Metaverse gaming platform Sandbox and its Saudi partner SandSoft, has partnered with KSA’s first regulated NFT platform Nuqtah to grow decentralized gaming in KSA and MENA.

As per the press release, the partnership will support the emergence of a world-class Web3 gaming ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. The partnership with Nuqtah will focus on creating exciting experiences that align with the unique tastes and preferences of Saudi Arabian gamers.

To kickstart this initiative, Nuqtah will launch a Design Contest using VoxEdit, the 3D editor of The Sandbox, for local creators in the region in early 2024. Winning creations will be featured on Nuqtah’s NFT marketplace. The Sandbox, Sandsoft and Nuqtah will also work jointly to enable creators to build experiences in The Sandbox metaverse that are specifically tailored to the Saudi Arabian region, while Nuqtah will list land and avatars from The Sandbox on its NFT marketplace.

Sebastien Borget, the COO and Co-founder of The Sandbox, commented, “We’re pursuing our journey of innovation and growth in the Saudi region following our recent partnership announcement with Sandsoft. Together with pioneers such as Nuqtah, we’ll collaborate to attract more local creators from Saudi Arabia into our user-generated content platform and enable them to monetize their digital assets creations on Nuqtah’s platform.”

Salwa Radwi, the CEO of Nuqtah, added, “The partnership between The Sandbox, Sandsoft and Nuqtah is an exciting development for the decentralized gaming community. By collaboratively building local experiences, focusing on education, and attracting regional audiences, our aim is to create a vibrant and inclusive ecosystem that empowers creators and gamers. Launching a Design Contest with VoxEdit is a joint effort to empower the Saudi creators community in the metaverse.”

David Fernandez, the CEO of Sandsoft, explained “At Sandsoft, our commitment has always been to uplift local talent, drive education, and responsibly promote emerging technologies. This partnership will spotlight emerging regional talent and create immersive local content for The Sandbox metaverse that inspires a new generation of creators. It’s a significant milestone in building a boundary-breaking metaverse community in the MENA region.”

The Sandbox, Sandsoft, and Nuqtah have committed to empowering creators, fostering inclusivity in the blockchain ecosystem, and driving educational initiatives for a passionate metaverse community. This marks the beginning of a strategic partnership paving the way for a joint venture to expand The Sandbox ecosystem across KSA, GCC, and MENA, shaping the future of decentralized gaming in Saudi Arabia.

NEOM has inaugurated its strategic investment arm, the NEOM Investment Fund (NIF), NEOM’s wholly owned subsidiary which is set up to support the buildout and development of NEOM’s 14 priority sectors of which technology and digital are an integral part.

NIF will invest globally through Mergers & Acquisitions and venture capital in technology startups, with a clear focus on pioneering growth companies and next-generation industries.  NIF will also develop Joint Ventures and partnerships with large multinationals, institutional investors and innovators within NEOM.

As part of its inauguration, NIF is announcing new investments in companies including, Regent, Boom Technology, BlueNalu and Animoca Brands, details of which will be shared in the coming days. These investments, which add to those NIF has led to date, illustrate its role working alongside NEOM sectors to support their strategies for growth, enabling new technologies, establishing businesses, and creating a thriving economy in NEOM.

Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM said: “The vision of NEOM is to address global challenges that redefine livability, conservation and business. As NEOM’s strategic investment subsidiary, NIF will play a critical role in converting NEOM’s vision to reality. NIF will enable NEOM to sustain its contribution to realizing the ambitions of the Kingdom over the long term, cementing its position as a key driver of economic diversification and job creation.”

Majid Mufti, CEO of NEOM Investment Fund, said,“The NIF strategy is designed to align NEOM’s development objectives with those of innovators and institutional investors, de-risking opportunities for them to participate in creating core global growth businesses and a thriving economy in NEOM. To date, NIF has invested in several technology companies within the 14 priority sectors of NEOM that will accelerate technologies critical to the NEOM project and have a major impact on the future of living and sustainability. Replicated over time, this approach will position NEOM as a model for sustainable economic development.”

