How Dubai competes with Singapore in the Web3 race

Much like Singapore, Dubai is an SME-driven economy – or at least has traditionally been. Both countries, even as smaller markets in their own right, are opening the gates to much larger markets in their respective regions. Both were equally obsessed with quickly adopting new technology.

But the demographics of their population make them very different. Dubai is almost 90 percent migrants, while Singapore has about half of them.

Both compete for inflows of VC capital, bank headquarters and even tech talent in the race to become the best global city in the world. And while there is no clear winner, Dubai has been moving fast in the Web3 world.

Make Dubai a Web3 favorite

In May 2022, Bloomberg reported that former Singapore MP, investor and entrepreneur Calvin Cheng founded an NFT and fan token investment company in Dubai. Through Calvin Cheng Web3 Holdings FZE, he invests in projects integrating crypto into fashion, media and entertainment.

Also Read: RareSkills Help Web3 Engineers Realize Their Potential

At a time when the Singapore government ordered crypto players in the country to stop promoting their services to retail investors, along with other regulations; Dubai announced its new Dubai Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) – for the licensing and regulation of the virtual asset sector in the Emirate of Dubai and its free zone areas (excluding DIFC) and oversees all licensing requirements and applications for permits of virtual asset activities under UAE law.

VARA is designed as the world’s first participatory governance model, where industry innovators and market shapers share responsibility with policymakers to create a more democratic and borderless economy. Cheng also said that a regulator like VARA is well positioned to establish Dubai as the leading global hub for digital assets.

Therefore, even in the midst of crypto winter, Web3 entrepreneurs and enthusiasts are looking for places where they are welcome, supported and offering various benefits to develop applications and better use cases on the blockchain. Gaurav Dubey, blockchain investor and founder of TDefi, said Dubai has the upcoming infrastructure, regulation and most importantly, access to banking for Web3 projects to open a business in Dubai.

Similar to how India’s Web 2 entrepreneurs registered companies like Flipkart, Ola and InMobi in Singapore to facilitate business, India’s Web 3 entrepreneurs are now registering companies in Dubai. Entrepreneurs have cited benefits such as networking opportunities, no barriers to innovation, access to global opportunities and access to resources for shifting base to Dubai to create Web3 startups.

The strength of this move was confirmed by the pioneers of the Web 3.0 economy showcased at Gitex Global in Dubai in October 2022 – like Thumbay Group’s full-fledged virtual hospital in the Metaverse to offer patients a comprehensive healthcare experience; The sandbox is co-developed with UAE brands like Atari to launch gaming experiences etc.

As recent layoffs and scandals dull the Web3 wave, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama, said: “While you are guilty of some counts until proven innocent. In the UAE, you are innocent until proven guilty” to show their confidence in the sector and their desire to move forward.

Attract tech talent

2.5 billion people live within a four-hour flight and two-thirds of the world’s population live within an eight-hour flight of Dubai. This makes it a special place to target consumers and talent.

Also Read: The Future of Recruitment in the Web3 Era

The government is taking a number of steps to support SMEs and the venture capital ecosystem. The government has committed funds ranging from US$100 million to US$270 million for investments in SMEs. Hadi Badri, CEO of Dubai’s Ministry of Economy and Tourism, said Dubai’s growth market intends to allow companies with a relatively recent track record to enter the public markets under certain guidelines and specific requirements.

And at the heart of it all is talent.

Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Economy Minister, said the “fuel” for any economy is talent, while UAE invests in R&D and supports talent development through its focus on science and technology. The ministry creates a business environment that attracts investment, tourism and talent, and stimulates research, development and innovation with incentives such as the golden visa.

Under the program, digital businesses get faster business licensing and easier access to banking and financing. Employees can be offered “golden visas” for a 10-year stay in the UAE, and in some cases the program – which brings together government agencies, free zones and institutions – helps with finding accommodation and admission to schools, the Minister of State for Foreign Trade said. Thani Al Zeyoudi said in an interview.

It allows foreigners to work, live and study in a country with foreign residents without the need for a UAE work sponsor, which may prove handy in the current recession-stricken environment; especially when it doesn’t have to worry about protection from local workers like Singapore.


Photo credit: DTE

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