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.

The agreement was signed by HE the Minister of Finance, Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari and WEF founder and executive chairman Prof Klaus Schwab, in Doha. This strategic partnership paves the way for future collaboration, as the center aims to promote technological progress, diversify the economy and to promote sustainable development in Qatar, the Ministry of Finance noted.

It will also provide learning and training opportunities in those fields for Qatari nationals, developing their skills to keep pace with global developments.

“Qatar continues to fulfill its commitment to strengthening multilateral action to address current challenges to contribute to global growth,” Ministry of Finance added.

Overall Qatar has been pushing forth its blockchain and digital asset strategy, and has prepared a framework for digital assets as well as will be launching digital assets lab at the end of October 2023.

World Economic Forum report entitled “  Pathways to the Regulation of Crypto-Assets”  says UAE crypto asset regulatory framework is an agile one,  defining it as flexible, iterative and proactive which is beneficial because it is flexible, appreciate market maturity and ecosystem development.

According to the WEF report, regulators that fall under this model include the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority. FINMA’s token classification prescribes three simple categories: payment tokens, utility tokens and asset tokens. The framework acknowledges hybrid tokens and that a token’s classification may change over time. Following the first classification, FINMA later also published further guidance in

Also included as per the report are the regulatory sandboxes in the EU and India in addition to the UAE. 

Instead of prescribing and enforcing rules, agile regulation adopts a responsive, iterative approach, acknowledging that policy and regulatory development is no longer limited to governments but is increasingly a multi-stakeholder effort. Yet it also faces challenges that include the need for coordination and collaboration being as well plagued with uncertainty. 

Regulatory sandboxes, guidance and regulators’ no-objection letters are all forms of agile regulation that enable the testing of new types of solutions, iterating policy frameworks based on ecosystem evolution and industry needs.

The report sets out to understand and highlight the needs and challenges in developing a global approach to crypto-asset regulation. In doing so, it delves into the various regulatory approaches being adopted by different jurisdictions.

The report developed rankings for each regulatory framework. The rankings covered four areas when analyzing regulatory frameworks and found that the agile regulatory framework is best at promoting innovation. Agile regulatory framework ranks in the middle ground for providing certainty for businesses, addressing data gaps and enforcement effectiveness.

The report finds for example that Regulation by enforcement which the USA falls under is weak in all the above mentioned areas except for enforcement effectiveness.

As per the report the UAE has not only initiated a license regime for crypto assets, but has also carried out consultation for decentralized applications such as DeFi, and DAOs.

In addition the report mentions that few jurisdictions have chosen to address the difficulty of classifying tokens, partially relying instead on the functionality enabled by the token.

For example, Liechtenstein has chosen not to rely solely on classifications but to introduce the token as such as an element in Liechtenstein Law, meaning that the right or asset represented in the token triggers the application of special laws (the so-called “token container model”). This means that the tokenization as such has no legal effect: if a financial instrument is tokenized, the financial market laws are applicable if the activity is regulated, too; if a commodity is tokenized, the laws for commodity trading might be applicable; and so on. For new instruments, such as utility coins and virtual currencies, a new regulation has to be defined.

While in the UAE, the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority in Dubai has put forth a framework that is underpinned by overarching regulations and compulsory rulebooks, segregating activities-based rulebooks to rapidly account for novel products, emerging technologies, and new business models that require regulatory capture.

The paper’s findings reinforce the urgent need for policymakers and regulators to collaborate with industry and users to realize the benefits while addressing the risks involved.

Enforcement is still weak globally. For example in the context of AML supervision of crypto-assets, a Bank for International Settlements (BIS) 2021 survey found that oversight remained nascent globally. As stated, “Although many are at different stages, with some countries still finalizing applicable law and policy and a small portion engaging in active supervision, by and large effective enforcement measures remain a work in progress. The result is a complex tapestry of enforcement trends as well as enforcement risks posed by the cross-jurisdictional influence of crypto-assets.”