As a catalyst for change, NIF actively seeks deep partnerships with likeminded investors and bold entrepreneurs working on the world’s most complex problems, in line with NEOM’s vision. It aspires to create regional and global champion companies across NEOM’s 14 economic sectors by investing in commercially viable projects and ‘moonshot’ ideas enabled by cutting edge technologies. To accelerate the change, NIF will focus on developing investment opportunities for the private sector to participate in and will directly invest to unlock solutions that would be piloted and scaled-up in NEOM, and eventually exported to the world.

As part of its mandate, NIF will also be assuming the role of portfolio manager for NEOM’s sector assets and companies. This role will safeguard returns for the shareholder and investors through portfolio synergies and will underpin NEOM’s long-term financial sustainability.

During Corda Day Middle East held on May 11th 2023 in Dubai UAE, speakers from the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) as well as the Central Bank of UAE discussed their CBDC strategies and pilots. Both Central Banks are working with R3 Corda on their CBDC pilot programs, SAMA in its sandbox and UAE Central Bank in their research and development center.

The event as per R3, brought together financial service leaders, technologists and Corda enthusiasts from around the region and the globe. Of the prominent speakers included H.E. Saif Humaid Hamad Al Dhaheri, Assistant Governor – Strategy, Financial Infrastructure and Digital Transformation, Central Bank of UAE and Mr. Mohsen AlZahrani, Virtual Assets (VA) and CBDC program Lead, Saudi Central Bank – SAMA as well as Richard G Brown, Chief Technology Officer, R3.

Al Dhaheri made a keynote address on “Future of Money, CBDC and the Digital Dirham” while AlZahrani carried out the closing Keynote, on the topic of “Wholesale CBDC”

Mohsin AlZahrani told Lara on the Block, “Currently we are working with R3 Corda only for the sandbox experimentation, we have not yet decided on the next phase platform or implementation.”

Farhan Khan, Chief Technology Officer Consultant and advisor in Fintech and Blockchain, who attended the event representing Cykube, spoke to Lara on the Block explaining what he learned about CBDC implementation in UAE and KSA.

Khan explained, “It was an excellent event and very eye opening on how R3 is properly working in the region. What I learned about the CBDC implementation in KSA and UAE is that both are working with R3 but each country has a different approach. Saudi Arabia is working on a wholesale CBDC project for its domestic payment system, while UAE Central Bank is working on CBDC for cross border payments.”

Khan adds, “For example the ABER cross border payment project which was paused might be reutilized in the future as per AlZahrani’s statements at the event. AlZahrani stated that SAMA is utilizing the experience of ABER during the implementation of the CBDC wholesale payment system concept, and there is a chance in the future to use ABER again between KSA and UAE after the experimentation of CBDC wholesale in KSA is completed.”

According to Khan the UAE is working on a prototype with R3 Corda for the digital dirham which is currently under testing in their R&D facility.  

Khan concludes to Lara on the Block saying that R3 Corda has seen a lot of interest because it has very powerful features such as interoperability between blockchain platforms even public ones. He explains, “Fintech entities in both Saudi Arabi and UAE are waiting for the network gates to open, and with the VARA crypto regulations cooking every day we feel the same will be happening in KSA. Corda is the right framework from a technology perspective with its tremendous security, protection, especially when it comes to digitization and tokenization.”

This is reflected in a post by R3’s Chief Technology Officer Richard Brown who states, “Composability and interoperability are critical cogs in the architecture of Corda. With the next generation of Corda, there’s no need to decide on your network model at the outset of a project. Start with a centralized, private network and gradually decentralize over time!”

Brown believes that the success of Corda is because it is a cross-firm shared ledger enabling collaborating parties to transact based on high quality data, without exposing internal data or systems, and with far fewer reconciliation errors. A ledger that could even become the industry’s system of record for some key questions such as ownership of assets (the terms ‘Digital Assets’ and ‘Tokenization’

It is also a permissioning system that provides high identity assurance and gives confidence to regulated entities that they can comply with their legal obligations to know with whom they are transacting. In addition is a  privacy-first design, allowing competitors to trade without revealing sensitive data publicly – only participants in a transaction get to see the details – unlike other blockchain-inspired approaches.

He even goes so far to say that, “We’ve been delighted by how successful Corda has been, far beyond the narrow banking scenarios we originally designed it for. Broadly speaking, we’re seeing it being used to solve four main problems in ‘Regulated DeFi’:”