Gulf financial centers battle it out to be the region’s fintech hub

Dubai's DIFC launched its "FintechHive initiative in early 2017. (Shutterstock)
Updated 08 May 2018

Gulf financial centers battle it out to be the region’s fintech hub

  • Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have all launched a series of fintech initiatives
  • “Saudi Arabia is in a unique position where it can learn from global successes and achieve tangible results more efficiently and effectively.”

LONDON: Gulf countries are vying to become the regional hub for fintech start-ups and entrepreneurs and are pouring money into educational campaigns; schemes to develop talent and trendy co-working spaces.

The region is racing to catch up with the global tech hubs of London and Silicon Valley, as well as individual countries competing with their neighbors to be the most attractive destination for Fintech firms.

In Dubai — typically seen as one of the region’s pioneers in fintech — the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) is set to accept applications from startup tech firms this month for the second round of ‘FintechHive,’ a 12-week talent mentorship program originally set up last year.

This year the scheme is expanding its focus into Islamic finance and insurance.

“We always want to make sure that we are looking to stay ahead of the trends and understand what the region needs so that we can provide an adequate framework to enable innovation to flourish,” said Amr ElSaadani, managing director and financial services lead for Accenture in the Middle East and Turkey.

The US-based consultancy firm signed an agreement on May 5 with the DIFC to continue to back the DubaiHive program.

Saudi Arabia has also ramped up efforts to secure a slice of the the fintech market with the launch of ‘FintechSaudi’ initiative last month. Bahrain launched its Bahrain Fintech Bay in February, a new co-working space that brings together startups, banks and other companies into one space.

Both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain set up their own regulatory ‘sandboxes’ earlier this year, a concept which allows start-ups and companies to test out banking ideas and solutions in a ‘safe’ live environment without dealing with the burden of too much regulation.

While barely a week goes by without a new launch, conference or seminar on the latest fintech innovations, experts warn there is still a lot of work to be done to help attract and keep firms working in the region.

Rushdi Duqah, partner, consulting and operations at Deloitte, based in Riyadh, told Arab News that there was a need for Gulf countries to work more closely together, particularly on regulation.

“The region is demonstrating strong commitment for fintech. It is seen as a strategic priority with each country has its own strategic positioning,” he said.

“What I would like to see is how the different fintech hubs would collaborate with each other in the region, because there is more to do on that front than just being seen as competing (with each other),” he said.

“Fintechs that emerge in one country would want to come and scale, operate and test in another country, and that collaboration would be something that would benefit both Fintechs and the countries in which they operate. Rather than companies having to reinvent the wheel every time they need to go to another country,” he said.

Fintech firms told Arab News that regulation and access to financing were obstacles to growth.

Craig Buchan, founder and CEO of Qpal, a mobile payment app company based in Dubai, said: “Early stage financing would be desirable. Challenges relate mainly to regulation, Know-Your-Customers (KYC) and access to finance.

“The UAE government has great initiatives in place to transform Dubai into a global fintech hub, but until banks revise their risk propensity then early stage fintech’s may find it hard to get off the ground and make significant traction.”

Qpal is a startup supported by In5, the Dubai-based tech incubator platform owned by the Tecom Group.

Artemisa Jaramillio, professor of digital marketing, technology & innovation at the Princess Nourah Bint Adbulhahman University, said that those working in the fintech industry in Saudi Arabia must have a clear focus.

“Urged by the NTP 2020, stakeholders have started to create a number of events, without a clear goal in mind. What are our success metrics? Are we only creating events to tick the box,” she told Arab News.

“Are these real, scalable solutions or are we only following the trend of inflating our numbers,” she said.

Adrian Quinton, head of financial services at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, said the fact that Saudi Arabia has lagged behind its peers could play to the Kingdom’s advantage as it strives to be a fintech hub.

“Saudi Arabia is in a unique position where it can learn from global successes and achieve tangible results more efficiently and effectively,” he said.


Japan’s export credit agency to lend $2 billion to Nissan for US sales financing

Updated 26 November 2020

Japan’s export credit agency to lend $2 billion to Nissan for US sales financing

  • The money should help the Japanese company sell cars in the world’s second-biggest automarket after China

TOKYO: Japan’s state-owned export credit agency has agreed to give Nissan Motor Co. up to $2 billion as part of a credit agreement to help it finance car sales in the United States.
The money is part of a $4.1 billion credit agreement for Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation, a unit of Nissan North America, Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) said in a press release on Wednesday.
The money should help the Japanese company sell cars in the world’s second-biggest automarket after China by allowing it to provide customers with loans that they can repay in monthly instalments, the export credit agency added in the statement.
The United States “is an important market for Japanese automobile manufacturers. Sales finance has become an important tool in business strategy,” JBIC said.
“This case provides financial support for Nissan’s overseas business development,” it added.
JBIC has provided loans for overseas sales financing to other automakers, including a $78 million October agreement with Honda Motor Co. in Brazil, and one in September for Toyota Motor Corp. in South Africa. JBIC did not disclose the amount for that deal.
The latest agreement with Nissan is more than three times as much as a $582 million loan extended by JBIC in July to help it finance car sales in Mexico.
A JBIC spokesman said the government export credit agency applied the same lending standards as private banks.
Nissan, Japan’s third-largest automaker, is focusing on key markets as it pulls back from the rapid expansion led by ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn.
It is looking to raise market share with new models in the United States, China and Japan as they rebound from a demand slump triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have financing from a variety of different ways and JBIC is one of them,” a Nissan spokeswoman said.
This month, Nissan cut its operating loss forecast for the year to March 2021 by 28 percent, albeit still to a record of about $3.2 billion, helped by a rebound in demand, particularly in China.