IN-DEPTH: Tokenisation transformation in Bahrain

Published on Dec 2, 2020 in Logistics Middle East

In a post-COVID world, blockchain and tokenisation present an opportunity to accelerate digital change in logistics. Here, we explore how the technology is set to transform supply chains in the GCC

Following a radical shake-up of the global supply chain caused by COVID-19, industry leaders are paying close attention to the post-pandemic future for shipping, ports and other critical parts of the logistics pipeline.

Beyond the major considerations – such as where to base key hub locations to mitigate against potential future economic shocks – the global crisis has provided a logical point to step back and examine the industry’s most fundamental elements from the ground up. At the core of most industries’ supply chains is shipping – and at the core of shipping is years of processes built on physical transactions.

From tracking the movement of assets to preparing customs documentation and ultimately proving the receipt of goods, along the entire pipeline, business has traditionally been conducted using paper and pen.

Yet in recent years, the logistics industry has made a concerted shift towards blockchain and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies including artificial intelligence and big data – a shift that has been catalysed by the global onset of COVID-19. As part of this transformation, businesses have sought to re-purpose tech solutions from other industries – nowhere more so than in the logistics industry.

One example transplanted from the world of payments is tokenisation – a technology primarily used by financial processors to protect credit card details. Now, following years of success in Europe’s payments industry, it is set to radically improve logistics asset management across the GCC, as well as streamline the shipping process by minimising the need for physical documents.

Tokenisation works by storing a firm’s sensitive data in a highly secure digital vault and automatically replacing it with a placeholder ‘token’ of the same length and format. For example, a 16-digit credit card number could be represented by a series of random, unrelated digits that would be of no use to a would-be fraudster without access to the original data.

Unlike encryption, which can be unscrambled by figuring out the key, the sensitive information never leaves the vault, meaning the token is completely indecipherable on its own. It is therefore virtually impossible for even the most determined of hackers to access the valuable underlying data. This encryption-by-proxy is best understood using the example of a poker chip. The chip itself has no intrinsic value until it is brought back to the original processor, at which point it is exchanged for cash.

While the most common application for tokenisation is payments processing, the technology is playing an increasingly significant role in a much wider range of industries – including in the logistics sector by improving efficiency and security along the supply chain. Key use cases include tracking asset movement, enabling the easy flow of shipments from one port to another, and digitising what have been traditionally paper-based processes.

One of the first major players to enter the market is Slovenia-based CargoX, which aims to “kickstart a revolution in global logistics” through its Smart B/L Bill of Lading solution. Using tokenisation, the platform offers logistics companies and shippers a highly secure and efficient alternative to paper Bills of Lading, which collectively cost billions of dollars per year and can take up to a week to complete the transfer.

Following major successes in Europe, Stefan Kukman, the company’s founder and CEO, has previously spoken of plans to bring CargoX to the GCC, saying: “With so much of the Middle East economy built on trade, this is an opportunity for regional logistics companies to cut costs and gain a competitive edge.

He added: “The adoption of a blockchain based smart bill of lading will affect logistics and trade in the Middle East as much as it will in any other part of the World. It will transform the analogue, slow and sometimes troublesome processing of physical paper-based cargo documentation into a digital experience with a maximum level of trust and security when transferring the document.”

The GCC logistics industry is already moving in this direction following the launch of Fasset, a FinTech startup which tokenises hard assets via blockchain technologies. The system works by “fractionalising” – or breaking down – larger assets into smaller tokens, similar to the way CargoX turns a bill of lading into a digital document ready for virtual transmission at the click of a button.

Fasset – which has received millions in funding from strategic backers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Singapore – is the first of its kind to receive authorisation from the Central Bank of Bahrain to test its concept in the country’s FinTech Regulatory Sandbox. Fasset intends to focus on financing sustainable infrastructure across a number of industries including energy, transport, ICT and social sectors such as Education and Healthcare.

The launch of Fasset is timely. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, governments the world over are increasingly digitising their trade processes. The latest country to do so is India, which moved its trade documentation workflows to blockchain-based platforms in a bid to minimise person-to-person interactions in the shipping process.

