Dubai’s Real Estate Boom; Embracing the Digital Currency Revolution

Apr 15, 2024

By: Phil Sheridan, CEO at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gulf Properties 


A new phenomenon is emerging in Dubai that is reshaping the city’s real estate sector. Owing to the country’s burgeoning digital currency market, and buoyant real estate sector, a growing number of younger digital currency traders are flocking to the emirate’s shores and converting their digital assets to invest in the city’s property market. This article explores the connection between the trend of currency trading and the thriving real estate market in Dubai among younger investors, underscoring the role played by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in facilitating this modern financial shift.


The Gateway to Digital Currencies

At the heart of this trend is the UAE's progressive stance towards digital currencies. Dubai, a city renowned for its architecture and luxury lifestyle, has become a sanctuary for digital currency traders and investors worldwide. The city's welcoming regulatory environment and the government's forward-thinking policies have fostered a fertile ground for digital asset trading. 

Thanks to the initiatives such as the Dubai Blockchain Strategy and the Emirates Blockchain Strategy, for example, several Dubai banks are now using the blockchain system to enhance security and facilitate digital currency transactions. In 2022, Dubai also established the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), a regulatory body dedicated to overseeing and protecting virtual asset transactions. Government measures like setting up digital currency zones and providing regulations have boosted investor confidence. As a result, many investors are converting their digital assets into physical assets such as property, thanks to the flexibility offered by UAE’s financial eco-system. 


Real Estate, as a Preferred Investment Choice

Why does real estate stand out as an investment option? Dubai’s real estate market offers stability that digital currencies simply can't match. While digital currencies can offer high returns, the risk is also great. That’s not to say that Dubai’s property market does not offer high returns also. Statistics suggest that the volume of transactions in Dubai’s property market grew by 66.3 percent, while their value grew by 72% in 2021, in contrast to 2020, demonstrating the growth of the sector.[1]

If that weren’t enough reason, the fact that property has long proven to be a safe bet for investments during times of high inflation is yet another reason to invest in the city’s property market. According to Euromonitor International, the inflation rate for the UAE in 2022 was 5%. This contrasts with double-digital inflation rates across much of Europe during the same timeframe. Plus, putting money into property is not only about financial safety. For investors, it’s also a way to claim a slice of one of the world’s most attractive cities to live in worldwide, widely known for its safety, cosmopolitan nature, and quality of living.  


Global transactions and real estate deals

One advantage of digital currencies is their ability to streamline transactions. In terms of real estate investments, this means that investors can avoid additional charges usually levied by traditional banks, as well as further losses due to exchange rates. The immediate nature and transparency of transactions adds to the appeal making it easier for younger individuals to invest confidently in Dubai’s real estate market, fueling the city’s growth and financial appeal. 


Looking ahead

Looking ahead it is evident that virtual currencies will play an ongoing and growing role in shaping Dubai’s property landscape. The UAE’s dedication to creating an environment conducive to digital currencies, combined with Dubai’s reputation as a luxurious real estate hub, indicates that this trend is not temporary but rather an integral part of the city’s economic strategy. With digital currencies reshaping transactions, Dubai’s forward-thinking nature adds to the dynamism of the real estate market and ensures its future growth. As such, digital currency traders can rest assured that choosing Dubai’s property market to invest in is a smart decision to protect their future investments. 




Latest Experts Thoughts

How can business mentors boost your startup?


Noha Gad 


Having a mentor in this fast-paced and ever-evolving world of business can be a game-changer. A good business mentor can help entrepreneurs avoid common mistakes early on, solve troublesome problems, offer valuable connections, and secure funding, in addition to providing advice while helping them realize their full potential. 


What is business mentoring?


Business mentoring is a relationship between an entrepreneur and another individual with more entrepreneurial experience who acts as a support network to combat challenges faced by the mentee on their entrepreneurial journey.


The role of a business mentor


A business mentor assists and offers direction to mentees, helping them run and grow their businesses and encouraging them to acquire the skills they need to be successful.


They usually offer guidance for small business owners and entrepreneurs with tips and tricks they've gathered through their experience.

Business mentors can also teach mentees anything from budgeting tactics to daily operations, whether they’re in the early stages or building a nonprofit.


