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Bahrain’s FinTech Bay, a new accelerator for startups

n February 2018, a new accelerator is set to officially kick off in Bahrain. The new facility will be focused on fintech startups in the Middle East and Africa, and will be part of Bahrain’s effort to be a regional fintech hub.

The facility, Bahrain FinTech Bay, was announced by the Bahrain Economic Development Board, a local investment firm

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In February 2018, a new accelerator is set to officially kick off in Bahrain. The new facility will be focused on fintech startups in the Middle East and Africa, and will be part of Bahrain’s effort to be a regional fintech hub.
Dubai International Financial Centre Launches $100 million Fintech Fund

DIFC, which is a financial free zone administered by the government of Dubai, devised the fund as a way to accelerate the development of fintech companies looking to enter the Middle East, Africa and South Asia markets. The fund will target investments in startups beginning at the incubation stage through the growth stage.

The fund was announced in the presence of H.H Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of DIFC, during the inaugural Global Financial Forum (GFF), a gathering of finance industry players organized by DIFC.

“The fund will leverage the DIFC’s fintech ecosystem consisting of attractive experimental licenses, market leading pricing and collaborative spaces. There is immense opportunity in this market, and this will be one more step towards shaping the future of finance in the region,” said Essa Kazim, governor of DIFC, in a speech at the GFF.

It’s the latest fintech-related development announced by DIFC. In January 2017 DIFC launched a fintech accelerator called FinTech Hive. The accelerator kicked off the first cycle of its program in August, with 11 entrepreneurs participating.

DIFC’s new fund comes barely a week after neighboring Bahrain announced it is establishing a fintech hub, called Bahrain FinTech Bay. Earlier this year Bahrain’s central bank created a regulatory framework allowing financial technology firms to test and experiment with banking ideas in the country.

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The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has announced the launch of a $100 million fund focused on financial technology, or fintech—yet another sign of growing interest in the sector coming from the GCC.
OJK to Set-up Fintech Center in Support of Digital Economy

Speaking as a guest lecturer at the University of Indonesia's Faculty of Economics on Friday, Wimboh said the fintech center aims at fostering and overseeing all fintech companies in Indonesia. This is to prevent holes in the arrangement and supervision of the fintech industry.

Read: OJK to Issue Regulation for Financial Technology Companies

Wimboh said that digital economy is unavoidable and has become a need. Fintech companies, he said, exist to provide services in various fields, including banking systems.

Nevertheless, he added, fintechs must also protect consumers and all fintech companies must be licensed and supervised. "The providers have to be registered; they cannot issue a product without permits".

Read: OJK to Monitor Fintech

If all companies are licensed, they become more transparent to the public and the government. This is also aimed at protecting customers.

Wimboh said there are currently 24 peer-to-peer (P2P) lending companies with permits. Sixteen of them are local companies and eight are international. 

Thirty-one more P2P lending companies have also applied to get licenses from the OJK.

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The Financial Services Authority's (OJK) board of commissioners' chairman Wimboh Santoso said the regulator and the government will create a fintech center to support the development of digital economy.

Indonesia Gears Up to Boost Financial Literacy

A research published last year warned about the risk of the abundant access to motorcycle loans, a currently perceived phenomenon in Indonesia. The survey, conducted by Indonesian Fintech Association, said the rapidly expanding financial services for motorcycle credits could increase poverty in Indonesia. Fintech, the popular acronym for ‘financial technology’, particularly refers to mobile- or internet-based financial applications.

The reason is that easier credits for motorcycles (and other items) could lead to uncontrollable borrowings that are relevant only for maintaining one’s lifestyle, according to the survey. Such risk come as a result of borrowers ignoring whether they are able to pay their debts.

Obviously, citizens’ financial illiteracy had already been a major public concern well before Fintech Indonesia issued its research results.

(Read: The Emergence of Fintech in Indonesia)

<img src="http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom.jpg" data-lazy-src="http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="454" data-lazy-srcset="http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom.jpg 805w, http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom-300x213.jpg 300w, http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom-768x545.jpg 768w, http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom-75x52.jpg 75w" data-lazy-sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" srcset="http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom.jpg 805w, http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom-300x213.jpg 300w, http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom-768x545.jpg 768w, http://www.globalindonesianvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BankIndonesia_financialtribunecom-75x52.jpg 75w" data-was-processed="true">

Bank Indonesia designed a ‘bank literacy’ education program to boost the country’s financial literacy. (Photo source: Financialtribune.com)

On this, Bank Indonesia (BI), the country’s central bank, had designed a ‘bank literacy’ education program for the people at large. BI wants more and more Indonesians to have better knowledge and understanding of the roles and functions of banks in general.

The latest concrete example of the program implementation was seen on Thursday’s (16/11) writing course dedicated for the central banks’ young employees. As many as 30 participants from the bank attended the so-called ‘Workshop for Bank Indonesia’s Young Writers 2017’ in Denpasar, Bali, as reported by Mediaindonesia.com.

With adequate writing skills, Bank Indonesia expects the course participants to produce readable and attractive articles on banks for local and international publications. Their writings are expected to be relevant to people’s living condition.

