The good news is, with a track record of over 40 years, Bahrain, reputed as the most established financial hubs in the GCC, is well positioned to be a leading regional FinTech! Talking to StartUp Bahrain, David Parker, Executive Director for Financial Services and Business Development, Economic Development Board (EDB) Bahrain, has confirmed this. “We have been working regularly with the banks and other established financial institutions in Bahrain and received overwhelming support for startup initiatives whether it be through the institutions themselves or externally”, David tells us.
It is interesting to note how Bahrain has made substantial progress over the last year in cultivating its startup ecosystem. The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) launched a regulatory sandbox earlier this year to help enable innovation while also maintaining financial stability and protecting consumers.
StartUp Bahrain was also developed as Bahrain’s startup ecosystem, including those in the FinTech space. This community initiative brings together entrepreneurs, corporates, investors, incubators, educational institutions, and the Bahrain Government, to promote a startup culture in the kingdom. While focusing on technology, the initiative seeks to help and promote startups in every sector and stage
Talking about how Bahrain or its StartUp Bahrain community has responded as a testbed to those FinTech initiatives, David said, ‘We’ve experienced an extraordinary level of uptake in various initiatives. A number of accelerators and incubators have launched operations including the region’s first cloud accelerator, operated by C5 and powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will drive growth and enable the adoption of cloud technology.
Reflecting on how far Bahrain has progressed towards being the FinTech hub since his joining the EDB and also on the major challenges that has been overcome, David said, “In the two years I have been at the Bahrain EDB, I’ve seen tremendous progress as we evolve into the region’s FinTech hub. We’ve created a regulatory FinTech sandbox and already welcomed four companies shortly thereafter, and we are expecting more to join the space.
Earlier this year, the Central Bank of Bahrain issued directives on crowdfunding for both Shariah compliant and non-Shariah compliant platforms, launched a national e-wallet, and we expect to see a number of further developments in the coming months such as a venture capital fund-of-funds to help support the startup sector”.
As a sneak peek into what’s coming our way in Bahrain’s FinTech space, David told us that there are several initiatives in the pipeline that EDB is working on. This, he said, was to persuade global startups who are interested in the Middle East and Africa to choose Bahrain as a hub. With its open and forward-thinking approach, Bahrain has proven to be an ideal testing ground for the introduction of new technologies to the region, and has a proven openness to innovation.
“As part of our continued relationship with the Singapore Fintech Consortium, we in conversation to create ‘Bahrain Fintech Bay,’ a physical space in the EDB offices to support startups so they can have a soft landing when testing their product in the market. We are also looking at a venture capital fund-of-funds to boost funding support for startups when they are ready to scale up”, said David.
With a great promising future in the Fintech space, it will not be late when Bahrain would truly emerge as the leading regional FinTech hub. Amen to that!