The Dubai based entity of WadzPay, WPME Technology, which specializes in blockchain based technology for virtual assets has been granted a Virtual Assets Service Provider (VASP) Licence for Virtual Asset Broker-Dealer service activities, better known as crypto broker license, by Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA).

The crypto broker licence remains non-operational until the company fully satisfies all remaining conditions and select localisation requirements defined by VARA, following which it will be able to commence operations, subject to regulatory reverification and approval.

As per the press release, WadzPay is excited to deliver its innovative and industry-leading solutions to customers across Middle East while working closely with regulators in contributing to build a compliant and robust fintech ecosystem.

Mr. Anish Jain, Founder & CEO, WadzPay stated “This licence showcases WadzPay’s dedication in promoting innovation in the field of virtual assets domain and blockchain technology bringing us a step closer to delivering world class solutions to businesses in Middle East.”

WadzPay aims to revolutionise the way people in the Middle East transact and manage virtual assets. WadzPay’s commitment to compliance ensures that financial institutions and their customers can confidently embrace the benefits of blockchain technology while adhering to regulatory standards, ultimately contributing to the growth and sustainability of the fintech ecosystem in the Middle East.

Mr. Ram Chari, Board Member and Group Director, WadzPay quoted “This will further solidify WadzPay’s position as a trusted and reliable blockchain technology based financial service provider in the region. With the broker-dealer services, WadzPay will provide the technology to its clients to enhance the experience of their customers by enabling virtual assets transactions in a seamless and secure manner. “

To which Mr. Khaled Moharem, President – MENA & Europe at WadzPay, emphasised, “This cements our hard work and sets the stage for transformative blockchain solutions, promoting compliance and customer confidence in the Virtual Assets Industry.”

WadzPay received its initial approval for a license back in October 2023.

In 2022, KSA based Geidea, a leading fintech company in Saudi Arabia and Blockchain based payments solutions, WadzPay Middle East Technology forged a new strategic partnership to power the transformation of pilgrimage payments.

WadzPay had been strivign to obtain a Blockchain settlement and payment license from VARA in Dubai, yet this will need further framework and direction from the Central Bank of UAE.

After OKX received its crypto exchange VASP license from Dubai UAE through VARA ( Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority), the crypto exchange now receives a license in Turkey. OKX TR, will provide Turkish users with a trusted, compliant and transparent gateway to crypto trading and decentralized finance. The OKX Web3 Wallet is currently available in Türkiye through OKX’s global platform.

With the launch of OKX TR, users have access to enhanced localized features, including Turkish Lira direct deposits and withdrawals from banking partners such as: Fibabanka, VakıfBank, Ziraat Bankası, İş Bankası, Şekerbank and Türkiye Finans. The OKX TR team also offers 24/7 local customer support in Turkish and English, ensuring users receive timely assistance and comprehensive guidance when needed.

Also available is OKX Wallet, a non-custodial Web3 wallet that provides access to a user-friendly self-custody portal to trade NFTs, use dApps, and more. It’s the first wallet to feature both Multi-Party Computation (MPC) technology and Account Abstraction (AA) features, which paves the way for wider adoption among less technical users.

OKX President Hong Fang said: “The official launch of OKX TR is a significant milestone in our global expansion strategy. With a crypto adoption rate close to 50%, Türkiye represents a very dynamic and promising market for the industry as it continues to develop. The population’s high level of engagement and understanding of digital assets makes it an ideal environment for OKX, and we’re strongly committed to helping continue to grow this already vibrant ecosystem.”

OKX TR Board Chairman Mehmet Çamır said: “The launch of OKX TR is a testament to our belief in the country’s huge potential for growth and our commitment to the market. Already a global leader in crypto trading, Türkiye is also in a prime position to grow in the decentralized finance space. We’re excited to support this development, and firmly believe that our presence here will play a pivotal role in nurturing Türkiye’s emergence as a Web3 innovation hub.”

Canadian based Aquanow ME FZE local UAE entity, a digital assets liquidity infrastructure provider, has received a full virtual asset service provider license from Dubai Virtual asset regulatory Authority (VARA).

