Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and London may be the forerunners of Halal fintech solutions, but one of the largest economies in the Arab league is also quietly making a bid to attract more Shariah compliant fintech start-ups to its shores.
Small but mighty Qatar is vying to be a regional fintech hub and is going head-to-head with neighbors Dubai and Bahrain for the title. Dubai and Bahrain were early fintech pioneers in the GCC, swiftly building necessary regulatory and physical infrastructure to support their regional ambitions, and they have been vocal about their intention to capitalize on their well-established Islamic finance industries to carve an Islamic fintech niche for themselves. These were the jurisdictions which were first to release fintech-related regulations catering to both Islamic and agnostic players and solutions.
But while Dubai and Bahrain were grabbing Islamic fintech headlines in the region half a decade ago, Qatar is slowly gaining prominence having laid down the foundations behind the scenes over the last few years.
Islamic finance is one of the four key focus verticals for the Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH)’s upcoming acceleration and incubation programs; the other three being payment solutions, regulatory technology and SME solutions. The QFTH, which has been receiving applications for its Hackathon Wave 4 until today, expects to fast-track three successful innovative ideas from the hackathon to its flagship incubator program which is supported by Islamic financial institutions such as Al Rayan, Al Khaliji, Qatar Islamic Bank, QIIB and Islamic Insurance, alongside some conventional lenders.
Shortlisted candidates from the Visa-backed hackathon will present their final pitches on the 10th March with winners to be announced by the middle of the month. Wave 4 of the 12-week incubator and accelerator programs are slated to commence in March until May 2022. Last year, over 500 start-ups, early-stage and mature, from over 50 countries including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Canada and Qatar applied for the third edition of the programs.
Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) is also proactive in capturing Islamic fintech interest. Last week, 20 Turkish fintech firms alongside three participation banks met with Qatari investors, thanks to a collaboration between QFC and the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey’s Finance Office.
Rallying fintech stakeholders across the public and private spheres toward its National Vision 2030, Qatar stands to benefit from leveraging its global Islamic finance standing (fifth in terms of assets in 2020 according to the Islamic Financial Services Industry Stability Report 2021) to build an attractive Shariah fintech proposition.