UPDATED | January 29, 2019
On January 29, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the United Arab Emirates Central Bank (UAECB) announced their plans to launch a "common digital currency project." The new digital currency, dubbed Aber, is intended to allow blockchain-powered financial settlements between the two financial institutions.
The first phase of the pilot will focus on the technical aspects of issuing a common digital currency. Initially, the use of the Aber will be restricted to a small number of banks in each state. The main goal of this experiment is to reduce remittances costs and test blockchain's ability to act as an additional "reserve system for domestic central payments."
No launch date for this proof-of-concept experiment has been announced.
ORIGINAL | January 21, 2019
A Saudi-Emirati joint cryptocurrency pilot was one of seven initiatives announced by the Executive Committee of the Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council, which met on January 19 in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The meeting's purpose was to continue working on the joint initiatives outlined in the "Strategy of Resolve," according to the Emirates News Agency.
The Strategy of Resolve was initially set forth by 350 government officials from Saudi Arabia and the UAE in June 2018. The initiative outlines 44 "joint strategic projects" focused on three areas: economic; human and knowledge; and political, security, and military.
The executive committee meeting consisted of 16 representatives from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The committee focused on initiatives that reflect the desire of both groups to integrate and work together in financial markets, tourism, and entrepreneurship. The development of a cryptocurrency that facilitates cross-border payments was one such initiative.
During its experimental phase, the Saudi-Emirati cryptocurrency pilot will be targeted at banks with the intention of "better understanding the implications of Blockchain technology and facilitating cross-border payments," reports the Emirates News Agency. It will use a distributed database between central banks and smaller financial service providers from both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The pilot aims to assess the impact of such a currency on existing financial policies, and also address issues like customer security, risk, and regulations.
This is one of several recent conversations on the application of blockchain technology in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In October 2018, officials from Dubai announced plans to create regulations that would allow initial coin offerings in the country, moving the vision for an official digital currency one step forward. Earlier this month, officials out of Saudi Arabia announced the completion of a blockchain pilot that linked the nation's cross-border trade platform to the TradeLense platform.