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Fintech in GCC
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 14 - 08 - 2022

Fintech is a concept that changes the way consumers make financial transactions, whether it is to lend money, borrow money, invest, process payments, buy insurance and fund transfers. One key driving element that introduced Fintech to Gulf states is electronic services, Government initiatives have supported the growth of fintech start-ups in these countries.
The Fintech ecosystem is establishing itself gradually in the GCC and many developments are seen to take place. At the moment, there are several public-sector and private-sector entities that offer digital services. Government deregulation has attracted entrepreneurs in the GCC as financing opportunities grow. With the Fintech design aspects being present in the GCC the future is bright. E-services allow citizens to access government services online with ease in the GCC.
Furthermore, a good example of this takes place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the "Absher" platform is a portal that offers several government e-services that can be processed without requiring physical attendance. This kind of service is available in the Kingdom of Bahrain as well on the "eGovernment" platform with similar services.
The Kingdom of Bahrain's government offers incubators for Fintech start-ups that nurture start-ups from their initiation of an idea, all the way to their official launch, to their financial independence success. Also, the same initiatives target development programs at an enterprise level. Digital enterprises come together in these innovation hubs, and promoting start-ups has become mainstream with the help of the 'Beban' show that showcases start-up ideas that can be selected by investor judges and financed if chosen. Moreover, Beban has expanded the partnership with the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) which it hopes will boost angel investments in the program.
Bahrain FinTech Bay has been pioneering in enabling the Fintech ecosystem in Bahrain. It is a public-private partnership between FinTech Consortium and Bahrain Economic Development Board. They help foreign businesses to easily incorporate themselves into the Bahraini economy. This process is done by providing information on the decision process and then facilitating the access and registration followed by the business expansion support. The Bahraini workforce is strongly educated and well equipped to be partners in the growth of the FinTech industry in the Kingdom of Bahrain with the help of Tamkeen's up-skill programs.
By gathering ideas with huge potential for success, the FinTech ecosystem can grow rapidly in the GCC. It is crucial to generate ideas from the media, established businesses, venture capitalists, banks and educational institutes. For example, Bahrain Polytechnic have a senior project exhibition which helps guide students through the steps to creating their own ideas and making them industry ready in a safe and well-guided environment.
In the future, I believe that the platforms used by the GCC states can be unified. This can be done by taking the existing e-services platforms and integrating their databases and creating portals to accommodate the other countries. For example, when accessing the Bahrain eGovernment portal there would be a page just for GCC residents other than Bahrainis where they can process government services for them. In the backend of the portals should be a shared database between all gulf countries. Another vision is to have easier travel between the Gulf countries by adapting a unified system for border access. For example, on the Bahrain-Saudi Arabia border and vice versa this can be done by having one portal where you can enter your travel details so that the border employees can be referenced to it for a faster process without requiring multiple stops and preventing the loss of missing information with the help of applying prior to visiting the border. This will reduce the load on the border staff and it will drastically reduce border traffic jams because the staff will simply approve or disapprove of the received information. With the help of data mining, this process will become more efficient as the data will help determine faster approaches for this process.
With the border advances in mind, the security can be enhanced with the help of Automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR) cameras which will be able to send the vehicle plates to the central system and reference them to the traffic database. This should help in the identification and detection of violations or any security concerns that the border staff needs to be aware of. It will be a fast-checking process which can increase border security without compromising staffing requirements. Adding to that, facial recognition cameras would help border security which works by detecting the t-shape on the person's face and matching it to the citizen's personal identification database. This is important in case of identity fraud which the facial recognition camera would detect faster and for efficiently than the human eye.
— Engr. Abdulla Al Qahtani is a Bahraini Network and Software Specialist, Internationally Certified with Professional Project Management (PPM) by NATO, AWS Solutions Architect Professional and AWS Security Specialty. He can be reached on his email: [email protected]

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