Fintech News from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

As Finovate prepares for its first conference in the Middle East, here’s a round up of recent fintech news and need-to-knows from the MENA region. Learn more about how to join us in Dubai in February for FinovateMiddleEast.

  • Al Baraka Banking Group partners with Path Solutions to deploy iMAL Islamic core banking system.
  • UAE Exchange to launch gocash card and mobile app courtesy of partnership with online travel firm, Cleartrip
  • Thomson Reuters celebrates 150 years in the Middle East and North Africa at event in Egypt

MENA Fintech Fact In the Middle East and North Africa, nearly three out of every four fintech startups are based in four countries: the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, or Lebanon. Half of all MENA fintechs launched after 2012.

  • Online real estate marketplace and KPMG Global Fintech Top 50 member Wealth Migrate opens office in UAE, announces new country CEO, Lee-Ann Rush.
  • Group Chairman and CEO of Path Solutions, Mohammed Kateeb, named to World’s Top 50 Most Influential Leaders in Islamic Economy for third consecutive year.

Thought Leadership  Fintech is the new oil in the Middle East and North Africa – Forbes looks at how regulators and governments in the MENA region are “thinking more deeply about the impact that fintech companies will have on the broader economy.”

  • Entrepreneur Middle East features investor forecasts for the MENA region in 2018.
  • Alrajih Islamic Bank for Investment and Financing chooses Islamic core banking system iMAL from Path Solutions.
  • Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG), Kuwait Finance House-Bahrain (KFH-B), and Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) form fintech consortium, Algo Bahrain, to build Sharia-compliant banking solutions.

Finovate Partners with UAE Ministry of Finance

Finovate has teamed up with the UAE’s Ministry of Finance this week to support the region’s growth of financial, banking and payments technology.

Attendees of the announcement event, held earlier today, received a sneak peek of what to expect at FinovateMiddleEast, which will take place February 26 and 27 in Dubai. Today’s event featured a panel discussion titled Innovation versus Digital Disruption: Perspectives from Banks and Fintechs. During the panel, Jagadeshwaran Kothandapani and Shadab Ahmed of Citi, as well as Sara Grinstead of RAKBank talked about the need for collaboration and partnerships between fintechs and FIs, as well as the need to embrace change, adopt new technology, and manage risk.

Finovate VP Heather Stowell noted that Finovate is also embracing fintech in the UAE, saying, “Supporting fintech globally is the crux of Finovate. We are excited to showcase the region’s fintechs, as well as grow the dialogue and interest in fintech for the region and the UAE as a fintech hub.”

FinovateMiddleEast will take place during UAE Innovation Month and Dubai Innovation Week. The show will bring together early-stage startups, leading established companies, media, financial service institutions, and funders. Book your ticket before December 21 and save up to $400.

With the UAE Ministry of Finance as the strategic partner, FinovateMiddleEast is supported by platinum sponsor UAE Exchange, silver sponsor Temenos, and bronze sponsor Loxon.

Accepting Demo Applications for FinovateMiddleEast 2018

Last week, Finovate teamed up with the UAE Ministry of Finance. The partnership aims to drive awareness and support for fintech innovation in the Middle East. As part of this collaboration, FinovateMiddleEast will join the UAE Innovation Month celebration in February 2018.

For over 10 years, Finovate has been the leading showcase of financial, banking and payments technologies. And we’ve been there from the start: New York in 2007, Bay Area in 2008, London in 2010, Singapore in 2012, Hong Kong in 2016, and now Dubai in 2018.

Finovate events focus on innovative fintech showcased via 7-minute live product demonstrations. The conferences consistently attract high-impact audiences of senior-level financial and banking executives, press and industry analysts, venture capitalists, regulators, and technology entrepreneurs. FinovateMiddleEast will be no different with fintech from across the MENA region and 300+ attendees.

Join us on February 26 & 27 if you’re looking to:

  • Drive product adoption of the latest and most innovative solutions in fintech
  • Showcase new, high-impact technology in front of an influential audience
  • Generate press recognition, find customers, network with peers, raise capital, and discover partners

For more information on applying to demo, please review the brochure for prospective demoing companies, then fill out the online application by December 31 at the latest. We’ll be in touch within a few days of receiving your application.

If you have any questions, please email And if you’re unfamiliar with Finovate events, take a look at videos from the past 40+ events.

FinovateMiddleEast 2018 is sponsored by Temenos, UAE Exchange, and Loxon.

