UAE Abu Dhabi Customs will be showcasing the latest innovative blockchain enabled projects for customs systems during its participation at Gitex 2023 under the slogan “We Shape Tomorrow’s Customs with Today’s Innovations”. Gitex 2023 will be held at Dubai World Trade Centre from October 16 to 20, 2023.

This year, Abu Dhabi Customs is highlighting its innovative digital technologies and solutions that keep pace with the latest technologies of the 4th industrial revolution and artificial intelligence, as well as launching its latest innovative projects that incorporate blockchain technology into customs systems.

Mohammed Husain Al Balooshi, Head of Corporate Communications and Marketing at Abu Dhabi Customs, stated, “Through its participation in GITEX Global 2023 within the Abu Dhabi Government pavilion, Abu Dhabi Customs seeks to showcase the latest innovative solutions and technologies adopted in its customs work system, and their role in enhancing distinguished digital services and adopting the best international practices to increase operational efficiency, which supports our efforts to achieve our vision of global leadership to be a customs authority that leads change in pursuit of enhancing security and facilitating trade, especially in line with the pillars of ‘UAE Centennial 2071‘, ‘We the UAE 2031’ vision, and the economic directives of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.”

The Central Bank of the UAE, and the Bank of international settleents along with Emirates Institute of Finance, have called innovators and developers to submit blockchain solutions for auditing, enhancing transparency, traceability and accountability in sustainable finance. The call comes unser the COP29 UAE TechSprint, an initiative aimed at promoting innovation in scaling sustainable finance and combating climate change. The launch of the COP28 UAE TechSprint comes ahead of the UAE’s hosting of COP28 later this year.

The initiative aims to encourage the participation of financial innovators and developers from global private and public sector entities in fast-tracking innovative technology solutions to address challenges in green and sustainable finance through technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet-of-Things (IoT), and sensor technologies across three problem statements:

AI solutions for sustainable finance reporting, verification, and disclosure in the financial services industry.

Blockchain solutions for auditing and enhancing transparency, traceability, and accountability in sustainable finance.

IoT and sensor technology solutions for sustainable finance to ensure informed assessments of impact or risk. 

His Excellency Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of CBUAE and Chairman of EIF, said: “In line with the vision of the UAE’s leadership, and its endeavors to address the challenges of climate change; we value the partnership with COP28 UAE and the BIS in launching this international initiative aimed at encouraging innovators across the globe to leverage financial technology in developing new green and sustainable finance solutions.”

Agustín Carstens, General Manager of the BIS, said: “Combating climate change is more urgent than ever. It calls for a profound change in the way economies operate and grow. To finance the needed transformation, investors need certainty that their funds are channeled to their intended uses. Technologies that promote the timely measurement and disclosure of climate-related information are part of the solution. The BIS Innovation Hub has explored how to apply technologies such as AI, blockchain and internet-of-things to green finance instruments and climate-related disclosure. This TechSprint in collaboration with the COP28 UAE, the CBUAE and EIF will complement these efforts to address remaining gaps in the green finance market.”

The COP28 UAE TechSprint is open to technology and financial innovators and developers from around the world. To participate, please register at link and submit technology proposals to one or more problem statements by [Friday, 6 October 2023].

Shortlisted participants for each problem statement will be invited to further develop their solutions and will be eligible for a stipend of AED 45,000 (approximately USD 12,000)].

A winner for each problem statement will be selected by an independent panel of experts. The winners will be announced at COP28 UAE in December 2023, with each winner eligible for an award of [AED 220,000 (approximately USD 60,000)].

In a recent interview with Qatar News Agency, the  Secretary-General of Qatar’s Research Development and Innovation Council (QRDI) Eng. Omar Ali Al Ansari affirmed that artificial intelligence (AI) science and the digital revolution related to “metaverse” and “blockchain” are among the most important technological transformations in the current era.

He believes that these technologies are important due to their contributions to the development of scientific research and innovation, through its ability to analyze huge amounts of data and process them faster and more effectively, which leads to the discovery of new patterns in the data and contributes to innovative scientific discoveries.

Al Ansari  added that  the digital revolution and Blockchain technology will provide new levels of security, transparency and security for information, which contributes to the development of methods of dealing with information and data, storing and exchanging them. It also enhances trust and cooperation and opens new horizons in this field.

As such the council aims to promote technological development by stimulating and nurturing talent, as well as expanding the knowledge of the research and development community in the areas of artificial intelligence, big data analysis, and others.

The Council endevours to  provide new opportunities for cooperation with relevant authorities from various countries of the world, with the aim of exchanging information and expertise and promoting scientific and technological progress.

According to Al-Ansari  the Council is about to launch a new program package to support innovation in the private sector, as part of the third national development strategy, where it provided new platforms and programs in order to explore innovation opportunities in a limited range of major national companies and some government agencies, which establishes the importance of adopting innovative solutions in order to build new competitive advantages to raise its production efficiency.