While the GCC has so far not formally regulated for the use of these technologies for shipping documentation (apart from Bahrain with its electronic transferable records law), customs requirements specify only that electronic documents need to be uniquely identifiable. In fact, blockchain-based platforms are already playing a major role in supply chain management across the Gulf, and according to 2019 research by the Middle East Institute, are central to “expanding commercial ties and overcoming obstacles to global trade”.

In particular, the paper emphasised the benefits of digital shipping documents that allow for the processing and tracking of millions of unique data points on shipments and containers while guaranteeing a high level of security and transparency. This move towards blockchain stands to benefit manufacturing firms handling complex supply chain routes in particular, and a surge in use of the technology is anticipated. According to research firm Gartner, blockchain is set to support the movement and tracking of US$2 trillion of goods and services globally by 2023.

Moreover, the GCC is better placed than most to drive this technological revolution. Firstly, the region’s historically strategic location between Eastern and Western trade routes means more efficient processes and faster shipping times have positive reverberations for supply chains globally. Second, decades of tech-focused economic diversification have resulted in some of the world’s most advanced digital infrastructure – exactly what is needed to put high-speed blockchain systems into place. Finally, key players within the GCC logistics industry have demonstrated a strong appetite for the uptake of these new technologies.

Last year, Bahrain’s APM Terminals – which manages the country’s sprawling Khalifa Bin Salman Port – launched a blockchain-based system to overhaul traditional processes and speed up shipment clearance times. The firm’s managing director Susan Hunter praised the effectiveness of the technology, saying: “Many of the processes for transporting and trading goods are costly, in part, due to manual and paper-based systems. Replacing these peer-to-peer and often unreliable information exchanges, the platform enables participants to digitally connect, share information and collaborate across the shipping supply chain ecosystem.”

Blockchain has also had a positive impact on road-based logistics. Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest market, by the 25-kilometre King Fahd Causeway – one of the busiest crossings in the Middle East that facilitates the flow of imports and exports via many thousands of commercial trucks each day. Despite recent restrictions owing to COVID-19, for the most part passage of commercial freight was able to continue as usual, thanks to high-tech artificial intelligence scanners installed along the length of the causeway.

The scanners automate blockchain-based data collection and allow shipment inspections to take place before trucks reach the border. This has greatly increased both the speed and capacity for customs processing as demonstrated by the US$1.45 billion in trade between the two nations during the first half of 2020.

Saudi Arabia too has made similar strides towards enhancing its customs processes with advanced technologies. In September of last year, the country’s customs authority partnered with shipping giant Maersk to highlight the importance of blockchain to reduce time and costs while enhancing security. That came after the country launched its first-ever blockchain-enabled shipment from the King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam to Rotterdam in the Netherlands in May 2019.

The UAE has recorded similar developments, with a dedicated nationwide Blockchain Strategy in place and freight forwarders offered access to efficient digital processes via the Silsal information exchange platform. Furthering these efforts, the World Economic Forum recently collaborated with Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) to produce a blockchain toolkit to strengthen the supply chain.

In an increasingly digital world, where logistics players and governments alike are keen to limit person-to-person interactions, blockchain and tokenisation present an opportunity to accelerate digital change. Recent developments such as the launch of Fasset and the rapid uptake of blockchain technologies throughout the supply chain indicate that the Middle East – and in particular the GCC – is set to be at the forefront of this change.

Bahrain attracts US$885m investment in 2020

Manama, Bahrain, January 18 2021: Bahrain attracted US$885 million (BHD333 million) in direct investments during 2020 through new companies setting up and expanding in the Kingdom.  

Several prominent companies have launched operations in the Kingdom, with investments from local, regional and international companies investing in vital sectors including financial services, manufacturing, logistics services, education, healthcare services, real estate, tourism, and ICT.

H.E. Khalid Humaidan, Chief Executive of Bahrain Economic Development Board, commented: “Despite the challenges faced across the globe due to COVID-19, we were able to continue the momentum from 2019, attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from around the world.

