Bahrain Seeks To Transform Into Middle Eastern Fintech Hub

Bahrain King
The King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa attends the Royal Windsor Horse Show, in Windsor, Britain May 11, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo)

As the Middle East begins to draw the attention of financial technology (fintech) world leaders, Bahrain seeks to become the regional hub that welcomes startups into its growing fintech community.

According to Computer Weekly, Bahrain particularly wants to be the center for fintech startups that are looking to penetrate the nations within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

As part of the country's efforts in transforming into a Middle Eastern fintech hub, members of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) graced the Innovate Finance Global Summit in London wherein technological developments in the finance sector were highlighted.

"Bahrain has moved very fast over the last few years and put in the right framework to support fintech growth," senior manager of financial services at EDB, Dalal Buhejji, said of the small country's transition.

Buhejji pointed out that Bahrain being a small country makes it more plausible for fintech startups to test new products or services within the community before expanding to other parts of the Gulf region.

Aside from helping startups set up shop in Bahrain, Buhejji said the EDB aims to assist new fintech firms in testing their products through the country's central bank regulatory sandbox. The sandbox has implemented new policies that should benefit startups.

Under Bahrain's sandbox programs, new fintech companies will be allowed to test their products or services within a period of nine months. If tests come out good, the central bank will tweak regulations that will allow for coverage of the new products.

To date, the sandbox initiative has 29 fintech startups undergoing product tests. Two of the firms have graduated from the program: open banking firm Tarabut Gateway and cryptocurrency exchange startup Rain Financial.

The Times of Oman reported that Bahrain is currently undergoing infrastructure innovations across a number of sectors including retail, hospitality, and fintech. It is also one of the few GCC countries that have started focusing on other industries aside from oil.

While oil is the major driver in GCC economies, Bahrain decided on bet on revamping its economy through fast-paced developments in the finance sector, particularly in fintech operations and initiatives.

Earlier last month, Bahrain's governors developed an economic scheme that included plans to transform the small nation into an international leader in modernized payments. Analysts noted that the move will allow for financial services in GCC regions to pursue digitized payment systems.

The government also recently launched the FinTech Talent Program (FTP) that aims to assist financial technology talents in exploring their skills and experience through learning the latest trends in the global fintech space.

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