Fintech is a concept that is changing the way consumers conduct financial transactions, be it borrowing money, borrowing money, investing, processing payments, buying insurance and fund transfers. A key driver that introduced Fintech to the Gulf states is electronic services, government initiatives have supported the growth of fintech start-ups in these countries.
The fintech ecosystem is gradually establishing itself in the GCC and many developments seem to be taking place. At the moment, there are several public and private companies that offer digital services. Government deregulation has attracted entrepreneurs in the GCC as funding opportunities grow. Since the Fintech design aspects are present in GCC, the future is bright. E-services allow citizens to easily access public services online in the GCC.
Furthermore, a good example of this takes place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the “Absher” platform is a portal that offers several public e-services that can be processed without physical presence. This type of service is also available in the Kingdom of Bahrain on the “eGovernment” platform with similar services.
The Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain offers incubators for Fintech start-ups that nurture start-ups from their initiation of an idea, all the way to official launch, to their success with financial independence. The same initiatives are also aimed at development programs at company level. Digital businesses come together in these innovation hubs, and promotion of startups has gone mainstream with the help of the “Beban” show, which showcases startup ideas that can be shortlisted by investor judges and funded if selected. In addition, Beban has expanded its partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which it hopes will increase angel investment in the program.
Bahrain FinTech Bay has pioneered the activation of the Fintech ecosystem in Bahrain. It is a public-private partnership between the FinTech Consortium and the Bahrain Economic Development Board. They help foreign businesses easily integrate into Bahrain’s economy. This process is done by providing information about the decision-making process and then facilitating access and registration followed by support for business expansion. Bahrain’s workforce is highly educated and well equipped to be partners in the growth of the FinTech industry in the Kingdom of Bahrain with the help of Tamkeen’s upskilling programs.
By bringing together ideas with great potential for success, the FinTech ecosystem can grow rapidly in the GCC. It is crucial to generate ideas from the media, established businesses, venture capitalists, banks and educational institutions. For example, Bahrain Polytechnic has a senior project exhibition that helps students through the steps to create their own ideas and make them industry-ready in a safe and well-guided environment.
In the future, I believe that the platforms used by the GCC states can be unified. This can be done by taking the existing e-service platforms and integrating their databases and creating portals to accommodate the other countries. For example, when you enter the Bahrain eGovernment portal, there will be a page only for GCC residents other than Bahrainis where they can process government services for them. At the back end of the portals there should be a shared database between all the golf countries. Another vision is to make travel between the Gulf countries easier by adapting a unified system for border access. For example, at the border between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and vice versa, this can be done by having one portal where you can enter your travel details so that border officials can be referred to it for a faster process without requiring multiple stops and preventing the loss of missing information using search before visiting the border. This will reduce the burden on the border staff and it will drastically reduce border traffic because the staff will simply approve or disapprove the information received. With the help of data mining, this process will become more efficient as the data will help determine faster approaches for this process.
Considering the border advance, safety can be improved with the help of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras which will be able to send the vehicle plates to the central system and refer them to the traffic database. This should help with the identification and detection of breaches or security issues that border staff need to be aware of. It will be a rapid control process that can increase border security without compromising staffing requirements. In addition, facial recognition cameras will help border security that work by detecting the t-shape of the person’s face and matching it with the citizen’s personal identification database. This is important in case of identity fraud which the facial recognition camera will detect faster and more efficiently than the human eye.
— Engr. Abdulla Al Qahtani is a Bahraini network and software specialist, internationally certified with Professional Project Management (PPM) by NATO, AWS Solutions Architect Professional and AWS Security Specialty. He can be reached at his email: [email protected]