Dubai businesses embrace crypto as the future of payments

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Updated 01 May 2022

Dubai businesses embrace crypto as the future of payments

Dubai businesses embrace crypto as the future of payments
  • There is a possibility that the digital ecosystem in the UAE is set for bigger things

DUBAI: If you thought that the worldwide media coverage of Dubai’s new crypto laws announced in March was a blip on the radar screen, wait until you see the frenzy with which traditional shops and institutions are embracing digital currencies.

Close on the heels of several global crypto exchanges bagging commercial licenses and moving headquarters to Dubai, a motley mix of neighborhood establishments have opened its doors to people willing to lighten their wallets with bitcoin and the like.

Situated in Al-Quoz, Bake N More is a coffee and pastry shop that will go down in local history as the first cafe in Dubai to accept cryptocurrency from its customers. While the cafe still accepts cash and credit cards, it welcomes a mixed bag of digital payments, including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Tether.

“There’s been tremendous interest in cryptos because people see this as the future payment gateway system, especially those who have held on to them for a long time and are now looking to cash them,” Mohammad Al-Hammadi, owner of Bake N More, told Arab News.

The contemporary cafe’s open-source payment platform is handled by Mixin Network, a lightning-fast and decentralized platform that brings speed and scalability to blockchain and facilitates the transfer of digital assets.

Explaining the payment system to Arab News, Al-Hammadi said that it would charge customers by converting the cost of an item into its value in cryptocurrency. For instance, if a bottle of water costs 5 dirhams ($1.36), the price payable in TerraUSD, a Stablecoin built on the Terra blockchain, would be about 1.36UST as it is pegged 1:1 against the US dollar.




Mohammad Al-Hammadi, owner of Bake N More

New school of thought

The emergence of cryptocurrency as a mainstream tender has also invited the attention of Citizens School, an educational institution situated in the plush Al-Satwa locality. Come September, the UK-curriculum non-selective school will let parents pay the tuition fees in Bitcoin
and Ethereum.

“The reason we are accepting crypto payments is to start a conversation among parents and children about the technology that will influence the lives of the young generations,” said Hisham Hodroge, CEO of Citizens School.

He further added that nearly 10 percent of the parents who have enrolled their children opted to pay in cryptocurrency. The 43,000 sq. m. school campus has a capacity for 2,600 children, and fees range from 36,000 dirhams for Early Years Foundation Stage 1 up to 52,000 dirhams for Year 6.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Situated in Al-Quoz, Bake N More is a coffee and pastry shop that will go down in local history as the first cafe in Dubai to accept cryptocurrency from its customers. While the cafe still accepts cash and credit cards, it welcomes a mixed bag of digital payments, including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Tether.

• The contemporary cafe’s open-source payment platform is handled by Mixin Network, a lightning-fast and decentralized platform that brings speed and scalability to blockchain and facilitates the transfer of digital assets.

• The emergence of cryptocurrency as a mainstream tender has also invited the attention of Citizens School, an educational institution situated in the plush Al-Satwa locality.

“A while ago, cryptocurrency was only a floating term among well-versed investors. However, today cryptocurrency is becoming much more mainstream, reshaping the traditional financial system,” said Adil Alzarooni, founder of Citizens School, in a statement.

Not too long ago, even investment circles barely knew about the dark alleys of the deep web, the seedy corner of the Internet that offers anything from criminal services to cracked credentials to counterfeit money for instant exchange of cryptocurrency.

But the instrument soon gained legitimacy when the investment community began counting on it to hedge risk against rising inflation. The outcome was bizarre because it led to an exponential rally that led Bitcoin to touch a dizzying height of over $68,000 in November 2021. Just five years ago, a single Bitcoin was worth about $700. The meteoric rise became a talking point across the treasury benches globally.




Hisham Hodroge, CEO of Citizens School

Crypto penetration in UAE

According to blockchain data platform Chainalysis, the UAE, estimated to be the third-largest crypto market in the Middle East after Turkey and Lebanon, totaled a transaction value of $26 billion between July 2020 and June 2021. Sovereign governments were left with no choice but to reign over the volatility and tame the beast.

Early this year, the UAE announced a licensing program that would bring it into the league of rival financial centers such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Last month, the state passed its first crypto law and established a regulatory body to oversee virtual assets.

The government set up the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority to oversee the regulation, governance and licensing of cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens and other virtual assets. The decision led to a massive influx of global crypto exchanges in the region.

Cryptocurrency exchange Bybit announced its plans to move its headquarters from Singapore to Dubai. Global behemoths such as FTX and Binance received licenses to operate in the city. Crypto.com has revealed its intention to set up its regional office in the city.