These mentors are eager to pass on their learnings and develop a trusted professional relationship with another entrepreneur. Hence, we can describe business mentoring as a win-win relationship; mentors can learn new perspectives and tactics from their mentees while exchanging their own knowledge and experience.


Types of Business Mentors


There are several forms of business mentors, each offering unique perspectives and expertise tailored to different stages and aspects of a business journey. Here are some types of business mentors:


  • Startup mentors: They focus on early-stage businesses and offer guidance on launching and scaling new ventures. They help with business planning, fundraising, market entry strategies, and building a sustainable business model.
  • Peer mentors: They are colleagues or fellow entrepreneurs at a similar career stage who provide support, accountability, and a sounding board for ideas, often leading to collaborative problem-solving.
  • Executive mentors: they are typically seasoned executives or retired leaders. Executive mentors assist with high-level strategic decision-making, leadership development, and organizational management.
  • Financial mentors: they specialize in financial management, including budgeting, financial planning, investment strategies, and navigating financial crises.

How to find a business mentor?


Finding the right mentor is crucial for your professional growth and business success. Thus, you have to determine what areas you need help with and clarify your goals to find a mentor with the right expertise. You can find your perfect business mentor through different ways:


  1. Friends, family and colleagues.
  2. Networking events.
  3. Joining professional organizations.
  4. Utilizing online platforms, notably LinkedIn.
  5. Engaging in community programs.
  6. Seeking out alumni networks.
  7. Approach potential mentors directly.





Open banking is the future of fintech

Kholoud Hussein 


What is Open Banking?


Open Banking refers to the use of open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow third-party financial service providers to access financial institutions' customer data with the customer's permission. This enables customers to securely share their financial data with other companies and use a wider range of financial products and services than they would be able to access through a single financial institution. 


This means that customers can share their financial information with other service providers, such as budgeting apps, investment services, or lenders. The potential benefits of open banking are significant, and improving customer experience is one of the most promising ones.


Open Banking UX (user experience) is important because it can help to increase competition in the financial industry, which can lead to better, innovative and more friendly financial products and services for consumers. 


Additionally, Open Banking UX can make it easier for consumers to manage their money and compare different financial products and services, which can help them to make more informed financial decisions. Also, Open Banking can help to increase the security of financial transactions by allowing customers to grant and revoke access to their data on a per-application basis. This can help to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive financial information.


Open Banking's main goal is to ensure maximum transparency and security, encouraging competition in the financial industry. As a result, the quality of financial services will improve, and fees will decrease. Consumers’ financial data will be released from the bank's monopoly and will finally become the property of the customers who will have open access to it at will.


Open Banking Highways Bring Financial Freedom to Customers: 


A more connected and accessible financial ecosystem will allow customers to travel smoothly and safely to their financial goals while enjoying a wide range of services and options along the way:


  1. Faster and more convenient journeys 
  2. More choices and flexibility 
  3. Better safety and security 
  4. Personalized route 
  5. Easy lane switching
  6. Road transparency and control 
  7. Highway infrastructure growth 


How could the power of compounding affect your startup?

Kholoud Hussein 


We love the idea of the overnight success story, the business that explodes from nowhere. But the truth is, those are outliers. The real power lies in the Compound Effect. Think of it like this: Every little bit of effort you put in is a deposit in your success bank account. It might not seem like much now, but with consistency, it'll start accruing serious interest.


So, how do you make the compound effect your superpower?


  1. Start with baby steps: Don't try to boil the ocean on day one. It could be ten minutes a day working on your pitch or learning a new marketing tool. The key here is that it's something you can do every single day.
  2. This is a marathon: Once those small habits stick, start pushing yourself. That ten-minute practice session becomes thirty. One new networking contact a week becomes two.
  3. Don’t fly blind: Analyze, adjust, repeat. Look at what works and what doesn't, and course-correct when you need to. The path won't always be straight - being adaptable is key.

The compound effect is not just about relentless effort, it's about strategic consistency.

Study the 80/20 rule; it tells us that 80% of your gains likely come from 20% of your actions.  Identify those high-leverage activities for your startup - whether it is lead generation, perfecting your core product, or building strategic partnerships. Once you know these critical few, they become the non-negotiable blocks in your routine where you invest that small, but powerful daily effort.

