The United Arab Emirates remains a budding blockchain capital in 2023
2022 was an eventful year for crypto, with the industry shaving more than 2 trillion dollars of the market value. Beyond nose-diving and rising trust, a spate of bad actors and fraudulent practices did little to bolster the industry’s tarnished reputation—only 8% of Americans now have a positive view of crypto. Despite the damning numbers, it’s not all doom and gloom for the blockchain space. While their counterparts were busy blowing up, the serious contenders continued to build, regions like the UAE or the Middle East emerging as crypto-friendly hubs.
Blockchain is booming in the UAE
With blockchain growing fast, latest reports suggest more than 78 billion dollars in remittance payments between KSA and the UAE, as they make it to the top 30 largest global remittance lists.
The UAE government has been particularly supportive of blockchain technology in recent years, with a a number of initiatives to drive their country at the forefront of blockchain adoption. Some of these efforts include the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021, which aimed to digitize at least 50% of government transactions, the Dubai Blockchain Strategy to make Dubai the “happiest city on earth” and the first to be fully powered by blockchain technology , and Dubai Metaverse Strategy to make Dubai one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies, creating more than 40,000 virtual roles by 2030.
With easy regulatory authorities and progressive financial regulations, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates have positioned themselves at the top to become an emerging crypto hub, while some others still struggle to regulate or even ban crypto trading.
Data suggests more than 8,000 active individuals in the Web3 space solely within the MENA region, with heavyweights such as Crypto.com, Binance or The Hashgraph Association thriving in the region. To promote the use of decentralized finance among young entrepreneurs, The Hashgraph Association has already partnered with Orange to support blockchain and fintech startups. Hedera’s grants program also plans to expand into the UAE through the launch of Hashgraph Ventures out of ADGM and several key large corporate collaborations within the UAE – one of which will be announced as part of COP 28 in November.
Hashgraph Association’s growing presence in the UAE
UAE was recently named the world’s second most attractive place to move to work in the digital sector by the Boston Consulting Group, and major hot spots Abu Dhabi and Dubai were listed among the top 10 cities for acquiring digital talent.
Kamal Youssefi, chairman of The Hashgraph Association, emphasized the UAE’s appeal for blockchain companies, citing its innovative regulations, strong talent base and diverse community. “I have just returned from the board meetings held at Google’s campus in San Francisco, and there was general agreement that the UAE’s innovative regulations, strong talent base and diverse community make it an attractive destination for blockchain companies. Dubai has become an important hub for to support our activities in the region and increase the use of the Hedera Hashgraph ecosystem in the Middle East.” says Kamal. Among Hedera’s board members are Google, Dell, IBM, Boeing, Chainlink Labs, Deutsche Telekom, EDF (Électricité de France), LG Electronics, Ubisoft, University College London and others.
The UAE’s ambitions to be the world’s first city powered by blockchain will need powerful technology that can accommodate the masses, and the growing blockchain-based businesses expanding in the region will contribute to the goal. Dubai’s use of blockchain technology involves a holistic approach that encompasses not only technical aspects, but also regulatory frameworks, partnerships and ecosystem development.
“Hedera has been built from the ground up with enterprise and public applications in mind, which is why the platform is managed by a collective of some of the world’s leading technology, finance and education institutions,” Hederas Kamal Youssefi continued in a statement
In addition to being selected by the DIFC Courts and building the distributed ledger technology ecosystems, Zain with Hedera technology and the major telecom provider have also joined the Hedera board.
The outlook for 2023 and beyond
Despite the broader bearish market conditions, Youssefi is not the only champion of industrial growth in this region. The UAE’s blockchain ambitions extend beyond trade finance. Recently, the government of Abu Dhabi announced launching a metaverse gaming initiativein anticipation of a global industry estimated to be worth $966 billion (AED 3.55 trillion) by 2030.
Researchers expect significant growth in digital collectibles, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and play-and-earn games in the blockchain gaming sector by 2023. Hedera has already witnessed the launch of a Web3 game development initiative by Animoca Brands, and the introduction of a new competitive feature in the popular online battle royale game, Apex Legends, through an EA-licensed eSports platform made by former Amazon and Meta developers, built on Hedera.
Youssefi further emphasized the role of Hedera’s low fees, fast transaction times and fast finality in facilitating the growth of gaming projects. He expressed optimism about the continued expansion of blockchain applications in the Middle East.
“We are extremely positive about the continued growth of DeFi, gaming, trade finance and other projects that can lower costs and expand accessibility for millions of underserved people in the MENA region,” Youssefi added.
User experience (UX) is another area that Youssefi expects to see a boost in the coming months. “With the collapse of FTX and other major industry players, 2022 really highlighted the importance of self-storage,” he says, “but the fact is [self-custody] is still too difficult for the average user. The industry really needs to strive for ways to make it easier for people to embrace this technology. Therefore, we have designed the Hedera platform to be as accessible as possible. Developers can easily build decentralized applications (dApps) without having to learn new languages on the Hedera platform.” With so much building across key verticals in the blockchain space and notable government initiatives in booming countries like the UAE, it’s hard not to feel optimistic about the outlook for this industry – in 2023 and beyond.