The license which is currently pending, will allow Aquanow to offer crypto broker dealer services as well as investment services. Aquanow will also be able to offer crypto lending and borrowing services.

Aquanow has been operating crypto infrastructure at scale since 2018.

In January 2023, Aquanow and Gate.io, a global cryptocurrency exchange with over $6B in daily volume, entered into a partnership to build global liquidity for the next wave of blockchain projects.

In June 2023 Aquanow, announced that it had received initial approval from Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA), while it undertakes the in-depth process of applying for a license in accordance with VARA requirements.

Aquanow is a global leader in digital assets infrastructure and is a facilitator for cryptocurrency trading in over 50 countries. Aquanow ranked amongst the fastest growing companies with a four-year revenue growth rate of 1,842%, according to the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 list.

“Dubai’s D33 vision of emerging as a top global financial center and major hub of innovation, testing, and commercialization of new technologies was a key factor in making the Emirate the centerpiece in our international growth efforts,” said Phil Sham, Aquanow Co-Founder and CEO. “We look forward to enabling a range of crypto use cases, and contributing to the region’s efforts that are leading the virtual assets industry in balancing consumer protections with world-changing technology.”

With this VARA has awarded OKx, CoinMENA and several other crypto exchanges and brokers in the UAE licenses to start their operations in a regulated manner.

Article updated with quote at 7:50 UAE time.

The best companies that have ever existed are those that are built with conviction and passion, DRIFE is such a company. Based on the concept that centralization eventually equates to monopolization, the Founder of DRIFE, a decentralized ride hailing platform built on the Sui Blockchain, Firdosh Sheikh believes that both taxi drivers and their riders deserve a more transparent, secure, cost effective system that benefits both parties. Today with DRIFE being licensed in Dubai UAE that dream is now available in the UAE.

The dream behind DRIFE

DRIFE started and continues to be a personal journey. According to Firdosh, it all started during an UBER ride to an airport in India. As Firdosh explains, “I have always been a user of taxis as my means of transportation starting early on when I moved to Delhi for my studies, and then afterwards in Bangalore while I was working as a financial analyst. Yet one midnight drive to an airport changed everything.”

It was on that evening that the UBER driver had asked her to cancel the trip telling her he would take her at a much lower price. Asking him why, she discovered that UBER was taking 35% commission leaving him with a profit of less than 50% after cost.

After that drive, Firdosh began speaking to all the drivers she would use for rides. The same story emerged, high commissions, no health insurance, and a feeling that they were caught in a vicious circle and still struggling.

She spoke to 1000 drivers, and in the back of her mind she remembered how her father had started his career as a taxi driver, and how as a young girl she would wait patiently for his return while he worked hard to earn money for his family.

It is then she decided that she wanted to change this. She had read about how Bitcoin had offered freedom to the financial sector, and realized Blockchain could do the same for the mobility sector.

Firdosh calls it Taxi 3.0 for short. In her experience Taxi 1.0 was where people would book an unmetered taxi and agree the fare with the driver. Taxi 2.0 was where big tech got involved and everything moved to the platform. It was certainly a technical disruption and people could book and find a taxi with a couple of taps on their mobile phone.

DRIFE is Taxi 3.0.It is disrupting the disruptors of Taxi 1.0, the Taxi 2.0. While Taxi2.0 was a win because of technology, it eventually became a loss for the driver. As Firdosh explains, “In Taxi 3.0, the community, the market and the driver is in control not anyone else. The market sets the prices; there are no commissions, and only a subscription fee to use the platform, so that with every ride, the money belongs to them. This direct connection allows for more personalized and customized ride-hailing experiences, where riders can choose drivers based on specific criteria, such as driver rating, car type, and other preferences.”

DRIFE: The Web3 Taxi

DRIFE utilizes an array of technologies to offer TAXI 3.0. DRIFE has a patent pending auction based dynamic pricing model and removal of middlemen’s profit which contributes to lower prices for riders and higher earnings for drivers.

The platform and its application also utilize smart contracts, a tamper proof system that is resistant to fraud and hacking. This technology ensures that transactions are conducted in a secure and transparent manner, giving riders and drivers peace of mind when using the platform.

