The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) has launched the third edition of its fintech accelerator program, welcoming its largest cohort yet. It also comprises the greatest number of Islamic fintech start-ups, underscoring the center’s ambition of becoming the region’s leader in fintech for Shariah finance.
Receiving over 425 applications from across Asia, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, the DIFC Fintech Hive program has expanded by about 50% to 31 participants this year from 22 in 2018. Out of the 31, four have an Islamic finance proposition: Saudi Arabia’s Hakbah, a digital cooperative savings platform; Malaysia-based gold savings platform HelloGold; IslamiChain, a blockchain-based start-up in the UAE focusing on Shariah giving; and Islamic capital market-focused blockchain company Wethaq, which recently partnered with R3.
The greater representation from the Islamic fintech community lends credence to DIFC’s bid to become a center for Shariah fintech as other accelerators in the region also compete for a slice of the Islamic fintech pie (Abu Dhabi Global Market recently accepted two European Shariah fintech start-ups into its RegLab program). Having already onboarded Islamic financial institutions as mentors (Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Emirates Islamic and Noor Bank), this year’s finalists of the three-month program will also be supported by Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre and Etisalat.
What is also interesting to note is that the 2019 DIFC Fintech Hive cohort has 10 start-ups specializing in insurance. While none has an explicit Takaful business model, these insurtech firms will be working with an Islamic insurer (Noor Takaful) which suggests that the solutions could be accommodated for a Shariah-conscious audience.