Journey into the Saudi FinTech & Blockchain ecosystem with global thought leader Taha Sajid

Created amidst the 2008’s crisis, Blockchain was designed to be an antidote to the traditional financial system’s shortcomings. Decentralized and independent of governments, it gained global prominence as a borderless, fair payment method. Now that our economy is on its knees, it is Blockchain’s chance to prove if it is truly the technology of the future. Paweł Sobotkowski - FinTech & Financial Services Consultant interviewed Taha Sajid, Chief Blockchain Consultant with Limar Global and Technical Director in Huawei, to learn more about Blockchain’s potential future and the FinTech ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, where he is based.
Taha Sajid

Taha is an expert in Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Fintech, and 5G solutions, and Thinkers 360 ranked him as one of TOP 10 Global Thought leaders in Consulting, Mentoring and Entrepreneurship expertise, so we are delighted to share his insight into the current Blockchain’s landscape and its existing challenges and emerging possibilities. Will our post-pandemic world embrace Blockchain with greater enthusiasm? Will Bitcoin’s importance skyrocket despite the emergence of national digital currencies? Is Saudi Arabia a business-friendly country? Let us see dive into the topic with Taha!

How to expedite financial inclusion drives in the region?

Its needs setting up the right culture and vision upfront to embrace agility. From setting up a task force with KPIs and metrics, making a regulatory friendly environment in terms of sandboxes for solution experimentation, onboarding industry experts to review, conducting events/seminars for showcasing top-notch solutions, subsidizing local entrepreneurs to experiment and be creative, the IT/Telco players for establishing Infra, recruiting young talents, all this needs massive collaboration, hand in hand.

Everybody needs to play their part, The regulatory role is important as they have the data, they need to call the final shorts for licensing but communicating all this to task forces are important in order to reach to the vendors and masses. On the other hand, the solution providers need to understand the market, the real market problems, in order to give the product which can be accepted and adopted, don’t try to re-invent the wheel and always focus on giving value addition to the market, how to make life easy for the people. For this, foreign players can make partnerships with local players in order to have better market insights, all this I have witnessed in Saudi Arabia, which I feel is a great Hub for entrepreneurs. With National transformation plan initiatives aligned with vision 2030, support of SAMA and Govt subsidiary bodies like FinTech Saudi, financial inclusions drives are getting momentum with good opportunities for investors and solution providers to seek.

What to expect post-pandemic, current challenges, and opportunities for VC, the market in general?

It is a good opportunity for business players who are sitting on cash to expand their portfolios, take advantage of devalued assets. For the VCs, you need to more careful about which industry to choose, like the Fintech and Blockchain startups that are having solid and easy to use products for e-commerce, donations/charity, online delivery, healthcare, merchants can be looked upon but before choosing to invest, check the product roadmap, targeted market segment, the initial response from the customer and the team itself.

For the bigger enterprises, you need to focus and retain your revenue generation employees. Rather than laying off, be more empathetic, consider measures like unpaid vacations for all, closing office facilities to carry on remote work, outsourcing some work hence cutting off unnecessary cost aka OPEX. Remember this is the time for setting an example for others, play your part, caring about people. The market can be ‘Too big to Fail’

How do you see the adoption of Blockchain in the light of events?

For me, this pandemic has ignited the adoption of Blockchain. There were several shortcomings we experienced in terms of payments and settlements from the central bank to the people, that can be solved if we have an effective mechanism of CBDCs with households having the account with Central bank, then there were issues of loan application piling up with the banks for the small and medium-sized business owners, that can be automated using smart contracts, APIs/oracles with strong Regtec measures to avoid fraud. We have also seen issues in the traceability of healthcare equipment, infected patients, inadequate supply chain flows, inaccurate data. So all these problems have shown us how much less equipped we are, gives a solid case towards digital transformation, gearing up for Blockchain use cases.

With CBDCs coming up, how do you see the impact on bitcoin Blockchain?

I will see the increase in demand for Bitcoin. We have already seen the advent of Digital dollar by the US, China and other countries expediting their digital currency projects as the usage of paper money have decreased significantly, also the traditional DNS/RTGS settlement mechanism has shortcomings, etc. However, with CBDCs, there will be 24/7 surveillance, sensor ship, monetary policy influence and other factors which are the things BITCOIN leverage upon, hence more demand and increase in price.

When our systems’ architecture is shaking, alternative solutions, such as Blockchain, may have more chances of gaining global prominence. According to Taha, the pandemic has only helped Blockchain’s case, igniting its wider adoption. When traditional financial systems fail, the need for digital transformation becomes evident. Despite the upcoming emergence of national digital currencies, our expert thinks Bitcoin’s future will be bright, as it offers everything they never will: freedom from political turmoil, constant surveillance, and inflation. On the example of Saudi FinTech ecosystem, Taha explains the importance of collaborative work and setting up the “right culture and vision upfront to embrace agility” to create the thriving FinTech hubs. Perhaps Blockchain’ future is our own DYI project, and if our global village embraces teamwork, it will turn into reality sooner than we expect.

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