This year’s Singapore FinTech Festival came at a time when the Gulf’s long-established financial services industry is ripe with digital opportunity. Bahrain has played host to several key developments in the sector, from the licensing of the Middle East’s first cryptocurrency trading platform Rain to the roll-out of revolutionary regulations that create a framework for the next generation of technology.
According to recent research by MAGNiTT, more than $237 million has been invested in MENA-based FinTech startups since 2015 – with 51 of those deals happening this year alone. That surge in investor interest has resulted in the sector overtaking other key industries – including e-commerce – in terms of the number of deals.
Behind every one of these investments is a technological development changing the way we borrow, manage and spend our money – and the Kingdom has long been at the centre of this evolution. With a public-private partnership model that puts agile regulation at the fore, Bahrain is a strategic hub within the Middle East for both startups and major corporations to grow stably in a flexible, pro-enterprise economy. At Singapore FinTech Festival, Bahrain presented this proud record of financial innovation to an international audience. Bringing together thought leaders from top institutions with regulators and startups, this year’s event focussed on several major themes including sustainability and the future of finance – topics which are at the very heart of our approach.
Take last year’s launch of Bahrain FinTech Bay – the largest dedicated FinTech hub in the MENA region – which showed investors and entrepreneurs alike that the Kingdom is the GCC’s go-to destination for those who want to push the boundaries with new and innovative products.
To support businesses that want to experiment with new and innovative products, the Central Bank of Bahrain’s successful Regulatory Sandbox offers new businesses a virtual space in which new products and services can be tested free of regulation for a period of time before being brought to the wider market.
In support of this growth, we are also building out a vital venture capital ecosystem, with the $100 million Al Waha Fund of Funds injecting the capital that startups need to keep thriving – including a recent major investment aimed at fostering stronger relationships with Asian ventures and talent.
At EDB Bahrain, we strongly believe that government must listen to the businesses at the forefront of the change, to understand their needs, and to provide them with the environment in which they can compete in the global marketplace. We call it the Team Bahrain approach. That’s why more than 400 financial institutions have made their homes in Bahrain, and with the advent of FinTech we only expect that number to grow.
Bahrain is the ideal launch pad to start up or scale, with a strategic gateway location at the heart of the GCC offering easy access to all of the region’s major markets. We are also half-way between the major business cities of Europe and Asia, creating a logical bridging point for those looking to expand even further afield. Add to that competitive costs, a buzzing start-up ecosystem and a first-class lifestyle, it’s easy to see why so many of the world’s top talent have chosen to do business here. We now look forward to welcoming Singapore FinTech Festival attendees to join us on the next step of this journey.