The use of blockchain technology, specifically Sui Blockchain in DRIFE’s platform further enhances the transparency of the pricing system, ensuring that riders and drivers can trust the pricing mechanisms. The blockchain also enables DRIFE to operate with a zero-commission structure.

The platform operates on the DRF token, which serves as the native currency for all transactions on the platform. DRF token has two different utilities in the ecosystem. Riders can use DRF tokens to make payments directly to the driver, while drivers can use DRF to pay for their subscription fees.

In addition, DRIFE’s governance structure is built on a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) model. The DRIFE ecosystem is governed by a network of token holders who have a say in the decision-making processes. The DRF token gives every stakeholder voting rights and enables them to take part in the governance, ensuring that the community needs and priorities are addressed.

DRIFE even uses NFTs (Non fungible tokens). DRIFE Council NFT is their unique approach to uphold the idea of ‘decentralization’ through DAO Governance, which endeavors the growth of the DRIFE ecosystem and brings added value to the DRIFE community.

DRIFE Council members are a group of 200 members responsible for most approvals taking place in the DRIFE ecosystem, starting with approvals for proposal voting and franchise vetting and more. According to Firdosh, “The launch of DRIFE NFT is also a strong indication of our commitment to the utility of DRF (decentralized ride-hailing fuel). We believe that DRF has a bright future as a utility token, and it will continue to play a vital role in the DRIFE ecosystem. DRIFE NFT is an integral part of the DRIFE DAO Framework.”

DRIFE IN UAE

In 2023 DRIFE achieved pivotal successes with licenses in Karnataka, India. At the end of 2023, DRIFE had over 350,000 users and 30,000+ drivers. Today DRIFE expands its operations to the UAE. DRIFE has been granted an e-hailing license.This groundbreaking achievement was made possible through the partnership with AASA Passenger Mobility Services LLC subsidiary of AASA Group, an affiliate of EII Capital (Formerly known as EMAAR Industries and Investments), DRIFE’s franchise partner in Dubai, who played a pivotal role in securing the license.

Firdosh explains, “We are very proud to have received an e-hailing license allowing us to compete against the likes of UBER and Careem which are both Taxi 2.0 mobile based taxi applications. It was not easy acquiring a license in the UAE; it took nine months because here everything is well systemized and organized. This had always been a dream of mine and very honored to see us here.”

Firdosh explains, “To start with, we will work with Limousine drivers, and then eventually we hope to get the RTA taxis on board. Riders can hail a DRIFE Taxi from Dubai and travel anywhere in the UAE.”

At present, bookings can only be made from within Dubai, so the next step according to Firdosh is to obtain a license from Sharjah as well.

In addition, DRIFE is still not utilizing its DRF token in the UAE as it needs approval from Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority. Firdosh states, “We are in the process of receiving approval from VARA to utilize our token, once received we will integrate it into the application.”

Drivers of DRIFE all go through an extensive KYC (Know your customer) process as well as extensive training.

The Future of DRIFE

As for the future of DRIFE not only globally but in MENA, Firdosh aims to expand DRIFE’s operations in India, and within the UAE. She then aims to acquire a license in Saudi Arabia.

Firdosh states, “We want to expand DRIFE across MENA and India, we are looking for partners in KSA because eventually we want to have a strong presence in the region.”

In the future DRIFE will be doing a fundraiser round but at the moment the focus is on the launch in the UAE. Firdosh explains, “My vision for DRIFE is for it to become a global phenomenon, impacting as many drivers as possible. In the end everyone can be part of DRIFE. For us, DRIFE is not just about WEB3 Taxi, but about solving all the problems in the mobility space.

Firdosh believes that drivers can contribute to building a decentralized mobility infrastructure, whether that includes maps or other infrastructure related solutions. This is one of the reasons DRIFE chose the Sui blockchain to be strategic partners to help build mobility specific use cases.

While over the past months a multitude of crypto exchanges have received licenses both from Abu Dhabi’s regulator ADGM and Dubai’s regulator VARA, OKx is the first top five ranked global crypto exchange to receive a VASP ( non-operational) license in the UAE.

