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Fintech Industry's Future Capital - Dubai

Dubai's startup and tech scene has come a long way in the past three decades - the city is now a major business center in the Middle East, attracting investors and entrepreneurs from around the world. In this week's Tech Center tracker, we take a look at how Dubai is giving FinTech hubs around the world a run for their money.

Before we jump into the post, here are a few quick facts about Dubai and its tech scene:

  • Dubai has an estimated population of 2,701,977.
  • Since 1998, Dubai's total international trade has grown on average by over 11 percent.
  • The city's Q1 GDP was $25,953 million.
  • Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which is considered to be a low-crime and politically stable country.
  • The city is able to attract investors due to its low logistical and operational costs and excellent infrastructure, international outlook and liberal government policies.
  • As of Nov. 2016, the inflation rate was 0.12 percent.
  • As of 2012, Dubai was the 22nd most expensive city in the world and the most expensive city in the Middle East.
  • The World Bank ranked the United Arab Emirates as the 26nd best country to do business in 2017, out of 190.

Dubai is considered to be a hotbed for financial technology and innovation, not just in the Middle East but globally. The centrally located city, which is globally recognized as a hub for European, African and Asian business, is placing its focus on boosting its status as a FinTech capital of the world.

David Horton, head of innovation at Synechron, told PYMNTS that, as a thriving FinTech center, Dubai is easily giving cities like London, New York and Singapore a run for their money.

"Where this differs from other Middle East countries is the support and drive of the country's leadership, who are relentless in aiming to make the country a leader in smart city innovation," Horton explained.

"Recently, there has also been a surge in technology startups that are disrupting the market, from retailers like Souq.com to payment providers like Beam Wallet and even Uber-like locals Careem."

Horton added that the rise of new and influential business ventures in Dubai is indicative of the fact that the UAE environment has a huge demand for online and mCommerce business. With a world-class infrastructure available, Horton added, it has never been a better time to run a digital-first business in Dubai.

FinTech Hive Generates Buzz

Earlier this month, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) announced it will partner with Accenture to launch a FinTech accelerator in Dubai geared towards both regional and international startups.

Considered the regions first FinTech accelerator, the FinTech Hive is aimed at empowering entrepreneurs to innovate and transforming the DIFC into a global hub for FinTech innovation.

The FinTech Hive at DIFC is expected to deliver cutting-edge financial services technology to the Middle Eastern, African and South Asian markets, as well as support a platform that brings FinTechs together to increase access, improve customer service and drive operational efficiencies across the industry.

"DIFC is uniquely positioned to become the regional hub for FinTech. By putting together local banks and FinTech firms to ideate, collaborate and partner, DIFC is helping both sectors be at the forefront of the financial services industry," Sushil Saluja, senior managing director of financial services in Europe, Africa and Latin America at Accenture, said in a statement. "The accelerator program will identify the best entrepreneurs within the financial services industry and grant them invaluable access to, and feedback from, potential customers and funders."

The FinTech Hive at DIFC project will start with a 12-week accelerator program, where the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs will compete and collaborate to address the needs of the region's FinTech industry.

"Through Dubai's incredible leadership, I think that FinTech has been prioritized as a major opportunity, and we are seeing the effects of this prioritization around the entire UAE," Moe Levin, founder of Keynote Events, explained to PYMNTS.

"As the FinTech sector has grown around the world, Dubai has not taken a back seat in the evolution and production of new financial services and technologies."

Dubai's 'Smart City' Transformation

A new Innovation and Creativity Lab is coming to Dubai through the strategic partnership of government corporation Nedaa and Nokia.

The technology innovator will support the city's ongoing "Smart City" ambitions through the development of applications to enhance Dubai's Internet of Things (IOT) ecosystem. The organizations, Computer News Middle East reported, will focus on delivering solutions that aid in government and mission-critical services across various industries, including education, health, utilities and transport.

The city has gained attention in recent years for being an attractive location for both entrepreneurs and investors

"Dubai has always been at the forefront of technology adoption on multiple levels. It is forward-thinking beyond its years and is a stable place for setting up roots in the long term," Gaurav Dhar, owner of Marshal Equipment & Trading, told PYMNTS.

Dhar said that, while the startup/tech scene still has plenty of room to grow, it has taken off, and many industry leaders are working hard to create and nurture an environment that would prove ideal for startups.

"Whether it be company formation, visas, even bankruptcy laws, they are all under discussion with various government groups that have tangible knowledge and expertise on the subjects. Change is coming, and it will happen at speed," Dhar noted.

As more programs come together to help shape Dubai's tech ecosystem, Dhar expects that these initiatives will enable innovation and potential to be harvested, attracted and grown in Dubai and taken globally.

Though Dubai provides many unique offerings to entrepreneurs and investors, both regionally and internationally, it's clear the city is just getting started when it comes to advancing its FinTech and startup landscape.

"Dubai is the land of opportunity. If you are willing to dedicate resources and explore the possibilities, you will make it in Dubai. With world-class infrastructure and a huge test market of expats and locals, starting a company in Dubai remains one of the best places in the world," Levin added.

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