In 2023 and earlier this year in January, the UAE licensed in total 13 crypto exchanges and crypto brokers. This came at the backdrop of a more robust virtual asset regulatory ecosystem both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as a heightened awareness and interest in investing in crypto tokens, virtual assets, and digital assets.

The most important question to many who are either already investing and trading in crypto or who are just getting started is which crypto exchange or broker can serve me best. The article will look into each crypto exchange and compare them to offer a more transparent mirror of the licensed and regulated crypto exchanges in the UAE.

OKX:

Starting with OKX is mainly because it is the first global exchange to receive a virtual asset license to operate their crypto exchange in the UAE. OKX received the license in January 2024, yet is still not fully operational as it finalizes certain requirements requested by Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority VARA.

However when it does start, it will offer more than 350 crypto tokens. So other than the basic offering of trading tokens or trade pairs on the spot, margin and derivatives markets, it also offers managing of DeFi portfolios, buying and selling NFTs, earn crypto in our mining pools, and take out crypto collateralized loans.

But wait all these products are not available to UAE retail and institutional clients. So far, OKX’s approved suite of duly regulated virtual assets activities includes spot services and spot-pairs, via the OKX App and OKX.com exchange.

The UAE VASP License also allows OKX to offer AED deposits and withdrawals.

OKX also announced that it has developed its Arabic website to meet the needs of users in the MENA region.

Finally OKX is active on all social media platforms so engaging with the community is available through many channels.

The crypto exchange boasts of over 50 million users in more than 100 countries. It is currently seeking a license in Hong Kong.

CoinMENA

Next in line is homegrown Crypto broker CoinMENA, which is not only now licensed in the UAE but was also one of the first to be licensed in Bahrain. CoinMENA offers the major cryptocurrencies on its platform, 52 in total.

It is fully operational and is authorized to serve Institutional Investors, qualified Investors and retail Investors. It offers spot trading of crypto assets.

CoinMENA already is fully operational and has been serving customers in the GCC and MENA region through its Bahrain licensed entity.

In addition customers can deposit money directly via bank transfer or credit/debit card to a customer’s CoinMENA Wallet, as well as withdraw money from CoinMENA Wallet directly to a client’s bank account.

CoinMENA currently serves over 900,000 users supporting seven countries.

Recently CoinMENA expanded its family office, investor and institutional offering through a partnership with Onramp Bitcoin. Onramp is an international Bitcoin asset management company built on multi institutional custody.

Crypto ExchangeRegulatory StatusPresence in
OKXCrypto ExchangeHongKong UAE
Fassetcrypto brokerUAE
CoinMENAcrypto brokerUAE Bahrain
GCEXInstitutional crypto ExchangeUAE Denmark UK
FUZECrypto brokerUAE
BackPack Exchange crypto exchangeUAE
TokoCrrypto exchange/brokerUAE
Laser DigitalCrypto BrokerUAE
RAINCrypto brokerUAE Bahrain
M2 Crypto exchangeUAE
GlomexInstitutional crypto exchangeUAE
MatrixInstitutional crypto exchangeUAE
MidchainsInstitutional crypto exchangeUAE
VenomexInstitutional crypto ExchangeUAE

M2

M2 is a UAE Abu Dhabi Homegrown crypto exchange. It received its license back in November 2023 from ADGM. It was recognized as a fully regulated Multilateral Trading Facility (MTF) and Custodian and is now able to on-board UAE residents and institutional clients.

M2 offers spot trading and currently has 50 crypto tokens to choose from.

It will also be able to offer AED Fiat On/Off-Ramp: Allow the on/off ramp of AED with ease through its partnership with a local bank in the near future.

One of the strengths of M2 is that it is backed by strong investors, one of which is a Bitcoin mining conglomerate, Phoenix Group that helps M2 to offer its Bitcoin Earn Product. The product was launched in partnership with Phoenix crypto mining group and offers yields that reach up to 10.5%.

M2 has an equity investment of $300 million as well.

RAIN

RAIN crypto broker and exchange was the first crypto broker to receive a license in the MENA region. Its operations started in Bahrain and it is now licensed in the UAE through ADGM in Abu Dhabi.

On the landing page of RAIN the first thing a user sees is the 0% trading fee. RAIN offers 70 crypto tokens to trade with. RAIN also offers crypto swaps.

It also is able to offer AED Fiat On/Off-Ramp: Allow the on/off ramp of AED with ease through its partnership with UAE local banks.

Like most of the major exchanges it has a mobile application, and is present on most social media channels.

Fasset

In November 2023, Fasset received its crypto broker license from Dubai’s regulator VARA. This license follows Fasset’s launch in Indonesia in August, where it partnered with Mastercard Indonesia and telco giant Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison.

Fasset offers five crypto tokens to trade with.

On its website, unlike other crypto exchanges, Fasset states that it offers gold investments using blockchain technology, crypto staking and other products. How much of this they can offer with their license in VARA is not clear. But it would be a surprise if they could offer these with their current license.

Crypto ExchangeMaker FeeTaker FeeCurrenciesMinimum deposit USDTrade Limits
OKX0.08%0.10%32010100,000 USDT
Fasset0.10%1.00%5351000
CoinMENA0.75%0.75%5210No limits
GCEXNoNo5050,000No Limits
FUZENANANANANA
BackPack Exchange0.085%0.095%NANANA
TokoNANANANANA
Laser DigitalNANANANANA
RAIN0.15%0.30%7020No Limits
M20.02%0.04%3050NA
GlomexNANANANANA
Matrix0.10%0.20%750,000No Limits
Midchains0%0.40%17NANo limits
VenomexNANANANANA
NA means not available on their website or other sources of information.