“Investors are increasingly turning to the region’s tried-and-tested business environment, where our commitment to building a pro-investor ecosystem is backed up by robust regulation. This, and our longstanding economic diversification efforts, show Bahrain is focused on enabling growth in a wide range of sectors.”

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the IMF, the size of accumulated direct investments compared to the Kingdom’s GDP in 2019 was 78% – almost double the global average of 42%. 

–ENDS—

Notes to Editor:

For more information, please contact:

Mahmood Ali

Executive Director, Communications and Media

Economic Development Board

Phone: +973-39798919

E-mail: internationalmedia@bahrainedb.com

About Bahrain Economic Development Board

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is an investment promotion agency with overall responsibility for attracting investment into the Kingdom and supporting initiatives that enhance the investment climate.

The EDB works with the government and both current and prospective investors, in order to ensure that Bahrain’s investment climate is attractive, to communicate the key strengths, and to identify where opportunities exist for further economic growth through investment.

The EDB focuses on several economic sectors that capitalise on Bahrain’s competitive advantages and provide significant investment opportunities. These sectors include financial services, manufacturing, ICT, tourism, logistics and transport.

For more information on the Bahrain EDB visit www.bahrainedb.com; for information about Bahrain visit www.bahrain.com.

BAHRAIN EDB APPOINTS AN ADVISOR TO THE BOARD

Manama, December 17th: The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) has announced the appointment of Mr. Iain Lindsay as an advisor to the Board. 

Mr. Lindsay brings a wealth of experience, having worked as a British diplomat for 40 years, with experience in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, serving most recently as the British Ambassador to Bahrain from 2011 to 2015 and to Hungary from 2016 until 2020. Prior to that he was Deputy Head of Mission and Director, Trade and Investment at the British Consulate General in Hong Kong from 2007 to 2011. He has spent much of his career in Asia Pacific, serving also in Tokyo (twice) and Canberra. He was also Deputy Head of Mission in Bucharest from 2003 to 2007, helping with Romania’s accession to NATO and the EU. 

It is this experience along with a strong international network and a focus on investment and trade which uniquely positions him to support the EDB with its main mandate of attracting direct investment to the Kingdom in order to contribute to the creation of jobs and reaching out to international investors from key target markets the EDB has identified, and in which he has worked previously.

The EDB focuses on several key sectors which offer strong competitive advantages to both local and international investors. These sectors support non-oil growth and help further diversify the local economy. Mr. Lindsay brings a unique value to the EDB Board.

For more information, please contact:

Communications and Media Department

Economic Development Board

Phone: +973-17-589966

E-mail: internationalmedia@bahrainedb.com

About Bahrain Economic Development Board

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is an investment promotion agency with overall responsibility for attracting investment into the Kingdom and supporting initiatives that enhance the investment climate.

The EDB works with the government and both current and prospective investors, in order to ensure that Bahrain’s investment climate is attractive, to communicate the key strengths, and to identify where opportunities exist for further economic growth through investment.

The EDB focuses on several economic sectors that capitalise on Bahrain’s competitive advantages and provide significant investment opportunities. These sectors include financial services, manufacturing, ICT, tourism, logistics and transport.

For more information on the Bahrain EDB visit www.bahrainedb.com; for information about Bahrain visit www.bahrain.com.

Bahrain ranked in world’s top five Islamic finance economies by the Islamic Development Bank

Islamic Finance Bahrain First in MENA

  • Research by Refinitiv and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) puts Bahrain in the lead in MENA and third place globally
  • Eighth consecutive first-place ranking for Bahrain based on robust and supportive regulation and increases in number of Islamic Banking Assets

Manama, December 15 – Bahrain ranked in the world’s top five Islamic finance economies, according to the latest annual Islamic Finance Development Indicator (IFDI).

The Kingdom, which has led MENA in all eight IFDIs to date, ranked in third place globally this year. 135 countries in total are ranked as part of the index.