Fintech News from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

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As Finovate prepares for its first conference in the Middle East, here’s a round up of recent fintech news and need-to-knows from the MENA region. Learn more about how to join us in Dubai in February for FinovateMiddleEast.

  • Fidor opens regional headquarters in Dubai Silicon Oasis.
  • Saudi Stock Exchange selects Nasdaq in post-trade technology infrastructure overhaul.
  • Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) signs fintech innovation cooperation agreement with Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

MENA Fintech Fact Fintech investments in the MENA region in 2017 amounted to more than $24 million, a gain of more than 13% over the previous year. According to BCG, the MENA region has experienced the “most explosive growth” in recent years in terms global fintech funding compared to other areas.

  • Al-Thiqa Islamic Bank in Iraq goes live with new core banking technology from ICS Banks.
  • Axis Bank leverages Ripple to provide cross-border payments between Singapore and UAE.
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) signs MOU with national health insurance company, Daman, to colloborate on insurtech solutions.

Thought Leadership Is MENA ready for FinTech? – Thomson Reuters blog post looks at how a balance between regulation and innovation could pave the way for greater financial inclusion for the region’s 86 percent of adults in the region without bank accounts.

  • ADGM named “Financial Center of the Year (MENA) for second year in a row by Global Investor/ISF.
  • Dubai International financial Center (DIFC) establishes $100 million fund for investments in early-stage, growth fintech startups.
  • Bahrain Economic Development Board partners with FinTech Consortium to launch “the largest dedicated fintech hub in the Middle East and Africa,” Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB).
  • Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) signs collaboration agreements with regulators in Hong Kong.

Finovate Teams Up with UAE Ministry of Finance; Sets Date for Dubai Event

It’s official! FinovateMiddleEast has partnered with the UAE Ministry of Finance and joined the UAE Innovation Month Celebration next year. On February 26 and 27, 2018, FinovateMiddleEast will showcase the latest in fintech innovation live from the UAE’s most populous city, Dubai. This brings Finovate’s signature, fast-paced, 7-minute, demo format to the Middle East for the first time, and marks the beginning of an exciting new relationship between Finovate and the UAE.

“Supporting fintech globally is the crux of Finovate,” said Finovate Vice President Heather Stowell. “We are excited to showcase the region’s fintechs, as well as grow the dialogue and interest in fintech for the region and the UAE as a fintech hub.”

Register by Thursday, December 21 and lock in our lowest rate for FinovateMiddleEast – a savings of $400.

Now in five locations around the world – New York, London, Silicon Valley, Hong Kong, and Dubai – Finovate brings together early-stage fintech startups, established industry veterans, financial institutions, VCs, media, and more for an exploration into the future of fintech today. And with the addition of keynote speakers and panel discussions, Finovate is now the place for deep dives as well as live demos. Join us as we explore regional and global trends in fintech, the impact of regulations, and the opportunities for innovation thanks to breakthroughs in machine learning and AI.

The partnership between Finovate and the UAE Ministry of Finance will be formally announced at a launch event on December 12 at the Conrad Dubai Hotel. The event will feature a welcome address from His Excellency Younis Al Khouri, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance, UAE, and feature a panel discussion titled Innovation vs Digital Disruption: Perspectives from Banks and Fintechs. To enquire about attending this launch event, please email

For information about FinovateMiddleEast, visit our information page.

FinovateMiddleEast is partnered with United Arab Emirates Ministry of Finance, and sponsored by Temenos and Loxon Solutions.

East vs. East: A Comparison of Regional Fintech Trends

With our newest conferences– FinovateAsia and FinovateMiddleEast– back-to-back, we wanted to examine unique trends to those regions. Each place has its own distinctive culture, and with that comes not only individual financial needs, but also a particular set of regulatory rules. These factors not only create different fintech environments but also heavily influence the trends of each region.

With that, we’ve dissected both regions and the trends that are most popular to each area. While both of these geographical areas share most of the trends listed, this classification showcases which are most popular in each area.

