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In what comes as heartening news to the digital currency market in the UAE, the country’s top minister has acknowledged the “major role” that cryptocurrency will play in the economy. 

Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi told an international business news agency on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, that cryptocurrency “will play a major role for UAE trade going forward.”

“The most important thing is that we ensure global governance when it comes to cryptocurrencies and crypto companies.

“We started attracting some of the companies to the country with the aim that we’ll build together the right governance and legal system, which are needed,” he noted.

Separately, in an state news op-ed, Al Zeyoudi writes, “The UAE's keenness to open up to the world and work to stamp out obstacles to trade and investment flows translates into a consistent Emirati approach, as trade has always represented an integral part of the history and heritage of the country, which has always been and still representing a bridge between East and West.”

Meanwhile, Omar Sultan Al Olama, UAE minister of state for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, also talked about cryptocurrency regulation during a WEF session titled “Finding the right balance for crypto.” He confirmed that no crypto exchanges have been licensed in the UAE, emphasizing that the regulatory frameworks for cryptocurrencies in the UAE are “not light.”

“UAE has not issued a single licensed crypto exchange in UAE, neither Binance nor FTX … no one was able to onboard any customers even last week.”

The Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), established in March, also states on its website that it has not granted any operating permits to date. Under UAE law, VARA is responsible for licensing and regulating the crypto sector in the Emirate of Dubai and its free zone territories (excluding DIFC).

A number of cryptocurrency exchanges — including Binance, FTX, Okx, Bitoasis, and Coinmena — have received a provisional license from VARA. The regulator recently clarified that these crypto trading platforms are in stage one of a four-stage approval process.

The “Digital Lifestyle 2022” report published by the TDRA notes that about 11.4% of UAE residents own or have invested in cryptocurrencies.

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