Aspen Digital, aimed at helping to accelerate the continued adoption of digital assets, and offer technical solutions to asset managers, high net worth individuals, family officers and other financial institutions, has received an in principle approval (IPA) from the regulatory arm of Abu Dhabi ADGM ( Abu Dhabi Global Market). the FSRA.

Aspen Digital which is co-incubated by Everest Ventures Group, a venture studio specializing in digital assets and blockchain technologies and TTB Partners, a regulated, boutique advisory and asset management firm started by Sir John Bond’s family will act as a bridge between tradition finance and the digital assets industry.

Subject to final regulatory approval, Aspen Digital will be licensed to provide financial services out of ADGM and expand its product offering and presence within the rapidly growing digital asset ecosystem in the Middle East.

Aspen Digital’s unique offering as a one-stop solution for private wealth to build their allocation to the alternative digital asset class will play an important role in driving the local ecosystem and broader adoption within the region.

CEO of Aspen Digital, Elliot Andrews said, “The IPA is an important milestone for Aspen Digital as we look to expand both our global footprint and offering within the digital asset sector. With a deep understanding of the asset class, ADGM has built a very comprehensive and clear regulatory framework in which to operate. We are grateful for their support and look forward to working closely with them in driving the next wave of digital asset adoption. 

SettleMint announced on its website, that the Islamic Research and Training Institute, the research arm of the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB), have embarked on a journey to build blockchain based Sharia compliant financial products.

SettleMint has more than 60 Enterprise blockchain implementations worldwide. It offers a full-fledged Blockchain-Platform-as-a-Service solution.

The first project will be concerned with Sharia compliant subsidy distribution aimed at creating an efficient and transparent system for Sharia-compliant subsidy distribution for its 57 member countries globally, encompassing 1.7 billion people.

According to SettleMint IsDB used the SettleMint blockchain platform for the tokenization of fiat currency to distribute the subsidies in a peer-to-peer manner allowing full transparency and control

Matthew Van Niekerk, Co-Founder and CEO of Settlemint stated, “One of the core values of SettleMint has always been to change the world for the better, and by using the blockchain technology to further financial inclusion and development of the 57 member countries, fits our ambitions to the letter.”

Using blockchain for subsidy distribution allows for full control of spend by subsidy purpose at any time, ensuring IsDB that the aid is being spent as intended. The entire contractual process for Islamic institutions was automated, alleviating the additional administrative and legal complexities and redundancies associated with Sharia-compliant financial products.

SettleMint partnered with Ateon, a Riyadh-based solution provider and systems integrator in the Fintech space.

IsDB automated the entire process of sharia-compliant subsidy distribution, resulting in full transparency and eliminated administrative complexity.

The IsDB said such features would allow for instantaneous clearing and settlement of transactions and asset exchanges, while helping eliminate counterparty risk.

IsDB and SettleMint along with Ateon first started working on the feasibility of the project back in 2017.

IsDB and SettleMint have also worked together to develop and showcase the innovative Smart Stabilization System, a patent pending algorithm designed to enhance stability in financial markets. This solution is being developed by IsDBI and implemented by SettleMint, the Blockchain Transformation company.

Co-Founder, Matthew Van Niekerk, together with Dr. Hilal Houssain, Ph.D., Associate Manager of the Knowledge Solutions Team at the Islamic Development Bank Institute (IsDBI), delivered a key session at ISDB’s 50th anniversary!

The objective of the SSS is to help stabilize organized asset markets without compromising efficiency. This is done by managing the gap between supply and demand to reduce the volatility of the price while maintaining the role of the gap in equilibrating the market. The patent-pending Smart Stabilization System is unique in managing the pressure on price before the price changes. The System is forward-looking, while most other stabilization systems are backward-looking. Moreover, the SSS is self-financed, and investors’ rights are fully protected.

IsDBI and SettleMint are investigating the use of blockchain and smart contracts to provide autonomous and transparent execution of the SSS.

