This November, Dubai plays host to the first ever Bitcoin conference in the Gulf. The event will take place in the Dubai International Financial Center, a special economic free zone in the heart of downtown Dubai and a hub of the region’s financial world. The conference will take place from December 11 – 13 2014.
The workshop sessions on December 12 and 13 will focus on the fundamentals of the Bitcoin protocol. Topics to be addressed include bitcoin and the future of financial services, bitcoin’s place and the future of the GCC, remittances, Bitcoin in Africa, job growth, startups, compliance and much more.
The conference will also feature leading players in the global bitcoin world, as well as regional players in the Middle East. Bitcoin evangelist Roger Ver is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the conference. Roger Ver, the former CEO of MemoryDealers.com, is one of the world’s most successful bitcoin entrepreneurs. Other featured speakers will include Erik Voorhees, a Bitcoin investor and former CEO of Coinapult, Nic Cary, CEO of Blockchain.info and Greg Simon, CFO at Ribbit.me and active Bitcoin advocate as well as many others.
Bitcoin in the UAE
The UAE is a relatively untapped market as far as bitcoin is concerned. It however holds the potential to grow into a bitcoin hub. However, several hurdles would have to be overcome in order to make bitcoin truly ubiquitous.
The first hurdle is regulation. The UAE is yet to provide a way forward on the regulation of bitcoin, and it is beginning to hurt bitcoin companies in the country. A case in point is the company that provides ATMs in the country Umbrellab, that has had to scale back until regulatory issues are resolved. The authorities are yet to define whether they will accept bitcoin as a currency, commodity, digital token or something else. There is also the dimension of Islamic banking, and whether bitcoin can be part of it. Integrating the currency into the formal banking sector in the UAE has also had its challenges.
Ultimately, however, the biggest hurdle may not be regulatory. Bitcoin scams such as Mt Gox have done little to encourage confidence in the use of bitcoin in the UAE. A conference such as this upcoming one would help in enabling UAE citizens see the value of using bitcoin.
Bitcoin’s Potential in the UAE Remittance Market
In spite of these hurdles, bitcoin investors in the UAE can expect direction on the use of bitcoin before long since interest in the currency is picking up. The UAE has one of the world’s highest concentrations of expatriates. Foreign expatriates make up 91% of the population of the UAE, with Indian citizens forming the largest foreign community in the country.
According to an article in The Economic Times, Indians working in the UAE sent US$ 6.2 billion in remittances in 2011. igot, a Bitcoin exchange in the UAE reported that US$ 70 billion in remittances to India in 2012. Bitcoin is, therefore, playing a huge role in the remittance market in the UAE. In addition, the UAE has a huge number of high net-worth individuals among its citizens who would also be able to participate in the growing number of trading options that are derived from or include bitcoin.
Do you plan to attend the Dubai Bitcoin Conference? Comment below!
Images from Dubai Bitcoin Conference, Irina Schmidt and Shutterstock.