Built on investor interactions with centralized exchanges, Chainalysis has come out with their crypto gains by country research. Interestingly Turkey took top place in the MENA region with gains reach close to $1billion followed by Saudi Arabia at $350 million.

As per Chainalysis, overall crypto investors achieved total gains of $37.6 billion in 2023 much lower than gains made in 2021 which reached $159.7 billion but better than 2022 which witnessed losses of $127.1 billion.

The United States led the way in cryptocurrency gains by a wide margin in 2023 at an estimated $9.36 billion. The UK placed second with an estimated $1.39 billion in crypto gains.

Then in Asia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and India all hit over $1 billion in estimated gains placing top six for all countries.

Interestingly in MENA, Turkey saw gains of $950 million, while Saudi Arabia saw gains of $350 million. The only other MENA and GCC country on the list for top gains was UAE, which witnessed $204 million.

The findings from Turkey come at a time when more investments in the crypto space are being carried out in the country. Aquanow Türkiye, a subsidiary of Aquanow, received a strategic investment from two of Turkey’s leading portfolio management companies, Oyak Portföy and Finberg. As per the news, the investment was considered the beginning of a strategic partnership focused on developing innovative digital asset solutions for the Turkish market. Reports have indicated that Turkey is moving towards clarity around crypto regulation, with new rules expected in 2024. In December, the Turkish regulatory authority made technical appointments with experience in crypto assets and blockchain technology to the central bank’s rate-setting committee, according to a Bloomberg report.

On the contrary while Saudi Arabia saw the second biggest crypto gains in MENA region, it has yet to regulate crypto, while rumors are around that it and Qatar might be investing in Bitcoin soon.

So far, the positive trends of 2023 have carried over into 2024, with notable crypto assets like Bitcoin achieving all-time highs in the wake of Bitcoin ETF approvals and increased institutional adoption. If these trends continue, we may see gains more in line with those we saw in 2021. As of March 13, Bitcoin is up 65.4% and Ether is up 70.2% in 2024.

In the fourth annual Chainalysis Global crypto adoption index, identifying countries where the most people are putting the greatest share of their wealth into cryptocurrency, once again Morocco took lead and is listed as one of the top 20 countries placing an Arab country on the map, while Turkey placed first in the MENA region.

It seems with the bull market in full blast, the 2024 report will look even more promising.

For as long as can be remembered, the UAE has been at the forefront of the crypto scene in the MENA region. To date it has outpaced most of the countries in the region, but it seems that Turkey is starting to give the UAE a run for its crypto status.

During the past several weeks many crypto related announcements have been coming out of Turkey.

The first which was interesting was the expansion of Turkish home grown crypto trading and mining platform to Brazil. Bitci aims to open a cryptocurrency trading platform in Brazil and then Spain.

Chief Executive Onur Altan Tan said in an interview that he hopes a Brazilian exchange will build on its tie ups with soccer clubs there, given that the company offers fan tokens.

He stated, “We are opening a crypto exchange in Brazil because we have valuable assets there. We have released fan tokens of Brazil’s national team and we have agreed with six other clubs.”

Tan said after Brazil and Spain, Bitci plans to open crypto exchanges in some countries in Central Asia, India and Russia in 2024. 

But that is not all that is coming out of Turkey. Turkish banks are also gearing up towards crypto. Turkish AkBank announced the acquisition of local crypto firm Stablex as it aims to become a key player in the digital asset space.

Then Garanti BBVA, another leading Turkish bank, launched its crypto wallet app the following day. The application has a cold wallet feature and allows users to send and receive assets like Bitcoin (BTC), USD Coin (USDC) and ether (ETH).

Turkey ranks among the top 20 countries in Chainalysis’ Global Crypto Adoption Index 2023.

Finally Turkey’s finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, recently announced that the nation’s crypto regulations are in their “final stages.” According to the report, these impending regulations are designed to mitigate the risks associated with trading in crypto assets and faciliatate the removal of Turkey from FATF (Financial Action Task Force) grey list.