Dr. Sami Al-Suwailem, the Institute’s Acting Director General, welcomed the collaboration on this project as a milestone in the progress of the Islamic fintech industry. He said: “The world is moving fast on the digitalization of financial transactions. This requires a robust stabilization system in place to minimize the instability associated with fast movements of funds, as has been proven by the recent banking crisis. I am pleased that my colleagues are capitalizing on the patent-pending Stabilization System to develop a practical solution to assist our Member Countries in achieving digital transformation with minimum financial instability.”

 

In a recent visit between UAE, Hamid AlZaabi, Director General of the Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing (EO AML/CTF), hosted a Moroccan national delegation led by Dr. Jawhar Al Nafisi, Chairman of the Moroccan National Financial Intelligence Authority, coordinated on initiatives with regards to anti money laundering and counter terrorism financing, with DIFC giving presentation on UAE experience in virtual assets.

Members of the EO AML/CTF presented on topics such as the National Strategy and virtual assets, and the UAE’s experience using AI to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. A joint discussion resulted in the agreement on specific areas of cooperation to be included in follow-up steps to implement the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between the EO AML/CTF and the Moroccan National Financial Intelligence Authority.

In addition Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) discussed the UAE experience analyzing cases related to virtual assets.


Hamid AlZaabi highlighted the robust cooperation between the UAE and Morocco and its significant impact on raising standards of compliance within the MENA region.

He stated, “Our two countries are united in commitment to combating financial crime and collaborate effectively on multiple levels, both bilaterally and through the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF). I am pleased that through our regular meetings, we have developed a comprehensive framework for cooperation and have launched several joint initiatives that are already making a difference. By sharing expertise and best practices, the expertise developed by each country can be leveraged to mutual benefit, to ensure safeguarding our financial regional system.”


Dr. Jawhar Al Nafisi, Chairman of the Moroccan National Financial Intelligence Authority, commented, “This visit underscores the strong strategic ties between Morocco and the UAE, as both nations aim to align strategies and visions on bilateral, regional and international levels, and share expertise to prepare for the upcoming mutual evaluation round. To ensure the sustainability of the efforts made to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, I am pleased to invite Director General, Hamid Al Zaabi to Kingdom of Morocco for progress discussions and to measure the effectiveness of joint committees established during the meetings held over the past two days.”
During the two-day meeting, the parties discussed ongoing bilateral cooperation activities. To further enhance the coordination efforts, both parties have decided to establish several joint committees, including ones to monitor standards and developments, technical committees, and a supervisory committee to track progress and ensure goal attainment.

It is noteworthy that although Morocco leads in terms of the number of crypto holders, it has still not regulated crypto and virtual assets.

UAE-headquartered digital asset exchange Fasset gained recognition as the best crypto and blockchain company at Best in Business Awards by Inc Arabia. The annual prestigious award aims to celebrate outstanding achievements, innovation, and impactful contributions of GCC-based business platforms across 31 categories.

Inc. Arabia Best in Business Awards highlight businesses with significant contribution to the economic growth and development of the GCC region. It aims to showcase the best practices, leadership, and groundbreaking initiatives that shape the future of business across a number of categories from e-commerce and real estate, to AI and fintech. All nominees go through a rigorous selection process by Inc.’s judging committee made up of decision–makers and thought leaders from across industries.

Co-founded in 2019 by Mohammad Raafi Hossain (CEO) and Daniel Ahmed (COO), both ex-advisors to the UAE’s Prime Minister’s Office where they contributed to the UAE’s vision of technological excellence, Fasset is on a mission to democratize access to innovative financial management tools for the next billion people globally.

Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Co-Founder and CEO, commented: “Fasset’s recognition at the Best in Business Awards is testament to our company’s vision, as well as hard work of the 86 member team across our 3 offices to deliver the best possible product to our users and to empower them with innovative yet transparent and safe investment and money management solutions. We launched in the UAE earlier this year, and I can assure you that we are just getting started. I am excited for Fasset’s future plans across the region and beyond”.

