Egyptian Central bank has announced that it is currently studying the implementation of CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) which should offer a safer and more secure replacement to current cryptocurrencies and the risks associated with them while making use of digital economy.

The Egyptian Central Bank in its 2021 financial stability report stated that it had created an internal and external committee which includes representatives from different Ministerial entities headed by the governor of the Central Bank to study the implementation of CBDCs in Egypt.

It also noted that it is working with external counterparts to study the potential risks and benefits of CBDC implementations. 

Cryptocurrency trading in Egypt is still not regulated and the Central Bank of Egypt has on several occasions mentioned the risk involved in dealing with cryptocurrencies and the fact that it is illegal in the country to do so.

In September, the central bank of Egypt reiterated its warning against dealing in any types of cryptocurrencies, saying that crypto is risky, highly volatile, and is used in financial crimes and e-piracy. At the time the Central Bank of Egypt stated it would fine anyone who violates the Law No 194 of 2020 which prohibits issuing, trading, promoting cryptocurrencies, operating crypto exchanges or any other related activities. The Central Bank will fine violators up to $516,000 ( 10 million LE) or face imprisonment.

The Egyptian central bank had issued a similar warning about cryptocurrencies in January 2018, specifically naming Bitcoin. At that time the Central Bank had noted, “Cryptocurrencies are not backed by any tangible assets and are not supervised by any regulators worldwide, and consequently, they lack the official governmental guarantee and support enjoyed by the other official currencies issued by central banks.”

Yet Egypt has one of the highest crypto usages across Africa and Middle East. In January 2022, TripleA published a report which noted that Morocco topped the Arab countries in terms of crypto ownership, followed by Egypt, then UAE and KSA. The report stated that in 2021 global crypto ownership was estimated at an average of 3.9 percent, 300 million crypto users and 18,000 businesses already accepting crypto payments.

Egyptian national Husayn Hashim, Listing manager of Betconix crypto exchange regulated out of Estonia, states, “The Central Bank of Egypt’s move comes within the framework of the Egyptian government’s efforts to shift to digital payments and achieve financial inclusion. The move is also in line with the growth in the number of Egyptian cryptocurrency traders, as according to the latest estimates, about 1.8% of Egyptians trade cryptocurrencies despite the Egyptian government’s ban on that. I believe that the Egyptian government will soon legally allow the trading of digital currencies after completing the issuance of the legislation regulating this.”

Crypto mining is an integral part of the development of crypto economies. As the MENA region opens up its economy to digitization and crypto-related activities and as the world is challenged by an ongoing energy crisis, MENA is probing to become an attractive destination for crypto mining.

While the biggest crypto mining markets are currently in the USA, China, Kazakhstan and Canada, the energy crisis and the crypto bear market could help the GCC become a leading crypto mining hub.

Mohamed El Masri, founder and CEO of Permianchain, which operates Bitcoin mining data centers in Canada using wasted energy, states, “The adoption and implementation of blockchain data center infrastructure can support the digital stability and financial security of the GCC region. Hypothetically, the GCC has the opportunity to attract close to $1.0 trillion in economic growth by laying the groundwork for powering the digital economy.”

El Masri confirms the main challenge is calling out the financial regulators, mainly in the financial free zones, to stop taking the “enforceability approach” and take a “regulate-first approach.”

Nonrenewable resources to boost mining 

El Masri also mentions that given that the GCC is an oil and gas-rich region, there is an abundance of natural gas energy being wasted each day. Notably, such gas energy supports the implementation and commissioning of low-cost power plants to attract bitcoin mining companies from all over the world to set up in the region.

According to him, this will allow the region to become a leader in providing field-generated electricity “to power the future digital economy all while reducing emissions and decarbonizing the GCC’s oil and gas sector.”

The World Bank has reported that the MENA region accounted for 40% of the world’s flaring, with Iran, Iraq and Algeria generating 75% of MENA’s flaring. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar have low flaring intensity.

Adopting new technologies

Munaf Ali, founder and CEO of UAE-based Phoenix Group, involved in crypto mining equipment sales and projects, believes MENA is fast moving toward crypto and blockchain adoption.