OKX, which now holds the status of the fifth biggest exchange globally according to Coinmarketcap, beat Binance to it.

OKX Middle East Fintech FZE, the Dubai subsidiary of OKX, has received a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) license from the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) for VA Exchange Services. The license remains non-operational until the company fully satisfies all remaining conditions and select localization requirements defined by VARA, following which it will be able to commence operations, subject to regulatory recertification and approval.

Once operational, the VASP license will allow OKX Middle East to extend its approved suite of duly regulated virtual assets activities and to provide spot services and spot-pairs, to institutional and qualified retail customers via the OKX App and OKX.com exchange.

Rifad Mahasneh, OKX General Manager for the MENA Region, stated, “The future of digital assets and capital markets lies in the hands of regulated entities, and Dubai, along with VARA, has succeeded in establishing a distinctive environment that fosters the growth of Virtual Asset Service Providers. The MENA region holds immense potential to become a hub of excellence for Web3 and virtual assets. We eagerly anticipate the chance to further enhance the already flourishing ecosystem throughout the region.”

In a blog post, Mahasneh comments, “This license is a game-changer. Once operational approval has been received, the VASP License will allow OKX Middle East to offer regulated virtual asset exchange services activities including spot and fiat trading services, AED deposits and withdrawals, and spot trading-pairs. These services will be available to retail and institutional users in-market via the OKX App and OKX.com Exchange.”

Tim Byun, OKX Global Head of Government Relations, added, “Dubai and VARA are world leaders in crypto regulation by establishing the most timely, comprehensive and built from-the-ground-up framework for virtual assets and Web3. This license was a crucial step for OKX as we move from a trust-based system to one that is trustless and empowers users to take control of their financial future. Dubai is an important market for us, and we’re excited to build strong relationships with our users and contribute to the development of its crypto and Web3 ecosystem.”

Last week OKX geared up for its license by announcing its Arabic website.

OKX is gearing up towards its official launch out of the UAE as it awaits its license from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA) with the launch of its Arabic language website and application for both crypto trading and Web3 services.

As per the press release, this initiative marks a significant step in making digital assets and web3 technologies more accessible to Arabic-speaking audiences.

With the Arabic website and application OKX is catering to the unique needs of different markets, ensuring a smooth and user-friendly experience for Arabic-speaking users.

OKX MENA General Manager Rifad Mahasneh said, “The introduction of the Arabic OKX website and app represents our customer focus and commitment to growth. By offering our exchange and web3 platforms in Arabic, we aim to empower more individuals to participate in the evolving digital economy seamlessly. The addition of Arabic to our global platform brings the total number of languages available to 22, highlighting our global reach and dedication to customer service.”

OKX’s crypto exchange is the second largest globally by trading volume and is trusted by more than 50 million users. OKX’s leading self-custody solutions include the Web3-compatible OKX Wallet, which allows users greater control of their assets while expanding access to DEXs, NFT marketplaces, DeFi, GameFi and thousands of dApps.

OKX announced the establishment of its Hong Kong entity (OKX Hong Kong) in March 2023 for the purpose of applying for the VASP license and operating as a virtual asset trading platform in Hong Kong. In September 2023 OKX announced that it was in its final stretch of its virtual asset service provider (VASP) license in Hong Kong. The exchange is expected to receive approval by March 2024.

In UAE, OKX received its MVP preparatory license from Dubai’s VARA in June 2023 and is still awaiting its final license. In November of 2023, OKX announced the appointment of a general manager for the MENA region based out of Dubai UAE.

In December 2023 the exchange delisted multiple tokens based on user feedback and failure to adhere to its delisting/hiding guidelines, including several privacy-focused tokens. The first batch of delistings will see KSM, FLOW, JST, ANT, FSN, KZS, CAPO, and CVP trading pairs delisted on January 4, 2024. Followed by XMR, DASH, ZEC, and ZEN, delisted on January 5, 2024. This is a requirement by VARA as it does not allow the trading of privacy focused tokens.

MRHB a halal, decentralized finance (DeFi) platform built for Ethical and Inclusive DeFi has expanded into the Saudi market after receiving a license from the Ministry of Investment.

MRHB plans to relocate its research and development team to Riyadh KSA.

