Dubai Marina in the Morning

Middle East blockchain expansion: Why Dubai is the new hotbed for blockchain and Bitcoin

New York, London, Zug, Seoul, Osaka, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, Madrid, and Zurich—are the cities that sprung to one’s mind when blockchain hubs were mentioned just a few years ago. Much has changed since then, and while these cities are championing blockchain in numerous ways, it’s the Middle East that’s now leading in adoption. Dubai is the outright leader in this revolution, with the city banking its future on blockchain technology.

The adoption in Dubai is both a result of an internal drive by the city’s leadership and private sector as well as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) move towards transitioning its government services to a blockchain platform.

The UAE has the ambitious goal of putting at least 50% of its government services on chain, a goal that it’s working aggressively towards. 

Dubai’s rise to become a blockchain hub

Dubai’s rise to become a blockchain hub isn’t an overnight success story. On the contrary, the city, known more for luxury shopping and lively nightlife than for leading in technology adoption, has been working on blockchain integration for over six years now. 

The first real effort came in 2016 when it launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, a joint effort between the Digital Dubai Office and the Dubai Future Foundation. The stated goal of the strategy was to make Dubai the first city fully powered by blockchain and make it “the happiest city on earth.” It hinged on three strategic pillars—industry creation, government efficiency, and international leadership.

The ambitions and expectations were big, and this included saving over 5.5 billion dirhams ($1.5 billion) a year, which is equal to the value that Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, generates every year.

The Dubai government hasn’t held back since, investing in several projects that integrated blockchain into its operations. From decentralized identity to the use of blockchain in financial transactions, the city has tried its hand at several applications of the technology. 

In 2018, Dubai launched the UAE’s first government-endorsed blockchain platform. Developed by Smart Dubai, the Dubai Blockchain Platform was described by the city as “a stepping stone for organisations in the UAE and globally to transition their blockchain testing and development into full production.”

Several factors have contributed to the city’s rise to become a blockchain hub, but none more than its leadership. As one banking head noted, the country’s leadership is extremely influential, and if it gets its weight behind a project or technology, its chances of success instantly spike.

Sunil Veetil, the regional head of trade for HSBC in the Middle East summed up the rise of blockchain in Dubai as, “When there is a push from the top, things do get done in this part of the world. There is currently a large focus on blockchain… Definitely I can see that interest is very high in the region, within the government and the regulators. And they are quite nimble, they move quickly.”

Other global leaders have acknowledged Dubai’s rapid growth as a blockchain hub.

“The United Arab Emirates and Dubai are doing all the right things and they’re going to attract a lot of regional projects. It’s a great place to set up your token project, or run a cryptocurrency exchange,” Stephen Stonberg, the CEO of major global exchange Bittrex, stated last year.

More recent moves include promulgating a new law to oversee the industry, complete with a new watchdog, the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority. UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum described the law as “an essential step that establishes the UAE’s position in this sector, a step that aims to help the sector grow and protect investors.”

The city has also introduced a regulatory framework for investment tokens, with the Dubai Financial Services Authority pledging to do the same for stablecoins, utility tokens, and exchange tokens in the future.

Aside from the government, private entities in the city are heeding the call to integrate blockchain technology. This includes the University of Dubai, which now stores academic credentials on a blockchain platform to curb fraud and make its services more conveniently accessible.

Dr. Eesa Bastaki, the president of the university, told the BSV Blockchain Association that this rapid blockchain integration is all part of the city’s 10X vision, in which “we want to be ahead of the world by ten years.”

Bitcoin SV has a great and ever-growing presence in the UAE, specifically in Dubai. Jimmy Nguyen has been leading the BSV Blockchain Association into the city from as far back as January 2021. Together with a delegation of BSV leaders such as Simit Naik and Robert Rice, they attended the Ritossa Sumit.

Since then, the BSV ecosystem has been making frequent trips to the city, including in events such as the AIBC Dubai 2022, the Global Tech Innovation Summit, and most recently, the IEEE UAE Blockchain Symposium, where Dr. Craig Wright gave a keynote presentation on the integration of Bitcoin SV and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

Dubai is also home to the BSV Hub for the Middle East region. The hub creates a focal point for development and innovation in the sector within the region.

With all these factors in play, Dubai is in a prime position to host the BSV Global Blockchain Convention this May. The event, which takes place between May 24 and 26, will bring the Bitcoin and blockchain world together to celebrate Satoshi’s original vision for Bitcoin (BSV) and chart the future of the industry.

Dr. Craig Wright will be at the event to give his keynote speeches and indulge Jimmy Nguyen in the eagerly-anticipated fireside chats. Other leaders in the Bitcoin space will be at the conference, and as a Bitcoin enthusiast, this is one event you most certainly don’t want to miss. Grab your tickets here and book your spot at this year’s biggest Bitcoin and blockchain conference. See you in Dubai.

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