The IFDI is part of the annual Islamic Finance Development Report produced by Refinitiv and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector development arm of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

The IFDI provides an annual rank for each economy in the global Islamic finance industry, aggregating scores across five areas – quantitative development, knowledge, governance, corporate social responsibility, and awareness.

Bahrain’s high ranking was based upon its robust and supportive regulation for Islamic finance and banking as well as increases in both the number of Islamic banking assets.

Mr. Fahad Yateem, Director of Islamic Financial Institutions Supervision Directorate at the Central Bank of Bahrain said: “I am delighted that Bahrain has once again scored so highly in the IFDI, and particularly for Governance. The results are testament to our longstanding strategy of pioneering yet comprehensive regulation, creating a framework conducive to digital and technological innovation in the industry.

“The recently launched Bahrain Open Banking Framework, which provides detailed guidelines ensuring the holistic implementation of Open Banking for the entire banking industry – the first in the world to incorporate Islamic Finance.

“As the report makes clear, the COVID-19 pandemic has further catalysed digital innovation in the industry as well as consumer uptake of technology. Moreover, it is these technological advancements within Islamic Finance that will be a key driver of the industry’s post-covid recovery.”

Dalal Buhejji, Director, Business Development, Financial Services at the EDB said: “Bahrain was the first in the region to develop a strong banking community and is now building one of the most concentrated FinTech ecosystems in the world. The Islamic finance sector has been a key part of that development, with ninety six billion dollars of assets held in the Kingdom, which accounts for 124% of Bahrain’s GDP.

“We are continuously implementing new initiatives and policy tools to further develop Bahrain’s standing in Islamic finance, including new Takaful models and Sharia-compliant investment tools.

“The Kingdom’s high ranking is testament to our innovative and pioneering approach, as well as the advanced financial environment that we offer for both established financial institutions and startups. We look forward to continuing to build on our growth.”

The index highlighted how Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s regulation of InsurTech promises to “transform” the Takaful industry, with FinTech also being a major driver of the Islamic finance industry – particularly during the global COVID pandemic.

Bahrain is home to the region’s largest concentration of Islamic finance institutions that deal in almost every area of Islamic finance and Islamic products. The Bahrain Islamic Bank was established in the Kingdom in 1979, and Bahrain has since worked to nurture concepts, rules, and standards of Sharia banking compliance in Islamic banks.

For more information, please contact:

Communications and Media Department

Economic Development Board

Phone: +973-17-589966

E-mail: internationalmedia@bahrainedb.com

About Bahrain Economic Development Board

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is an investment promotion agency with overall responsibility for attracting investment into the Kingdom and supporting initiatives that enhance the investment climate.

The EDB works with the government and both current and prospective investors, in order to ensure that Bahrain’s investment climate is attractive, to communicate the key strengths, and to identify where opportunities exist for further economic growth through investment.

The EDB focuses on several economic sectors that capitalise on Bahrain’s competitive advantages and provide significant investment opportunities. These sectors include financial services, manufacturing, ICT, tourism, logistics and transport.

For more information on the Bahrain EDB visit www.bahrainedb.com; for information about Bahrain visit www.bahrain.com.

About the Islamic Finance Development Indicator

Developed by ICD and Refinitiv, the Islamic Finance Development Indicator is a composite weighted-index that measures the overall development of the Islamic Finance industry by providing an aggregate assessment of the performance of all its parts, in line with the objectives of Islamic principles.

The indicator is released annually, along with a full report detailing each country- and unit-specific indicator and their raw numbers.

Each indicator within the composite indicator’s constituents is equally weighted and aggregated. In addition, normalization is required prior to any data aggregation as the variable indicators in a data set have different measurement units.

To learn more about the indicator, please visit

https://refini.tv/2XN7sTd

First Insurance Platform Graduates From CBB Regulatory Sandbox – Tech Disrupter TASWEYA platform set to unlock millions for Bahrain based insurance companies

Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain (November 29, 2020) – Braxtone Corporate Services, a subsidiary of Braxtone Group, today announced the official graduation of their Motor Claims Recovery Platform “TASWEYA” from the Regulatory Sandbox of the Central Bank of Bahrain, CBB.

