Disrupting The Middle East: GCC Region And Blockchain Technology

Marmore MENA Intelligence is a research subsidiary of the Kuwait Financial Centre, Markaz, that recently released a ten-page report titled, From Bitcoin to Blockchain, that examines the potential impact that blockchain technology could have on various industries in the GCC region.

GCC stands for the Gulf Cooperation Council and is the colloquial term for The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. The GCC region encompasses Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The report from Marmore highlights how the GCC region has been generally slow to adopt disruptive technologies, and suggests that this issue stems from the GCC’s lack of a robust start-up economy and a traditional defiance to change. A lack of investments in the region is attributed to these factors.

The Marmore report emphasizes how blockchain tech “holds a huge potential in real-world scenarios.” Decentralized money may not be attractive to a country’s central bank but the idea of streamlining back office processes, and cutting settlement and clearing times from days to hours, has helped make finance industry incumbents more receptive. While this burgeoning technology isn’t expected to be rapidly adopted in the region, the report does suggest blockchain-based systems will be used in some form to carry out daily transactions within the next 5-7 years.

In contrast to the majority of the GCC region, Dubai and its Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) have been leading the technological charge. The main objective of the DFF is to leverage blockchain technology’s benefits to streamline government and bureaucratic processes. Additionally, Dubai is attempting to create a strong start-up ecosystem through its Dubai Future Accelerators program, which has already given 30 companies 3 months of development time and access to millions of dollars in venture capital. Dubai, which endeavors to be a smart city, is one of the few places in the region that is serious about utilizing the many benefits of blockchain technology.

Marmore’s report covers the potential applicability of blockchain across several economic sectors in the GCC region. It found low applicability for tracking tax payments and online voting; neutral applicability for stock trades and cloud storage; and high applicability for land registries, remittances, and cybersecurity. As Dubai’s projects continue to advance, they’ll hopefully serve as indicators of all the advantages blockchain tech can bring to neighboring states.