Singapore partners with Bahrain to develop a fintech ecosystem

Bahrain aims to be a fintech hub in the Middle East.

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) inked a partnership with fintech incubator and ecosystem builder Singapore Fintech Consortium (SFC) to establish a fintech ecosystem and regulatory framework.

Dubai-based asset management and advisory firm Trucial Investment Partners is also part of the agreement. Together with the SFC, Trucial will support Bahrain in developing related commercial and legal infrastructure required to initiate, nurture and sustain Bahrain’s fintech ecosystem.

This collaboration will pave the way for a strengthened interaction between fintech firms in the Middle East via Bahrain and those in ASEAN via Singapore. It will also facilitate the entry of Singaporean fintech companies into Bahrain.

Other initiatives which are being considered include building a dedicated fintech hub, an incubator accelerator platform and fintech-focused venture capital.

Speaking at the Arab Financial Services 1st Middle East and Africa FinTech Forum, Bahrain EDB's Chief Executive Khalid Al Rumaihi said despite the 50% drop in FinTech investment in the past year the outlook for the industry remains optimistic. To recall, the overall amount invested in FinTech dropped from US$46.7b in 2015 to US$24.7b in 2016. The EDB chief said this is still historically robust, however, it is also a considerable decline.

“But we see significant enthusiasm and interest in FinTech. We think there is a positive outlook in the next 12 months,” he said, noting that insurance tech, regulatory tech, artificial intelligence and data and analytics each drew significant investor attention, and each has a positive outlook for further growth in the course of this year.

In a recent statement, Rumaihi was quoted saying that Singapore has been an excellent model of fintech development. He noted how SFC's expertise can help the Kingdom develop its own hub.

“We are very excited about the opportunities that fintech presents in the region and in Bahrain. Yet we know that to realise these opportunities it is vital to get the right ecosystem in place. This partnership will play an important role in helping us to do that,” he stated.

Meanwhile, SFC co-founder Gerben Visser said the group would play a multi-faceted role in the development of the fintech enablement and positioning of Bahrain as a regional fintech hub in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

He added, "This includes assisting in the execution of a range of comprehensive initiatives related to regulation, co-working, incubation and venture capital. We believe the collaboration with a multitude of public and private sector partners are opportune, timely and will contribute to the future-proofing of its financial service centre."

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