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DIFC reaffirms position as region’s global FinTech and innovation hub

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Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), the leading global financial center in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, announced on Tuesday that during the first nine months of 2022, the number of FinTech and innovation 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 program cohort, according to a DIFC press release.

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The first and largest FinTech accelerator program in the region has now attracted more than 3,000 applications from all over the world, which have been whittled down to 200 participants, based on their ideas and ability to generate revenue. The program has delivered more than 100 proof of concepts with the support of over 65 partners.

DIFC is currently seeing elevated levels of interest from FinTechs in Singapore, Southeast Asian, and Asia-Pacific markets. As FinTech and innovation firms mature in these locations, they are seeking new opportunities to scale beyond their regional borders and into new economies with demand for their products and services. Dubai has become their bridge to expand reach and capture opportunities in our emerging geographies, providing a familiarity that aligns with their sophisticated multinational environments.

The UAE and Dubai’s globally recognized management of the pandemic, strategic investment, and business-friendly structural reforms, long-term residency schemes, and innovation-enabling regulatory environment have drawn entrepreneurial talent from every corner of the world.

Initiatives, such as the new long-term Golden Visa options and incentives for tech entrepreneurs and professionals to develop the country’s technology sector and the five-year Green Visa for freelance professionals are helping attract international talent in the sector.

The UAE is a stable, thriving, and globally ranked talent hub. The nation ranked number one in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and 22 globally in the 2020 INSEAD Global 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’s Doing Business 2020 Report. Dubai also ranks amongst the top three cities for expats to live in globally, along with Miami and Lisbon.

DIFC’s comprehensive FinTech and innovation proposition has created unparalleled opportunities for success for start-ups, global players, and unicorns. The continually growing platform includes access to education, entrepreneurship, and accelerator programs, mentoring and networking, operating and regulatory licenses, and funding and expertise through venture studios – all under one cost-effective roof – that presents the ultimate platform to innovate and scale.

Mohammad AlBlooshi as the Vice President and Head of DIFC Innovation Hub.
Mohammad AlBlooshi as the Vice President and Head of DIFC Innovation Hub.

Reflecting the continued importance of the FinTech and innovation sector, DIFC has appointed Mohammad AlBlooshi as the Vice President and Head of DIFC Innovation Hub. Mohammad, a UAE national who has gained extensive experience at the Centre, will provide leadership for the DIFC Innovation Hub, which will incorporate FinTech Hive, Venture Studio Launchpad, Dubai FinTech Summit ,and new initiatives that will launch in 2023.

Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority, said: “In recent years, DIFC has remained at the forefront of innovation, attracting more than 600 start-ups, growth stage companies and unicorns to Dubai. These businesses are now making a sizeable contribution to our economy. To continue building momentum, it is the right time for us to strengthen our offerings by bringing more innovation propositions together under a new leader.”

AlBlooshi, Head of DIFC Innovation Hub and FinTech Hive, added: “I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to own and develop one of DIFC’s strategic growth priorities. At DIFC, we are committed to helping FinTech and innovation companies based in the Centre. We will continue to develop initiatives that will see us welcoming an influx of innovation and talent into our region.”

DIFC's progressive business-friendly and innovation-enabling regulatory regime, along with Dubai’s general openness and encouragement for innovation, is most appreciated by disruptors. This approach means that they can engage in meaningful dialogue with regulators directly and look at ways to collaboratively consult on new models that may define the future of finance.

As a global capital for financial services and leading hub for financial technology and innovation, the Centre is also a space with significant access to sources of capital that have a greater appetite for risk, and innovative and inclusive business models.

Between January and September 2022, DIFC-based FinTech firms secured more than $559 million (Dh 2 billion) of funding, according to DIFC FinTech Hive’s 2022 FinTech Report. Funding activity for FinTech nearly doubled in 2021 and start-ups in MENA raised $998 million in 2021, a 78 per cent increase from 2020.

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