hiring many employees as a prelude, also lays off part of its workforce globally but not in the UAE nor in the MENA region.  Actually while Chainalysis is laying off about 44 of its 900 employees, 4.8% of its workforce, it is continuing to hire for its operational expansion in the MENA region.

Sources close to Chainalysis within the UAE told LaraontheBlock that Chainalysis are actually hiring in the MENA region given the growth of crypto in countries such as Morocco with the potential to see KSA and Qatar on boarded into the crypto ecosystem in the future.

In an official statement, Chainalysis confirmed that it did not open its office in the UAE yet. It also stated with regards to the layoffs, “Chainalysis announced reorganization primarily impacting our go-to-market team – in order to meet new challenges and opportunities in the market. As a part of this reorg, some folks will have new roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines. Unfortunately we will also part ways with some incredibly talented people within our team. Chainalysis is well capitalized and will continue to hire and build out teams aligned with our refocused strategy in 2023.”

In July 2022, The UAE’s Ministry of Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications signed a preliminary agreement with blockchain data platform Chainalysis to provide virtual training programs for the country’s government entities.

So while some crypto entities close their offices and lay off employees in the MENA region, others continue to hire because the MENA region is a crypto growth market! So is it really the fault of the crypto winter or is it the fault of internal organizational issues and maybe even slow crypto regulation? 

Whatever the case while we say goodbye to Kraken, we welcome Chainalysis and many others to come!

As per a recent Chainalysis blog report, MENA based crypto users received $566 billion worth of cryptocurrency in one year from July 2021 to June 2022. As per the news, this is a 48 percent increase from 2020-2021.

In addition Turkey, Egypt and Morocco once again lead not only in MENA region but globally. All three countries are in the top thirty list of countries with most crypto savings, usage of crypto for remittance payments and permissive crypto regulations.

These could be caused by these countries’ fiat currency devaluations and the huge remittance market in Egypt for example. This is why Egypt has become the fastest growing crypto market in 2022, while Turkey still remains the largest crypto market with its citizens receiving $192 billion.

The report also notes the role of countries in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), and cites the example of Saudi Arabia which is the third largest crypto market in MENA, while UAE stands at fifth largest. This is especially true given the recent stance of the UAE on crypto and the increased regulations as well as the licenses being granted to crypto exchanges the likes of Binance, and FTX.

In Chainalysis previous report from June 2020 until June 2021, the MENA region was also the fasted growing crypto market. At the time the Middle East region received 271.7 billion USD worth of cryptocurrency representing almost 7 percent of global crypto value received. This was an increase of 1500 percent compared to June 2019 until June 2020. The growth of crypto in Middle East was higher than the overall world adoption that had jumped 880 percent by June 2021.At the time both Turkey and Lebanon topped the MENA countries in terms of receiving crypto.

UAE is building its digital economy organically by educating its government employees as well as acquiring it internationally by attracting international tech players and their talents. Not only has the country come out with a new initiative to attract 300 global tech firms, but it is also working with Chainalysis to train its government employees on all things blockchain and crypto (virtual assets).  

In recent news announced, Minister of State for foreign trade, Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, launched the “NextGenFDI” that aims to attract 300 global tech firms as well as software developers, data scientists, and coders.

The start of the initiative is through partnerships already inked out with seven major firms and business districts that include Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC),  Dubai South, DMCC,  Dubai Internet City, Emirates NBD and digital bank WIO.

Al Zeyoudi said international businesses “are approaching us and asking how they can relocate their talent, ideas, and high-growth ventures to the UAE.  The global interest in 2022 is unprecedented and while we are already working with some, we know many more want to follow suit. We want to ensure that the world’s most promising digital companies can access all the benefits that our attractive, business-friendly environment offers – but we also want to make it easy for them.”

The minister said they are introducing measures to make market entry for companies and workers simpler. These include fast incorporation processes to speed up licensing, bulk visa issuances, banking facilitation and commercial and residential lease incentives.

This is in line with UAE’s establishing 1,000 new digital companies and increase investments in startups from $400 million to $1.3 billion.

But that is not all, on the governmental front, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and teleworking applications, Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama signed an MOU with Bas Lemmens, General Manager for EMEA at Chainalysis to provide virtual training programs for government employees in the areas of Blockchain and virtual assets.

For those who don’t know Chainalysis, it provides data, software, services, and research to government agencies, exchanges, financial institutions, insurance and cybersecurity companies in over 70 countries. Their data platform powers investigation, compliance, and risk management tools that have been used to solve some of the world’s most high-profile cyber-criminal cases and grow consumer access to cryptocurrency safely.

This would allow employees to develop their skills. Al Olama stated that strengthening partnerships with pioneering companies and empowering government entities with the latest tools and advance technologies play a pivotal role in enhancing the readiness of the UAE government, through exchanging experiences and global success stories. Blockchain technology is key to creating innovative solutions for future challenges, which contributes to developing government work and new technologies that enhance the UAE’s leading position globally, he added.

The MoU also aims to enhance the utilization of Blockchain technologies in building a smart future for the UAE.

Michael Gronager, CEO and Co-Founder of Chainalysis, said, “We are honored to be selected by the UAE to play a supporting role in up skilling government entities through knowledge in Blockchain that have the potential to serve as one of the essential digital tools in promoting a robust digital economy.”

Bas Lemmens, added “We are very proud to partner with the UAE government in supporting its initiatives in adopting blockchain, analysis tools and training through the ‘UAE Chainalysis Centre of Excellence’ to implement new technologies that will help drive new business opportunities. We want to build trust in blockchains and drive the adoption of digital assets.”

As of today there are more than 1000 blockchain and crypto companies who have set up in UAE. With these initiatives this number is