Dubai and Abu Dhabi, its sister hub, were rated highest in the regulatory structure. The most heavily-weighted criterion was 35% of the overall score. The UAE’s lowest-quintile score on crypto adoption masked the effect, as it indicates that the UAE population is less crypto-savvy than the residents of these two hubs. Dubai’s high scores in the opportunities category helped it to remain in the top five despite its low score in the drivers category. This category measured the number of crypto events, businesses and jobs per capita. In our sample, the emirate had also scored second highest in terms of quality of life. Quality of life, which is part of the enablers group, was weighted at 15%.

To learn more about the criteria we used and how they were weighted, please visit: Our Methodology for Ranking CoinDesk’s Crypto Hubs in 2023.

(Ian Suarez/CoinDesk)

Dubai is the largest city of the United Arab Emirates. Binance’s Changpeng Zhao and He Yi, as well as Coinbase’s Brian Armstong have moved there. Wazirx is one of India’s biggest exchanges and it will be moving there. Dubai’s masterplan to join New York, London, and Hong Kong as the world’s top financial centers is working.

Dubai has grown as a hub of business and financial services for the Middle East in the past few decades, thanks to its embrace of innovation. This is particularly evident in the way it approached crypto with intention and deliberation.

Saqr Ereiqat was then the head of IBM’s public sector consultancy in Dubai. He said that the local government had engaged IBM to provide advice on new technologies. He explained how the conversation kept coming back to blockchain. This eventually led to the city-state announcing in 2016 that they were discussing a legal framework. Dubai created the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority in March 2022. It was the first independent crypto regulator.

The UAE is a viable option for the crypto industry, as the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a slew lawsuits in response to its demands for clear regulations. Bader Al Kaalooti is the executive director at Binance MENA. He told CoinDesk that the U.S. current position in the [crypto] sector was unfortunate. But that doesn’t mean the rest of world is closed to crypto. Dubai and other Asian markets have opened up the door.”

Al Kalooti, the Director of Dubai Statistics Center explained that by 2022, more than 3.2 million people in the Emirate will be non-Emiratis. This makes the Emirate a melting pot, he said. Due to the diverse nature of the population in Dubai, blockchain technology can be used in a variety of ways. For example, it could facilitate remittances from those who work in Dubai, sending money back home, or even allowing people to flee unstable economies.

Use cases that are expansive

Al Kalooti explained that what makes Dubai and United Arab Emirates unique in the cryptosphere is “that it offers a home to all these types of use-cases.” Al Kalooti said that the United Arab Emirates and Dubai are unique as crypto hubs because they “offer a home for all those types of use cases.”

Dubai, located near Northern Africa, Asia, and Europe, is not only a destination for beach lovers, but it also encourages global networking. GITEX, a major tech conference that features blockchain and Web3 among its 18 main focus areas is held in Dubai. According to local reports, the event had over 170,000 attendees by 2022. Binance Blockchain Week, Dubai Fintech Week and other crypto-related events are held in Dubai.

Ereiqat, who left IBM in 2010, co-founded the Dubai-based Crypto Oasis. The company develops blockchain ecosystems that are modeled after Crypto Valley, the Swiss Blockchain Valley, located in Zug. CoinDesk awarded the No. 1 spot to Crypto Hubs in 2023. Ereiqat stated that for those who are looking to create a team in Dubai “the UAE is unique because of the talent […] you can access within three hours.”

Jeanhee Kim is the editor.