The proposed regulations outline a licensing framework for digital currency asset trading platforms overseen by Turkey’s Capital Markets Board (CMB). This framework will introduce minimum operating standards, including specific requirements for founders and managers, organizational obligations, and capital stipulations.

As reported by Reuters, Simsek’s announcement reflects Turkey’s approach to integrating crypto assets into its regulated financial landscape.

This is happening while the UAE still lags behind when it comes to Central Bank framework for virtual assets payments, remittances and settlements. While many crypto exchanges in the UAE have received licenses, none have confirmed which banks they are working with when it comes to fiat and crypto on and off ramp.

In terms of traditional banks, again most UAE banks have stayed away from crypto. It hasn’t helped that the UAE Central Bank issued a new guidance on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) for licensed financial institutions (LFIs) with a focus on the risks of dealing with virtual assets.

Companies such as WadzPay still await the Central Bank framework that would allow them to move forward with their pilot solution with Dubai Duty Free for implementing a digital assets settlement platform. But so far the only partnership Dubai Duty Free has signed up with is AliPay allowing customers access promotions and pay with their home digital apps at duty-free stores at Dubai and Al Maktoum International airports.

Circle Internet Financial (Circle), a leading global digital financial technology firm, and UAE based Fuze, MENA’s pioneering digital assets infrastructure provider, to expand adoption of USDC stablecoin in MENA region, after signing MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). Circle, the issuer of the US-dollar backed stablecoin USDC, will work with Fuze to expand the adoption of USDC amongst new customers in the region, such as banks, fintechs, traditional enterprises and Web3 firms.

The scope of the agreement covers the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, paving the way for the expanded use of USDC in these regions and the piloting of new use cases relevant to these markets.

Miriam Kiwan VP, Partnerships & Business Development, MENA for Circle said, “This collaboration marks a significant milestone in our efforts to enhance financial inclusion and drive the adoption of full-reserve payment stablecoins across MENA. By joining forces with Fuze, we aim to expand the accessibility and usage of USDC, while fostering closer integration between regional and global finance. We look forward to a successful partnership that propels financial innovation and creates new opportunities for individuals and businesses in these dynamic markets.”

Fuze Co-Founder and CEO Mohammed Ali Yusuf (Mo Ali Yusuf) said, “Circle and Fuze share a common vision to create more efficient financial services and deliver digital assets infrastructure that builds a more connected, inclusive economy. We look forward to fostering a close working relationship with the Circle team and are excited about developing the future of finance together.”

Fuze, which was co-founded by Mo Ali Yusuf (CEO), Arpit Mehta (COO) and Srijan Shetty (CTO), has made rapid strides towards building digital assets infrastructure across the region. This includes securing robust regulation and licensing and receiving the largest seed funding round for a digital assets start-up in MENA history. Fuze continues to accelerate its product implementation and growth, in close collaboration with local and regional regulators.

A week prior Fuze signed an MOU with UAE Al Fardan exchange to offer digital asset services to their clients.

Taurus SA, a FINMA-regulated Swiss institutional-grade digital asset infrastructure provider, has expanded its operations into the Middle East to serve its growing client base in the region. Taurus will service the GCC and MENA region, including KSA, Qatar and even Turkey through its Dubai UAE office.

Founded in 2018Taurus SA, a Swiss company provides enterprise-grade digital asset infrastructure to issue, custody and trade any digital assets: cryptocurrencies, tokenized assets, NFTs and digital currencies.

Managing Director, Bashir Kazour, leads Taurus’ new UAE office based in the DIFC in Dubai. M. Kazour brings more than 20 years of retail, capital markets and technology experience gained at Royal Bank of Canada, Standard Chartered and FIS, a leading banking and payment technology provider. Over the last decade, he collaborated closely with a diverse client base ranging from sovereign wealth funds and central banks to brokers and family offices.

