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The Evolution of Blockchain Technology in MENA

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Hamza Khan

Blockchain technology has come a long way from its beginnings as a platform for the Bitcoin network to become an innovative backbone technology that benefits companies in various industries.

The term “blockchain” initially appeared in a paper by Satoshi Nakamoto titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”. Today, the term “blockchain” refers to all software and systems using a distributed public ledger, which enables secure and direct transactions to be carried out without requiring a specific controlling authority for the system.

Blockchain development involves a system with sophisticated applications that are helpful to the operational, commercial, and industrial sectors rather than just a simple technological framework for exchanging the virtual currency Bitcoin. There has been a growing interest in implementing blockchain technology in the Gulf states since 2016. It began in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), particularly in the financial and government services industries.

Governments in the MENA region are working to lay the groundwork for blockchain-based enterprises, most notably by defining the rules for financial and contractual transactions. Banks are creating exchange systems powered by blockchain, and blockchain start-ups are emerging with creative blockchain solutions with the assistance of governments throughout the area.

Several recent regional developments show that blockchain will significantly impact the growth and modernization of the Gulf’s government, commercial, financial sector, and technology industries. These blockchain developments include finance, healthcare, government strategy, project planning, intellectual property, and lawmaking.

Top Middle East Countries Leading Blockchain Development

The UAE government has started using blockchain technology for its transactions. The Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021 and Dubai Blockchain Strategy were also introduced to support this trend. By 2021, the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021 wants to leverage blockchain technology to move 50% of all government transactions onto the blockchain platform.

The improvement in the Gulf states’ scores on the eGovernment Readiness Index (EGDI) during the past few years has directly resulted from the significant ongoing efforts made by the regional governments to upgrade the ICT infrastructure throughout all ministries and agencies. In the 2018 EGDI rankings, Bahrain and the UAE topped the region’s most developed and advanced e-governments list.

UAE has been a global leader in blockchain development with the launch of the Emirates Blockchain Strategy in 2018. Government and private sector businesses in the Emirate have adopted 24 blockchain use cases, according to a February 2020 report from Smart Dubai, the government agency tasked with promoting Dubai’s citywide “smart” transition.

Additionally, Iran, Bahrain, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, and Saudi Arabia are among the top Middle East nations that have shown a keen interest in implementing blockchain in their technology industry. The Riyadh Municipality in Saudi Arabia recently announced its intention to collaborate with IBM to develop a strategy plan to implement blockchain technology as part of the “Saudi Vision 2030” national agenda.

In early 2020, APMT Terminals Bahrain announced that its ports would work with TradeLens, a blockchain-based shipping network. The purpose of integrating with TradeLens is to enable collaboration among all shipping stakeholders and to provide them with a better understanding of the data and transactions generated as cargo travels along its trade route.

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