Coinbase, a US cryptocurrency exchange, has been invited by the Mubadala-backed Hub17, a tech-based startup ecosystem, to establish an international hub in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This was based on what Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures of Mubadala Capital, tweeted at the start of this week.
This was not unknown to the experts in the field. They had already observed and commented on the future of a Coinbase hub in UAE and a deal with Hub17. Back on May 8, Brian Armstrong, chief executive officer of Coinbase, said that the UAE has the potential to be utilised as a hub for the Asia, Middle East, and North Africa regions.
Rudy Shoushany, founder and CEO of DxTalks, a digital transformation talk show, said that the gathering of Coinbase’s activity in UAE was a show of capability to attract Hub17’s investment. The recent tweet by the CEO has cleared all talks and confirmed a deal between the two parties.
Course of Action
Mubadala is the second largest sovereign wealth fund in Abu Dhabi, making it a vehicle for UAE’s economic diversification. Hence, the luring crypto industry pushed Ajami to invite Coinbase to Hub17 and Abu Dhabi, as per the CEO’s tweet.
Hub71’s statement to media houses was that Coinbase had visited their headquarters in Abu Dhabi during their UAE tour last week and had meetings with the agenda of exploring the digital assets industry in their respective regions. Hub71 stayed silent on whether Coinbase will set up an Office in partnership with them in Abu Dhabi.
On May 7, Coinbase announced in a blog post that an executive team led by Armstrong would visit local partners, regulators, and peers. This post also mentioned that they had scheduled meetings with the Abu Dhabi Global Market and Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) on the agenda of setting up a base in the UAE.
Armstrong said at the Dubai Fintech Summit held on May 8-9 that the Middle Eastern region has the potential to cater for the technology to develop. He disclosed that Coinbase had made investments in regional crypto firms like Rain, a cryptocurrency brokerage company based out of Bahrain.
Coinbase has also shown interest in the UAE as it is the second-highest remittance sender and the world’s sixth-largest cross-border wealth management centre. The UAE and Saudi Arabia hold more than 70 percent of the wealth of the nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Importance of the deal
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had a deadlock with Coinbase earlier this month. The crypto company later stated that crypto firms are looking for a more supportive regulatory framework and searching for other grounds to set up their hubs.
The restrictive approach by the US of regulating by force has disappointed many crypto firms, hindering the growth of the industry development. Crypto firms are opting to build offshore havens as the United States and Britain have unclear rules and regulations.
Shoushany pointed out that firms operating out of the US constantly fear being harassed by government officials under the blurred rules that enable the government carte blanche to operate. He added that Gary Gensler, the head of SEC, has the power to send a notice for violation of a rule that doesn’t-doesn’t even exist and could lead to the company shutting down.
The UAE has emerged as a saviour by launching VARA, a regulatory authority in alignment with the Dubai Metaverse Strategy. This would place UAE at the forefront of budding Web3 technology.
Hub71 launched a $2 billion fund this February to facilitate the technological development of the decentralised Web3 ecosystems, including blockchain and metaverse. This would fuel Web3 startups with supportive regulatory frameworks, access to government and investment partners, and a $500 million investment fund from Binance Lab. Coinbase is anticipated to target this $2 billion investment or even join the fund in its move to shift to the UAE. But, there has been no commentary about any such developments from the company in the public.
Shoushany pointed out that Abu Dhabi has not yet started issuing licences to crypto firms. It is looking at a more inclusive model to engage the companies in discussions about which rules and regulations exist.