The UAE’s Fast-Expanding Crypto, Blockchain Ecosystem Now Comprises 1400+ Stakeholders1. December 2022
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has one of the fastest-growing cryptocurrency ecosystems in the world, home today to over 1,400 industry stakeholders comprising startups, professional services firms, academia and government offices that employ more than 7,000 people, a new report by Crypto Oasis says.
The Crypto Oasis Ecosystem Report 2022, an annual report by the industry trade group produced in partnership with Roland Berger, provides insights into the state of the crypto and blockchain industry in the UAE, delving into the sector’s dynamism and taking a deep look into some of the most notable blockchain initiatives and organizations.
According to the report, the UAE is home to a rich blockchain and crypto ecosystem comprising global protocols such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Cardano, top exchanges like Binance, Kraken and Crypto.com, as well as Web 3.0 companies, decentralized finance (DeFi) startups, and non-fungible token (NTF) specialists.
In total, more than 140 crypto and blockchain companies and organizations have a presence in the country, data from the report shows, including 40 global protocols, 25 digital assets companies, 21 metaverse companies and 20 crypto exchanges. Other segments represented include NFT platforms, decentralized finance (DeFi) and Web 3.0.
These 140+ companies join the remaining 1,250+ industry stakeholders encompassing service providers like EY, KPMG and IBM, legal and compliance specialists like Baker and McKenzie, financial institutions like Sygnum and Seba Bank, in addition to venture capital (VC) firms, universities, economic zones, news outlets and governmental agencies.
DMCC: the largest blockchain hub in the UAE
In the UAE, the largest blockchain hub was found to be location at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), the biggest free-trade zone in the country.
The DMCC currently houses 489 blockchain stakeholders, among which 460 blockchain “native” companies that started out in the industry. The remaining 89 are so-called “non-native” and represent organizations from other industries that have adoption blockchain technology or have ventured into the space.
The DMCC’s crypto industry is represented by the DMCC Crypto Centre. Launched in 2021, the center aims to turn the free zone into a blockchain powerhouse by providing a comprehensive ecosystem for the development of blockchain and crypto technologies, including access to global capital, international industry talent, as well as a progressive and supportive regulatory environment with a range of crypto licenses, the report says.
Over the course of just over a year, the DMCC Crypto Centre has managed to attract over 460 companies operating across the entire crypto spectrum, and has become the base operations for roughly half of the UAE’s crypto firms. Today, the DMCC Crypto Centre is not only the largest blockchain hub in the country, it’s also the biggest in the whole region, the report says.
Emerging crypto trends
The report also delves into emerging trends and segments observed in the UAE, naming DeFi, NFTs and the metaverse, among others.
In the UAE, DeFi has risen on the back of growing adoption of crypto as an asset class and increased awareness of DeFi among crypto investors, the report says.
Today, the domestic DeFi industry comprises decentralized platforms that allow users to store, exchange or use assets, as well as decentralized protocols that help people manage risk and invest in the top DeFi protocols according to their desired level of risk, it notes.
NFTs, meanwhile, have infiltrated numerous sectors including art, sports and entertainment, recognized by industry participants for their potential to create new communities of collectors and give artists, entertainers and athletes more access to their fans and buyers, and boost engagement.
NFT startups in the UAE include Pulse, a social music platform that allows artists to manage, control and monetize their data; Elementum by dloop, a platform that allows artists and art enthusiasts to buy, trade and exhibit art online; and 4ART Technologies, a specialist in art security and the digitalization of artworks.
Finally, the metaverse, an immersive virtual environment, has been recognized by the Dubai government as a critical area of focus, a commitment that was materialized in July 2022 by the launch of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy. The plan aims to turn Dubai into one the world’s top 10 metaverse economies and a global hub for the metaverse community. It also seeks to create more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030 and add US$4 billion to Dubai’s economy over the next five years.
This push has led to the rise of a burgeoning metaverse industry. Among the notable startups part of this ecosystem are Virtua, a gamified metaverse that provides immersive social, Web 3.0 gaming, digital collectible, and interactive experiences; MetaMall, a virtual shopping mall in the metaverse; and Everdome, a project seeking to build the most hyper-realistic metaverse.