In a recent LinkedIn post, Anthony Butler, senior advisor to Saudi Central Bank ( SAMA) an expert in Blockchain and digital assets, called for DLT ( Distributed Ledger Experts) or Blockchain experts, as well as AI ( Artificial Intelligence), Machine Learning and software engineers to apply for positions in some world class projects in KSA.

According to Butler there are exciting opportunities in KSA. He states, “There are some world class projects that have an impact in KSA.”

In June 2023, Butler had made a similar call for talents for blockchain, AI and digital assets experts for jobs in KSA. At the time he mentioned roles for software engineers with experience working with DLT protocols and applications. According to Butler the role required experience implementing solutions using tech such as Ethereum, Hyperledger Besu, Hyperledger Fabric, and/or R3 Corda.”

KSA has been launching and investing in digital economy projects across the country.

They had launched a nationwide CBDC project in 2022 which is still underway.

In addition last week, KSA based Marhaba Blockchain Information Systems (MRHB) a blockchain web3 Infrastructure,  partnered with Saudi Arabia’s Digital Economy Centre (DEC)  an institution driving the digital transformation of Saudi Arabia’s economy in alignment with Vision 2030. The collaboration focuses on Blockchain, DLT and Artificial Intelligence (AI), initiatives.

Even Saudi Arabia’s Muqassa, a subsidiary of Saudi’s Tadawul Group, specialized in settlement of trades, signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Swiss Blockchain enabled Instimatch, a cash management platform for institutions across industries and geographies to interconnect. The MOU will work to launch a repo trading platform to enhance the financial structure of the Saudi Capital Market.

Blockchain enabled entities such as Crysp Farms, a UAE based innovator and operator of decentralized blockchain enabled vertical farms, secured a $2.25 million ‘Pre-Series A’ round structured and led by Gate Capital with participation from regional investors, including those from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Additionally AI and Blockchain enabled Tribal Credit, founded by Egyptian entrepreneurs, will be expanding into Saudi Arabia, and using a renewed and increased debt facility of $150 million with Partners for Growth.

Swiss based The Hashgraph Association (THA), for Blockchain DLT digital enablement signed a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) to launch a “DeepTech Venture Studio” in Riyadh worth $250M USD over five years (2024-2028).

Blockchain has even infiltrated the LEAP 2024 Tech Exhibition and Conference, taking place between March 4th-7th 2024, in Riyadh KSA. Already many blockchain and DLT entities have announced their participation at the event, including names such as Antematter, who specialize in crafting cost-effective, innovative solutions in AI, Blockchain, and Cloud Development, iBLOCKCHAIN, who are fostering blockchain adoption across governments, enterprises, and the public sphere,  and companies such as BitWits, will be showcasing their web game, blockchain, and AI development.

So it would seem that KSA is definitely becoming a blockchain, DLT, and digital economy hub.

Saudi Arabia based Muqassa, a subsidiary of Saudi’s Tadawul Group, specialized in settlement of trades, signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Swiss Blockchain enabled Instimatch, a cash management platform for institutions across industries and geographies to interconnect.

The MOU will work to launch a repo trading platform to enhance the financial structure of the Saudi Capital Market.

A repo is a repurchase agreement, which is defined as short-term lending mechanism that involves a bank selling securities, usually government bonds or other debt instruments with steady values, to an investor and then buying them back a short time after at a slightly higher price.

Muqassa works to reduce post-trade risk by introducing new mechanisms to guarantee the settlement of trades.

The signing was held during Saudi Capital Market Forum (SCMF), held in Riyadh between 19 and 20 February.

Under the MoU, Muqassa will conduct central clearing for all repo transactions on the new platform. Instimatch which leverages blockchain technology, working with Blockchain platforms such as R3 and AlGorand, will be responsible for continually enhancing the trading platform in collaboration with Muqassa, ensuring its adaptation to the evolving requirements of its users.

The MoU will also allow both parties to cooperate in order to introduce new products and services in the Saudi capital market. This will support the efforts exerted for the development and diversification of the market, which come in the context of Vision 2030.

Instimatch’s mission is to establish a global network of trust, enabling counterparties across the globe to conduct money market trades transparently and frictionless. This will facilitate the global flow of liquidity between counterparties, leading to a more efficient, stable and diversified money market system

In 2021, Instimatch Global, and Algorand, blockchain powering secure and efficient frictionless exchange, partnered to disrupt the regulated payment networks with advanced solutions powered by blockchain. Prior to that in 2020, Instimatch had partnered with R3 and also opened up its regional MENA office in Qatar.

KSA based Marhaba Blockchain Information Systems (MRHB) a blockchain web3 Infrastructure, has partnered with Saudi Arabia’s Digital Economy Centre (DEC)  an institution driving the digital transformation of Saudi Arabia’s economy in alignment with Vision 2030.