“Countries like the UAE have already created governing bodies to measure and promote the growth of virtual assets. It’s keeping itself ahead of most of the world in developing the crypto market,” said Emma McInnes, global sector head of financial services at YouGov, a UK-based market research and data analytics firm.

YouGov recently released a report titled “The Future of Financial Services” based on the sample size of 1,012 in the UAE. The study revealed that 67 percent of UAE residents were interested in investing in cryptocurrencies within the next five years, and 21 percent intended to trade in the next 12 months.

“Like all businesses started using the Internet 20 years ago, they will start using crypto now; it is inevitable,” said Talal Tabbaa, CEO of CoinMENA, a digital assets exchange licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain.

Salaries in Crypto?

The company recently set up a payment platform for Dubai-based online convenience store Yalla Market that claims to deliver groceries in 15 minutes. The store accepts USD Coin and Tether. What makes the store interesting is that besides launching a new payment method for its customers, the startup is also considering paying salaries via digital assets in the future.

“We can now see that the world is increasingly adopting blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies. We could not stand aside as a company based in the UAE,” said Leo Dovbenko, CEO and co-founder of Yalla Market, in a statement.

The message is loud and clear: Crypto is here to stay, but there is a strong possibility that the crypto ecosystem in the UAE is set for bigger things. However, that is a story for another day.


Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
Updated 30 January 2023

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
  • Strategy aims to grow the region’s GDP, attract companies

DUBAI: Dubai International Financial Centre announced the launch of the DIFC Metaverse Platform on Monday in a bid to attract technology innovators from across the globe, Emirates News Agency reported.

The platform is part of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to add $4 billion to the emirate’s GDP by 2030, support 40,000 virtual jobs, and attract 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies. 

The platform also supports the Dubai Economic Agenda’s goal of generating economic value worth $27 billion per year from digital transformation. 

Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications Omar bin Sultan Al Olama said that the metaverse platform is the first in a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering Dubai’s position as a global hub for the latest digital trends, and accelerating the pace of achieving the strategy’s objectives.

DIFC Authority CEO Arif Amiri said: “The Dubai government has shown great foresight in introducing a metaverse strategy that has the objective of making the emirate a global hub for technology and innovation.

“The development of the integrated DIFC Metaverse Platform will accelerate the achievements of Dubai’s aspirations in this sector.

“The initiative is a natural extension of our Innovation Hub proposition that has shaped the technology and innovation landscape in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.”

The DIFC Metaverse Platform includes an accelerator program with a physical studio for metaverse technology, which will foster the growth of a creator community and venture creation.

It will also work on metaverse policy development and legislation on open data, digital identity, and metaverse company law frameworks.


Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows
Updated 30 January 2023

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

RIYADH: Deposits in Saudi banks grew by 9 percent year-on-year to SR2.29 trillion ($609.97 billion) with the major chunk deposited by government agencies, the monthly bulletin issued by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, showed.

Data showed that deposits by government entities rose by 27 percent, the highest in 16 years, reaching SR651.2 billion.

Saudi-listed banks reported a 21 percent rise in aggregate net profit before zakat and tax to SR6.16 billion in December 2022, compared to SR5.11 billion a year earlier.

The data covered the results of Tadawul-listed banks and some foreign banks operating in Saudi Arabia.

Banks’ aggregate assets increased nearly 10 percent year-on-year to SR3.62 trillion in December.

Loans issued to individuals in the Kingdom saw a 14 percent surge during 2022 reaching SR1.17 trillion by the end of 2022 as compared to SR1.02 trillion by the end of 2021.

The volume of residential real estate financing for individuals declined by 21 percent in 2022 for the first time since 2016. The total volume remained at SR123.4 billion.

The SAMA report showed that remittances from Saudi Arabia fell by 7 percent during 2022 to SR143.2 billion while remittances to the Kingdom from citizens living abroad recorded a growth of 11 percent to reach SR7.25 billion.

Assets held by the central bank shrank by SR63.8 billion month-on-month to SR1.93 trillion in December 2022. However, as compared to December 2021, SAMA’s assets rose by SR85.1 billion.

The central bank’s investments in foreign securities, which make up 58 percent of its total assets, edged down 0.2 percent year-on-year to around SR1.13 trillion last month.


 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool
Updated 30 January 2023

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

RIYADH: The world’s largest technical conference “LEAP” has launched two competitions with a SR6 million ($1.5 million) prize pool aimed at rewarding Saudi-based startups and boosting cloud technologies.

Supported by the National Information Technology Development Program and the Misk Foundation, the Rocket Fuel competition aims to support new businesses, highlight entrepreneurial projects, and build innovative solutions that address technical challenges.

As many as 90 local startups will compete for a chance to be one of 15 to be awarded a share of SR4 million, with a top prize of almost SR940,000.

