Focus on THE KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN
Pioneering in fintech
The agile regulation of the Central Bank of Bahrain and the extensive network of Bahrain
FinTech Bay have attracted fl agship innovators such as Amazon Web Services to the kingdom.
“Bahrain has developed an extensive fintech
ecosystem to future-proof our fi nancial services
sector and further transition the country into an
innovation-driven economy,” said Khalid Saad,
CEO of Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB), the leading
hub for fintech in the Middle East and North
Africa region and a key part of that ecosystem.
Enabling Bahrain to become a global fi ntech
center is a pioneering regulatory framework for
the technologies established by the Central Bank
of Bahrain (CBB), probably the region’s most
respected and robust fi nancial regulator.
The framework includes CBB’s dedicated fi ntech
and innovation unit, a regulatory sandbox,
and regulations for crypto assets, crowdfunding,
open banking and digital advice. “We work with
the industry to design best-in-practice legislation
and regulations, and we act quickly to deal
with changes in the business environment,” said
Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, CBB’s governor.
To further promote technology, “We have
licensed two digital banks to set a new scene for
Bahraini banking,” Al Maraj stated. The CBB
is also one of the supporting partners of BFB,
which was set up in 2018 as a public-private partnership
by the Bahrain Economic Development
Board and FinTech Consortium, an ecosystem
builder that operates BFB and similar hubs
worldwide. BFB incubates, accelerates and
provides office space to 40 startups with varied
geographical origins, which benefit from a
network of local and international companies
that have moved to Bahrain to join the new ecosystem.
“We have nearly 100 partners including
Microsoft, Cisco, American Express, Amazon
Web Services, Facebook, Visa, Mastercard and
Finastra that contribute know-how and some
sit on our advisory board,” said Saad.
BFB is also building connectivity with other
centers of excellence, he noted, “We have a
memorandum of understanding with the
FinTech Association of Japan, for example, and
are exploring collaborations with them as we
continue to develop the next generation of fi ntech
Another creating leaders is investor and accelerator
Flat6Labs Bahrain, a 50-50 partnership
between Egypt-based Flat6Labs and businesswoman
Sabah Al Moayyed. “The labor fund,
Tamkeen, funds us to invest in companies from
any country and sector. We are looking for gems
from places like Japan that want to move to the
Gulf for funding,” said Ryaan Sharif, managing
director of Flat6Labs Bahrain.
To date, Flat6Labs has run two successful
accelerator cycles, he said: “For example, we
seed-funded Inagrab, software for retailers. It
has got a second round and is close to securing
much more.” Wider opportunities for innovators
include additional accelerator programs
from organizations such as American Express
Middle East and Hong Kong’s Nest, and funding
from, among others, the Bahrain Development
Bank’s $100 million Al Waha Fund of Funds.
“Bahrain has other advantages for technology
companies,” stated Sharif: “The biggest is the
cost of doing business. Next is great regulation,
and ease of access to decision makers and clients.
Bahrain opens doors.”