2020 is well underway, bringing a whole new year of opportunities for firms looking to do business in Bahrain as well as those already based here in the Kingdom. But it’s not too late to look back at some of the key moments from the last four quarters – ranging from the launch of AWS’ flagship Middle East data region to startup funding successes and major global corporations opening their doors here.
In this blog post, we round up some of the biggest news and announcements from 2019 – all of which were powered by the ever-strengthening Team Bahrain partnership. And with $32bn of infrastructure projects on the way, a thriving tourism sector and a startup scene that never stops growing, we can’t wait to see what the next 12 months has in store.
1. Amazon Web Services launches flagship Middle East data region
Powering cloud operations for thousands of firms across the region, Amazon Web Services (AWS) set up operations in the Kingdom in July. The centre offers customers flexible, secure, scalable and cost effective IT infrastructure on a ‘pay as you go’ basis – allowing businesses to securely store and manage data without the need to own and maintain expensive mainframe servers or other IT hardware. In the region, a number of start-ups and companies are building their businesses on or moving to AWS, including Careem, BitOasis, Al Tayer Group, Aramex, Bahrain Bourse, Flydubai, MBC Group and Virgin Middle East. Another, Emirates NBD, is using AWS’s AI and machine learning services, data analytics and natural language processing technologies to better engage with customers.
2. Saudi’s Dynamic Cloud announces Bahrain office
Dynamic Cloud is a Saudi company established in 2015 with 40 employees. The company, headquartered in Riyadh with offices in Khobar, provides cloud services, IOT Connectivity Services, Advisory Services and Business Enablement Services. In the last quarter of 2019, Dynamic Cloud revealed plans to establish an office in the Kingdom of Bahrain as the company looks to ramp up its regional capabilities in serving the entire gulf region. The new office will provide manpower and support for existing Saudi operations.
3. Innervate opens first Middle East location
With its first regional office in Bahrain, leading UK-based technology company Innervate aims to serve the Middle East’s financial sector with specialised customer relationship management technology. Its clients include the Saudi British Bank, Mitsubishi Bank, Aspen Insurance and Carnival Cruise. With an initial investment of approximately US$1m, Innervate recruited system integrators, data scientists, business analysts and system architects. Notably, it also became the first Microsoft Dynamics 365 Gold partner in Bahrain that mainly focuses on the financial services sector.
4. JLanka International invests $10m
Sri Lanka-based JLanka International, a solar and renewable energy technology solutions provider, announced plans to invest up to $10 million over five years in Bahrain’s renewable energy sector. Its office in the Kingdom marks the company’s first overseas expansion and serves as its international headquarters. With a 400+ strong team including scientists, engineers and technicians, JLanka successfully developed its own fast EV chargers, smart meters and power optimisation devices in Sri Lanka. In Bahrain, the company expects to create up to 50 direct jobs and more than 250 indirect job opportunities.
5. Major successes for Bahrain FinTech Bay
Throughout the year, highlights for Bahrain FinTech Bay included partnering with both Visa and Mastercard to further develop Bahrain’s financial startup ecosystem, conducting its inaugural FinTech talent programme in partnership with Georgetown University and launching offices in Silicon Valley.
6. Open banking launched with Tarabut Gateway
The first company to graduate from the Central Bank of Bahrain’s (CBB) Regulatory Sandbox in 2018, open banking pioneer Tarabut Gateway has gone from strength to strength. A subsidiary of AlMoayyed Technologies in partnership with Silicon Valley-based firm Token, Tarabut Gateway is Bahrain’s only licensed open banking payment initiation and account information service provider. It was instrumental as a case study for the introduction of open banking in Bahrain and the CBB open banking mandate, which came into force in June 2019.
7. NoPaperPost enters Bahrain ICT market with jobs boost
French legal tech startup NoPaperPost joined the string of international ICT firms entering the Bahrain market in the second quarter of 2019. The software company employs blockchain to provide cloud-based, electronic contract signing, document filing and email tracking (Electronic Registered Mail) services. With six employees in their Paris headquarters, NoPaperPost is planning to recruit 17 employees (including 10 high quality jobs) in Bahrain over the next 3 years.
8. Jarir Bookstore announces first branch in Bahrain
Jarir Bookstore, one the largest retail stores in the GCC, announced in April that it would open its first branch in Bahrain. The new branch is set to anchor a project now under construction by First Bahrain Real Estate Development Company (First Bahrain) in Manama’s Seef District. First Bahrain develops and manages real estate properties in the State of Kuwait and internationally.
9. Souqalmal secures e-broker license
The Middle East’s leading insurance comparison site Souqalmal, which offers quotes on car, health, travel and home policies, secured an e-broker license from the Central Bank of Bahrain. The Dubai-based company, backed by GoCompare, has been voted the second most disruptive FinTech startup in the UAE by Forbes and also won online business of the year at the Gulf Capital Awards.
10. Jamal Showaiter Sweets launches $8m factory in BIIP
Building upon a 25-year history, Jamal Showaiter Sweets announced plans to establish a $8 million factory in BIIP with 40 new jobs. This will drive the international distribution of Bahraini halwa and other traditional foods. With the factory, the company will have direct control over the entire value chain and will undergo international standard certifications in food production and environmental management.