“I am excited to lead Taurus’ efforts and build a winning franchise in the Middle East, a region known for its rapid adoption of blockchain technology and digital assets,” said Kazour. “Taurus is well-known for its unique custody and tokenization capabilities serving banking clients and large enterprises, which aligns perfectly with the needs of the region. We’ve already started interacting closely with regulators, central banks and clients and I’m looking forward to delivering cutting-edge and compliant solutions to the market.”

Speaking to LaraontheBlock on whether Taurus requires regulation by VARA, Bashir Kazour, Managing Director at Taurus SA explained, “Taurus does not need a regularity license in the UAE as we solely focus on providing the digital asset infrastructure to our clients in the region. To make it simple, Taurus is a technology provider, equipping banks and corporates, with a platform to manage any digital asset. The financial services activity is regulated by the Swiss FINMA and is not promoted outside of Switzerland.”

Taurus opened an office in DIFC Dubai because the company has already signed up some large financial institutions according to Kazour. He adds, “We are also in late stage discussions with several other financial and non-financial institutions in the Middle East region. The region is known for its rapid adoption of blockchain technology and digital assets driven by the regulatory clarity already provided through VARA, ADGM, RAK DAO initiatives, fostering innovation.”

As such Kazour reaffirms that the opening of the office in the UAE is to support this growing demand in the region for both custodial and tokenization solutions.

The office according to Kazour will serve the full Middle East region, including Qatar, KSA but also Turkey. He adds, “ We also have plans to expand to other countries as well.”

Taurus has already consolidated its European leadership position as the preferred digital asset infrastructure provider for banks and corporates, building on its Swiss market leadership with more than 60% market share. Among others, Taurus has recently announced a partnership with Deutsche Bank as well as CACEIS, one of the largest global custodians. Taurus also closed its $65 million Series B funding round last February with strategic investors including Arab Bank Switzerland, Credit Suisse, and Pictet.

Chainalysis has completed its MENA section of its 2023 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report which will be out soon. In the report the MENA region is the 6th largest crypto economy of any region in 2023. There was an estimated $389.8 billion in on-chain value received between July 2022 and June 2023. This represents nearly 7.2% of global transaction volume during the period studied. However it is much lower that what was received in July 2021-July 2022.

MENA based crypto users had received $566 billion worth of cryptocurrency in one year from July 2021 to June 2022 which at that time was a 48 percent increase from 2020-2021.

MENA is also home to three of the top 30 countries in this year’s 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.

Centralized exchanges and DeFi were the top services for receiving crypto value in the MENA region, with UAE receiving much higher share of crypto activity on DeFi protocols compared to other countries in MENA. In addition UAE crypto services were split almost equally between centralized exchanges and decentralized exchanges, while in KSA for example 48.6%went to centralized exchanges and 38.8% to decentralized exchanges.

According to the report no country has witnessed the growth of crypto transaction volume like Saudi Arabia has. KSA has witnessed year-over-year transaction volume growth of 12.0%. In fact, Saudi Arabia is one of only six countries to see any year-over-year transaction volume growth during the time period studied.

Chainalysis found that the crypto value received by the UAE was over US$34.9billion representing a decrease of 17% over the previous year. In Qatar there was a 26% decline, Oman 49% decline, Jordan 55% decline, and Lebanon 96% decline.

One of the most interesting findings was in the UAE where the majority of crypto transactions were for institutional investors. 67% of crypto transactions valued over $1 million were by institutional investors, while retail investors (up to $10,000) accounted for just 4.63%

“The fact that by far the larger portion of crypto investments in the UAE is for institutional and professional sized transactions, indicates an eagerness from organisations and high-net-worth individuals to add cryptocurrency to their investment portfolios. This market confidence is validation of the efforts being made by the country’s leadership to offer commendable regulatory clarity, and establish the nation as a global crypto hub,” said Kim Grauer, Director of Research at Chainalysis.

In the fourth annual Chainalysis Global crypto adoption index, identifying countries where the most people are putting the greatest share of their wealth into cryptocurrency, once again Morocco takes lead and is listed as one of the top 20 countries placing an Arab country on the map, while Turkey places the MENA region. The 2023 report states that global adoption is down, but not in one crucial subset of the world.