Asia Pacific

Population of around 4.5 billion people

  • Regulatory environment
    Following the Ezubao ponzi scheme in 2016, regulators in Asia Pacific have increased their focus on regulating non-traditional fintech. The same is true for traditional banks, for which regulators have stepped up their stress testing requirements this year to include more intricate and diverse scenarios. According to a survey conducted at the Thomson Reuters ASEAN Regulatory Summit 2016, the 500 delegates cited three specific areas of focus on misconduct. A total of 56% cited mis-selling financial products, 24% cited money laundering and 12% cited market manipulation. Integrity, which is key to any regulatory outfit, seems to be lacking in this region, however. In the same survey mentioned above, 63% of delegates said they were “unhappy” with how regulators dealt with misconduct issues.
  • Unique trends
    • Mobile wallets
      In the U.S., consumers have failed to adopt mobile wallets, even after big players such as Apple and Google have made them accessible. In Asia, however, where shopping and technology are king and queen, the use of deals, offers, and promotion to speed mobile wallet adoption has been successful. In fact, a recent Forrester Research study found that 76% of metro Chinese consumers use mobile wallets or are interested in it. In rural regions, however, cash remains king.
    • Blockchain
      An increasing number of applications for the blockchain in fintech combined with a record amount of funding into the region have boosted the use and adoption of the blockchain in Asia Pacific. Currently, more than 80% of bitcoin transactions are made in Chinese Yuan. And don’t forget about Singapore, whose central bank recently announced plans to implement a tokenized Singapore dollar on an Ethereum-based Blockchain.
    • Leveraging AI
      Chinese companies are currently leading the global war for AI. Mega corporations such as Alibaba, Tencent, Ping An, and Baidu are leveraging the technology not only for payments and insurance, but also for personal loans, SME loans, credit ratings, wealth management, crowdfunding, and currency exchange. Additionally, more consumers in Asia embrace technology and are less likely to fear the loss of privacy that may come with the use of AI.

Middle East/North Africa (MENA)

Population of around 381 million people

  • Regulatory environment
    When it comes to bank ownership and capital disbursement, the MENA region has stringent requirements. On average, however the World Bank reports that central banks in MENA are weak when it comes to supervisory efforts. As an example, 69% and 79% of MENA countries reported having the power to suspend or remove either a bank director or a manager, respectively. These figures are generally in the 90th percentile when it comes to other emerging market and developing economies. However, as with any area with a wide range of economic freedom, there is a mixed regulatory picture in this region.
  • Unique trends:
    • Sharia-compliant banking
      The MENA region contains the highest percentage of Muslims in the world. This group faithfully adheres to Shariah Law, which prohibits usury. Banking models that circumvent the paying of interest include Mudarabah (Profit and loss sharing), Wadiah (safekeeping), Musharaka (joint venture), Murabahah (cost plus), and Ijar (leasing).
    • Cross-border transactions
      Internet usage and ecommerce activity are both on the rise in this region. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, the number of internet users has reached 99% and online shoppers represent 62%, which is 25% more than last year. Much of the online purchasing activity represents cross-border transactions. Outside of ecommerce, trade finance in the oil-rich region has long been important, and cross-border money transfers play a large role in this.
    • Underbanked technologies
      In the MENA region, 86% of adults don’t have a bank account. When compared to the 31% in Asia Pacific lacking access to traditional financial services and the 39% global average of underbanked individuals, there is a much larger opportunity for startups in the MENA region to serve this demographic.

You can get a closer look at fintech in Asia by taking a look at the demo videos (available soon) from FinovateAsia last week. And for fintech in the MENA region, check out our FinovateMiddleEast conference early next year.

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Looking East for Fintech Trends

FinovateMiddleEast will take place February 26 and 27 in Dubai.

We’re taking the fintech conversation to a new region this year, and with a new territory, comes new themes, trends, banking interests, and startup portfolios. FinovateMiddleEast, scheduled for February 26 and 27 in Dubai, will showcase 20+ companies’ newest fintech innovations in Finovate’s signature 7-minute demo format. For more about these companies, check out the presenter announcement. Then tune into our blog series over the next few weeks for a sneak peek of the new technology we will unveil on stage.

Analyzing regional trends

For the Middle East debut, we’re going beyond our traditional demo-only format. Through keynote speeches, panel discussions, and fireside chats, we’re taking the discussion further. Here are some of the hot-button issues we’ll explore:

Accelerator opportunities

Over the past 10 years, accelerators and bootcamps have played a crucial role in helping startups not only fast-track their ideas into working realities, but also fostering their key partnerships with banks and major financial institutions. And while fintech accelerators have existed for many years, emerging fintech hubs are placing greater emphasis on them as a means to accelerate innovation. In this session, we’ll look at how Fintech Hive at Dubai International Finance Center (DIFC) is doing this.

