On February 24th 2023 FAFT released its latest grey and black list. For those who are on the grey list it means that these jurisdictions are under increased monitoring and are actively working with the FATF to address strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing.

As per the recent announcement by FATF, “When the FATF places a jurisdiction under increased monitoring, it means the country has committed to resolve swiftly the identified strategic deficiencies within agreed timeframes and is subject to increased monitoring. This list is often externally referred to as the “grey list”.”

Of the Arab countries on the grey list, was Jordan. It was on the list because of risks in virtual assets. As per FATF one of the reasons for it being on the list was because it needed to address strategic deficiencies including “completing and disseminating the money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessments of legal persons and virtual assets.”

It was interesting to see the term virtual assets in relation to Jordan because Jordan has not been on the list in terms of countries with high crypto ownership or transactions. Other countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Lebanon are much more active in crypto. yet FATF chose to include the risks of virtual assets as one of the reasons it was one the grey list. 

According to Triple A crypto ownership report, the percentage of Jordanians who own crypto is just 1.5 percent equivalent to 170,000 people as of January 2023 an increase from 1.25 percent in 2022.

Concurrently, the IMF after its technical report on Jordan’s Central Bank feasibility for the launch of retail CBDC after a three month mission, recently released its report. IMF gave Jordan’s existing payment market a positive review calling it well integrated.

Nonetheless, The IMF stated that an rCBDC would enhance financial inclusion by providing services to residents without smartphones and could also improve the domestic payment system by making its infrastructure available to PSPs and lowering the cost of cross-border transfers.

The IMF however warned to avoid disintermediation in the Jordanian financial system, as it could contribute to instability in times of stress. The IMF found that an rCBDC could increase cybersecurity risks as an attractive target. “Sound legal underpinnings for an rCBDC should also be created,” the report said. 

In its report the IMF noted, “RCBDC may offer some benefits, but it does not necessarily address pain points. On the other hand, a cross-border rCBDC could add value, particularly if the authorities coordinate with other countries in the region.”

Jordan’s Central Bank had announced in February 2022 that it was researching a CBDC. Cointelegraph article noted that a central bank proposal to introduce crypto trading met with resistance in the parliament.

Whatever the case, Jordan being on FATF grey list because of virtual assets risks is another reminder of the need to regulate crypto assets.

The 2022 Worldwide crypto readiness report looks into the number of crypto ATMs, legislations, taxes surrounding cryptocurrencies, as well as the number of blockchain start-ups and the level of interest in crypto in order to find the most crypto ready countries. The 2022 report revealed that the UAE ranks third globally when it comes to the number of blockchain start-ups. The UAE has close to 120 blockchain start-ups or 1.2 blockchain startups per 100,000 people.

As per the 2022 report, Hong Kong was number one on the list in terms of crypto readiness, The country was crowned the most crypto-ready as it ranked in the top three for three of the categories looked at, including the number of blockchain start-ups per 100,00 people and the number of crypto ATMs proportional to the population. Hong Kong also doesn’t tax capital gains on crypto, making it appealing to investors.

Next up was the United States; the US took second place thanks to the huge number of crypto ATMs in the country, more than ten times that of its closest competitor, or 3.6 more per 100,000 people.

In third place was Switzerland. Switzerland ranked high due to its high number of crypto ATMs per 100,000 people and no capital gains tax, ranking in the top five for both factors. The country is also one of the most enterprising, took number one place for the number of blockchain start-ups.

Switzerland was crowned as the country with the most blockchain start-ups, boasting 12.9 blockchain start-ups per 100,000 residents, or 1,128 in total.  This has been due to the proactive approach taken by the Swiss financial authorities, which has lead to a booming blockchain industry with 14 of its start-ups worth over $1 billion.

While the United Arab Emirates took fourth place globally in the overall crypto readiness ranking, it also grabbed 3rd place with regards to the number of Blockchains start-ups. The UAE boasted of 1.2 blockchain start-ups per 100,000 people. UAE has a population of approximately 10 million which would mean that the UAE has 120 blockchain start-ups residing in the country.

UAE was preceded by Hong Kong who took second place with three blockchain start-ups per 100,000 people.

In terms of the countries which have the most interest in cryptocurrencies, Australia took first place, with 4,579 “cryptocurrency” searches per 100,000 people, just under 18% of Australia’s population owning crypto in 2021.

Second place went to Ireland which has 3,472 “cryptocurrency” searches per 100,000 people, followed by United Kingdom in third place with 3,409 “cryptocurrency” searches per 100,000 people. UAE took fourth place with 3, 342 ‘cryptocurrency’ searches per 100,000 people.

The Central Bank of Morocco, Bank Al Maghrib, announced during its second quarterly in June 2022 that it will be introducing a cryptocurrency bill soon. Abdul Latif Al Jawhari, Governor of Central Bank of Morocco noted that the crypto CBDC committee created in February 2022 is putting in place an appropriate regulatory framework to combine innovation, tech and consumer protection.

He also noted that the crypto bill is being benchmarked against global experiences with IMF and World Bank. He also noted that this regulatory framework will also update the legislation on the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

In March 2022, during a session with media He revealed that the Central Bank of Morocco had created a council headed by him to oversee the required regulations for both cryptocurrencies and CBDCs. He stated, “We are in discussions with the Central Banks of friendly nations such as Switzerland, Sweden, and France as well as international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank to learn from their expertise and experience.”

Despite the fact that the Moroccan government considers crypto illegal in the country, Morocco has the highest number of crypto owners within the Arab region, followed closely by Egypt. 2.38 percent of Moroccan population own crypto.