Other crypto exchanges

As for the rest of the crypto exchanges and brokers that serve retail and institutional clients and are licensed in UAE, they are Fuze, BackPack exchange, Toko and Laser Digital. These four were licensed by Dubai’s virtual asset authority, but have yet to populate their websites with clear information on their product offering, fees and other information.

Fuze is preparing to launch and its CEO refrained from sharing information until they do.

As for purely institutional investors they can work with the following crypto exchanges who only deal with institutional customers. These are GCEX where the minimum deposit is $50,000 offering 50 tokens.

According to GCEX Managing Director, Mehtap Onder, the exchange doesn’t charge its clients maker and taker fees but just a trading fee.

Then there is Matrix, who also has a minimum deposit of $50,000 but offers just 7 crypto tokens to trade and invest in.

Interestingly Venomex has no information on its fees and offering, and just states on its website, that it will communicate its fees and charges via a notice.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the UAE definitely now has an array of crypto exchanges and crypto brokers that can offer safe and secure means to trade and invest in crypto tokens. It is left up to customers to choose which one they feel more comfortable with, which one offers competitive fees and which ones offer the crypto assets they want to trade.

Users can choose between local, regional and global exchanges to work with. But the future will bring even more. As VARA recently announced, while the regulator awarded 19 regulated VASP licenses in 2023, with 11 already operational, it will be adding 72 more in the coming months.

This could mean that Binance will soon have a license to operate in UAE, as will ByBit, and Crypto.com among others.

As more crypto exchanges enter the UAE as regulated entities, competition will surely increase and this is always a good thing for clients and users, so be prepared.

UAE CoinMENA licensed crypto exchange will be able to reduce fiat to crypto transaction costs after being awarded its license from VARA, the Dubai virtual asset regulatory authority. CoinMENA holds a broker license allowing it to cater to retail and institutional clients.

With the license CoinMENA now has, it can serve clients from Dubai and utilize local banking services. Users can now instantly deposit and withdraw funds.

As Talal Tabbaa CO Founder of CoinMENA  explained, “Dubai is at the forefront of crypto growth and innovation, launching various initiatives to push the adoption of the digital asset in the region. Working with VARA will enable us to better serve our institutional and retail users in the Emirate as well as reduce fiat to crypto transaction costs.”

Dina Sam’an Co Founder and Chief Operation Officer added, “Building strong relationships with local regulators has been a priority for us since day one. We are delighted to have received a license from VARA, which further strengthens our market position and gives confidence to our users and investors.”

CoinMENA is the fifth crypto broker to receive a license from VARA. CoinMENA and others have received licenses both broker and exchange before Binance and other international players such as Crypto.com and OKx have.

CoinMENA already holds a license in Bahrain.

This comes two weeks after M2 launched in Abu Dhabi with full crypto exchange services. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are proving to be the center of regulation casting doubt on the regulatory environment in other countries such as the USA.

In a surprise move, Mustafa Kheriba, the Executive Chairman of Venomex, a UAE regulated crypto exchange and one of the initial investors and supporters of UAE based Venom Blockchain Foundation has resigned from his position at Venom Foundation.

Sources in the know confirmed this to LaraontheBlock, however Mr. Kheriba would not comment when asked about the reasons for resignation.

Prior to this in August 2023, the CEO of Venomex, Arshad Khan also resigned his position at the crypto exchange and is now a partner at UAE based Fils.

Venomex Limited is a Multilateral Trading Facility and Custodian, based in Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and received FSP from Financial Services Regulatory Authority of ADGM. Venomex as such became a regulated, crypto asset exchange and custodian in the region that focuses on institutional and retail investors. The Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has given FSP to establish and operate a full-fledged MTF and digital custodian.

In terms of Venom Foundation, its chairman and Co Founder Peter Knez the former CIO at BlackRock & ex Goldman Sachs executive has been active, recently speaking at the Genesis XBT event. The event brought together market-makers, VCs, and mining industry leaders in EMEA & CIS’s leading crypto gathering. According to Knez, “ It was a fantastic opportunity for the Venom team to connect, share, and learn in the vibrant hub of Dubai’s blockchain community!”

Venom Foundation earlier this year in January had launched in partnership with Iceburg Capital a $1 billion Venom Ventures Fund.

Venom Foundation, is a  Layer-1 blockchain licensed and regulated by the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), and Iceberg Capital is an ADGM regulated investment manager. The Venom Ventures fund is a blockchain-agnostic fund that was targeting  innovative protocols and Web3 dApps, focusing on long-term trends such as payments, asset management, DeFi, banking services, and GameFi.

At the time the fund’s leadership team consisted of Peter Knez, ex-CIO at BlackRock and Mustafa Kheriba, but now given that Kheirba has resigned, it would seem he will no longer be involved in the fund as well.

Mustafa had served on the Board of Directors of several financial services and insurance companies prior to Venom Blockchain Foundation.

Venom Blockchain Foundation back in October 2022 became the first ADGM licensed crypto foundation to build a scalable blockchain platform. ADGM at the time stated, “Venom is on its way to developing an NFT marketplace, derivative exchange and fiat-backed stablecoin.”

Yet to date Venom Foundation’s only achievement was an MOU signed with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and environment to launch the first blockchain enabled national system for carbon credits, as well as the launch of their testnet.

Venom Foundation also faced some challenges in 2023 with regards to one of its early investors Alibek Garcia Issaev, which is said to have involved a UAE court case against him.

Whatever the case, it seems Venom Foundation is facing big challenges when one of its early supporters and investors resigns.

The article was updated at 14:34 Monday 27th 2023.