TASWEYA provides insurance companies with an easy to use and secure market-wide centralized platform to manage documents and exchange payable and receivable motor claims against each other. It also offers auto-reconciliation of statements of accounts.

There are over seven hundred thousand motor insurance policies in Bahrain and insurance companies pay over USD 175 million annually in insurance claim payments for motor accidents. The insurance companies can update claims, track and approve outstanding claims and close settled claims with a click of a button. This means that the B2B platform is faster and more efficient than manually processing claims, increasing productivity and cutting costs.

Braxtone’s solutions in Bahrain and the UAE have significantly contributed to improving the way insurers and insurance service providers do business. Such solutions have increased the productivity of insurers and insurance market practitioners, and have paved the roadmap for Braxtone to establish presence in all GCC countries before expanding around the world – Braxtone is looking to first test its platform in Bahrain and then roll it out to the region 

Dalal Buhejji, Director – Business Development, Financial Services at Bahrain Economic Development Board, said: “Bahrain’s nimble and agile FinTech ecosystem is the ideal launch pad for startups looking to disrupt legacy industries with new cutting-edge solutions. Following the rise of PropTech, EduTech and HealthTech, InsurTech will be the one to watch as consumers and corporations alike turn away from physical documents towards digital alternatives.

“The sector witnessed a major resurgence in the third quarter following a slow start to the year, and it is encouraging to see companies like Braxtone using the Bahraini market as a testbed to scale regionally and beyond.

“Entrepreneurs across the globe turn to the Kingdom for our focus on FinTech as well as initiatives like the CBB’s Regulatory Sandbox, which offers entrepreneurs the chance to test out smart solutions in a secure environment before going to market.

“We are pleased to see Braxtone graduating from the scheme with its paperless TASWEYA platform, joining several other firms across industries who have successfully completed the programme.”

From his side Mr. Ayman Al Ajmi, CEO of Braxtone Group said “We are pleased that TASWEYA has completed the graduation requirements of the CBB Regulatory Sandbox and we are thankful H. E. the Governor and to the management and the team of the FinTech division of the CBB”. Mr. Al Ajmi also said “The support and encouragement we had from the EDB was the main reason for selecting the Kingdom of Bahrain as the place to launch this solution. We are working in the UAE market since 2017 and providing services to over eighteen insurance companies in the UAE market, however we have selected Bahrain to deploy TASWEYA and this was mainly due to the extensive support and cooperation we received from the EDB and the Fintech division of the CBB”. Mr. Al Ajmi also extended his thank to the management and staff of the two insurance companies who volunteered to assist during the testing phase of TASWEYA in the Regulatory Sandbox stage which are t’azur Company and Solidarity Bahrain.

Mr. Vivek Sethia, Group CEO of Beyontec Solutions, the technology partner of Braxtone Group and software development provider for TASWEYA said “We at Beyontec Solutions are happy to join forces with Braxtone to launch this important solution in Bahrain and would like to extend our thanks and appreciations to the FinTech division of the CBB and the EDB for their support and cooperation in sponsoring this solution and making it available for the Bahraini market.”

Braxtone Corporate Services now plans to expand its market reach and deploy products and leading InsurTech solutions in other countries in the Middle East region and beyond.

About Braxtone Group

Established in 2015 as an independently owned firm, Braxtone specializes in providing professional services to prospective insurance and reinsurance firms, including, captive insurance management, run-off management, claims management, credit control, receivables management, operational support and consulting.  Braxtone gained a reputation as the go-to expert for any insurance service or outsourcing need. Braxtone clients benefit from the combination of skills hosted by the team at the leading-edge of insurance operation and management, niche industry expertise and deep understanding of local issues and challenges.

Braxtone develops and implements solutions that enable clients and partners improve their performance. Braxtone is acknowledged in the industry for insurance expertise and extensive knowledge of regulatory frameworks coupled with deep knowledge of the local market. The company’s team is led by professionally qualified members in insurance, reinsurance, financial services, research, regulations, licensing, and start-ups.