Through an interactive session, we’ll take a closer look at how Fintech Hive at DIFC is creating a supportive regulatory framework and how it enhances innovation, growth and testing new fintech ideas.

Cross-border payments

Large firms such as IBM and Mastercard are leveraging the blockchain for a less expensive and faster way to transfer funds. Additionally, startups such as KlickEx, Transferwise, and The Currency Cloud have each launched their own competing platforms. The application of this technology is already in place. In fact, last October, India-based ICICI Bank and Emirates NBD announced they made a cross-border transaction using the blockchain. With money on the move in today’s global environment, it’s time to start paying attention.

In a keynote discussion titled The Future of Cross Border Money Movements and The Direction They Are Headed, Steve Naude, Head of Middle East and Africa at Transferwise, will share his vision for the future of cross-border transactions.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) was one of the hottest fintech trends in 2017 and will surely dominate the conversation in 2018, as well. The enabling technology is no longer simply a “nice to have,” add-on feature for banks and fintechs; it is the norm. Common applications include using AI to create chatbots to have a human-like conversation with clients, bolster application security by monitoring consumer behavior to detect non-normalities, and help consumers understand budgets and spending behavior to increase savings.

Fintech guru Paul Schulte will deliver the keynote discussion on AI. Schulte’s resume includes the U.S. House of Representatives, White House, and International Trade Commission. Additionally, he served as an advisor to the IDA in Singapore, Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), Hong Kong Stock Exchange, SEBI and Malaysian Securities Commission on developments in financial technology. With such a broad outlook, the audience is sure to get a global view of AI usage in banking.

Dubai’s local startup ecosystem

Fintech is global, but the focus of startups is uniquely regional. For a distinctive look at fintech in MENA, several companies will participate in rapid, three-minute pitches, followed by interactive Q&A. Here’s a look at a few:

  • Democrance, an insurance technology company with a mission to create partnerships that make insurance accessible for those who need it most but can afford it least
  • Maliyya, a platform that is Shariah compliant for both borrowers and investors
  • Qlikcash, an app-based payment platform that allows users to send and receive payments both locally and internationally
  • ZagTrader, a ready-to-deploy brokerage and asset management platform


While traditional payment systems exist across the globe, payment technology extends far beyond swapping cash, swiping credit cards, or even clicking “Order now.” Fresh iterations of mobile wallets have been pushing to the forefront of in-person payment methodologies, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. This has been amplified by the increased popularity of IoT devices, especially wearables. New Zealand-based WestPac, in fact, launched its own line of wearable payment devices called PayWear this week.

But how many of these developments are useful or simply noise? In our Payments Transformation panel, a group of experts will discuss and debate what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next.

Blockchain and Bitcoin

Are we in a bubble? That’s the question our panel will investigate during this half hour session. Increasingly, fintech startups are leveraging the enabling capability of the blockchain for more than just payments: The immutable ledger also offers the ability to track and manage identities, manage smart contracts, and create data transparency. While these capabilities are unlikely just a passing fad, what about Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and ICOs?

On the first day of 2017, Bitcoin surpassed $1,000 for the first time since 2014. Now, 10 months later, the price is reaching all-time highs, having spiked up to a record high today of more than $6,200. Between the inflated price and public comments from high-profile players such as Warren Buffet, who proposed Bitcoin is in “bubble territory,” and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who suggested Bitcoin is a “fraud,” there’s a lot to consider about its future success.

Featuring industry leaders and big banks

In addition to discussing key trends, industry leaders and big banks will share their views on the state of fintech and how they are addressing key issues.

  • Chris Skinner, Founder and Chairman at The Financial Services Club and Independent Commentator, Author, and Fintech Guru
  • Suvo Sarkar, Senior Executive Vice President & Group Head, Retail Banking & Wealth Management at Emirates NBD
  • Emre Karter, Citi Managing Director, Head of Treasury and Trade Solutions, MENAPT at Citi

And for the latest, check out the full, two-day agenda and stay tuned to the blog!

The Future of Fintech in Dubai

In the fight for the fintech title — London, Berlin, Barcelona, New York, Silicon Valley, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Cape Town, Abu Dhabi — Dubai is a heavy weight. With fintech investment set to grow 270% in the Middle East in 2017, the future of fintech might be in Dubai.

Join us on February 26 and 27 to find out.

Supported by Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), FinovateMiddleEast will keep demos at its core while introducing content driven panels, regulatory perspectives and world-class keynotes tailored to address the evolution of financial services and the impact on both the providers and the end-users.

