One of our most important missions at Bahrain EDB is to promote the Kingdom’s rapidly growing startup ecosystem. We are doing this primarily in three ways: promoting business-friendly regulation, creating a thriving startup community, and attracting new sources of investment. We are therefore delighted that Conway’s Site Selection magazine has recognised our efforts by naming Bahrain as the best place to invest per capita in the Middle East and Africa for the third year in a row.
As Bahrain has transformed over the years, it has caught the world’s attention as the gateway to the growing $1.5 trillion GCC market. The biggest event so far this year has been the Gateway Gulf investor forum held in Manama last May, which brought together over five hundred global investors and business leaders. Together we explored the opportunities being created by the economic transformation gathering pace across the Gulf.
Major announcements at Gateway Gulf included a number of large-scale real estate developments as part of a broader boom in Bahrain’s tourism sector, as well as the launch of the $1bn Bahrain Energy Fund. As a fund which grants international institutional investors access to local energy assets, the Bahrain Energy Fund is the first of its kind in the GCC.
Gateway Gulf showcased a total project pipeline worth $26 billion, which includes investment-ready projects worth $18 billion. Such an outlook is hugely rewarding to us at the Bahrain EDB since it demonstrates that our business-friendly approach is paying dividends.
As the Gulf’s longest-established financial services centre, Bahrain has a long track record as a pioneer in finance. A thriving financial hub was one of the key factors that enabled Bahrain to lead the region in the development of an open, private sector-led economy, with 80% of GDP now coming from non-oil sectors. Financial services in the Kingdom has seen an average growth rate of 4.2 percent between 2006 and 2016. With digital transformation now fundamentally disrupting this sector, FinTech has become a primary focus.
We’re laying the foundation for a new wave of FinTech companies to flourish, with new infrastructure, tech-friendly regulations and regular infusions of fresh thinking. For example, entrepreneurs can test their ideas in the recently launched Regulatory Sandbox, which allows new products and services to be tested free from the usual regulations for a pre-agreed period. Whereas other commercial hubs in the region boast free economic zones, in Bahrain the whole of the Kingdom is an economic zone, giving businesses flexibility and cost-efficiency that they can’t get elsewhere. Moreover, at the newly launched Bahrain FinTech Bay, the largest dedicated FinTech hub in the MENA region, innovators can connect with fellow entrepreneurs and investors to dream big and develop products that can compete at a global level.
In short, we know that for businesses to grow, we need an agile government that listens and responds to their needs, regulation that enables rather than hinders, and a collaborative environment that allows all stakeholders to connect.
Bahrain EDB was judged against a number of important selection criteria for its selection by Conway’s Site Selection magazine as a top investment promotion agency. These include providing user-friendly databases of sites and incentives, connecting potential investors with recent investors who can vouch for the area and the agency, and ensuring the strictest investor confidentiality.
These are just some of the things that matter most to us, and we have every intention of continuing to score high on these and other measures in the months and years to come.