According to the press release, “At $830bn Saudi Arabia has the largest Islamic Banking market globally and as such it was inevitable for MRHB.Network – the world’s most mature halal web3 ecosystem – to come onshore. By securing the license, MRHB.Network is now better able to partner with local, regulated institutions to drive its vision of a more inclusive, ethical, and halal approach to the world of decentralized finance and digital assets.”

The relocation of MRHB.Network’s R&D team to Riyadh is a strategic decision to tap into the vibrant and innovative fintech and venture capital ecosystem in the region. Riyadh’s dynamic, tech-forward environment offers the perfect backdrop for MRHB.Network to spearhead research and development efforts to bring the six trillion dollar Islamic economy into the digital assets era.

On LinkedIn Founder of MRHB Naquib Mohammed stated, “With great pleasure, I am excited to announce that MRHB.Network has received the local license from The Ministry of Investment, Saudi Arabia and has now expanded to the Kingdom. Our R&D team will soon relocate to Riyadh, where we will begin the next phase of our research and development. We are committed to providing empowering fintech solutions to the GCC, MENA region, and beyond.”

Prior to the move to KSA, MRHB Network partnered up with Shari’ah Review Bureau (“SRB”), a Bahrain-based Shari’ah advisory firm, to independently assess and review its new product EMPLIFAI (Earnings Amplified with Algorithms & AI) which aims to provide Sharia-compliant passive income.  

At the time Mohammed stated, “The MRHB ecosystem aims for a wide array of crypto-based DeFi solutions. After a successful launch of the Sahal Wallet app, a multichain self-custodial digital wallet, we are pleased to present our new product to the Muslim community – a liquidity harvester product, EMPLIFAI which incorporates a Sharia-compliant mechanism and structure for users to invest and generate passive income.”

Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority has just listed UAE based Nine Blocks Capital Management as a receiving a full VASP license and will make Dubai UAE its headquarters.

As per VARA website, Nine Blocks Capital will be able to offer crypto and virtual asset investment services to institutional and qualified investors.

Nine Blocks Capital received initial approval from VARA back in August 2022. Nine Blocks was launched by by PwC’s former global crypto head Henri Arslanian.

Nine Blocks is the investment manager of the Nine Blocks Master Fund, a market neutral crypto fund focused on generating alpha from inefficiencies in the crypto markets using relative value, arbitrage and quantitative strategies.
With around $100m in AuM and a track record of more than 2 years, Nine Blocks manages assets for many leading investors globally, from regulated financial institutions and private banks to public companies and fund of funds.
This license is the culmination of a process that started with an MOU between Nine Blocks and VARA, allowing knowledge sharing and consultation.
The Nine Blocks group was set-up in 2021 with the belief that institutional investors want digital assets exposure via fund managers who have established digital assets track record, are regulated, have traditional finance experience and comply with the highest operational due diligence requirements.
Henri Arslanian, co-founder and managing partner of Nine Blocks said, “We believe that a regulatory regime tailored for the fast-moving digital assets space can not only provide comfort to institutional allocators but also contribute to the growth of a healthy crypto ecosystem.The UAE is quickly becoming a leading jurisdiction globally for digital assets and we are honored to be part of this journey.”

Nine Blocks follows a market neutral trading strategy, profiting from arbitrage opportunities and market inefficiencies across the crypto space.

GC Exchange part of the GCEX Group, has been granted an Operational VASP Licence for VA Broker Dealer services from Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA)

GCEX, which opened its Dubai office in July 2022 and received its MVP (Minimal Viable Product) Preparatory Licence from VARA in February 2023, can now start market operations as a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) in the Emirate of Dubai, enabling brokers, hedge funds, family offices and professional traders to access its deep liquidity in digital assets and range of technology solutions.

GCEX facilitates institutional access to digital assets through its proprietary XplorDigital trading solutions, which comprises of a technology-agnostic platform covering regulation, regulated custody, the safety of funds, tier 1 liquidity and technology (both back-end and front-end). GCEX only partners with regulated institutional digital custody and staking providers and always segregates client funds.

