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United Arab Emirates

Open Banking

The United Arab Emirates, or simply the Emirates, is a country in Western Asia. It is located at the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula. The United Arab Emirates has taken a regulatory-driven approach to Open Banking.

At the beginning of 2023, 99% of Emiratis had access to the internet.

United Arab Emirates has taken a regulatory-driven approach to Open Banking, which is regulated and supervised by Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), an international financial centre and free zone. The ADGM regulates the trading of digital assets and became an attractive jurisdiction for crypto companies after it introduced digital asset regulation in 2018.  Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is granting specific licences for account information service providers (AISPs) and payment initiation service providers (PISPs).

Some Fintechs build universal API platforms to link banks with third-party providers in the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region, increasing interoperability between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

According to The Global Findex Database, 86% of Emirati adults had bank accounts in 2021, leaving 14% unbanked.  The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation in the banking sector. The business environment during the crisis has forced more banking customers to try digital solutions, and a rise in digitalisation was expected in 2022. 

In 2019, ADGM created its API regulatory guidance to promote interoperability, resilience, innovation and collaboration.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken a collaborative approach to Open Banking with The Central Bank of the UAE and the state regulators, such as the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) working together to boost the financial services sector and the economy.   

A regional hub for Fintech in Arab countries, the UAE was the first to lay the foundations for a Fintech ecosystem in the region. It aims to become one of the top five fintech hubs across the world by December 2023. UAE had over 400 Fintech companies as of early 2021 (p. 19).

As part of the country’s Fintech vision, regulatory authorities have introduced a number of programs. These included a Central Bank Digital Currency project, digital KYC (Know-Your-Customer) and payment infrastructures development, trade finance platform and digitisation, and adoption of blockchain.

Finastra’s ‘Financial Services State of the Nation Survey 2022‘ listed the UAE as having the greatest number of financial institutions viewing Open Finance as a ‘must have’, at 71%, up from 50% in 2021 (p. 5).

In 2021, 54% of engineering employers experienced a skills shortage, and 93% of UAE engineering employers reported finding it difficult to recruit new staff. According to the report conducted by The Institution of Engineering and Technology, 43% of the applicants lacked the necessary technical skills.

The United Arab Emirates ranked 2nd out of 134 countries in¬†Wiley’s Digital Skills Global Index 2021.¬†

The UAE offers support and tools in different forms.¬†The DIFC Fintech Hive¬†has been working with local banks on introducing an API sandbox programme to encourage the development of new and innovative digital journeys and experiences for consumers. In addition,¬†The ADGM has developed¬†The ADGM RegLab, which is a specially-tailored regulatory framework providing a controlled environment for Fintech participants to develop and test innovative Fintech solutions.¬†While¬†The Innovation Testing Licence (ITL)¬†Programme is¬†the DFSA’s version of a regulatory sandbox,¬†the Central Bank of UAE (CBUAE) has launched¬†the Insurtech regulatory sandbox, which aims to transform the UAE insurance market into a smart insurance market, supports the emerging Emirati Fintech companies and contributes to achieving the UAE Vision 2021to create a competitive knowledge economy based on innovation.