The collaboration focuses on Blockchain, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), initiatives.

MRHB, Founder Naquib Mohammed noted “This collaboration has created several opportunities focused on leveraging Blockchain solutions for public sector entities within the kingdom. DEC CEO Dr. Hasan Al Ameer added “This partnership will bring MRHB’s pioneering products and services to Saudi companies looking to explore blockchain & AI technologies. The unique shariah compliance of their platform is also particularly suited to the Kingdom.”

Both MRHB and DEC are dedicated to identifying and pursuing potential projects that resonate with Vision 2030’s objectives, bringing innovative solutions to the forefront in Saudi Arabia.

MRHB has also recently partnerd with Limar Technologies to localize MRHB’s Souq NFT platform for KSA and GCC markets

In the midst of Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah to be exact, a city is emerging, a smart city that is built on Blockchain. The city is called Mayasem

Mayasem is a smart city construction project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that covers 1.6 million square meters strategically located in Obhur, the thriving new heart of north Jeddah.

Saudi based Shamayel United Development Company; a Jeddah based real estate developer founded in 2010, is the master developer of a 1.6 million sqm plot in the district of Obhur north of the city of Jeddah. The development is an integrated sustainable mixed-use community.

The site of the smart city built on Blockchain, lies adjacent to the development of the Kingdom Tower poised to be the world’s tallest skyscraper.

In Mayasem city, Blockchain technology is not just a concept but the core foundation. It is not just the physical features of the city that are future looking and innovatively designed but as per the developers it is integrated into the blockchain.

The technology in Mayasem is providing an improved standard of living and a new level of data control.

As per the Youtube video on Mayasem, “Every brick, every tree, every drop of water is part of a larger interconnected network. It is not just a city it’s a smart City. It uses data to change the way cities are run and that’s why it is the city of the future but what makes Maysem unique is the blockchain.”

According to the developers, the blockchain technology is the lifeblood of this city, it keeps the heart of the city pumping.

The developers state that the entire construction project has DLT technolog woven into its very fabric. It manages the data from the high end apartments to the shopping malls, luxury parks, up to the lagoons.

The technology is giving the people of the city control over their data and in turn a better standard of living. It is reinventing the way cities are run by offering empowerment, transparency ad progress.

Recently, more and more blockchain projects are being built in Saudi Arabia. For example, blockchain enabled Crysp Farms, a UAE based innovator and operator of decentralized blockchain enabled vertical farms, has secured a $2.25 million ‘Pre-Series A’ round structured and led by Gate Capital with participation from regional investors, including those from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and is planning to launch in KSA.

While most recently, the Hashgraph Association and the Saudi Ministry of Investment signed a partnership to launch a $250 million Deep tech studio for emerging technologies.

The Saudi Arabian, Communications, Space, and Technology Commission  has extended the registration period for the Emerging Technologies Regulatory Sandbox to March 31, 2024. The Emerging Technologies regulatory sandbox is open for technologies such as Blockchain, IoT, and cloud computing, space technology, AR/VR/XR and 3D printing.

This decision supports the nation’s commitment to innovation and technological advancements, offering entrepreneurs and innovators the opportunity to experiment with cutting-edge products, solutions, and business models within a flexible regulatory framework.

By allowing additional time for registrations, the CST is inviting a broader spectrum of innovators to leverage this platform, thereby enhancing inclusivity and diversity in the market. This initiative is part of a broader effort to foster a conducive environment for launching innovative business models, solutions, or services, with the ultimate aim of supporting entrepreneurs and innovators in bringing their visions to life.

The commission’s recent collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the announcement of the winners of the Internet of Things Challenge 2023 are prime examples of its active involvement in nurturing talent and encouraging technological innovation.

This comes at the heel of the signing of the Deep tech Venture Studio between The Hashgraph Association and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment.

All this is a reflection of the Kingdom’s aim to attract more emerging tech startups and companies to the country.

According to a recent interview by Zawya, with, Bandar AlTunisi, Head of Development at Binance in Saudi Arabia, high level digital currency regulation could come out in Saudi Arabia tomorrow or in a month’s time.

He states, “With discussions on cryptocurrency ongoing at several Saudi government bodies, Saudi Arabia, is looking forward to possible “high-level” regulation for digital currencies in the country this year.”

AlTunisi said there had been growth over the past seven years.  “It could be tomorrow, it could be in a month’s time, but once they’re ready, they will move quickly, which is what excites us about the Saudi market. I am hopeful about this year, but it is dependent on a lot of different factors,” he said.

Bader Al Kalooti, Head of Binance Middle East, Africa and Southern Asia (MEASA) and Turkey, said: “It is still very early. Relatively speaking, this is a nascent industry. The way these things tend to work, you will have disruptive technology roll out, then it takes a while to demonstrate that there is a product market fit, that people want this technology, then the regulations catch up.”