Meanwhile, Bank Indonesia had previously launched a special program to popularize rural banks (Bank Perkreditan Rakyat or the BPR) and their products. At least 50 percent of the country’s rural population do not know about the BPR, which was set to be a pioneering financial institution for villagers in rural areas.

The central bank is also implementing its ‘Goes to Campus’ program so as to support its National Non-Cash Movement (GNNT) which was launched two years ago and endorsed by President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo.

Reportedly, only 22 percent of Indonesia’s total population of 262 million people is financially literate. And, of the 22 percent, only 8 percent goes digital. According to a report by Republika.com, Bank Indonesia is endeavoring to raise financial literacy rate to 75 percent of the population by 2019.

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Only 22 percent of Indonesia’s 262 million people is financially literate. And the number of people accessing fintech is even smaller.

How is Blockchain in Asia? BlockShow Meetup Conclusions

Meetups across the continentMalaysia

Our journey began from the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Followed by Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and finally the most colorful one, New Delhi.  

Currently in Malaysia, Bitcoin is not considered as a currency. Players in Malaysia think that regulation is to blame for the slow adoption of Blockchain in Malaysia. Gary Goh of Metlife says:

“Anything that touches customer information or privacy would stoke lots of discussions, especially when the technology stems from Bitcoin, which is not largely accepted in Malaysia.”

Despite this, fintech in Malaysia is on the rise. Malaysian banks are actively taking proactive stepsto encourage Blockchain development in Malaysia.

MiGHT, the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology is planting roots in Malaysia and providing a beautiful future for Blockchain in the country. The MiGHT Blockchain Programme director Mastura Ishak commented:

“We are seeing an encouraging response from foreign players who are interested in setting up centers of excellence for Blockchain here to educate the younger generation.”

During our visit to Malaysia, we were lucky to speak with Mastura Ishak from the Malaysian government, who gave us insight on how Malaysia is planning to go about ICO and cryptocurrency regulations in the country.

When asked what people think of ICO’s at BlockShow Meetup in Kuala Lumpur Mastura Ishak commented: “It feels very good, it’s very refreshing, and there’s a lot of potentials that you guys (BlockShow) are showing here.”

Mastura Ishak hold lots of promise in Malaysia in educating and allowing Blockchain to thrive in the future. We are grateful that we can provide some new refreshing perspectives to her as well to breathe more life into the Blockchain industry in Malaysia.

Singapore

In Singapore, we got a chance to catch up with Anson Zeall, Chairman of ACCESS - Singapore’s Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry Association. He provided valuable insight on how ready Singapore is to play a major role in the future of the Blockchain industry. Zeall believesBlockchain should be seen as a useful tool to aid current business processes instead of replacing them.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong was filled with people from the Blockchain industry. Simon Dixon, CEO and Founder of BnkToTheFuture.com, was also present and told us how Japan and Korean markets are benefiting because to Chinese traders moving out of the country.

According to Simon, Bitcoin, Blockchain and crypto will have the biggest impact in Asia.

“I think it’s gonna be the first country or region, we are here in Hong Kong, and its going across Singapore and everywhere else in Asia. I believe Bitcoin and Blockchain have the most to offer and will be adopted first in Asia.”

If he saw Satoshi Nakamoto, he told us he would “thank him for remaining anonymous and thank him for actually creating the technology that I believe is the most significant invention since the Internet. And the application of the Internet that changes everything across Wall Street, across banking, across the financial sector.”

We agree with Dixon in his view, as without this technology none of the remarkable ideas that have come to life as of recently would be possible. Satoshi Nakamoto has given a great gift to change the world in how we know in ease of use and changing many sectors outside of the financial sector in ways we never imagined before. The team is excited to host BlockShow Asia in Singapore as it holds a significant strategic point in terms of Blockchain development in Asia.

India

Nicolas Cary, co-founder at Blockchain Labs, was super stoked to come to our New Delhi meetup. He shared the stage with Addy Creeze, CEO of BlockShow, to discuss how Blockchain technologywill evolve in the coming years.

When he was asked whether or not regulation is good for the industry, Nic said:

“To me, regulation is all about protecting consumers, and in some situations it definitely makes sense. Governments have an important responsibility to create an open space for people to be able to experiment and test in a safe way. So we welcome thought for regulation to drive innovation and we think this will happen in India. We’ve seen it happen in various countries already.”

There was a very diverse crowd in Delhi, from investors to developers to college students. It was a one of a kind experience to see them all interact one place. We were fortunate enough to reach so many individuals and are hopeful that Nic’s thoughts will bring revolutionary thinking and a change in regulation along with further development in the region.

The takeaway

On our Meetup journey, we were joined by more than 1,000 guests from around the world in five different venues. Looking back, some special moments will stay with us forever.

For instance, when Philip McMaster, one of the well-known personalities of the Republic of Conscience, came to the event with his famous Panda. It gave the event a special vibe, which is hard to describe in words.

<img alt="PANDA" src="https://cointelegraph.com/storage/uploads/view/7867b91568fe870aba7503987e959977.jpg" title="PANDA">

The Q&A session between the startups and the audience at the end of every pitch was something beyond our expectations. It was stellar that the audience was well aware of how Blockchain products work and provided us with relevant issues and questions about the Blockchain.

