Ras Al Khaimah has issued a law to establish the “world’s first” free zone dedicated to digital and virtual asset companies as part of efforts to support the emirate's diversification strategy and attract new businesses.
RAK Digital Assets Oasis has been set up under Law No 2 of 2023 issued by the emirate's Ruler Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi.
It will serve as an independent governmental authority affiliated with the newly created Department of the Future, state news agency Wam reported on Monday.
It will have financial, administrative and legislative independence, “allowing it to function as a purpose-built, innovation-enabling free zone in the virtual assets sector”, the report said.
Sheikh Saud also announced Law No 1 of 2023, which outlines the establishment of the Department of the Future to drive the “emirate's economic development in the digital age”.
The laws aim to bolster economic growth and diversification in Ras Al Khaimah, promote its status as a centre for innovation and enhance its competitiveness as an economic and global destination for business, Wam said.
“Ras Al Khaimah has been playing a leading role in national efforts to strengthen the UAE’s diversified, sustainable economy. RAK Digital Assets Oasis will be a key economic growth engine for Ras Al Khaimah and the wider region,” Sheikh Saud said.
“With the nation’s focus on digitalisation and encouraging enterprises of the future, RAK Digital Assets Oasis will serve as the gateway for global digital and virtual assets companies to establish their operations and grow their business.
“Our commitment is to provide an inspiring, innovation-centric environment that helps realise bright ideas that have transformational impact on the world.”
The UAE has been enacting policy reforms aimed at attracting more entrepreneurs and businesses to the country as it seeks to develop the future economy, with a focus on digitalisation.
Regulatory agencies in the country have been adopting laws to streamline and supervise the digital asset industry.
In March last year, the Dubai Virtual Asset Regulation Law was adopted to provide an advanced legal framework to protect investors and provide international standards for the governance of the virtual asset industry.
The emirate also established the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority as an independent body to regulate the sector throughout the city, including special development zones and free zones, but excluding the Dubai International Financial Centre.
Meanwhile, in September, Abu Dhabi's Financial Services Regulatory Authority, which regulates the Abu Dhabi Global Market, published guiding principles on its approach to virtual asset regulation and supervision to outline its expectations for the asset class and service providers in the sector.
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RAK Digital Assets Oasis, plans for which were first announced last month, will receive applications from the second quarter of 2023.
It will focus exclusively on digital and virtual asset companies operating in new and emerging sectors, such as the metaverse, blockchain, utility tokens, virtual asset wallets, non-fungible tokens, decentralised autonomous organisations, decentralised applications and other Web3-related businesses, Wam said.
It will support companies with adoption frameworks, advisory and professional services, hybrid workspaces, accelerators and incubators, sandboxes and access to funding, officials had previously said.
“The new free zone will further cement Ras Al Khaimah’s reputation as a destination of choice for next-generation business ventures and the economy of the future,” Sheikh Saud said.
“We are focused on promoting entrepreneurship, including the digital and virtual assets sector, which thrives on innovation and speed.
“The new free zone will encourage young talent to implement their powerful ideas for the digital world, as well as drive global digital players to expand their footprint through our free zone, which will add incremental value to the economy by creating new jobs and promoting inward investment.”
Sheikh Mohammed Al Qasimi, chairman of RAK International Corporate Centre (RAK ICC) and managing director of Rakez, as been appointed as the chairman of RAK Digital Assets Oasis.
Sameer Al Ansari, chief executive of RAK ICC, has been named as the free zone's chief executive.