DUBAI – The Fintech epicentre of MEASA

The global fintech phenomenon has made and continues to make a significant difference in many ways and MEASA region is certainly ripping the benefits. Dubai undoubtedly is at the very heart of it. Malika Shermatova looks at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and its role as the leading financial and fintech hub for the MEASA region.

”The world-class infrastructure and innovation ecosystem that Dubai has built, and continues to enhance, provide an enabling environment for technology and disruptive businesses to create more inclusive solutions and services for the entire region”

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With a nominal GDP of around a whopping $8 trillion the MEASA region consists of 72 countries making up a population of circa 3 billion. Despite the significant fintech enabled advancements, almost 50% of all financially
excluded and underserved consumers are currently situated in the MEASA region. There might be a number of initiatives going on to address the issue, but there is no one other like Dubai International Financial Centre to represent the region. The UAE and Dubai in particular is a stellar example of a remarkable and consistent economic growth in the
region, and one that also demonstrates political stability. Its strategic business mindset, eagerness and commitment to establish itself as the region’s epicentre for international trade, finance, tourism and real estate had quickly earned the UAE the status of a well-respected hub for investors andbusinesses – to a great extent DIFC played and continues to play a key role in facilitating this. Initially set up with the aim to promote growth and development of financial services within the UAE by providing world-class infrastructure and business opportunities, DIFC today is the region’s
largest financial ecosystem with a 15-year track record of facilitating trade and investment flows across the MEASA region. Consisting of more than 22,000 professionals working across over 2000 businesses comprising of leading regional and global players in the financial services industry, it not only connects fast-growing markets with the economies of Asia, Europe and the Americas through Dubai, but is also the largest and most diverse pool of talent in the region.

Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer at the DIFC Authority, said, “With an approximate population of 3 billion, the MEASA region sits on a large pool of opportunities that are still untapped for the lack of financial access. Delivering financial services to more people across the region has become a necessity that Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, are
perfectly positioned to contribute to. The worldclass infrastructure and innovation ecosystem that Dubai has built, and continues to enhance, provide an enabling environment for technology and disruptive businesses to create more inclusive solutions and services for the entire region.” More importantly, DIFC is a home to an internationally recognised, independent regulator and a proven judicial system with an English common law framework. Looking at the forecasts of growth in wealthy families in the next five to six years, the emerging markets such as India and the Middle East are predicted to lead the way, with Indian family office space expected to increase by 110% by 2025. Acting as a bridging entity between the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) and Europe, Asia and the Americas, DIFC is undoubtedly well positioned to capitalise on this growth one way or another – it is the ideal
gateway for Indian investors to access the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Indian firms already have a large presence in the DIFC, with companies in wealth and asset management, banking and legal services choosing the DIFC as a strategic hub. DIFC’s long and successful track record of attracting and supporting Indian companies, the two are naturally a perfect fit. Indian business is core to the DIFC 2024 Strategy, with a target to increase the number of Indian firms to over 100 in the next ten years.

Arif Amiri explains: “DIFC has demonstrated its continued commitment to building and maintaining sustained, long-lasting partnerships with the emerging Indian market. With an ambitious 2024 growth strategy, we envisage a key role for Indian banks, insurers, law firms and wealth managers as we seek to expand our services and become a top
global financial hub.”

“DIFC’s vision and commitment to drive the future of finance, while embracing and promoting other significant elements such as multiculturalism as well as gender equality”

FintechHive

DIFC’s vision and commitment to drive the future of finance, while embracing and promoting other significant elements such as multiculturalism as well as gender equality is well demonstrated in one of its successful ventures, FintechHive – one of the region’s most comprehensive FinTech and venture capital environments providing
cost-effective licensing solutions, fit-for-purpose regulation, innovative accelerator programmes, as well as funding for growth-stage startups. Launched just in 2017 in partnership with New York-listed tech giant Accenture, it is one of the first and largest FinTech accelerators in MEASA region. The success of the programme is very well evident in its scale – the startups under the programme managed to raise over a staggering $10 million in funding in its first year alone.

“We are not only trying to meet the requirements of the present time but also be a major contributor to shaping
the future of the world’s economy and positively influence greater well-being for the world.”

“They [start-ups] came to this programme, proved their credibility and commitment towards the FinTech and the end-result was really good they were able to raise the necessary capital,” according to the executive vice president of
FinTech Hive, Ms Raja Al Mazrouei, who plays an integral role in building awareness, increasing media outreach and facilitating partnerships in emerging fintech markets, such as China, India, the UK, the US and countries of the African continent.
With an impressive list of leading banks such as Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Riyad Bank and Standard Chartered, www.difc.ae VCs such as Beco Capital and MEVP as partners, to name a few, the initiative is well set on the upward trajectory, while Dubai’s strategic position to facilitate development of digitally enabled
financial solutions for the region has also been well documented in the recently published report titled “The Case for an Innovation Hub to Facilitate MEASA Financial Inclusion” by Oliver Wyman, an international management consulting firm.

Looking ahead

Building on its tremendous success to date DIFC’s recent announcement of new expansion plans – the launch of DIFC 2.0 – is a natural step forward and one that certainly sends a rather robust and strong message – that Dubai is working
towards cementing its position as a pivotal economic and commercial hub for the region. Praising DIFC’s achievements to date and giving a seal of approval for the expansion, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said “The next phase requires the
introduction of the latest technologies that can support the growth of various business sectors. We are not only trying to meet the requirements of the present time but also be a major contributor to shaping the future of the world’s economy and positively influence greater well-being for the world. We are confident that Emiratis will be successful in achieving this strategic objective,”. Commencing the development immediately and expected to be completed in several stages, the expansion is expected to add a total of 13 million square feet to the Centre’s existing integrated ecosystem and provide an international focal point for FinTech and innovation, while further enhancing DIFC’s reputation as one of the world’s most advanced financial centres.
Upon completion, the new district will comprise 6.4 million square feet of office space, 2.6 million Digital Words
square feet of creative space, 1.5 million square feet of residences, 1.3 million square feet of retail space and 700,000 square feet devoted to leisure and entertainment. This will be complemented by a financial campus covering approximately 400,000 square feet, an additional 250,000 square feet of hospitality offerings, and 3.5 million square feet of car parking space. With sustainability remaining a priority for the Centre, the new development will introduce open green spaces that bring together an innovative community within a natural and sophisticated business environment.
Commenting on the next chapter of the DIFC’s development, His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, said: “Under the wise leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s government continues to
undertake unparalleled initiatives to drive the Emirate’s future and to support Dubai’s role as an essential component of the global financial system.
The launch of DIFC 2.0 embodies the eight defining principles upon which Dubai was founded and included in His Highness’ 50-year charter, whilst supporting the government’s efforts to foster an environment in Dubai where innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive. In addition, with the DIFC occupying a strategic position in the region,
the next phase of our development will undoubtedly translate into further growth for the regional financial services landscape. Looking ahead, we are excited to continue working alongside our vibrant community, which includes some of the most prominent global financial institutions, to evolve our offering and to support the development of
the financial services industry across the MEASA region.”.

So watch this space.

www.difc.ae

© David Rodrigo

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