“The Middle East is fast helping the global diversification of jurisdictions which are friendly to operate in,” Ali states. “This goes for countries where crypto firms can set up, whether they are crypto exchanges or mining operations.”

Ali confirms that GCC governments have started to address this by recognizing these new business activities and are issuing licenses to crypto market participants.

The Phoenix CEO espoused other benefits, including job creation, the development of a green renewable energy industry, and the generation of crypto/USD for circulation inside the local economy which in turn boosts economic activity.

Growing interest in mining

UAE investment firms have also shown interest in crypto mining investments. Nabyl Al Maskari, executive chairman of Al Maskari Holding, in a panel discussion during the Security Token Summit in June 2022, noted that there will be significant crypto mining investments happening in the UAE.

“We will have significant crypto-mining investments because the UAE is a low-cost energy producer,” Al Maskari certifies. “We are in the solar belt and have nuclear power with two reactors online. We can as such mine green Bitcoin or other tokens that come out.”

During Binance Week 2022, Khalifa AlJaziri, AlShehhi, Commercial Affairs Regulatory Sector Projects advisor at the Ministry of Economy in UAE, claimed that the Dubai World Trade Center Authority (DWTCA) would be legislating the crypto mining sector. He stated, “We are setting the guidelines and rules needed to regulate crypto mining within this crypto framework.

The UAE is not the only country that has shown interest in crypto mining. Oman Investment Authority (OIA) took part in a $350mn equity round in Crusoe Energy Systems. The US firm helps oil and gas producers cut flaring by using stranded natural gas to power cryptocurrency mining. Crusoe systems set up operations in Oman as well. 

Pierre Samaties, global head of Crypto Economy and Energy, reaffirmed that Bitcoin mining in the region is growing.

“Given we have a huge difference between the summer load curve and the winter load curve, Bitcoin mining helps to support renewable energy investments to increase utilization of the asset by using it during downtimes for Bitcoin mining,” Samaties says. The executive says this helps to balance the energy system.

Samaties also affirms that Bitcoin mining is seen as a strategic asset, a cornerstone for building a crypto economy in the region.

For those who would like to read or share this article in arabic it is also on Cointelegraph MENA 

It is big news when a leading global strategy and management consultancy firm like Roland Berger partners with UAE Crypto Oasis, a Middle East focused Blockchain Ecosystem supported by initiators of Crypto Valley Switzerland.

As per the announcement, Roland Berger will bring forward its talents and resources to propel the Blockchain ecosystem to new heights in the MENA region and globally. Roland Berger was one of the first to herald in a crypto economy advisory practice out of the UAE.

The partnership comes at a time when UAE Crypto Oasis is now targeting 1500 Blockchain crypto entities to enter the UAE after UAE reached the target of 1000 blockchain and crypto entities before the end of 2022.

Roland Berger has been working with several clients in the region. They are strategic advisors to the biggest blockchain crypto projects in the region including the largest Bitcoin mining facility in MENA as well as the set-up of a tokenized green asset exchange.

The combination of both Crypto Oasis disruptive ecosystem and Roland Berger’s strong association with governments and corporates and commercial and technical knowhow is explosive.

Pierre Samaties, one of the partners in charge of leading the global Crypto Economy team for Roland Berger, stated: “Crypto Oasis has a strong ecosystem network of organizations that are breakthrough innovators and are leapfrogging ahead. We have witnessed their explosive growth in the past few months. As we assist companies in their journey towards the crypto economy, it is vital to have access to the latest innovation and talent in this fast moving space”. “We believe that with Crypto Oasis’ core values of infrastructure, talent, and capital, we can integrate alliances in their unique Ecosystem and transform the crypto economy landscape” added Feroz Sanaulla, Partner and global Co-head of the Crypto Economy team.

“We are delighted to welcome Roland Berger as our newest global strategic partner”, commented Ralf Glabischnig, Founder of Crypto Oasis. “Our Ecosystem members will have access to their world-class management consultancy that will support them as they embrace the opportunities to transform their business and utilize Blockchain solutions. With Roland Berger’s strong presence among governments and corporations, we expect this partnership to help us develop meaningful connections with them. As they step further into the Blockchain economy we will be working together to release thought leadership reports to further educate and inform the market of this ever growing and evolving ecosystem”.