Japanese SBI Holdings continues to forge stronger partnerships in the MENA region with the announcement of the launch of its joint venture SBI XDC Network APAC with UAE based TradeFinex.

TradeFinex is the promoter of XDC Network, an enterprise-focused blockchain for the purpose of enhancing efficiency in trade finance. Prior to this in September 2023, the two entities had announced that they would be creating the joint venture.

The purpose of the joint venture is to develop the XDC Network which is a community-driven platform established in 2017 specifically designed for trade finance and payments. It provides a smart contract system that facilitates global trade operations through the tokenization of real-world assets (RWAs) like bonds, tokenization of trade assets, and digitization of trade documents, on high-speed, highly secure, and low-cost blockchain.

Up to now, the SBI Group has been providing various services related to the XDC Network, including becoming the Japan’s first exchange to start handling XDC tokens, through a partnership agreement with SBI VC Trade Co. Ltd. (Head office: Minato-ku, Tokyo; President: Tomohiko Kondo), a company providing crypto asset exchange services within the SBI Group.

Moving forward, the SBI Group will not only focus on services related to the XDC token, but also strive to expand the use cases of the XDC Network’s blockchain technology in global economic activities,  particularly in the fields of trade finance and cross-border payments.

According to the press release, “As the first project after the establishment of the joint venture, we have started a proof-of concept (PoC) experiment that connects XDC Network and the Corda platform provided by SBI R3 Japan Co., Ltd and Corda Bridge provided by US based IMPEL GLOBAL. In this experiment, FIAT payments generated by business-to-business transactions will be conducted in XDC via Corda and Corda Bridge. By utilizing a hybrid blockchain with both private and public characteristics, it is possible to provide a one-stop service that settles both private, such as information of transactions, and public, such as the transfer of value, at once. As a result, this offers an efficient and smooth payment method for cross-border transactions including international trade, compared to conventional fiat currency transactions.”

SBI Holdings over the past months has been forging a variety of partnerships across the region. It signed an MOU with Saudi based Aramco, for digital assets research. SBI Holdings also announced a partnership with Standard Chartered to launch a $100 million Fund in the UAE to also establish a digital asset joint venture.

US blockchain deposit token infrastructure provider which ues Corda by R3 to bring CBC deposit token infrastructure , Fluent Finance has expanded into the MENA region with the opening of its operations in Abu Dhabi, UAE under the new name, Fluent Economic Bridge. Fluent Finance will offer trade finance and cross border payments with the support of UAE Ministry of Economy.

Fluent Finance’s new UAE entity, named Fluent Economic Bridge, will be focused on deposit token infrastructure, promoting cost-effective and borderless trade finance between Abu Dhabi banks and global markets. The company is currently procuring a trade license from Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), an integral part of Fluent’s mission to offer dependable digital asset services to its UAE partners and the global trade community.

On twitter, Fluent Finance stated, “ We’ve expanded into the MEA region, setting the stage for the next chapter in UAE’s FinTech innovation, delivering our leading-edge deposit token infrastructure to Abu Dhabi.” 

They add,  “ The newly formed Fluent Economic Bridge in the UAE is central to this initiative. We’re set to enable cost-effective, borderless trade finance between Abu Dhabi banks and global markets, contributing to the UAE’s global trade expansion. Deposit Tokens will herald the next chapter of UAE’s Fintech Innovation, transforming trade finance and improving cross-border settlements.”

Fluent Finance is a US-based blockchain development and fintech company that is building deposit token infrastructure to help bring trade finance on-chain. Fluent’s primary product is Plus, a stablecoin backed by a consortium of banks to ensure reliable and verifiable liquidity. Fluent aims to connect DeFi and TradFi without sacrificing the core tenets of Web3.

Fluent Finance’s CEO, Bradley Allgood, has meticulously evaluated jurisdictions worldwide before deciding on UAE as the prime location for Fluent’s expansion. He has offered his insights across multiple roundtable discussions organized by Hub71 to optimize the regulatory sandbox for global trade finance and payment infrastructure.

“The UAE has positioned itself as a global leader for digital assets through their special economic zone initiatives, regulation foresight, and global trade expansion with strategic Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs)”, says Allgood. “We use Corda by R3 as our enterprise layer to bring CBDC-compatible deposit token infrastructure for borderless payments, complementing the UAE as they lead the charge on digital transformation.”

