Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) positions itself as a fintech bridge between the world and Asia.
DIFC has become a gateway into the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) for fintech and innovation firms.
This is amidst reports of elevated interest in the fintech industries of MEASA and the wider Asia region. As fintechs in neighbouring industries mature, new opportunities to scale beyond their regional borders will be in high demand.
During the first nine months of 2022, the number of new firms joining DIFC exceeded the total that established operations during the whole of 2021.
Amongst that number are graduating start-ups from this year’s DIFC ‘FinTech Hive’ programme. Of the 3,000-plus applicants, 200 were selected to participate in the programme based on their ideas and ability to generate revenue. Since its creation, the programme has delivered more than 100 proof of concepts with the support of its 65 partners.
A fintech bridge
DIFC has positioned Dubai as a stepping-stone between the different fintech ecosystems of the world. Its latest statement describes a ‘familiarity that aligns with sophisticated multinational environments’.
It works in tandem with initiatives designed to boost the country’s technology sector. These include the Golden and five-year Green Visa schemes which seek to attract foreign talent, such as freelance professionals, into the industry.
The UAE talent hub ranks number one in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and 22 on INSEAD‘s latest talent competitiveness index.
The country holds the top spot for ease of doing business in MENA, while filling the time-zone gap between the East and West; according to the World Bank.
Reflecting the continued importance of the fintech and innovation sector, DIFC recently appointed Mohammad AlBlooshi as vice president and head of its Innovation Hub.
AlBlooshi’s leadership of the Hub will incorporate FinTech Hive, Venture Studio Launchpad, Dubai FinTech Summit and further initiatives in 2023.
In a statement, AlBlooshi reaffirms DIFC’s commitment to helping fintechs based in Dubai, including “initiatives that will see us welcoming an influx of innovation and talent into our region.”
DIFC’s business-friendly regulatory regime, along with Dubai’s encouragement for innovation, is most appreciated by disruptors.
This approach allows direct dialogue between the community and regulators, triggering collaboration on future-defining models of finance.
Funding and growth
DIFC is also serving access to capital sources with a greater appetite for risk, and innovative and inclusive business models.
“DIFC has attracted 600 start-ups, growth stage companies and unicorns to Dubai,” shares Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority.
“These businesses are now making a sizeable contribution to our economy. To continue the momentum, it’s the right time for us to strengthen our offerings by bringing more innovation propositions together.”
Between January and September 2022, DIFC-based fintech firms secured around AED2billion ($559million) in funding, according to DIFC FinTech Hive’s 2022 fintech report.
Funding activity for fintech nearly doubled in 2021. Start-ups in MENA raised $998million in 2021; a 78 per cent increase from 2020.