Al Ansari explained that QOI program has received, since its launch, more than 400 submissions from innovators across Qatar and the world,  all of which focused on the areas of health, energy, environment, transportation, education and smart cities, noting that the council announced during the past months that 9 companies won this grant.

In addition the Product Development Management Program, which is being implemented in cooperation with Qatar Development Bank, has attracted 25 participants from 11 small and medium local companies.  About 30 senior government employees (directors and heads of departments) from 10 ministries participated in the Government Innovation Leadership Program. (QNA) 

These statements come at a time where,  Qatar Genesis Technologies, the developers of the Maxya Blockchain platform, are holding meetings and workshops with banks in Qatar to learn from the experiences of fintech.

According to Mazen El-Masri Cofounder and CEO of Genesis Technologies in a LinkedIn statement, “ A banking-as-a-service approach can be adopted to expedite the move from the monolithic structures of legacy core banking systems into a lighter service-oriented banking solution stack. To achieve this transformation, it is now more important than ever for banks to partner with (or acquire) fintechs with solid innovations and at the same time exploit their existing assets to enable new sources of growth in their reconfigured banking value chain.”

He added, “ With the sponsorship of Qatar Central Bank, we enjoyed a great discussion with the banking sector in Qatar with over 50 attendees. We at Genesis Technologies LLC are enthusiastic about the coming banking/fintech partnership and we expect that it will bring to light the next generation of banks.”

Qatar has been strongly moving forward in its blockchain and digital asset strategy. It seems we will be seeing a lot in Qatar over the next few years.

During Gitex Africa, held in Morocco from 31 May – 2 June 2023, IR4LAB, a Saudi-based company specialized in disruptive technologies such as Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence., announced that it would be expanding its operations into Africa. The announcement was made during Gitex Africa. 

The expansion is part of IR4LAB’s commitment to the African continent and their aim to spur innovation in deep technologies and implement use cases utilizing IR4LAB’s Blockchain solution, DocCerts as well as other solutions offered.

Mohamed El Kandri, CTO and Co-Founder of IR4LAB, who made the announcement at the event, stated, “We are happy to be expanding into the African market. We believe that Africa’s digital economy will grow and we want to be part of this growth in innovation and digitization, but also building local capabilities right from Morocco to Africa”.

According to Mckinsey & Company, Africa’ digital economy should top $712 billion by 2050 fostered by its youthful population, smartphone adoption, and internet penetration.

Majd AL AFIFI, CEO and Co-Founder of IR4LAB adds, “More and more blockchain entities are setting up base in Africa, but we are glad that IR4LAB will be the first from Saudi Arabia to do so with the support of our leadership”.

This was not their first participation in Africa. In March at the first World Maintenance Summit 2023, held between 11th-12th May at King Mohamed 6 University in Marrakech (Morocco), organized by Morocco’s largest group OCP and its subsidiary OCP MS, IR4LAB presented on the use of Blockchain in industrial maintenance in general and specifically in industrial inspection.

At the event El Kandri highlighted the role that Blockchain could play in maintenance 4.0 and the benefits of using Blockchain in industrial inspection, he has also provided real life examples from IR4LAB’s current projects.

Prior to this During Saudi’s leading tech event LEAP 2023, held between February 7th-9th in Riyadh KSA, IR4LAB and SGS (Saudi Ground Services), jointly announced the implementation of DocCerts Blockchain management solution for all training related digital documents and ground service equipment licenses issued by SGS at 28 Saudi Arabian airports where SGS provides ground services.

IR4LAB, also recently was accepted into the Ministry of Communications Information Technology tech champions accelerator program powered by Silicon Valley’s Plug and play. Plug and Play was an early investor in Google, PayPal, Dropbox, LendingClub, N26, Soundhound, Honey, Kustomer, and Guardant Health.

Qatar Research Development and Innovation Council’s innovation program has chosen among its seven winning innovation solution providers, a Blockchain Digital Port and Marine Services platform developed by Milaha in partnership with  Vendia, which offers Next-gen blockchain delivering a single source of truth for real-time data sharing across partners, geographies, clouds, and applications.

Milaha is one of the largest and most diversified maritime and logistics companies in the Middle East with a focus on providing integrated transport and supply chain solutions.

Qatar Open Innovation (QOI), announced a host of winning innovation partnership programs (seven in total) from KAHRAMAA, Ooredoo, Milaha, and Sidra Medicine.

Commenting on the awards, Haya Al-Ghanim, RDI Program Director at the QRDI Council, said: “As we announce the new round of winners of the Qatar Open Innovation program, we take pride in recognizing their well-put proposed solutions. These seven projects embody the spirit of innovation that is essential to achieving the goals of the Qatar National Vision 2030. By embracing forward-thinking ideas and creative solutions, we can strengthen Qatar’s economy, enhance its global competitiveness, and pave the way for a prosperous future.”

The new round of Qatar Open Innovation (QOI) Program’s Winners

Partner: Kahramaa

Challenge: “Grid Level Energy Storage Solutions for Harsh Environments”

 Awardee Name: John Cockerill

 Partner: Ooredoo

Challenge: “Smart Troubleshooting AR / VR Software for WiFi Applications.”