All the prominent speakers have led us to the conclusion that the Blockchain will thrive and have a huge positive impact on Asia. Anson Zeall has high hopes for the Blockchain in Singapore and its implementation in business. Simon Dixon and Nicolas Cary both believe regulation and adoption of cryptocurrencies will help the Blockchain thrive throughout Asia and India. We even have high hopes that China will also hop on board to embrace the Blockchain in the future.

Dixon hit the nail on the head with his interpretation of our slogan of BlockShow: the window of the global Blockchain world as Blockchain being the technology that allows people to gain access the world without borders. Without Satoshi’s revolutionary idea this would not be remotely possible and we are grateful for that.

We have learned from all our speakers that Blockchain, crypto will have the biggest impact and influence in Asia. Even the infamous “Chinese ICO ban” won’t make any difference - Asia and China, in particular, will stay one of the biggest hubs of the Blockchain disruption for quite a while. That’s why we are excited to see what the future hold, we know it will be bright for the Blockchain!

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That’s why we traveled across five cities in five countries to meet the actual Blockchain community out there and also bring together the most promising and innovative Blockchain startups. Wherever we went, we were welcomed by the local Blockchain enthusiasts and experts with open arms and valuable knowledge
Singapore gets lion share as fintech funding surges in Asean

Reflecting Asean's demographics, payments and mobile wallets are attracting the highest level of funding in Asean, registering a tenfold increase from US$8 million in 2012 to US$83 million in 2015, according to a State of FinTech in Asean report.

Funding has rocketed from an abysmal US$9 million in 2012 to US$338 million year-to-date 2017, the report said.

"Asean as an engine of economic growth and prosperity has caught the eye of global investors, and there is an abundant supply of early-stage funding in the region," it said.

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The report was producted by United Overseas Bank, with insights from EY, and is supported by the Singapore FinTech Association and the Asean FinTech Network.

SEE ALSO: China Citic, Baidu launch direct bank in fintech push

In 2016, investments in the South-east Asian fintech market increased to US$252 million, compared with US$190 million in 2015, a rise of about 33 per cent. Total investment in the first nine months of 2017 has already exceeded that of 2016 to reach US$338 million.

Most of the funding in the region is from seed and angel investors, it said. Beyond the traditional forms of funding from angel investors and venture capitalists, crowdfunding, venture debt and bank venture funds have also contributed to the rise in dry powder available for investing in Asean fintechs.

The rise of fintech funding in Asean mirrors that for Asia, the report found.

The global fintech industry attracted more than US$24 billion in investment in 2016, 10 times the level received in 2010.

Fintech investment in Asia exceeded North America for the first time in 2016, led by blockbuster deals in China, including Alipay and Lu.com raising US$4.5 billion and US$1.2 billion respectively.

Singapore is home to the lion's share of the 1,228 fintechs in Asean, at 39 per cent, said Tracxn, a start-up data provider.

Two in five Asean fintech startups have chosen Singapore as their home base. They are drawn to several factors, including the country's ecosystem of diverse players, conducive regulatory environment and its web of international links that promote the exchange of ideas, the report said.

"Singapore's developed financial infrastructure and supportive regulatory policies have positioned the country well to compete with other global fintech hubs such as Hong Kong and London," it said.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are fast catching up with Singapore as a preferred fintech home, supported by high levels of mobile adoption, rising rates of Internet penetration and an increasingly urban, literate and young population. "This has attracted large numbers of investors and fintechs to focus their attention on the region."

While fintechs are still in their early stage in Asean, digital platforms such as e-commerce have proliferated, backed by Internet giants which have the financial muscle to make large, billion dollar investments in the next unicorns of Asean. The battle for the consumer wallet and mindshare will continue to drive investment as Internet giants seek to establish a foothold in Asean, starting in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

Drivers of fintech in Asean is the region's robust economic growth and a young urban population. Asean has more than 630 million people, with around 50 per cent of that population under 30 years of age.

By 2030, this large young population will enjoy increased levels of literacy and contain many first-time job seekers. South-east Asia's urban population is also expected to increase by an estimated 100 million, to 373 million people by 2030.

Almost half (43 per cent) of all fintech activity in Asean is focused on developing solutions in the area of payments and mobile wallets.

"This innovation push is underpinned by high levels of mobile usage and rising rates of Internet penetration, an increasingly urban, tech-savvy, literate and young population, and a segment of the community underserved by traditional banking solutions," the report said.

Asean's low banking penetration also makes it attractive for fintech companies to develop solutions and go to market. As at 2014, more than half of the adults in Asean or 264 million adults do not have access to banking services.

The gap widens in rural areas, where 74 per cent of the population do not have access to a bank account.

Additionally, all the Asean countries - including Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand - which have high levels of bank penetration, rate low in regard to credit availability in the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise sector.

"Fintechs in the region are also exploiting this credit gap to offer services to this underserved segment, which is not the traditional target segment of financial institutions," said the report.

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FUNDING for the financial technology sector in Asean is surging, fuelled by the potential of its young and underbanked population.

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