Dubai set to serve as regional digital financial inclusion hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia

Report launched by Dubai International Financial Centre in partnership with Oliver Wyman

United Arab Emirates - The UAE is ideally positioned to serve as the ‘beating heart’ of a regional innovation hub; according to a new report published by Oliver Wyman in collaboration with Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading international financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. Titled “The Case for an Innovation Hub to Facilitate MEASA Financial Inclusion”, the report reveals how Dubai is strategically positioned to facilitate development of digitally enabled financial solutions for the region.

There has been a significant push for the advancement of financial inclusion globally with 1.7 billion of the world’s global working population still lacking access to formal financial services. Nearly 50 percent of all financially excluded and underserved individuals are currently situated in the MEASA region. An average of 48 percent of the working adult population owns a financial account compared to a global average of 69 percent, and conditions across MEASA continue to constrain access to both traditional and digital financial services for the currently financially excluded population.

“In a financially inclusive environment, individuals and businesses can conveniently access a variety of financial services at low cost and are offered products that are tailored to their specific needs. For a significant share of the population across MEASA this is currently not possible. While many existing efforts are underway across the region, these are often heavily fragmented and make a large-scale advancement challenging.” said Greg Rung, Partner, Financial Services.

“There is an urgent need for reforms to overcome this disparity. This however requires the collaboration of a broad array of stakeholders from across the financial, technology and government sectors. Given their rapid evolution, digital technologies are a critical catalyst in achieving financial inclusion. The proposed hub will support centralisation of efforts and identify opportunities for scalable solutions,” he added.

Dubai combines a unique set of features that ideally position it to become the centre of the innovation hub. It is already recognised as a global and regional economic and financial hub with strong financial expertise. In addition, Dubai’s commitment to financial innovation is embedded in its financial services and national visions, such as Smart Dubai and Dubai Plan 2021.

Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer at the DIFC Authority, said: “With an approximate population of 3 billion, the MEASA region sits on a large pool of opportunities that are still untapped for the lack of financial access. Delivering financial services to more people across the region has become a necessity that Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, are perfectly positioned to contribute to. The world-class infrastructure and innovation ecosystem that Dubai has built, and continues to enhance, provide an enabling environment for technology and disruptive businesses to create more inclusive solutions and services for the entire region.”

He added:At DIFC, financial inclusion remains a key focus for us in our ongoing efforts to shape the future of finance in MEASA. We have already made important strides towards nurturing an integrated ecosystem that can unlock the potential of emerging trends such as FinTech and InsurTech in the region. We believe that this will not only transform the way the financial services industry operates, but will also create a positive wave of social impact and economic gains across the MEASA countries. This is why we remain focused on continuing our efforts to foster financial innovation in the region and lead the necessary evolution for greater financial inclusion for its people.”

DIFC is the leading financial centre and FinTech hub in the MEASA region, with over 1,853 active registered companies and a Fintech community of over 50 firms and numerous FinTech-related clients. DIFC’s FinTech ecosystem comprises FinTech Hive at DIFC, the region’s first accelerator programme, as well as an innovation testing license, a special operating license, an interactive and collaborative workspace, along with access to the largest financial community in the region.

The full link to the report can be found here.

About Dubai International Financial Centre

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is one of the world’s top ten financial centres, and the leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.  The Centre provides a world-class platform connecting the region’s markets with the economies of Europe, Asia and the Americas and facilitates growth in South-South trade and investment. An onshore, international financial centre, DIFC offers a stable, mature and secure base for financial institutions to develop their wholesale businesses.

The Centre offers all the elements found in the world’s most successful financial industry ecosystems, including an independent regulator and judicial system with a common-law framework, a global financial exchange, inspiring architecture, powerful, enabling support services and a vibrant business community. The infrastructure within the district features ultra-modern office space, retail outlets, cafes and restaurants, art galleries, residential apartments, public green areas and hotels.

Located midway between the global financial centres of New York, London in the West and Singapore, Hong Kong in the East, DIFC (GMT +4) fills a vital time-zone gap with a workday that bridges the market and business hours of financial centres in both Asia and North America.

In 2015, DIFC launched its 2024 growth strategy, a blueprint for the next decade of growth of the financial hub. This strategy aims to stimulate trade and investment flows along the South-South economic corridor encompassing the Middle East, Africa, Southern Asia and Latin America.

Currently, 1,853 active registered companies operate from the Centre, with a combined workforce of 22,338 professionals.

DIFC continues to pursue expansion into new services and sectors within the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region, an area comprising over 72 countries with an approximate population of 3 billion and nominal GDP of US$7.4 trillion.

For further information, please visit our website:, or follow us on Twitter @DIFC.

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 50+ cities across nearly 30 countries, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm has more than 4,700 professionals around the world who help clients optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC]. For more information, visit Follow Oliver Wyman on Twitter @OliverWyman.