Abu Dhabi to launch virtual assets strategy aligned with economic objectives

The plan aims to create a supportive business environment, develop infrastructure and growth opportunities for investors

Abu Dhabi's virtual assets strategy aims to improve the emirate's competitiveness in blockchain and the virtual asset space. Shutterstock
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Abu Dhabi has announced plans to launch a strategy for blockchain and virtual assets strategy that aligns with the emirate’s overall economic strategy, the Abu Dhabi Blockchain and Virtual Assets Committee said on Thursday.

The committee held its first meeting, led by Mohamed Al Shorafa, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and the Securities and Commodities Authority, to discuss strategy.

“The formation of Abu Dhabi’s Blockchain and Virtual Assets Committee reflects our leadership's farsighted vision and approach, which enabled Abu Dhabi to nurture a supportive business environment, unparalleled connectivity and infrastructure and an entrepreneurial mindset that presents investors with growth opportunities,” Mr Al Shorafa said.

The committee aims to improve Abu Dhabi’s competitiveness in blockchain and the virtual asset space, as well as co-ordinate efforts of entities active in the industry, the Abu Dhabi Media Office said.

It will also liaise with regulators and promote compliance among industry participants with global standards and regulatory requirements, "particularly AML/CFT [anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism] regulations, and supporting exchange of information and best practices".

The strategy-making comprises representatives of major entities and stakeholders in the field, including Dhaher Al Mheiri, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Global Market Registration Authority, Wai Lum Kwok, senior executive director authorisation at ADGM, Mohamed Kaissi, director of strategic projects at ADQ, Faisal Al Hammadi, executive director incubation at ADQ, and Mohamed Al Ramahi, chief executive of Masdar.

It also includes Nikolas Meitanis, adviser at Masdar chief executive office, Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures and growth at Mubadala, Abdulla Al Shamsi, director general of Abu Dhabi Investment Office, and Maryam Buti Al Suwaidi, chief executive of Securities and Commodities Authority.

In its first meeting, the committee emphasised the importance of regulating blockchain and virtual asset activities to comply with AML/CFT, international and local rules and regulations, and building an ecosystem that is safe, sound and transparent, which will help to build trust and attract more companies to Abu Dhabi.

“The committee is bringing together all the relevant stakeholders to build a robust, credible and comprehensive regulatory and business ecosystem that addresses key risks and major governance issues, such as AML/CFT, investor protection, tech governance, and custody risk, to promote blockchain and virtual assets,” Mr Al Shorafa said.

“This will allow us to capitalise on blockchain technology and virtual assets to achieve Abu Dhabi’s aspirations, and the priority areas for this will be growth clusters including AgriTech, FinTech, healthcare and biopharma, energy, tourism and ICT as we aim to foster businesses in these sectors to expand and accelerate.”

The UAE government has taken concrete steps to establish a strong digital economy and make use of the advantages provided by digital transformation.

The Emirates has been in the forefront of recognising the need for a regulatory framework for the development of blockchain and virtual assets.

In March, Dubai adopted the first law of its kind in the country that regulates virtual assets and set up the Dubai Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority to regulate the sector throughout the emirate, including special development zones and free zones, excluding the Dubai International Financial Centre.

In 2018, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the regulator of Abu Dhabi Global Market, launched a comprehensive virtual asset framework for the trade of virtual assets by businesses, including multilateral trading facilities, custodians and brokers.

These regulations have been continuously refined to mitigate risks and make the ADGM an attractive space for home-grown, regional and international companies.

Updated: August 25, 2022, 9:57 AM
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