Even when it comes to the FATF travel rule implementations are also limited. As noted in FATF’s June 2022 targeted update report, interoperability across technical solutions and across jurisdictions is still lacking.

WEF report as such notes that such fragmented enforcement techniques will pose a challenge to the supervision and monitoring of crypto-assets against regulations in the short term and may take many years to standardize.

The report recommends promoting a harmonized understanding of taxonomy/classification of crypto assets and activities, set out best practices and baseline regulatory standards for achieving the desired regulatory outcomes and encourage passportability of entities and data sharing.

Building on this foundational paper, the World Economic Forum’s Blockchain and Digital Assets team will launch an initiative focused on evaluating the outcomes of different regional approaches to regulation. This effort will convene public- and private-sector leaders to reveal first-hand learning’s and the unintended consequences.

But not everyone shares the WEF reports belief that International crypto regulations and standards are possible.  During the Qatar Economic Forum this week, Peter Smith Co-Founder and CEO of rejected claims of a “United Nations” of crypto as inconceivable. He stated, “A global system to regulate cryptocurrency is unlikely to exist.”

However, the Blockchain chief recalled the recent EU passing of the world’s first comprehensive package as a step forward in cautiously regulating the cryptocurrency industry. In addition, Smith told Bloomberg that regulators that express optimistic calls to crypto would promote development for the industry.

So whether a global harmonic set of crypto assets regulations are formulated or whether regional and national countries work to build their own, the growth of crypto assets cannot be curved by regulators. 

At Davos, the UAE government signed an MOU with WEF (World Economic Forum) to support UAE’s new Blockchain and AI enabled Trade Tech initiative. The initiative is designed to accelerate the digitization of international supply chains, enhance customs procedures, and improve developing countries’ access to the global trading system and, as a result, spur a new era of trade growth.

From the UAE’s side, the MoU was jointly signed by Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, and Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), and Prof. Klaus Schwab, WEF Founder and President.

The agreement will support the UAE’s efforts to deliver the initiative’s four key components: a global forum to gather trade, industry and technology leaders to share best-practice; an annual research report into the trade tech landscape, real-life applications and emerging trends; a regulatory sandbox to enable companies and startups to experiment with trade-tech innovations; and an incubator for promising startups in the trade tech space.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi said, “The Trade Tech Initiative is a crucial step in modernizing global trade, using the tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) to reduce the cumbersome and inefficient paper-based processes that continue to dominate supply chains. We believe it is essential to harness the benefits of advanced technology to catalyze global trade  using artificial intelligence to automate customs processes and warehouse management to deploying blockchain to revolutionize trade finance, cross-border payments, and know-your-customer procedures, the potential for enhancement is limitless.”

He added, “International buy-in and regulatory frameworks are essential for these ideas to take root and our partnership with the World Economic Forum is a vital first step in realizing the goals of the Trade Tech Initiative. In 2024, the UAE will host MC13, the leading decision-making body of the World Trade Organization, and we are determined to build consensus over the next 12 months to begin pioneering a new era of fully digitized, operationally efficient global trade.”

Al Shorafa stated, “The UAE has a strong track record in developing and deploying innovative technologies to enhance efficiencies in the trade process. A typical example is our Advanced Trade & Logistics Platform (ATLP), the one-stop-shop for all trade operations. The emirate utilizes advanced technology such as AI-powered systems to enable traders facilitate their import and export transactions. We believe The UAE’s new Trade Tech Initiative further strengthens our efforts to enable traders to export and import seamlessly by accelerating the digitization of supply chains, and enhancing customs procedures.”

Concurrently UAE’s Minister for Foreign trade H.E. Thani Al Zeyoudi stated in an interview with Bloomberg, “Crypto will play a major role in the United Arab Emirates’ global trade moving forward.

Minister Thani Al-Zeyoudi, commenting on the crypto sector, said, “Crypto will play a major role for UAE trade going forward. The most important thing is that we ensure global governance when it comes to cryptocurrencies and crypto companies.”

