The Qatar Central Bank( QCB)  sets to attract Big Tech and Fintech entities in the fields of Blockchain, AI, Tokenization, Digital assets and crypto to the country.

As per its third financial sector strategy launched by HE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohamed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatar Central Bank recommended enhancing financial inclusion, measures to facilitate building a world-class shared market infrastructure and establishing a financial technology talent center of excellence.

The third financial sector strategy is to make Qatar a leading ecosystem embracing emerging technologies to accelerate digital transformation supported by adaptable and consistent regulatory frameworks and trusted market infrastructure. The regulatory framework is one of the key initiatives and aims to develop framework for DLT ( Distributed Ledger Technology), Blockchain, Crypto and digital assets as well as Decentralized Finance (DeFi). The regulations will ensure a trusted, legal and economic environment for AML, IP rights, and KYC KYT.

Growth areas include payments ecosystem specifically retails, as well as introduction of solutions such as robo advisory, Blockchain, artificial intelligence, digital assets and tokenization.  It also includes digitization in Islamic Finance and ESG (Environmental Social Governance).

The strategy contains 48 actionable items with 20 high priority ones as per the strategy.

The Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and QFC Authority have jointly developed a QFC digital assets framework, as well as launched their digital assets lab which will work as a sandbox for incubating startups.

QCB governor Sheikh Bandar bin Mohamed bin Saoud al-Thani. Stated,”We believe in the importance of digital finance ecosystem in supporting the development process. As a result, we have adopted this ecosystem as a third pillar within our strategy to lead the digital financial transformation for the sector to be pioneer in the adoption of modern technologies.”

On Sunday October 29th, Qatar announced one of the biggest digital assets initiatives in the country and the GCC region, the Qatar Innovation Dome for digital assets. As per the live event keynotes, the digital assets lab will develop tokenization platforms and ecosystems for everything that has value whether tangible assets or intangible assets including real estate assets, securities, Sukuk, bonds and others in the future utilizing DLT ( distributed ledger technologies), blockchain, and smart contracts.

Present at the launch was His Excellency Sheikh Bandar bin Mohammed bin Saoud Al-Thani, Governor, Qatar Central Bank, and His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin Qassim Al-Abdullah Al-Thani, Minister of Commerce and Industry.

Bandar bin Mohamed bin Saud Al-Thani, The Governor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Qatar Central Bank noted in his speech, “ It is my pleasure to be at the launch of the Digital Assets Lab where as a country we are working to discover new tools to increase, enhance our competencies and capabilities in the digital sector. We have achieved strides in digital technology through a number of initiatives chief among them is electronic KYC ( Know your Customers) ad are working to develop and establish an ecosystem for startups and new companies to enhance the role of KYC.”

He added, “We are encouraging entrepreneurship as part and parcel of new financial technology strategy with local, regional and international customers with initiatives such as blockchain and digital assets. These are steps in the direction with initial modules for digital assets, modern databases, and increased internet speed as such as welcome collaboration for the sustainable development of the state of Qatar.”

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida Board Member and Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Financial Centre in his speech offered a detailed explanation on the technology relevant to this lab, the benefits, pillars and the coding system and tokenization process. He explained, “The digital assets projects leans on three Qatar National strategies, the Qatar National Vision 2030, the Qatar Financial Center strategy and the fintech strategy of the state of Qatar, which aims to make the country a financial commercial hub 2030.”

He explained, “Tokenization is the process of creating tokens that represent tangible and intangible assets using DLT. The tokens could represent tangible assets such as real-estate or intangible assets such as securities. We will also work on fractionalization of assets, and will allow property to be part of those tokenized assets democratizing the process of investment.”

He added, “Smart contract, which are self-implementing contracts built on cryptographic programming systems, will allow the transfer of property, in distributed format.”

He discussed how DLT is an innovative technology that registers transactions, and can be expanded to include investment opportunities. As per Al Jaida, in the first phase tokenization will verify property, second will entail economy of tokens, third will entail development of smart contracts and the application which will manage these digitized tokens after which they will be offered on secondary markets.

As per the objectives of the digital assets lab, it will reinforce innovation and research as well as the establishment of DLT enabled startups, and companies, helping participants transform their ideas into tangible reality. Al Jaida states, “Participants in the digital assets lab will have three to six months to test their ideas, where they will have to meet feasibility requirements, benefits towards fintech ecosystem in Qatar before they graduate.”

The Digital asset lab will offer technology support, operational support, where startups and companies can cooperate with experts, regulators, test their use cases and register their businesses and receive licenses, offering the support from pilot to company formation allowing them to operate in Qatar’s fintech ecosystem.

Al Jaida announced that one of the first use cases to be explored within the digital assets lab will be tokenized carbon assets. He goes on to state, “Secondly will be tokenizing private company shares to facilitate trading and management of these shares, as well as transforming Sukuk bonds into digital assets in addition to tokenized real estate to facilitate the buying and selling of real estate assets.”