For more information about Braxtone Group, visit its website at www.braxtone.ae.

For more information please contact:

Mohamed Radhi / Chief Operating Officer

Braxtone Corporate Services

Office 302, Bahrain FinTech Bay

Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain  

Phone:  +973 16676000

Mobile:  +973 39673113

Email:  mohamed.radhi@braxtone.ae    

Q3 Saudi-Bahrain trade surges by 43%

  • Trade between two Kingdoms hit $2.17bn during the first three quarters of 2020
  • Saudi Arabia is one of Bahrain’s key trading partners, with both nations connected by bridge

Manama, October 22, 2020: Non-oil trade between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain increased 43 percent to US$688.4 million during the third quarter of 2020 compared to US$481 million during Q3 of 2019. The surge in trade between both countries comes following the ease of restrictions on cargo transit over the King Fahd Causeway back in August.

Bi-lateral commerce between the two nations surged 12 percent past the $2 billion mark during the first three quarters of 2020 to record a substantial year-on-year increase from the 2019 figure of $1.93 billion.

Saudi Arabia is one of Bahrain’s key trading partners, with majority of imports and exports flowing via the King Fahd Causeway – a 25 kilometre bridge connecting both Kingdoms by road.

It was also recently announced that Bahrain Customs has installed high-tech artificial intelligence scanners at the King Fahd Causeway, automating data collection and allowing shipment inspections to take place before reaching the border.

With the lowest manufacturing costs in the region, Bahrain is fast becoming the manufacturing and logistics hub of choice for many global manufacturers including Arla, Reckitt Benckiser, Mondelez and Olayan Kimberley-Clark.

Abdulhakim Al Shamary, Board Member of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), said: “The King Fahd Causeway acts as an essential link between Bahrain and the wider $1.5 trillion Gulf economy for millions of passengers and commercial trucks each year.

“Despite COVID-19, commercial drivers have still been able to use the bridge enabling critical continuity for the logistics sector”.

Saudi-Bahrain trade returns to pre-COVID levels amid increase in H1 figures

  • Trade between two Kingdoms hits $262.9m in June, highest since pandemic struck region
  • Saudi Arabia is one of Bahrain’s key trading partners, with both nations connected by bridge
  • Bahrain’s overall trade for the year-half reached US$10.4 billion globally

Manama, September 30, 2020: Trade between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has returned to levels not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic, with new figures revealing US$1.48 billion in bi-lateral trade during the first half of the year.

In the first six months of 2020, the figures were up 2 per cent from the same period last year, in which a total of US$1.45 billion in trade was recorded between the two nations.

June’s figures showed the positive economic impact of support measures on the economies of both Kingdoms, with trade returning to US$262.9 million – the highest levels since coronavirus struck the region in March this year. Compared to 2019, the month showed a substantial year-on-year rise of 52.45 per cent.

Saudi Arabia is one of Bahrain’s key trading partners, with imports and exports flowing between the two nations via the King Fahd Causeway – a 25 kilometre bridge connecting both Kingdoms by road.

Officials have been working to increase facilities for commercial traffic, with recent renovation works including an increase in capacity by 45 per cent and new gates on the Saudi side.

It was also recently announced that Bahrain Customs has installed high-tech artificial intelligence scanners at the King Fahd Causeway, automating data collection and allowing shipment inspections to take place before reaching the border.

According to the new figures, Bahrain’s overall trade for the year-half reached US$10.4 billion globally, including US$2.9 billion to other GCC nations. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kingdom’s overall global trade figures during H1 reduced by just two per cent.

The numbers also reveal that Bahrain is becoming a regional distribution hub for the logistics industry, with exports to the GCC over the first half of the year representing 66 per cent of the total figure. Imports to the Kingdom from the rest of the GCC represented 34 per cent of the Kingdom’s bilateral trade.

