In response to a query at the MIT Innovation Forum in the country’s capital city Manama on Wednesday, Rumaihi said that Bahrain was “open to Bitcoin,” adding that a regulatory sandbox was the proper way for the island country to allow experimentation in a controlled environment.
The Bahrain Central Bank recently put in place a regulatory sandbox. Four companies applied so far, and two had already received approval.
Rumaihi said that a Bitcoin company from Saudi Arabia was looking to establish a Bitcoin exchange in Bahrain. “We are working with the Central Bank of Bahrain on this,” he said, adding:
“I hate to be a regulator today. Because we are obliged to protect the consumers and customers. There is fear about funding and anti-money laundering. We are going to be looking through the Regulatory Sandbox allowing small-scale experimentation.”
Bahrain wants to become a pioneer in the burgeoning fintech space and according to Rumaihi, national adoption of blockchain technology will be a key enabler of this.
“The ability for blockchain to be adopted at country level is a huge opportunity for Bahrain to move into the spotlight as a pioneer in this space,” he said at the GCC Financial Forum in Manama earlier this year. “Blockchain will unlock so many different possibilities for business in the way email and Internet did years ago.”
Last month, Bahrain-based Arab Banking Corporation, also known as Bank ABC, joined the R3 distributed ledger consortium, becoming the first bank in the Middle East and North Africa region to join the group.
Sael Al Waary, deputy group CEO at Bank ABC, said the collaboration will allow the bank to develop innovative financial products for its clientele and “propel us further to achieve our strategic goals.”
Bank ABC’s group head of information technology Stuart Rennie, added “access to the wealth of knowledge and resources available through the R3 consortium will strengthen Bank ABC to leverage our investment in technology and support the delivery of our digital strategy.”
According to Khalid Al Rumaihi, the chief executive of the Economic Development Board of Bahrain, the Bahrain’s finance ministry is keen on adopting digital currencies and had even suggested that Bahrain could issue “bonds on a digital currency.”