He called for continuous suggestions on what else can be tokenized moving forward as well as input into the regulations for digital asset ecosystem.

He then announced the name of the lab, which is the “QFC Innovation Dome”

Michael G. Ryan, the Chief Executive Officer at Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority, believes that the digital asset economy has a transformative nature and cooperation will be essential because as promising as it is, it also faces challenges.

He believes that with the equilibrium between innovation and regulatory oversight, confidence and trust will prevail among investors and firms. This is why the digital assets framework that QFCR has developed requires the engagement of all participants. He called for feedback on the digital assets public consultation paper announced in early October 2023, which will be open until January 2nd 2024, as these feedback will play a strong role in their policy decisions.

One of the Blockchain entities participating in QFC Innovation dome is R3. Bryan D’Souza Strategic Alliances & Partner Ecosystem Lead for EMEA at R3 stated in a comment made on the live LinkedIn event, “R3 is proud to be partnering with the QFC for this exciting Digital Assets Lab initiative.” Settlemint Blockchain is also one of the participants.

Prior to this The Qatar, Ministry of Finance, signed an agreement  with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to establish a “Centre of Excellence for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” in Qatar that will help to foster an environment for research and development in technologies that include AI ( artificial intelligence), blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things), renewable energy and others.

Qatar will witness a blockchain revolution summit on the 26th of May 2022 at St. Regis Doha Qatar, with the participation of Dr. Don Tapscott, Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute, and well known as a leading Blockchain expert.

The summit is being organized by the Blockchain Research Institute Middle East, the first regional branch of Blockchain Research Institute based out of Qatar. The event is set to discuss opportunities to create industry solution frameworks and guidelines leveraging blockchain technologies to secure data, reduce costs and improve timelines.

The interesting highlights of this summit are the speakers and sponsors. Aside from Don Tapscott, speakers include Fadi Nasser, Chief Commercial Officer of Meeza Qatar. Meeza is also sponsoring the event. Nebil Ben Aissa, Chief Executive officer for Nexxo, a private equity investment network dedicated to FinTech is also participating.

In addition Khalid Al Ansari a Doctor of Law (JD) and a Ph.D. candidate in Islamic Finance and Economy at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar currently working on finalizing his Ph.D. dissertation in digital economy and blockchain, is also participating as a speaker.  

While both, Shahid A Syed, Head of Transaction Banking & Innovation Dukhan Bank and Mr. Gudni Stiholt Adalsteinsson Acting CEO Doha Bank & Chief Treasury & Investment Officer are also participating as speakers with Doha Bank sponsoring as well.

Dr. Ammar Darwish Al-Obaidani President of the Oman Blockchain Club (2017-2019) is also participating. Since 2019, he has been leading a government company that develops customized integrated digital solutions as a CEO (Frontier Technology LLC).

The significance lies in the level of participants which including the banking and academic sector as well as investors.

This summit comes at a significant time in Qatar. In April for example Qatar Airways announced  it has stepped into the metaverse with the launch of Qverse a Virtual reality experience for visitors on its website with MetaHuman cabin crew, called Sama giving virtual tours. Sama’s name originates from Arabic and translates to ‘sky’. She is a high fidelity digital human brought to life using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, real-time 3D creation tool that’s used by leading game makers. Neutral Digital developed the VR experience for Qatar airways.

In addition Ooreedo Qatar, mobile telecom group, will be holding its EA Sports FIFA22 Champions Cup being entirely broadcasted in the metaverse and will offer exclusive NFT tokens. The tournament is taking place on May May 24, 25, and 28 at Aspire Ladies Sports Hall in Doha in front of e-Sports enthusiasts who will get the chance to see prominent gamers compete for the title.

Major FIFA and Qatari influencers will also attend the tournament, in addition to a plethora of entertainment and activities to ensure an unforgettable night. Ooredoo Nation – Gamers’ Land, the company’s own eSports brand, will also offer a selection of exclusive non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“We are proud and excited to be venturing into the world of Web 3.0 technologies with this latest eSports development, which aligns perfectly with our strategic commitment to investment in innovation,” said Nasser bin Hamad bin Nasser Al Thani, Chief Commercial Officer at Ooredoo.

“We see eSports as one of the key areas of focus in this digital era, and an area in which we can explore the many opportunities to offer our customers an unrivalled experience.”

This comes after FIFA2022 announced that crypto.com will be sponsoring and AlGorand Blockchain will be a partner. It also comes after CoinMENA, crypto exchange announced it is serving clients in Qatar which prompted a reply from Qatar Central Bank noting that it has not licensed any crypto exchanges in Qatar and will take legal actions against any crypto exchange which claims to be operating with a license in Qatar. When questioned by LaraontheBlock Dina Semaan noted, “ People took this out of context, we never said we were licensed or regulated in Qatar, we said we now offer our services to Qatar, which could be from any location in the world and in this case from our licensed entity in Bahrain.” She added, “We can support all GCC countries and other MENA countries upon approval from Central Bank of Bahrain.”