More specifically, there’s one crucial segment of countries where grassroots adoption has seen a much stronger recovery than anywhere else: Lower middle income (LMI) countries.

The full report will be out in October, but compared to 2022, the countries on the top 20 list are still almost the same.  In 2022 Turkey, Egypt and Morocco led not only in MENA  region but globally. All three countries were in the top thirty list of countries with most crypto savings, usage of crypto for remittance payments and permissive crypto regulations.

As for Sub Saharan Africa, the adoption of Bitcoin is the highest in the world with 9% growth rate. Nigeria was one of only six countries in the world whose transaction volume grew year-over-year. The use of homegrown Sub-Saharan Africa-based exchanges continues to outpace global exchanges.

Animoca’s brand, the Sandbox announced during the 62 edition of the True Global Ventures Conference that it will be bringing its metaverse strategy to Dubai, with the ‘Dubaiverse’. It will work with local partners including Khaleej Times media outlet. 

Animoca Brand’s Dubai-themed metaverse will follow the blueprint of its subsidiary Sandbox’s Hong Kong “Mega City,’ a gaming metaverse and virtual cultural hub based on the Asian financial hub of Hong Kong.

As per the news on Forkast, the  Dubaiverse will be built through local partnerships, In doing so, the Hong Kong-based blockchain game specialist will partner with firms in the film, music, entertainment, acting, finance, real estate, and gaming industries.

Sebastien Borget, cofounder and chief operating officer (COO) of Sandbox Paris, added, “Other planned location-based metaverses are in the works for Singapore, Korea, and Turkey.”

Dubai’s virtual asset regulator was the first regulator in the world to purchase a piece of land in Sandbox. Borget noted, “It’s been a key moment, and from there, we’ve been able to attract other major local partners and brands.”

Mehtap Onder, Managing Director for Dubai at GCEX, a digital brokerage firm, said they will also enter Animoca’s metaverse, offering virtual asset education in a way that couldn’t be accomplished before. 

The Dubaiverse will also have a local news partner, in Khaleej Times following a similar partnership between Hong Kong’s Sandbox and local newspaper the South China Morning Post.

“As publishers, business models are being challenged all over the world, and new business models come into this space, it’s a really important strategic move for us,” said Sohail Nawaz, Chief Digital Officer of Khaleej Times. 

True Global Ventures with a presence in the UAE announced its total investments in Animoca Brands have reached US$38 million.

As a result of the recently launched Dubai’s metaverse strategy which aims to increase the contribution of the metaverse sector to Dubai’s economy to US$4 billion by 2030 and increase its contribution to Dubai’s GDP to 1 percent, regional companies in the MENA region, specifically Turkey are flocking towards the country. Burak Soylu, CEO of Har Group, noted in a recent tweet on the productive meeting he and his team had with UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Dr. Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi. 

He stated, “We had a productive meeting with Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade, about the UAE’s work in the metaverse and web 3.0.”

Turkish based Har Group incorporates under its wings five companies in the sector of technology, tourism, energy and agriculture and comprises over 500 employees.

One of its companies is Roof Stacks, a software company that specializes in tourism systems, the metaverse, augmented reality, game development and financial technology. As per their website they are the flagship company of Har Group. Under the entity are sub units that include Roof Tickets and Roof Moneys.

Har Groups also holds an entity called Roof XR that designs GoArt Metaverse, built on AR augmented reality technology with offices in both the USA and Turkey.  Roof Moneys is the designer of the Goarc token used on the GoArt Metaverse platform. In the fictional universe of GoArt, these coins, where users can shop and interact with other avatars using Goarc tokens with their own avatars, are produced based on RoofPay and Ethereum.

As per Har Group website, “GoArt is one of our most important investments, which we believe will be an important factor in the digital future of Turkey and the world in the near term.”

It seems that the UAE will witness more interest and meetings from metaverse companies across the MENA region and globally.