Dubai and Bahrain were early movers, he said, and other markets will catch up, although it will not happen overnight.

Bodies involved in studying potential crypto regulation include the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), which will be involved from a blockchain point of view, and the Capital Markets Authority (CMA).

Saudi Arabia also launched the Financial Sector Development Programme in 2018, under which the development of cryptocurrency regulation could also fall.

The creation of such regulation would be followed by a period of understanding how the regulations will be applied, AlTunisi said. Saudi is a priority market for crypto in general as well as Binance, he said.

“There is no other major exchange that has boots on the ground in Saudi in the way Binance does,” he adds, “Saudi is one of those places where once they move, they move big/. We really anticipate that there is going to be movement soon, and once they do, it is going to be a huge catalyst for growth in the industry.”

LaraontheBlock spoke withNaquib Mohammed, Founder and CEO of MRHB Network, who recently started operations in KSA, explained, ” We have been in meeting with stakeholders from SAMA ( Saudi Central Bank) on a regular basis. SAMA is working on regulations, but there is nothing happening anytime this year.”

MENA is home to three of the top 30 countries receiving crypto in Chainalysis index: Turkey (12), Morocco (20), and Iran (28). However, Turkey dominates in terms of raw transaction volume, but interestingly Saudi Arabia comes in third in terms of crypto value received, with UAE coming in at number two and Turkey taking number one place.

Crysp Farms, a UAE based innovator and operator of decentralized blockchain enabled vertical farms, has secured a $2.25 million ‘Pre-Series A’ round structured and led by Gate Capital with participation from regional investors, including those from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The homegrown ‘Farming as a Service’ provider builds and operates bespoke onsite hydroponic farms catering to hospitality groups, healthcare facilities, restaurants, and hypermarkets. Notably, its high-quality produce is served in venues recognized by the leading awards and guides, such as Gault & Millau and Michelin.

The funding round will focus on scaling the company’s expansion strategy across the region and delivering committed contracts internationally.

Crysp Farms,is  the only Blockchain enabled hyperlocal farming provider in the region. Each farm provides continuous access to onsite fresh produce and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, supporting the outcomes of COP28. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), between 30 and 40% of total food production is lost before it even reaches the consumer. Through Crysp Farms, there is close to zero spoilage.

With the current funding round, Crysp Farms will continue its strategic expansion, introducing new farms in prestigious hotels and resorts managed by global leaders like Hilton Worldwide, Jumeirah Group, and Marriott International, among others.

 In the last month, Blockchain enabled Crysp Farms partnered with five new properties, bringing its sustainable farms to more than 20 locations across the UAE, with many more in the pipeline across regional and international destinations, including the Seychelles and Maldives.

As per the press release, the business will target expansion into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, enabling and enhancing local food production through innovative technology, in line with Saudi Vision 2030. The business aims to support the hospitality and healthcare sectors across major cities and new development projects in the Kingdom.

Speaking about the investment round, Maan Said, CEO and founder of Crysp Farms, said, “This financial and strategic investment opens up opportunities and enables the business to scale exponentially across our target markets. Through our partner relationships, we are eager to create a more sustainable world through hyperlocal farming. We are proud to receive the support of Gate Capital and other leading investors in this round, as we look forward to sustainably scaling our operations.”

Munther Hilal, Chief Executive and Founder of Gate Capital, said, “Crysp Farms has grown from an innovative idea to disrupt agriculture into a tangible green investment opportunity, with sturdy unit economics and a strong foundation paving the way for scalable growth. Gate Capital’s continuous commitment to ESG-led businesses is a testament to identifying impact investment opportunities.”

The Saudi Islamic Development Bank Institute (IsDBI) is working to patent a Blockchain system for smart stabilization for CBDCs and digital assets after receiving a positive evaluation for its Blockchain smart stabilization system patent. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is looking into the patentability of the system.

WIPO has acknowledged the Stabilization System as a novel, inventive, and industrially applicable solution. WIPO also noted its significant potential for international patent recognition.

The Blockchain smart stabilization system will work to enhance the stability of organized asset markets without compromising efficiency. The system will effectively manage the gap between supply and demand to mitigate price volatility while upholding the market-equilibrating role of this gap.

As such Dr. Sami Al-Suwailem, Acting Director General of IsDBI, expressed his appreciation towards the team’s dedication and hard work, stating, “This recognition from WIPO not only validates our commitment to innovation but also positions IsDBI at the forefront of bolstering the financial stability of the digital and crypto-based economy.”

The Blockchain system for smart stabalization will be utilized in financial assets, digital currencies ad CBDCs using Blockchain technology.