Mehtap Önder, Managing Director, GCEX in Dubai, commented in a press release, “VARA is leading the way in the global digital asset industry, and we are extremely proud to be one of the first firms to receive a VASP Operating Licence to provide Virtual Asset Broker-Dealer services and the first firm to gain approval to operate with a client money account, highlighting our focus on client protection.Being a regulated entity in the region is important to us – it’s the ideal way to demonstrate our commitment to adhering to international standards and implementing robust processes, with transparency and investor protection at the core of our offering. This is a major milestone for our business and is critical to GCEX’s growth strategy, enabling us to have a stronger presence in the region.”

GCEX Group enables institutional clients to access deep liquidity in FX and CFDs on digital assets, as well as digital assets spot trading and conversion and a broad range of trading solutions. Headquartered in London, with multiple offices across the globe, GCEX is regulated by the UK’s FCA and registered with the Danish FSA. True Global Ventures are investors in GCEX.

To date five crypto exchanges, Fuze, BackPack, Toko, Laser Digital, and GCEX have received full licences to operate in UAE under the VARA regime, with Crypto.com still awaiting final sign offs before it receives its full VASP license. The more well global names such as Binance, ByBit, OKX have yet to receive theirs, while BitOasis remains in frozen status.

UAE based Fuze Finance under the licensed name Morpheus Software Technology (FUZE) FZE has just received a full VASP license from Dubai’s Virtual asset regulatory Authority. Fuze offers embedded digital asset capabilities for financial institutions as a digital asset infrastructure provider for the Middle East.

VARA’s license will allow Fuze Finance to offer broker dealer services, allowing them to serve institutional investors, retail and qualified investors. Through this licence, the business will be able to serve customers through two core service lines: firstly, via digital assets as a service (DAAS) enabling banks, fintechs and enterprises to integrate B2B2C digital asset products natively into their channels and secondly, through a regulated Over-The-Counter (OTC) service providing investors with a technology-first option for executing institutional-level digital asset trading with ease and efficiency.

With a regional digital asset market worth $566bn, and growing at 48% YoY, Fuze co-founder and CEO, Mohammed Ali Yusuf believes the Middle East is the perfect home to establish a digital assets infrastructure business.

Ali Yufu on receiving the license noted, “We thank VARA for assessing and approving our licence. VARA’s comprehensive and consultative process demonstrates the robust framework at the heart of this booming industry. Across the UAE, digital assets businesses are being welcomed to a thriving ecosystem with regulation that matches rapid innovation and adoption. Businesses can now have full confidence in the regulated infrastructure that Fuze provides, as we support the world’s fastest-growing digital assets hub.”

In September 2023 UAE headquartered Fuze Finance, raised a seed round of $14mn, the largest Seed investment in a digital assets startup in the history of the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The investment was led by Abu Dhabi-based Further Ventures, along with participation by US-based Liberty City Ventures.

Fuze wanted to benefit from the strategic capital and network of these investors, acting as a catalyst for the business as it builds the digital asset infrastructure that will drive the future of finance.  A first-of-its-kind infrastructure provider in MENA, Fuze enables any bank, fintech or traditional enterprise to easily offer regulated digital assets products to their customers through their native apps.

Fuze was founded by an expert team of fintech, traditional finance (TradFi) and decentralized finance (DeFi) leaders, with its co-founders holding extensive knowledge from experience in global hypergrowth businesses.

CEO, Mohammed Ali Yusuf (Mo Ali Yusuf) has held prominent roles at Checkout.com and Visa; Arpit Mehta (COO) was previously in the leadership team at fintech leaders like Simpl and Clear; Srijan Shetty (CTO) built algorithmic trading systems at Goldman Sachs and worked at tech leader Microsoft.

Yusuf at the time of raise stated, “We are excited to build the future of regulated financial infrastructure and digital assets out of the UAE. Regulations have played a pivotal role in propelling the UAE into a central position within the global Digital Assets industry. To receive the backing of Abu Dhabi-headquartered Further Ventures combined with the deep expertise of US-based Liberty City Ventures, confirms the relevancy and potential of Fuze’s mission to rapidly expand our cutting-edge infrastructure across the region.”

Article updated on November 20th 2023