 Al-Zeyoudi went on to suggest that as the UAE works on its crypto regulatory regime, the focus will be on making the Gulf country a hub with crypto-friendly policies that also have sufficient protections in place. He explains, “We started attracting some of the companies to the country with the aim that we will build together the right governance and legal system needed.”

During the World Economic Forum’s session’ Financial Institutions innovating under pressure’ The Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan stated that while CBDCs have privacy issues they are a fantastic tool in developing countries.

While the panel discussed the risks that crypto and new technologies were posing especially given that crypto losses were over $1 trillion in 2022, most agreed that the regulation was a key element in mitigating these risks.

Saudi Finance Minister Al Jadaan also believes that the real risks of these innovations haven’t even been seen yet, and the one incident with the loss of 12 zeros has triggered a lot of thinking of what needs to be done.

He believes that Central Banks, traditional financial institutions and even innovators in Fintech need to discuss how to deal with Anti Money laundering issues, terrorism financing and entities that use these technologies to circumvent the regulatory framework.

When discussing CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currencies) Al Jadaan noted “Whether CBDCs and similar government sponsored currencies one will need to think about privacy.” He believes that the minute a government issues a CBDC or government sponsored cryptocurrency there is a compromise on privacy.

He states, “There is a lot of data to whoever is holding that currency.”

Yet he believes that CBDC is a fantastic tool in developing countries. He explains, “It can be used as a social safety net. CBDC can be used by people to exclusively buy milk, rice, oil but may not be allowed for other items.” He notes that while on one hand it is beneficial the other side of it is the risk of privacy invasion. ‘Bottom line no perfect solution.

Saudi Arabia piloted a CBDC with the UAE under the name ABER. The report on the final project was positive from a technical standpoint and the report highlighted the need for further use case trials.

In addition in July 2022, the Central Bank of KSA hired former Accenture Director Mr. Mohsen Alzahrani to lead the virtual asset and Central Bank Digital currency project at the bank.

It seems KSA is still studying the impact of CBDC implementation and is worried about the issue of privacy infringement.

During a Bloomberg TV interview at WEF Davos event, Mansoor Al Mahmoud, CEO, of Qatar Investment Authority, reaffirmed the fund’s interest in investing in Blockchain technology, more precisely any application using Blockchain.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund will use the current economic turmoil as an opportunity to rebalance its $450 billion portfolio. The Qatar Investment Authority is looking for opportunities in Europe, Asia and the US in sectors such as venture capital, fintech and sports except for crypto.

As Al Mahmoud stated, “We are still not interested in crypto, yet we are interested in investing in Blockchain technology. Any application using Blockchain would be of our interest. This is a technology that came to remain.

The QIA in October agreed to invest $2.5 billion in RWE AG to back the German utility’s purchase of US renewable assets. It was also a cornerstone investor in sports car brand Porsche AG’s IPO and has invested in a string of tech start-ups.

Qatar also launched its Blockchain blueprint in 2022 and Qatar University invested in Maxya Blockchain a project developed by two professors at Qatar university came together to build a blockchain network from scratch that would not only be utilized as a ledger but also as a super computer.

At The World Economic Forum in Davos UAE’s DP World, a global end to end logistics provider announced that it would be utilizing the metaverse not for social networks, entertainment or enhancing customer experience but for increasing operational efficiency.

This is the first time that a metaverse solution is being utilized in the logistics industry and for operational and educational purposes.

The Metaverse, DPMETAWORLD, will aim to bring cutting edge virtual solutions to real world supply chain challenges driving both efficiency and transparency. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group chairman and CEO of DP World announced this during the World Economic Forum Annual meeting at Davos.

The DPMETAWORLD platform will be launched at the end of 2022. Bin Sulayem said: “At DP World, we don’t respond to change – we think ahead and anticipate it. We know that the industries of the future will not be industries of the hand, but of the mind. So we have to deploy industry-leading solutions and technology to embrace this shift. Our expansion into the metaverse will not only enhance customer experience and operational efficiency, but also allow us to be more sustainable and resilient for the future. These are vital across all our global operations.”