One lesser-known aspect of the Compound Effect is its psychological impact on entrepreneurs. By consistently focusing on the small progress you make, you're not just building your business, you're also reinforcing a growth mindset. Each tiny win becomes a mental anchor, a reminder that you're capable of achieving your goals. This subtle shift in perspective can be transformative, especially during the inevitable rough patches. When you face setbacks, you'll be armed with the knowledge that you've overcome challenges before, one small step at a time.

ABHI CEO: ABHI’s objectives contribute to Saudi Vision 2030

Kholoud Hussein 


Fintech solutions companies mainly focus on creating future financial services and helping financial players build truly digital products, with faster experiments and in connection to the fintech ecosystem.


ABHI comes at the forefront of the embedded finance revolution providing a comprehensive suite of solutions including Earned Wage Access, Payroll Solutions, and SME Financing. The fintech company has established partnerships with over 450 companies driving economic growth and creating lasting social impact.


In this regard, Sharikat Mubasher interviewed Omair Ansari, CEO and Co-founder of ABHI, to talk about the company’s services, 2024 goals, objectives, and expansion plan across the GCC. 


What are the key services provided by ABHI in the Saudi market? And what makes it different compared to its peers in the market? 


Over the last decade, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has significantly advanced in developing fintech into a flourishing industry marked by rapid growth and diversifying services.


In the Saudi market, we focus on providing two key services: Earned Wage Access and SME working capital financing. Our USP is that we settle everything from salary to payments instantly. We bridge the gaps between our users and their earned income. Our Earned Wage Access solution allows workers to access their earned wages anytime, without waiting for payday. SME working capital financing is an instant credit solution for businesses with low or no access to formal credit, looking to solve their cash flow crunches. 


We differentiate ourselves from our market peers by focusing on instant settlement, advanced technological integration, and a customer-centric approach. All this combined with strategic partnerships and a deep understanding of local insights from Alreadah sets us apart in the Saudi fintech market.


What are the company’s main goals for 2024? 


In 2024, we aim to consolidate our presence in the markets we serve while expanding into new territories, particularly focusing on enhancing our footprint in the MENA region. This expansion includes a strategic focus on penetrating the Saudi market, where we are actively seeking strategic partnerships with local banks, financial institutions, and employers.


We are continuously working on enhancing our platform to provide a seamless user experience and additional features that cater to the specific needs and preferences of the region. This may include incorporating local payment methods and language.

We are excited about the potential opportunities in this market and are committed to making embedded finance more accessible and beneficial for businesses and employees across different countries.


Who are ABHI’s top clients in the meantime? And who are your targeted clients in the future? 


Currently, ABHI is serving a client base of over 1,000 esteemed companies, including industry giants like Unilever, EdenRed, Baskin Robbins, Martin Dow and more. These partnerships strengthen ABHI's reputation as a trusted provider of innovative financial solutions, with a track record of delivering impactful services to a diverse range of clients across various sectors.


Looking ahead, we are excited to expand our client base further by targeting a broad spectrum of businesses, ranging from multinational corporations (MNCs) to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Our goal is to make credit accessible for all, further solidifying our commitment to innovation and customer-centric solutions.


Being based in Saudi Arabia, what is the company’s expansion plan over the coming period? 


We have recently expanded into Saudi Arabia, marking our entry into the GCC region. We actively seek partnerships with local banks, financial institutions, and employers across the GCC to leverage their expertise, local networks, and resources, facilitating faster regional growth.


Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed a growing preference for digital payments over cash. As several cities in KSA have emerged as fintech hubs, we plan to expand our geographic reach within KSA, targeting key cities with a growing demand for fintech solutions.


Additionally, we aspire to leverage the Saudi market to explore opportunities for expansion into neighboring regions. This includes collaborations that enable us to introduce our innovative fintech solutions to new markets while also contributing to the economic development of those regions.

We are committed to making credit more accessible and beneficial for businesses and employees across various countries. To enhance our platforms, we are focusing on providing a seamless user experience by incorporating region-specific features such as local payment methods and language localization.


What are the challenges facing fintech companies operating in Saudi Arabia? And what are the company’s steps to get over these challenges? 


As we haven’t started fully operating in the country as of yet, we cannot comment on the challenges, but what I can say is that the country has been super welcoming and Alraedah has been super supportive for us to bring our tech to launch here.


How do the company’s objectives align with the kingdom’s Vision 2030? 