UAE-Bahrain trade returning to pre-COVID levels H1 figures show

  • Trade between two countries hits $139.6 m in June, highest since pandemic struck region
  • Bahrain’s trade for the year-half reached US$10.4 billion globally – only 2% down on 2019

Manama, September 30, 2020: Trade between the UAE and Bahrain has returned to levels not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic, with new figures revealing US$936 million in bi-lateral commerce during the first half of the year.

June’s figures showed the positive economic impact of support measures on the economies of both Kingdoms, with trade returning to US$139.6 million – the highest levels since coronavirus struck the region in March this year.

The recent reopening of the King Fahd Causeway to transit traffic is expected to further boost trade numbers in the latter half of the year.

According to the new figures, Bahrain’s overall trade for the year-half reached US$10.4 billion globally, including US$2.9 billion to other GCC nations. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kingdom’s overall global trade figures during H1 reduced by just two per cent.

The numbers reveal that Bahrain is becoming a regional distribution hub for the logistics industry, with exports to the GCC over the first half of the year representing 66 per cent of the total figure. Imports to the Kingdom from the rest of the GCC represented 34 per cent of the Kingdom’s bilateral trade.

This first half of this year has also seen Bahrain extend technology further into its supply chain, including the launch a first-of-its-kind in the region “SmartHub” logistics warehouse for pharmaceuticals and food. This next generation logistics warehouse utilises emerging technologies to ensure the speedy and efficient distribution of much-needed foods and medicines across the entire GCC. It is the first ‘smart hub’ in the world to integrate a track and trace system on a blockchain platform with smart contracts for customs clearances and fee payments.  

Central Bank of Bahrain launches a first of its kind fintech platform to drive innovation in the region

  • FinHub 973 launched in cooperation with the Bahrain Economic Development Board, Bank ABC, ila Bank, BENEFIT, National Bank of Bahrain and Bahrain Islamic Bank
  • FinHub 973 will be powered by Fintech Galaxy’s FinX22 Innovation platform
  • The platform aims to stimulate innovation opportunities, connect financial institutions in Bahrain to fintech startups from across the globe, and highlight Bahrain’s position as a regional financial center for innovation
  • The platform will create a collaborative environment in the fintech sector and establish a gateway to financial services markets in the region
  • Offers an open API sandbox, a global fintech marketplace and an innovation crowdsourcing platform

Manama, Bahrain – 20 October 2020: The Central Bank of Bahrain, in cooperation with the Bahrain Economic Development Board, Bank ABC, ila Bank, BENEFIT, National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) and Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB), announced today the launch of FinHub 973, the first comprehensive digital fintech lab in the region, regulated by the Central Bank of Bahrain. The new platform will aim to create a collaborative ecosystem in the fintech sector by establishing a gateway for investment opportunities in the region, while fostering innovation and supporting integration between financial institutions and fintech startups.

FinHub 973 will be powered by Fintech Galaxy’s FinX22 platform, which is a cloud-based open innovation platform that complies with the best international technical standards. The FinX22 platform will offer an open banking API sandbox that enables fintech startups to develop, test and deploy fintech solutions.

Through an AI-powered global fintech marketplace, FinHub 973 will aim to connect financial institutions in Bahrain and the region to fintechs from around the world. The digital lab will also offer matchmaking and crowdsourcing capabilities, which will help contribute to the design of effective fintech solutions, ultimately spurring disruptive and transformative innovation across the financial services industry.

Speaking on the launch of FinHub 973, Mr. Rasheed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, said: “We are pleased to launch the FinHub 973 digital fintech lab that will support a seamless transition into digital banking operations, while accelerating the transformation towards an AI-powered digital economy.”

H.E. Al Maraj added: “The Covid-19 repercussions have proven the great importance of expanding digital banking and providing appropriate solutions for electronic payment systems. The Central Bank has early realized the importance of continuously developing the banking sector infrastructure, putting itself at the forefront of regulatory bodies that support innovation in order to establish Bahrain’s position as a top financial center. The launch of FinHub 973 reaffirms the vision of the Central Bank of Bahrain to expand infrastructure in financial technology, unlock innovation opportunities, and introduce new and innovative financial products to the market.”

