DIFC Launches Residency Programme To Nurture SMEs

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has launched a residency programme at LendIt FinTech USA 2019 for growth-stage start-ups, intending to build closer ties between Dubai’s thriving FinTech sector and key markets around the world.

DIFC is a leading international financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

The DIFC FinTech Residency is open to FinTech start-ups from the US and Europe and was formally launched at the conference held in San Francisco, United States.

The programme seeks to award one start-up with an all-expense paid residency for 12 months at DIFC, gauging on their business plan and growth strategy. The Centre will help them scale their business in the region, allowing them to tap into the huge potential presented by the fast-growing emerging markets in MEASA.

The successful applicants will receive return flights from their home country, centrally located accommodation in the heart of Dubai, a Research & Development FinTech License from the DIFC, as well as access to a collaborative workspace, a dynamic ecosystem of leading financial institutions and investors, and tailored workshops around how to navigate the regional markets.

“Despite its notable growth on the global level, the FinTech industry has only realised a fraction of its true potential. The real opportunity lies in emerging markets, which are still largely untapped due to the lack of access to financial services”, said Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority.

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“This is one of the reasons why we are launching our residency programme so that start-ups from the US and Europe can witness first-hand what the MEASA region has to offer. With close to 70% of its population having either limited or no access to financial services, the region sits on a large pool of opportunities that are constantly fuelled by the increasing need for financial solutions. As the region’s most comprehensive FinTech ecosystem, we have created an enabling business environment to help FinTech firms and investors tap into these opportunities, keeping in mind the need for access to funding, regulation and infrastructure.”

According to a report by DIFC, ‘A Roadmap for FinTech Firms Entering the Fast-Growing Emerging Markets’,  the number of FinTech companies in MEA is expected to reach 1,845 by 2022, almost quadrupling since 2015, when the figure stood at 559.

The two main drivers of this growth are the huge market potential, fuelled by its large unbanked population and high smartphone-adoption rates, and the strong ecosystem support, represented by the development of digital infrastructure and government initiatives for financial inclusion.

The most active FinTech segments in MEA are payments/remittances, digital banking, online lending, crowdfunding, InsurTech, blockchain/crypto, RegTech, artificial intelligence and analytics.

The DIFC is currently home to more than 23,000 professionals, working across 2,100 companies, of which 80 are related to the FinTech sector.

The firms benefit from an international partner network of 14 global FinTech hubs, including New York, London, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Paris, Saudi Arabia and Mumbai, as well as the region’s largest FinTech accelerator programme, DIFC FinTech Hive, and a USD 100 million FinTech fund, which was launched in 2017. In addition, the Centre’s independent regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority has created fit-for-purpose regulation through its Innovative Testing License, which allows qualifying FinTech firms to develop and test innovative concepts from within the DIFC, as well as dedicated crowdfunding and peer-to-peer regimes.