The Blockchain system is self-financed, with no need for substantial capital to achieve its objectives. A prototype is under way after IsDBI signed an agreement with Settlemint. Saudi IsDBI bank started working on this project with Blockchain solution provider Settlemint in May 2023.

The big news in the region is the recent announcement by SBI Holdings that it has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Saudi Arabian Aramco, one of the leading energy and Chemicals Company, after SBI Holding established a digital asset venture in UAE with Standard Chartered.

The signing was between SBI Holding, Chairman, President and CEO, Yoshitaka Kitao; and Aramco’s President and Chief Executive Officer: Amin H. Nasser.

As per the press release, based on the MOU, SBI Holdings and Aramco will consider a business alliance in the areas of collaboration in the field of digital assets and co-investments leveraging both parties’ investment portfolios related to digital assets, as well as identifying Japanese startups in the digital asset field which have interests in expanding their business in Saudi Arabia and supporting their entry and growth.

It also includes launching various specific projects related to investments in the semiconductor field, including establishment of factories in both Japan and Saudi Arabia.

The scope of the alliance may be expanded upon agreement between the Company and Aramco.

SBI Holdings has been promoting the establishment of investment funds with local partners in the Middle East, as well as the construction of semiconductor factories in Japan, through a partnership with Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation. SBI Holdings recently announced a partnership with Standard Chartered to launch a $100 million Fund in the UAE to also establish a digital asset joint venture.

Through this partnership with Aramco, the parties will, together, leverage their mutual knowledge and resources to discuss further business opportunities in advanced technology fields, such as semiconductors, digital assets, etc. and contribute to economic cooperation between Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Furthermore, the SBI Group plans to establish “SBI Middle East” in Riyadh as a base of operations for conducting business in the Middle East, and is working towards further expanding its businesses in the region.

Saudi Aramco has made prior investments into Blockchain startups, including Data Gumbo, IR4Labs, VAKT, and others.

While Sanabil, the $3 billion fund owned by the government’s Public Investment Fund, is an indirect crypto investor. It mainly invests in other funds, with half its assets in venture capital (VC). They include commitments to crypto-focused Haun and Blockchain Capital as well as several other VCs with major crypto portfolios such as Andreessen Horowitz, Coatue and Tiger Global.

However this news on SBI Holding agreement with Aramco and its relation to the semi conductor business is significant given that recently USA forced Saudi backed fund Prosperity7 from investing in Sam Altman’s AI startup Open AI.  Prosperity7 has already invested as well in Blockchain, with Red Date Tech.

Saudi Arabian NEOM, the development taking shape in Northwestern Saudi Arabia announced the launched of Topian, the NEOM Food Company which will utilize blockchain technology.

As per the press release, Topian seeks to redefine food production, distribution, and consumption through the creation of sustainable and innovative food solutions across five vertical pillars: climate-proof agriculture; regenerative aquaculture; novel foods; personalized nutrition; sustainable food supply and ESG.

Topian has been launched with the support of the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA). It is fully aligned with the KSA’s goal of achieving Saudi Vision 2030, spearheading the Kingdom’s efforts to ensure food security, mitigate climate change and achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.

Topian aims to perfect the ‘Art of More with Less’, embracing a ‘new era of food’ to achieve food security. Topian’s launch concept, ‘Future to Table’, will introduce and apply innovative solutions and initiatives that will revolutionize the current global food system and tackle issues arising from rapid population growth, changing consumption patterns, climate change, and the depletion of our natural resources.

Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, stated “NEOM is an accelerator of human progress and Topian reflects our dedication to creating a positive, long-lasting transformation to lives in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world. Topian’s innovative approach will be a key driver in shaping the future landscape of a sustainable and secure food industry. We look forward to working closely with investors, partners, and food industry experts in turning ambitious ideas into reality, supporting economic diversification in the Kingdom and aligned with Saudi Vision 2030.”

Dr. Juan Carlos Motamayor, Chief Executive Officer of Topian, added “As a wholly-owned subsidiary of NEOM, Topian is fully aligned with NEOM’s commitment to providing high-quality food products to the market, and promoting food security and sustainability, while contributing to the Kingdom’s self-sufficiency objectives and long-term economic goals. Topian is leading the food-security conversation to create a resilient food supply in line with the Saudi Green Initiative and the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. We are not only committing to shaping a transformative global food system, but also to setting a global benchmark by pioneering new technologies and innovative solutions to overcome food-related challenges and create a more secure, sustainable, and prosperous future for all.”

Answering LaraontheBlock on whether Topian will utilize Blockchain technology, CEO Motamayor replied that yes it will.

Topian has signed agreements, with entities such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Tabuk University, as well as Tabuk Fish Company, BlueNalu, Van der Hoeven Horticultural Projects, and Cargill, to collaborate on research-and-development initiatives, and harness partners’ expertise to develop innovative and sustainable approaches to food production.