Binance is expanding to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as the influential crypto exchange seeks to fill a gap in the region’s digital assets market by facilitating access to its services and infrastructure.
Binance’s long-standing rival Huobi has its eye on the same region. It has planted its flag in the Middle East since December 2019 and now offers its exchange’s trading platform and liquidity as a white-label service.
Without revealing further details, Binance said the MENA venture will focus on creating partnerships with local, compliant players in the region’s digital asset and blockchain sectors.
For this purpose, Binance has named Omar Rahim as Director of MENA to lead its corporate strategy and future business. He will be tasked with ensuring compliance with different regulatory frameworks in countries throughout the region.
Omar brings a 15-year experience in trading oil and equity derivatives products across US and UK markets. He most recently co-founded a startup called EnergiMine which was developing energy management solutions based on AI and blockchain technology. His career encompasses various trading roles in the UK and Germany, including at Refco Trading Services Limited, SSE Airtricity and Vattenfall.
“We are committed to working with local governments in order to deliver products that meet the standards of regional policies to best service our MENA communities. I am thrilled to be part of a dynamic team that puts users first and excited for us to localize our world-class products and services that are purposeful to our communities in MENA,” said Omar Rahim.
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“The MENA region has been instrumental in implementing real applications of blockchain technology with a number of its governments and regulators as a driving force, embracing blockchain with its progressive culture of new technologies,” said Gin Chao, Binance’s Strategy Officer.
Arabs caught up with the hype
While cryptocurrency mass adoption in the Middle East may still take a little more time to take place, there are several countries in the region that are truly taking notice. Before 2018, it was the only region without a licensed cryptocurrency exchange, and local interest in this domain was scant.
Various countries in the Arab world have emerged as early adopters, and they’re poised to become even more influential in the near future.
Currently, at the frontier of Fintech adoption, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have announced plans to launch a digital currency to serve both countries.
In the UAE, the FSRA has overhauled current regulations to move the applicable rules on crypto firms from a bespoke category called “Operating a Crypto Asset Business,” to the respective underlying regulated activities. This would allow the regulator to classify crypto operations depending on their underlying nature rather than grouping the whole industry under a single headline. As such, blockchain start-ups could be recognized as providing custody, operating a multilateral trading facility, dealing in investments, etc.
The UAE has also taken steps to regulate the way that blockchain start-ups are raising money – initial coin offerings– though the nation’s regulators continue to warn of the many risks involved. The watchdog proposed a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework that effectively recognizes digital tokens as securities.