Fasset’s platform allows secure and seamless transactions involving digital and tokenized real-world assets[1]from any location and in the user’s preferred currency. Users can buy and invest in digital and tokenized real-world assets, take part in spot exchange transactions, and transfer funds, all in a blockchain environment. Among available investment options are cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, as well as bundles.

Launched in the UAE in March 2024 after getting a fully operational VASP license from VARA in a rigorous multi-stage approval process, Fasset has been making rapid progress since then.

In April 2024, the company announced its plans to launch in Malaysia after signing a Letter of Intent with MBSB Bank Berhad at the KL20 Summit. The partnership was marked by Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar bin Ibrahim as proof the country is ready for innovative transformation. The company plans to further expand its operations in the region and beyond in the near future, having accumulated a large digital assets licensing portfolio in emerging markets, connecting places like the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Türkiye.

The Hashgraph Association, a Swiss-based association and leader at the forefront of digital enablement on the Hedera network, today announces the launch of a groundbreaking Sustainability Venture Studio for Enterprises, in collaboration with Inacta Ventures, a renowned Swiss and UAE Web3 venture builder. 

Under “The Green Block” Iinitiative, a global think tank and launchpad for sustainability projects launched during COP28 in UAE, the joint Sustainability Venture Studio aims at empowering sustainable projects around the globe, leveraging the Hedera Guardian as the balance sheet of the planet that enables fair carbon markets with industry leading trust and transparency. 

The Hedera Guardian is an open-source platform that uses the Hedera distributed ledger technology (DLT) network to enable digital sustainability policies and requirements-based dMRV (Digital Measurement, Reporting, and Verification) tokenization for carbon credits and reduces fraud in the ESG market. 

The $50 million Sustainability Venture Studio will focus on enabling auditable climate finance transactions that are easily verifiable, publicly transparent, and accurate. This global co-investment sustainability program will span over the next five years, with The Hashgraph Association investing $25 million, contributing to 50%, while the remaining $25m co-investment reserved for enterprises interested in developing sustainability use cases on the Hedera Guardian.

By combining resources and specialist expertise in sustainability and Web3, this unique partnership is set to revolutionize the way sustainability projects are funded and executed around the world, ensuring a long-term positive environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact.

Kamal Youssefi, President of The Hashgraph Association stated, “With The Green Block Sustainability Venture Studio, we are creating standards for reporting sustainability assets to ensure credibility and accuracy using the Hedera Guardian platform as the balance sheet of the planet, while leveraging the Hedera network as the world’s most greenest distributed ledger network.” 

He added, “We look forward to further growing the global ESG ecosystem that is being built on the Hedera Guardian, introducing certainty, credibility, and comparability of data.”

Ralf Glabischnig, Founder of Inacta Ventures, noted, “We are thrilled to integrate the Sustainability Venture Studio into The Green Block Initiative. This collaboration with The Hashgraph Association will accelerate the development and implementation of sustainable projects in The Green Block ecosystem worldwide.”

Hedera, known and proven as the greenest DLT in the market, according to the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies research paper, continues to uphold its promise of sustainability. This new venture studio focused entirely on sustainability use cases not only reflects its commitment through developing various projects but also paves the way for innovative solutions in the sustainability sector. 

Over the past months The Hashgraph Association has announced two major venture studios one in KSA, and one in Qatar. The venture studio in KSA is aimed for deep tech development, while the one in Qatar is for digital assets.

 Ethiopian Airlines Group, Africa’s leading airline, and one of the fastest-growing global airline brands, has appointed innovative tech loyalty partner Blockchain enabled Loyyal to its Access Point flagship solution as a rewards management system within its loyalty offering. This collaboration leverages Finfare Connect’s market-leading rewards solution for payment-linked incentives, affiliate offers, and instant cashback, all powered by Loyyal’s advanced blockchain infrastructure for loyalty systems.

