It's been an eventful week for Blockchain in the Middle East. From Rain becoming the region's first fully licensed crypto exchange to MidChains raising investment from Mubadala. Check out the region's top 5 blockchain initiatives you need to know this week:
Rain becomes the region's first fully licensed crypto exchange
In a first for the MENA region, Rain, a Bahrain-based cryptocurrency exchange platform has received the Crypto-Asset Module (CRA) license from the Central Bank of Bahrain.
In addition to the license, it has also raised USD 2.5 million in seed funding — the largest in Bahrain till date.
Rain is now live and ready for trade on www.rain.bh
The $2.5 million seed round was co-led by BitMEX Ventures and Kuwait-based cryptocurrency fund, Blockwater, who were joined by Vision Ventures, 500 Startups MENA, and Taibah Valley.
Mastercard & Bahrain partner up to facilitate cross-border payments based on Blockchain
Mastercard has partnered with Bahrain’s Electronic Network for Financial Transactions (BENEFIT) to launch a pilot blockchain programme that will enable banks to facilitate fast and secure cross-border commercial payments via Mastercard's B2B service.
This is the first time that Mastercard will implement blockchain programme on a national scale in the Middle East, supporting Bahrain's vision to become the region's FinTech hub.
“Blockchain has the potential to transform the way payments are made," said Khalid Elgibali, Division President, Middle East and North Africa, Mastercard.
However, this is not the first initiative in the region to use blockchain to facilitate cross-border payments. In January 2019, UAE and Saudi Arabia launched a pilot programme to study the potential of blockchain. The official Emirates news agency had then reported that the cryptocurrency “will be strictly targeted for banks at an experimental phase with the aim of better understanding the implications of blockchain technology and facilitating cross-border payments.”
So while it is not the first in the region, it is definitely a big step ahead in the adoption of blockchain that came just before the announcement of Rain, the first licensed crypto exchange in the Middle East.
MidChains raises investment from Mubadala
While the amount nor series is disclosed, we have been informed that Mubadala has invested in MidChains—the institutional crypto asset trading platform that was welcomed to Hub71 just last week. Mubadala is one the investors in Hub71.
Founded in 2017, the ADGM-based crypto asset trading platform is yet to launch to the public, as it is currently in the process of seeking approval from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). Once regulated and open for trade, people will be able to invest and trade in crypto assets, security tokens and stable coins.
DIFC, Mashreq and norbloc launch blockchain data sharing consortium.
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), has joined hands with Mashreq Bank and norbloc — the Know-Your-Customer platform on distributed ledgers from Sweden — to launch the region’s first production-ready blockchain KYC data sharing consortium.
The MoU for this alliance was signed by the parties in January 2019. They have now announced that by Q1 2020, companies will be able to create a single KYC record digitally via the platform.
This will make norbloc's blockchain KYC platform the region's first platform to enable secure, customer-controlled KYC data sharing. The initiative is expected to make on-boarding and exchange of supporting documentation faster through advanced distributed technologies
Naturally this will begin with KYC sharing between DIFC and Mashreq Bank. However, the Consortium Agreement envisions that the mutual KYC efforts will be highly beneficial to future participating financial institutions including banks, as well as licensing authorities and government bodies, who could use the platform in the future.
Etisalat, First Abu Dhabi Bank and Avanza launch UAE's trade finance blockchain
Etisalat Digital, in partnered with First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and Avanza Innovations, has announced the launch UAE Trade Connect (UTC) — a new nationwide platform that will digitise trade in the country via blockchain.
Essentially, the UAE Trade Connect (UTC) platform will help government bodies, banks and enterprises to avoid the risk of invoice fraud and double financing through the use of blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.
Eight banks have already signed up, as reported by Ledger Insights, namely "First Abu Dhabi Bank, Emirates NBD, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Mashreq, National Bank of Fujairah, RAKBANK, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Commercial Bank International."
It is no surprise that blockchain in gaining ground and increasingly being adopted by companies and governments to solve problems and find better and more efficient ways to do things. In the coming years, early investment in blockchain projects in likely to go up as the potential of the technology is witnessed and better understood in the region. Experience blockchain experts might want to take notice as the time for blockchain-based startups is ripe.