The launch of FinHub 973 follows the Central Bank’s recent initiatives to promote innovation in the Bahrain financial sector, including the launch of the Regulatory Sandbox in 2017, establishment of a dedicated Fintech and Innovation Unit at the bank, and issuing regulations for Open Banking, Crypto-asset Platform Operators, Digital Financial Advice (“robo-advisory”), Cloud Computing and Insurance Aggregators.

Mirna Sleiman, Founder & CEO, Fintech Galaxy, said: “The launch of this platform comes at a pivotal time, when governments and financial institutions from all around the world are increasingly focusing on accelerating their implementation of digital transformation strategies in order to drive business growth.

We are proud to take part in launching and powering The Central Bank of Bahrain’s FinHub 973 digital fintech lab, and we are confident that it will succeed in creating a common digital space that enhances communication between all stakeholders within the financial sector in Bahrain, the region and across the globe.”

FinHub 973 will enable financial institutions to organize virtual hackathons and challenges to accelerate innovation and business growth. The platform will also provide content on the fintech sector financial and the relevant laws and regulations in the Kingdom of Bahrain, through an interactive chatbot.

GCC small business ‘boom’ to drive post-COVID economy as commercial registrations soar

Commercial registrations increase 109 percent in Bahrain amid new wave of entrepreneurs

99 percent of businesses in Saudi Arabia are SMEs making 64% of employment

The sector contributes 52 percent of non-oil GDP in the UAE and is set to rise to 60 percent

Manama, September 13 2020: Experts are predicting a GCC “SME boom” as a new wave of regional entrepreneurs emerge out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commercial registrations have seen triple-digit increases in recent months with tender boards across the region awarding tens of millions of dollars in contracts to these enterprises.

Now analysts are hailing the post-Coronavirus economy as an “era of startup growth” as governments focus on rebuilding their economies following months of reduced activity during the pandemic.

Pakiza Abdulrahman, Manager of Business Development – Startup at Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, said: “Across the region, governments are putting startups and SMEs front and centre as they seek to regrow and diversify their economies, and this new era of startup growth is only set to increase post-COVID.

“Unprecedented, targeted support packages are indicative of governments prioritising small business as being the engine of the Gulf’s post-lockdown recovery, and we are already seeing the results of this SME boom.”

“In Bahrain, SMEs have proven to be a key pillar in the economic diversification strategy, and also play a major role in job creation and have emerged as an increasingly significant contributor to national GDP.”

The comments come as the Bahrain government announced plans to subsidise electricity bills for SMEs to the tune of BHD24 million (USD$63.7 million) to help bolster national economic growth.

In August, the Bahrain Tender Board announced that in the first half of the year, it had awarded 47 public tenders worth a combined USD$21.8 million to SMEs in the Kingdom, following a Cabinet decision to boost public spending in the sector.

This comes against a backdrop of already soaring numbers of individual commercial registrations in Bahrain – up by a staggering 109 percent in June alone.

The Bahrain boom is closely reflected across the region, with 99 percent of businesses in Saudi Arabia a part of the SME segment providing 64 percent of total employment in the Kingdom.

Under Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom plans to raise the contribution of SMEs from the current 20 percent of GDP to 35 percent by facilitating their access to funding and encouraging financial institutions to allocate up to 20 percent of overall loans to them.

As of last year, the UAE’s Ministry of Economy estimated that the SME sector represents more than 98 percent of the total number of companies operating in the UAE and contributes towards 52 percent of non-oil GDP – a figure the ministry wants to increase to 60 percent by 2021.

Areije Al Shakar, Fund Director at Al Waha Fund of Funds, the government fund established in Bahrain to catalyse the growth of a VC community across the region, added: “In light of the global pandemic, governments are doubling down on their support for what was already a priority segment for most major GCC economies – and for a good reason.

“Despite startup funding globally dropping to an all-time low in the first half of this year, the MENA region saw a record breaking US $659 million raised during that period – already at 95 percent of total venture investments in 2019, itself a record-breaking year. A renewed government focus on the sector will drive growth even further.”

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