Ethiopian Airlines and Loyyal teamed up with Finfare Connect to seamlessly integrate world-class bank-linked offers (account-linked and card-linked) through an automated platform designed specifically for loyalty program owners. This makes them one of the first airline rewards programs powered by bank data in the world.

Loyyal CEO Ashish Kumar Singh said, “Loyyal is thrilled to partner with Ethiopian Airlines for its Sheba Miles members to experience everyday earnings, driving further engagement and stickiness.”
“We’re excited to join forces with Loyyal and Ethiopian Airlines to help enrich their reward offering, generate incremental sales for our network of partner brands, and ultimately provide more value and personalized experiences for customers,” said Brad Blake, Chief Growth Officer at Finfare.

From a technical perspective, Access Point uses Smart Contract technology that streamlines and automates deals and agreements seamlessly, ensuring a hassle-free, self-administered experience for everyone. This enables program owners to efficiently onboard and collaborate with a wider range of merchants, including renowned brands like Nike, Marks & Spencer, and Boots, alongside popular independent hotels, restaurants, and top experience providers in the UK and US.

Gunjan Kumar, Chief Revenue Officer at Loyyal states, “My relationship with Ethiopian Airlines dates to its STAR Alliance induction. I’m thrilled to see its growth, particularly as the first African airline to offer daily earning opportunities in the US and UK markets through Loyyal-Access Point’s support.”

Mrs. Rahel Assefa, Group VP Marketing, Ethiopian Airlines said, “We are excited for the unique partnership we have established with Loyyal’s patented platform and Finfare’s extensive ecosystem to boost our members’ mile earning experience through everyday purchases from various leisure and lifestyle brands.”

This unique collaboration enables ShebaMiles members to earn miles through everyday purchases including categories such as fashion, health & beauty, entertainment, dining, experiences, retail, and travel, opening a wide spectrum of offers for members.

Zero Hash, a global crypto and stablecoin infrastructure provider, in partnership with Lightspark, commissioned a study and surveyed 2,500 freelancers and contractors from the US, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and UAE with 80% of UAE freelancers saying they would prefer to receive payments in stablecoins. The survey findings also noted that 69% of those surveyed agree that receiving crypto or stablecoin payments would allow them to work with clients globally, with 95% of them wanting to receive a portion of their income in crypto or stablecoins.

According to the survey the main challenges facing freelancers is slow payments, currency volatility, payment delays and high fees. 48% of those surveyed noted that it takes too long to get paid, with 75% desiring payment within 24 hours.

Moreover, 49% felt the fees charged by payment platforms are too high, and 30% cited currency volatility as an issue.

Cryptocurrencies and stablecoins emerge as viable solutions to these challenges. A significant 93% of freelancers express interest in receiving at least a portion of their income in cryptocurrency or stablecoins.

According to 58% of freelancers and gig workers surveyed the current local banking and payment systems don’t work for them.

Globally 65% of freelancers say that they have lost money or left money on the table because they couldn’t accept work across borders due to a non-compatible currency that could not be easily exchanged. 69% agree or strongly agree that receiving crypto or stablecoin payouts would allow them to work with clients globally.

Interestingly 93% would like to receive a portion of their income in crypto or stablecoins, with 80% of UAE and Argentinian respondents preferring stablecoin payouts.

Edward Woodford, Founder and CEO of Zero Hash, commented, “We have long held the belief that fiat, crypto and stables cannot individually solve all of the world’s payment’s requirements by themselves. We believe Zero Hash will play a pivotal role in the future of payments with our ability to connect fiat, crypto and stables in one unified platform. This will enable freelancers and gig workers to move seamlessly between these rails for different use cases and needs”

Christian Catalini, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Lightspark, says, “We live in an increasingly connected world, but our payment infrastructure has not kept pace with the requirements that entrepreneurial and hard-working freelancers are looking for today. This survey shows that change is wanted and needed – we are pleased to be working with Zero Hash to provide solutions for their customers, and freelancers, everywhere!”