He adds, “I am very much looking forward to seeing deposit tokens improve trade throughout developing regions. With transparent and borderless settlement available to any wallet in the world, those most affected by war or climate change with soul bound tokens could get immediate delivery of aid around the clock, any day of the year.”

Deposit tokens, a novel form of digital assets, offer an innovative alternative to conventional stablecoins. Unlike stablecoins, which are pegged to traditional fiat currencies, deposit tokens are backed by actual deposits and issued by banks, offering more transparency, security, and stability to users.

The recent Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) between the UAE and other global partners like India and China marks a significant milestone in fostering a closer financial relationship between the nations. These MoUs account for more than $100 billion in bilateral trade, with a focus on strengthening the use of new technologies and settlement with digital currency. Deposit tokens issued by commercial banks are poised to offer a borderless missing link to accelerate trade settlement to CDBC.

During Corda Day Middle East held on May 11th 2023 in Dubai UAE, speakers from the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) as well as the Central Bank of UAE discussed their CBDC strategies and pilots. Both Central Banks are working with R3 Corda on their CBDC pilot programs, SAMA in its sandbox and UAE Central Bank in their research and development center.

The event as per R3, brought together financial service leaders, technologists and Corda enthusiasts from around the region and the globe. Of the prominent speakers included H.E. Saif Humaid Hamad Al Dhaheri, Assistant Governor – Strategy, Financial Infrastructure and Digital Transformation, Central Bank of UAE and Mr. Mohsen AlZahrani, Virtual Assets (VA) and CBDC program Lead, Saudi Central Bank – SAMA as well as Richard G Brown, Chief Technology Officer, R3.

Al Dhaheri made a keynote address on “Future of Money, CBDC and the Digital Dirham” while AlZahrani carried out the closing Keynote, on the topic of “Wholesale CBDC”

Mohsin AlZahrani told Lara on the Block, “Currently we are working with R3 Corda only for the sandbox experimentation, we have not yet decided on the next phase platform or implementation.”

Farhan Khan, Chief Technology Officer Consultant and advisor in Fintech and Blockchain, who attended the event representing Cykube, spoke to Lara on the Block explaining what he learned about CBDC implementation in UAE and KSA.

Khan explained, “It was an excellent event and very eye opening on how R3 is properly working in the region. What I learned about the CBDC implementation in KSA and UAE is that both are working with R3 but each country has a different approach. Saudi Arabia is working on a wholesale CBDC project for its domestic payment system, while UAE Central Bank is working on CBDC for cross border payments.”

Khan adds, “For example the ABER cross border payment project which was paused might be reutilized in the future as per AlZahrani’s statements at the event. AlZahrani stated that SAMA is utilizing the experience of ABER during the implementation of the CBDC wholesale payment system concept, and there is a chance in the future to use ABER again between KSA and UAE after the experimentation of CBDC wholesale in KSA is completed.”

According to Khan the UAE is working on a prototype with R3 Corda for the digital dirham which is currently under testing in their R&D facility.  

Khan concludes to Lara on the Block saying that R3 Corda has seen a lot of interest because it has very powerful features such as interoperability between blockchain platforms even public ones. He explains, “Fintech entities in both Saudi Arabi and UAE are waiting for the network gates to open, and with the VARA crypto regulations cooking every day we feel the same will be happening in KSA. Corda is the right framework from a technology perspective with its tremendous security, protection, especially when it comes to digitization and tokenization.”

This is reflected in a post by R3’s Chief Technology Officer Richard Brown who states, “Composability and interoperability are critical cogs in the architecture of Corda. With the next generation of Corda, there’s no need to decide on your network model at the outset of a project. Start with a centralized, private network and gradually decentralize over time!”

Brown believes that the success of Corda is because it is a cross-firm shared ledger enabling collaborating parties to transact based on high quality data, without exposing internal data or systems, and with far fewer reconciliation errors. A ledger that could even become the industry’s system of record for some key questions such as ownership of assets (the terms ‘Digital Assets’ and ‘Tokenization’

It is also a permissioning system that provides high identity assurance and gives confidence to regulated entities that they can comply with their legal obligations to know with whom they are transacting. In addition is a  privacy-first design, allowing competitors to trade without revealing sensitive data publicly – only participants in a transaction get to see the details – unlike other blockchain-inspired approaches.

He even goes so far to say that, “We’ve been delighted by how successful Corda has been, far beyond the narrow banking scenarios we originally designed it for. Broadly speaking, we’re seeing it being used to solve four main problems in ‘Regulated DeFi’:”