 Awardee Name: AutoVRse

 Partner: Ooredoo

Challenge: “Smart Tools for Audio Analytics in IoT Networks.”

 Awardee Name: Groundup.AI

 Partner: Milaha

Challenge: “Smart Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Workers’ Health, Safety and Security.”

 Awardee Name: Interactive Wear AG

 Partner: Milaha

Challenge: “Digital Port & Marine Services Platform Supported by Blockchain Technology.”

 Awardee Name: Vendia

Partner: Milaha

Challenge: “Seeking Innovation for a Reliable and Close to Real-time Carbon Accounting and Reporting.”

 Awardee Name: Solupia

Partner: Sidra Medicine

Challenge: “Comprehensive and fast asthma assessment device for pediatric patients.”

Awardee Name: Sonavi labs

Considered a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Qatar Open Innovation Program aims to support the nation’s innovation ecosystem by fostering innovation partnerships for government entities and Large Local Enterprises in Qatar. The program has continuously promoted innovation in the country and created a conducive environment for innovators and entrepreneurs to solve complex challenges through open innovation.

The program has been the primary platform for startups and innovators to showcase their products and solutions that address the nation’s most pressing challenges. It has provided a unique opportunity for innovators to collaborate with leading organizations, industry experts, and mentors to develop and scale their ideas.

Since its inception, the program has received over 350 submissions from innovators across Qatar and the globe. The challenges were focused on a wide range of areas, including health, energy, environment, transport, education, and smart cities. In its latest award announcement, the Qatar Open Innovation program received 116 proposals from more than 34 countries for the innovation calls for Hassad Food. Two of them were awarded the winning partnerships.

The program previously launched several challenge calls, including the “Future of Food,” “Energy Efficiency,” “Smart Transport,” and “Smart City Challenge.” Each call was designed to address a specific challenge and invited innovators to submit their solutions.

This announcement comes after two other blockchain announcements earlier this week. 

Saudi Aramco has signed a memorandum of agreement with Data Gumbo, a US based Blockchain technology company which developed a blockchain as a service platform to streamline smart contracts management for industrial customers. The agreement between Saudi Aramco and Data Gumbo is for Blockchain collaboration over a three year term.

This is not the first time Saudi Aramco has dealt with Data Gumbo. In August 2022, Saudi Aramco’s investment arm Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures made its fourth investment in Data Gumbo series C round where Data Gumbo raised $4million. The round was led by Saudi Aramco Ventures and Equinor, Norway’s energy operator.

As per the Data Gumbo blog post, “ Data Gumbo is proud to announce that on 8 February, 2023 we entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Saudi Aramco for Blockchain Collaboration.  The agreement has a 3 year term. We are honored by the opportunity to deepen our collaboration and look forward to several transformational projects in the coming years.”

The MOU was signed by Mohamed Marzouk, Saudi Arabia Country Manager and Saudi Aramco’s Senior Vice President, Digital and Information Technology Mr. Nabil Al-Nuaim in Riyadh.

As per the agreement the Areas of collaboration will include, accelerating digital transformation within the Oil & Gas Industry, exploring,  identifying and co-innovating blockchain use, improving operational efficiency and driving ROIU with Aramco, its customers and suppliers, providing blockchain training and finally identifying potential applications for managed blockchain services

During the World Economic Forum’s session’ Financial Institutions innovating under pressure’ The Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan stated that while CBDCs have privacy issues they are a fantastic tool in developing countries.

While the panel discussed the risks that crypto and new technologies were posing especially given that crypto losses were over $1 trillion in 2022, most agreed that the regulation was a key element in mitigating these risks.

Saudi Finance Minister Al Jadaan also believes that the real risks of these innovations haven’t even been seen yet, and the one incident with the loss of 12 zeros has triggered a lot of thinking of what needs to be done.

He believes that Central Banks, traditional financial institutions and even innovators in Fintech need to discuss how to deal with Anti Money laundering issues, terrorism financing and entities that use these technologies to circumvent the regulatory framework.

When discussing CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currencies) Al Jadaan noted “Whether CBDCs and similar government sponsored currencies one will need to think about privacy.” He believes that the minute a government issues a CBDC or government sponsored cryptocurrency there is a compromise on privacy.

He states, “There is a lot of data to whoever is holding that currency.”

Yet he believes that CBDC is a fantastic tool in developing countries. He explains, “It can be used as a social safety net. CBDC can be used by people to exclusively buy milk, rice, oil but may not be allowed for other items.” He notes that while on one hand it is beneficial the other side of it is the risk of privacy invasion. ‘Bottom line no perfect solution.

Saudi Arabia piloted a CBDC with the UAE under the name ABER. The report on the final project was positive from a technical standpoint and the report highlighted the need for further use case trials.

In addition in July 2022, the Central Bank of KSA hired former Accenture Director Mr. Mohsen Alzahrani to lead the virtual asset and Central Bank Digital currency project at the bank.

It seems KSA is still studying the impact of CBDC implementation and is worried about the issue of privacy infringement.