Zero Hash, in partnership with Lightspark, leveraged Centiment (the survey platform trusted by Fortune 100 companies) to survey 2,500 freelancers and gig workers in the US, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and UAE. The survey participants comprised 500 freelancers & gig workers across each jurisdiction. The majority of participants were full-time self-employed 66%, and 34% were part-time self-employed. 65% knew about cryptocurrencies, and 42% used freelance/gig platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, or Catch for at least 50% of their sourced work.

The survey comes at an interesting time given the recent announcement by UAE central Bank  approved the issuance of a regulation for licensing and overseeing stablecoins and a series of policies aimed at supporting the banking, insurance, and financial services sectors.

Zand Bank PJSC, the digital bank licensed by the Central Bank of the UAE, and MANTRA, an RWA-focused Layer 1 blockchain, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to streamline the process of real-world asset tokenization, including the identification, listing and distribution of RWAs.

The collaboration between these two entities will also focus on developing frameworks to support tokenization and distribution of RWA, in compliance with the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority of Dubai (VARA). The frameworks aim to provide clear guidelines for the tokenization of RWAs, ensuring the process adheres to relevant compliance standards, investor protection measures, and regulatory requirements. In doing so, the collaboration seeks to foster trust, confidence, and widespread adoption of RWA tokenization across the UAE.

The agreement between Zand and MANTRA is a testament to both companies’ position at the vanguard of digital finance in the Middle East. The vision behind the collaboration aims to catapult both the custody and exchange of real world assets as a permanent fixture in the suite of retail banking services in the region, as well as to establish industry standards for tokenization,” stated John Patrick Mullin, CEO of MANTRA

“We are excited to leverage MANTRA’s blockchain, which is purpose-built for RWA to redefine the way we transact and manage ownership as well as transparency. This collaboration represents a step forward in our journey to amalgamate blockchain technology with our robust financial offerings to give our clients greater control over their investments, enhanced security, and more clarity into the lifecycle of their transactions. We aim to simplify operations, reinforce trust and authenticity in the assets’ legality, and broaden access to the wider market.” said Michael Chan, CEO of Zand.

Paxos International, a UAE-based affiliate of Paxos, announced the launch of Lift Dollar (USDL) – a yield-bearing stablecoin issued under regulatory supervision of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in UAE. The Lift dollar (USDL) stablecoin is now available to consumers in Argentina via distribution partners Ripio, Buenbit, Manteca and Plus Crypto. 

As per Paxos International press release, USDL is unmatched in the market as holders earn overnight yield from short-term, minimal-risk US government securities and cash equivalent assets held under the safe protection and custody requirements of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Under the FSRA’s license Paxos International is required to hold only high-quality liquid assets to back USDL – US dollar deposits, short duration US treasuries and cash equivalents. It is required to ensure that USDL will maintain 1:1 parity with the US dollar and consumers can redeem their tokens for fiat at all times. 

This reserve structure is like other Paxos-issued US dollar stablecoins that are backed 1:1. USDL is issued permissionlessly on Ethereum and pays yield programmatically on a daily basis to token holders.

According to the press release, USDL marks an important innovation in democratizing overnight yield by shifting interest earned on stablecoin reserve holdings directly to eligible end holders from the central issuer.

Using an Ethereum smart contract, USDL distributes the yield generated from its reserves to eligible wallet addresses daily without requiring any additional steps by the token holder.

Paxos will retain an issuer fee and pay out the remaining yield earned based on prevailing daily market conditions. Companies in permitted jurisdictions interested in enabling USDL on their platforms can onboard with Paxos International.

Ronak Daya, Head of Product of Paxos International, said, “Lift Dollar is the first stablecoin designed to benefit token holders. Token holders and distribution partners receive daily yield, through an Ethereum smart contract, with all the benefits of a regulated, trusted stablecoin platform. Paxos International has partnered with leaders Ripio, Buenbit, Manteca and Plus Crypto to ensure customers in Argentina are receiving tokens from safe and secure channels. Our targeted launch in this market will ensure millions of token holders will now have safe access to US dollars that enables them to not only save and transact, but also earn daily yield. We are pleased to work with these trusted platforms and look forward to growing our partnerships throughout the year.” 