As for the Alibaba Cloud hackathon, it aims to enhance cloud technologies in the Kingdom through a number of various challenges that will be set up prior to the start of the conference. The competition offers cash prizes amounting to SR2 million.

LEAP, which is set to kick off its second edition in Riyadh from Feb. 6 to Feb. 9, is anticipating the participation of major government and private agencies as well as technology and communications companies.

The conference is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and UAE-based IT services and consulting firm Tahaluf.


ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 
Updated 30 January 2023

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

RIYADH: Saudi-based ACWA Power created the largest water desalination capacity in the company’s history in 2022, enabling it to serve 5.5 million more people in the Gulf Cooperation Council region every day.

The power generation firm added a record-breaking 2.4 million cm3/day of water desalination capacity, according to a press release, through four reverse osmosis megaprojects in the Middle East pushing ACWA power’s aggregate water capacity up to 6.4 million cubic meters. 

Saudi Arabia’s water giant currently manages 16 projects in four different nations, and fulfills almost 30 percent of the Kingdom’s overall water needs.  

Desalinated water produced by the company reaches 40 million people daily, according to the international consumption per household.  

“ACWA Power has been at the forefront in mitigating water resources challenges over the past decade and a half through innovative, resilient solutions that are benefitting millions of people across the world,” said Kashif Rana, chief portfolio management officer of ACWA Power. 

“Enhancing capacity is a significant milestone not only for us, but for our industry. I am confident that through our expertise we will continue to build water security reliably and responsibly for Saudi Arabia and the world,” he added. 

The release further noted that reverse osmosis technology has been incorporated in all of the company’s projects, which saves up to 80 percent more energy than the conventional processes.

ACWA Power is anticipated to boost its capacity by around 15 percent through developing three new desalination projects in 2023.  

“As the leading water desalination operator in the world today, managing 6.4 million m3/day of desalinated water at lowest possible cost, ACWA Power is continuing to bring an innovative, and practical change to the industry, as we have been doing since 2006,” said Dr. Tariq Nada, the vice president of Water and Technical Service at the company.


Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 
Updated 30 January 2023

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

Closing bell: Saudi bourse slips 29 points to close at 10,811 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index fell 28.81 points — or 0.27 percent — on Monday to close at 10,810.68. 

While MSCI Tadawul 30 Index ended flat at 1,492.97, the parallel market Nomu fell 27.67 points to 19,151.14. 

TASI’s total trading turnover of the benchmark index on Monday was SR5 billion ($1.33 billion), with 69 stocks of the listed 223 advancing and 135 retreating. 

Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co., also known as Cenomi Retail, was the topmost gainer of the day, rising 7.03 percent to SR18.88. 

The company was also the topmost gainer on Sunday as it rose 9.98 percent, following the announcement of its plans to divest 26 non-strategic brands to rationalize its brand portfolio. 

The franchisee retailer wants to focus on “champion brands” occupying the No. 1 or No. 2 positions in their sectors.  

The other top gainers were East Pipes Integrated Co. for Industry, healthcare player Al Hammadi Holding, Al Kathiri Holding Co., and Allianz Saudi Fransi Cooperative Insurance Co. 

The worst performer on Monday was Alinma Hospitality REIT Fund, which fell 4.80 percent to SR9.52 on its debut after opening at SR9.25. 

The SR1.2 billion fund was listed on Monday at SR10 per unit, taking the total number of real estate investment trusts in the primary market to 18. 

Subscriptions to the fund’s units took place during the period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, 2022. A minimum of 50 units were allocated to each subscriber, while the remaining shares were allocated pro-rata.    

The other stocks that performed poorly included Halwani Bros. Co., Yanbu Cement Co., Allied Cooperative Insurance Group, and Mulkia Gulf Real Estate REIT. 

Among sectoral indices, 12 of the 21 listed on the stock exchange declined, while one stayed flat and the rest advanced. 

The Media and Entertainment Index was the worst-performing sector as it fell 2.01 percent to 22,423.88, weighed down by its vital constituent, Saudi Research, and Media Group, which stumbled 2.48 percent to SR189. 

The Software & Services Index was the best-performing index thanks to Elm Co., which jumped 3.08 percent to SR354.60. On the other hand, Al Moammar Information Systems Co. moved up 2.34 percent to SR96.20. The other gainers were Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. and Arab Sea Information System Co. 

On the announcements front, Saudi Paper Manufacturing Co. informed the stock exchange that its shareholders approved on Jan. 29 the board of directors’ recommendation to repurchase up to 1 million treasury shares, not exceeding 5 percent of the issued capital. 

The decision came as the board and executive management saw that the share market price was less than its fair value. 

The repurchase will be financed from the company’s resources using its cash balances or credit facilities, the company said in the statement to Tadawul.