In DP World Tweet they state, for us the metaverse is not a buzzword but a business tool. 

DP World’s operations, span six continents, 80 ports and various logistics operations, the company is uniquely positioned to help customers accelerate the flow of goods into its logistics networks.

Mike Bhaskaran, group chief operating officer of digital technology at DP World, said: “The DPMETAWORLD will allow us to provide highly flexible, cost-effective supply chain solutions. The real benefit for our customers is being able to see and understand the whole supply chain from end to end, with full visibility, and create alternate routes in case of logistics bottlenecks. We are very excited about providing these unique solutions to help resolve real-world supply constraints.”

DP World will explore metaverse applications for its services, including simulations of warehousing and terminal operations, in so-called digital twins ,3D virtual versions of physical assets,  as well as container and vessel inspections.

Other customer-focused applications include enhanced retail market access, with the potential to extend DP World’s 1600+ showrooms at the Dubai Traders Market to an unlimited number of customers through an immersive shopping experience.

DP World also plans to benefit from the metaverse through fully immersive virtual training for its staff. In 2021, its Port & Terminal Training Centre in Jebel Ali trained more than 10,000 employees, totaling close to 34,880 training days.

As per DP World, replacing physical training with an immersive alternative in the metaverse will reduce the time it takes to train operations teams by 50%, slashing costs as well as increasing efficiency and safety and saving over 17,000 training days just in the UAE.

DP World since 2018 has been at the forefront when it came to digitization efforts utilizing Blockchain. In 2019, DP World signed an MOU with Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the Digital Silk Road Project which is blockchain enabled.

DP World also worked with Infor, a global leader in business cloud software specialized by industry,  for its Blockchain enabled Infor GT Nexus Commerce Network as the technology backbone to power its Global Supply Chain Platform Initiative.

During the World Economic Forum in Davos, CoinDesk carried out an interview with UAE Minister Omar Sultan AlOlama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work.

Some big takeaways from his interview that I found interesting were the following. First he noted that he was pleased to see more and more governments embracing crypto and finding use cases for it. He also noted that Blockchain had become more popular and as he stated, “This is good for everyone because you can build a more trust based society that will take us into Web3.0”

He also made a comment that while most governments just talk about AI (Artificial Intelligence), the UAE is actually walking the talk. He states, “The UAE is taking a proactive role to regulate and deploy AI in environments and is working to attract AI startups.” He believes given the diversity in UAE demographics AI systems developed in UAE will be less biased towards specific ethnicities, genders, etc.. He also states that the UAE with its cutting edge infrastructure and its diverse economic sectors has a volume of data that could create a globally first AI Company from UAE.

According to Olama, the digital economics will be enabled by AI and Blockchain.

When asked if UAE was seeking to become a crypto hub, he stated that it was already a crypto hub in the region and one of the few leading crypto hubs globally. He noted, “ We need to do what people want and for some reasons people have chosen to embark on a crypto journey, some have invested their life savings in crypto. Today crypto is high risk but eventually it will mature, so as governments we either take a back seat or we become leaders. We need to ensure there is no money laundering, no pump and dump trading schemes. Yet given that this market is nascent there will be mistakes and we need to inform public as much as possible to the risks, ensure no illegal activity is happening.”

Olama believes that the biggest aim is to attract crypto talent which is among the best globally because they are building and securing Web3, building metaverse, payment gateways, and other solutions. UAE wants to enable them and create the right environment for them. He notes how both Polygon Blockchain and Binance crypto exchange have relocated to UAE.

He believes that the regulatory environment in UAE, is one where the regulator views companies and entities as innocent until proven guilty, ensuring the right checks and balances while being agile and nimble.

In his final remark, he notes that at Davos, ” I am  interested in seeing how the metaverse converges with Blockchain and AI and how this will look and use that to launch the right strategies and programs back in the UAE.”