Our services, such as Earned Wage Access and SME working capital financing, are instrumental in enabling individuals and businesses, particularly those in underserved communities, to fully participate in the financial system. By facilitating greater economic participation and inclusion, we contribute to KSA Vision 2030's overarching goals for a prosperous and inclusive society.


Through our innovative financial solutions, we are excited to empower Saudi citizens, strengthen the private sector, and cultivate a more vibrant, thriving economy. For example, our Earned Wage Access service provides employees with access to their earned wages before the traditional payday, helping to alleviate financial stress. Similarly, our SME working capital financing solution enables businesses to access working capital quickly and grow and expand their operations.


By addressing key financial challenges and promoting accessibility to financial services, we are actively supporting Vision 2030's objectives for economic diversification, financial inclusion, and technological advancement.


Tell us about the company’s latest deal with Alraedah. And how does it boost ABHI’s presence in the Saudi market? 


We have recently partnered with Alraedah Digital Solutions to expand our operations in the Saudi market. This collaboration provides us with regulatory cover, local expertise and $200 million funding which will be deployed over three years.


By utilizing Alraedah's local expertise and market knowledge alongside our innovative financial solutions, we are well-equipped to make a meaningful impact on Saudi Arabia's financial landscape.


Also, the partnership opens new avenues of growth for us in the Saudi market, providing opportunities for us to tap into emerging sectors. As we continue to deepen our presence, we're committed to delivering solutions that drive innovation and contribute positively to the region's financial sector.


How about the recent deal signed with Mastercard? How does it support the company’s expansion plan? 


Our collaboration with Mastercard supports ABHI's expansion plan by enhancing our product offerings and extending our market reach. By introducing Mastercard-powered Salary Advance Cards, we can attract a wider customer base and provide added value to our users.


Integrating Mastercard's advanced technology and extensive global payments network strengthens ABHI's position in the fintech sector, allowing us to offer secure and efficient financial solutions to our users for cross-border payments. The global acceptance of Mastercard ensures that our users can make seamless local and international transactions, increasing the accessibility of both domestic and international online payments for our Earned Wage Access (EWA) users.

How does a Saudi investor see the future of startups and fast-growing sectors in Saudi Arabia?

The startup ecosystem in Saudi Arabia saw significant growth within the past period, with startups receiving different types of funding.

In this regard, Sharikat Mubasher held an interview with Hussein Attar, CEO of Tech Invest Com and a tech entrepreneur, to share insights about the performance of startups in Saudi Arabia and discuss their future.

According to Attar, the fintech, logistics, and proptech sectors in the Kingdom are witnessing significant growth due to the ongoing focus on technology and innovation as well as the government’s constant support for startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

The CEO stated that startups gaining unicorn status, such as Tamara and Tabby, pave the way for other Saudi startups to provide innovative products and services and plan for listing on the Saudi parallel market Nomu.


First, how do you see Saudi startups’ performance during the past period?

The performance of Saudi startups was varied and different within the past period. Some startups, mostly at the growth stage, successfully attracted investments, achieved momentous growth, and started earning profits, while other startups struggled to keep up with market and management challenges.


What are your expectations for investments and funding rounds for Saudi firms in 2024?

I expect Saudi firms to see an increase in investments and funding rounds due to the burgeoning focus on technology and innovation across various sectors, in addition to the government’s constant support for the private sector, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and startups.


Which sector attracts financiers in the entrepreneurship and private sector the most?

I believe it is fintech. This sector will significantly attract financiers, backed by the government’s regulations that enabled many startups to tap into such a promising sector. Also, logistics and proptech sectors are expected to attract financiers.


How do you see the future of mergers and acquisitions in the Saudi market and the Arab world in general?

Very promising. Mergers and acquisitions contribute to enhancing innovation, developing firms, and raising their competitiveness; however, we still need more experts in such processes to create customized practices for firms to comply with.


Can Saudi startups avoid the slowdown that global startups have encountered?

Definitely. Saudi startups can avoid the slowdown that global startups have encountered by focusing on financial sustainability and leveraging the support provided through governmental programs such as the National Technology Development Program (NTDB). 


Do Saudi startups have the potential to gain unicorn status similar to Tamara and Tabby?

Yes, Saudi startups have the potential to gain unicorn status by providing attractive and innovative products and services to achieve rapid growth and add value, in addition to listing on the Saudi parallel market Nomu.


Translation: Noha Gad