Sebastián Serrano, CEO and co-founder of Ripio, commented: “The launch of USDL by Paxos represents another significant step in the commitment to offering users robust and reliable options in the world of cryptocurrencies. We are excited to list USDL on our app and continue to provide access to innovative financial tools that promote inclusion and economic freedom for all.” 

Federico Ogue, Chief Executive Officer of Buenbit, added: “We are very happy to partner with Paxos in the launch of USDL. Yield bearing stablecoins are the future of stablecoins as they share revenue generated with the end user. We are glad that Paxos was the first big stablecoin issuer to take this step forward as it is one of the most reputable companies in the field.”

Federico Goldberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Manteca, added: “The launch of USDL in Argentina with Paxos International, whose affiliate already provides services to giants like PayPal, MercadoPago and Nubank, is excellent news for retail customers, our corporate clients in Manteca and the local crypto ecosystem. The fact that USDL allows holders to seamlessly generate income is an incredible differential compared to other alternatives that currently exist. It’s like ‘putting dollars under the mattress’, but modern.” 

The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE)is planning for phase two implementation for domestic CBDC payments after the Central Bank with the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Hub Hong Kong Centre, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Bank of Thailand, and the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China, launched the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) platform of the mBridge project. Mbridge is a multi-central bank digital currency (CBDC) common platform for wholesale cross-border payments and settlement.

CBUAE is planning for Phase 2 implementation, which includes domestic CBDC payments and further enhancements of cross-border fund transfers.

The CBUAE anticipates the growing use of the mBridge platform for cross-border payments among the participating jurisdictions. Ongoing reviews and enhancements are also underway as the platform progresses towards a full production launch. This is the first multi-CBDC platform which has reached the MVP phase, ready for use by early adopters.

In January 2024, His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Presidential Court and Chairman of the Board of the CBUAE, initiated the first cross-border payment of ‘Digital Dirham’, the CBUAE’s CBDC, to China worth AED50 million through mBridge. It also marked the first real-value cross-border CBDC payment between a MENA country and a country outside the region on an MVP-ready platform.

To date, a number of UAE licensed financial institutions (LFIs) have been onboarded onto the mBridge platform, with collaborative efforts underway for to accelerate its adoption. Onboarded LFIs are now ready to initiate and process cross-border CBDC payments with their counterparts of the participating jurisdictions.

According to the Central Bank of UAE press release, the mBridge platform is a key initiative under the CBUAE’s Financial Infrastructure Transformation (FIT) programme which seeks to accelerate the digital transformation of the UAE’s financial services sector. The deployment, testing and launch of the mBridge MVP comes as part of the CBUAE’s Phase 1 implementation of its broader CBDC strategy, supported by the use of the Digital Dirham.

Presently, the CBUAE is planning for Phase 2 implementation, which includes domestic CBDC payments and further enhancements of cross-border fund transfers. Utilizing distributed ledger technology, the mBridge project aims to connect economies through a multi-CBDC platform to help support international trade and cooperation, whilst overcoming challenges of existing cross-border payment systems and offering efficient, low-cost, and instant cross-border payments settled in central bank money.

Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of the CBUAE, said, “The CBUAE’s participation in mBridge aligns with our strategic objectives of promoting innovation, efficiency, and financial inclusion in the financial services sector. By collaborating with our international partners, we aim to contribute to the development of a more robust, efficient, economical, interconnected and instant global payments infrastructure that benefits all participants, while maintaining the highest security standards.”

A few days prior to this announcement, the Central Bank of UAE approved the issuance of a regulation for licensing and overseeing stablecoins and a series of policies aimed at supporting the banking, insurance, and financial services sectors.