See the speakers. See the demoing companies. See the regional startups. And save $200 when buying your ticket by October 26.


First Wave of Demo Companies Driving Fintech Innovation in the Middle East

By the end of 2017, fintech investments in the Middle East are expected to have grown by 2.7x. As governments and financial leaders diversify away from a petroleum-based economy, the focus is on fintech.

But who will capitalize on this ecosystem of fintech innovation? Foreign brands like Amazon (who acquired Middle Eastern e-commerce firm,, earlier this year), local powerhouses like Kingdom Holding Company (who recently led Uber-esque Careem’s Series E funding) or both?

Either way, the message is clear: Look to the Middle East for fintech investment opportunities, acquisitions, partnerships, inspiration and competition. And there’s no better place to start than Finovate in February 2018.

Finovate’s signature 7-minute demos will remain at the core of FinovateMiddleEast with dozens of companies showcasing their latest fintech innovations live on stage. Here’s the first wave of demoing companies to check out. The event will take place February 26 and 27:

CASHOFF — A service for collecting and analyzing consumers’ financial data that gives banks complete knowledge about consumers (online banking, PFM, scoring, sales, loyalty).

Dorsum — A chatbot platform that improves the difficulties of customer acquisition for financial institutions.

ebankIT — An omnichannel banking platform that enhances digital transformation for banks and financial institutions.

Everus Technologies — Offers Everus World, a product that fosters fintech challenges, convenience, and public education and awareness for millennials, traders, and gamers.

Innofis — Provides Bank Virtual Assistant, a platform that uses natural language, artificial intelligence, and analytics to create frictionless interaction and sales efficiency.

Moven — A financial wellness platform targeting declining branch revenue for banks around the world.

Munnypot — An automated online solution providing accessible and affordable investment advice for millions of people in the U.K. and overseas.

NymCard — Offers smart mobile technology providing an alternative to the limited capabilities of digital payment products for the banked and underbanked population in MENA.

Ondot Systems — Provides mobile card services supplying financial institutions, card processors and cardholders with mobile applications for credit and debit card control.

Quisk — A payment network breaking up the exclusivity of current mobile payment technologies for anyone with a mobile phone (not just a smartphone).

RISQ — A financial software platform improving the effectiveness of corporate loan acquisition and customer management for commercial banks.

SwipeStox — A social network for stock trading that cuts through the complexity around financial investing for newbie and professional investors.

Wealth Migrate — A global, direct investment platform remedying the lack of direct investment products for middle class, overseas investors.

W.UP — Offers Sales.UP, a digital banking sales and engagement tool that meets financial institutions’ need of customer insights and personalised automated marketing campaigns.

Additional companies will be announced over the next couple months.

Through the expanded Finovate model, the Dubai debut will also feature fast-paced, short-form discussions from industry leaders. Content-driven panels, regulatory perspectives, and world-class keynotes will address themes and topics relevant to the MENA market and broader economy as well.

See the agenda, and stay tuned — new speakers are added weekly.

Save $200 when you register for FinovateMiddleEast by October 26.



Fan the Fintech Flames in Dubai this December

While many have been around for the fintech explosion over the past several years, few have been there for the sparks. For over 10 years, Finovate has fanned the fintech flames: New York in 2007. Bay Area in 2008. London in 2010. Singapore in 2012. Hong Kong in 2016. With the support of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and its Fintech Hive at DIFC, Finovate expands to Dubai on February 26 and 27, 2018.

A region widely known for its abundant supply of black gold and tall buildings, Middle East fintech investments are set to grow by 270% in 2017. As these governments and financial powerhouses look to diversify away from a petroleum-based economy and rebalance their agendas, focus on innovation, startups, SMEs and financial technology is heating up.

Our signature 7-minute demos will remain at the core of FinovateMiddleEast with 28 companies showcasing their latest fintech innovations live on stage. With applications from the Middle East, United States, Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia, we’ll reflect regional and international trends.

Through the expanded Finovate model, the Dubai debut will also feature fast-paced, short-form discussions from industry leaders. Content-driven panels, regulatory perspectives, and world-class keynotes will address themes and topics relevant to the MENA market and broader economy as well. So far, 2018 speakers include:

See the agenda here, and stay tuned — additional speakers will be added on a rolling basis and demoing companies will be announced in early October.

Fan the fintech flames with us. Save $400 when you register by this Thursday, August 17.