December 09, 2018 10.35PM / By Felix Salmon / Axion
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading financial hub in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region (MEASA), has made great strides in the FinTech space, cementing Dubai’s position as one of the world’s top 10 FinTech hubs and a preferred growth platform for startups and SMEs.
Most recently, DIFC has hosted the 6th annual International Finance Corporation (IFC) FinTech CEO Summit. This is the first time IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has held the event outside its Washington D.C. headquarters, and gathered close to 200 of the world’s leading CEOs and innovators in the world of FinTech to discuss the latest developments and most critical, strategic issues that are facing the industry today.
The event was hosted by His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC and during his welcome remarks highlighted that the IFC’s decision to bring the Summit to Dubai was testament to the city’s growing significance on the global FinTech stage, driven by the Centre’s world-class ecosystem. He also reinforced the DIFC’s commitment to FinTech and the sector’s positive impact on the future of financial services in the region.
Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority, said, “We are pleased be working with the IFC to bring their FinTech CEO Summit to Dubai. It reflects the importance of FinTech sector in region and how it is increasingly becoming a key pillar in the future of financial services. The potential that this sector has for greater financial inclusion in the region is unprecedented, and we have taken in it on ourselves at DIFC to ensure that this potential is unlocked. DIFC will continue to work with partners to enhance our ecosystem, allowing for more cohesive innovation and entrepreneurship culture to be instilled across the region.”
Paulo de Bolle, Senior Director, Financial Institutions Group, IFC commented “IFC has been investing in the FinTech industry for over a decade, it is a powerful force transforming the financial landscape, opening up new markets, and putting banking and services in the hands of unreached millions worldwide. We are delighted to be holding our first overseas IFC FinTech CEO Summit in Dubai, a fantastic crossroads and meeting point for our delegates who have come from a diverse range of companies and countries to share their perspectives, knowledge and experience.”
During 2018, the Centre’s world-class FinTech ecosystem has grown to over 80 sector-related companies. Companies based in the DIFC benefit from a sophisticated legal and regulatory framework, the largest network of global alliances, and an innovation-friendly environment that make up the region’s most comprehensive FinTech market.
Through its various strategic initiatives, DIFC is constantly exploring opportunities to nurture an integrated ecosystem where FinTech, venture capital and incumbent financial firms can grow and thrive collectively. The Centre has made remarkable progress in broadening its focus beyond FinTech to cover the emerging trends of InsurTech, RegTech and Islamic FinTech, and beyond growth stage startups to support early stage disruptive businesses during their incubation period. Additionally, the Centre has dedicated a further AED 10 million for the expansion of the FinTech Hive workspace, further enhancing the collaborative enabling environment it is home to.
DIFC is also working towards unlocking investment opportunities for FinTech ventures to help close the funding gap that the region has historically faced. To activate these efforts, DIFC has dedicated a US $100 million fund, which will open for applications in the first quarter of 2019. The Centre is attracting world-leading venture capital firms to bring the MEASA region closer to the global FinTech investment landscape. With over US $16 million in capital raised by participants in the 2017 cohort of FinTech Hive, the accelerator programme continues to connect innovative start-ups with key players in the financing sector.
DIFC is working closely with world-renowned entities to promote cross-border knowledge sharing and collaboration that can benefit the growth and funding of the FinTech and venture capital ecosystems in the region.
Over the course of the year, the Centre has expanded its global network, having established bridges with FinTech hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Mumbai, Paris, Brussels, Holland and Bahrain, to help start-ups participating in the programme to gain further international exposure. These landmark agreements allow the DIFC and its partners to activate effective collaboration and share best practices between their respective regulatory and financial bodies, and to provide professional training to the relevant members of their respective communities in the area of financial innovation.
DIFC also recently partnered with Startupbootcamp, the world’s largest global network of industry-specific multi-year programmes to support early stage startups. This complements the existing accelerator programme which is in association with Accenture for growth-stage startups. Last week, the second cohort of 22 finalists graduated from this programme that were shortlisted from 300 global applications across 45 countries.