Saudi Arabia Poised for a Cautious Leap into Web3: Gaming, Innovation, and BRICS Influence

Driven by its ambitious Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is strategically entering the Web3 space. This move extends beyond domestic ambitions, potentially impacting its role within the BRICS economic bloc. Here’s a breakdown of this evolving narrative.

A Measured Approach to Web3 Adoption:

Saudi Arabia isn’t rushing into Web3. Ongoing discussions between Saudi officials and major cryptocurrency exchanges highlight their commitment to exploring crypto adoption within a well-defined regulatory framework. This balance between innovation and financial stability is a hallmark of their Web3 strategy.

Saudi Arabia: A Gaming Powerhouse in the Making?

The upcoming Esports World Cup showcases Saudi Arabia’s dedication to fostering a thriving gaming scene. This focus aligns perfectly with Web3’s potential for in-game ownership and innovative gameplay experiences. The EWC’s success could position Saudi Arabia as a leader in the rapidly growing Web3 gaming sector.

Learning from Regional Leaders:

While not directly competing with regional leaders like the UAE and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia can learn valuable lessons from their experiences navigating the Web3 landscape. Studying their successes and challenges can help them implement more effective strategies.

Saudi Arabia’s Web3 Leap: Building a Robust Ecosystem

The increasing number of Saudi-based NFT projects exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s Web3 leap. This growing interest in exploring the potential of non-fungible tokens fosters a budding NFT ecosystem that could unlock new avenues for creators and collectors. Examples include the NFT collection featuring iconic landmarks like Mekkah and Madina available on OpenSea.

Furthermore, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) increased investment in South Korea’s prominent Blockchain and NFT-enabled gaming company, NCSoft Corp, underlines Saudi Arabia’s Web3 leap. This strategic move strengthens the kingdom’s position within the global Web3 landscape.

Saudi Arabia’s Web3 Leap: Fostering Collaboration and Innovation

Institutions like King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) are actively collaborating with industry leaders to propel Saudi Arabia’s Web3 leap forward. KACST, in partnership with Animoca Brands’ technology hub The Garage, plans to establish a physical Web3 hub in Riyadh. This hub aims to enhance research and development efforts within the fields of Web3, blockchain, gaming, and AI. It will also provide bespoke educational programs, fostering a skilled workforce within the kingdom. These initiatives highlight Saudi Arabia’s commitment to building a robust Web3 ecosystem that caters to creators, businesses, and researchers alike, solidifying its position as a key player in the global Web3 arena.

Neom and Animoca Brands Forge Strategic Partnership:

Further exemplifying Saudi Arabia’s commitment to building a robust Web3 ecosystem is the recent strategic partnership memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NEOM Company, a key player in realizing the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, and Animoca Brands Corporation Limited, a prominent leader in digital property rights within the open metaverse. This partnership is bolstered by a US$50 million investment proposal from the NEOM Investment Fund into Animoca Brands.

A Hub for Web3 Innovation:

This collaboration signifies a commitment to building world-class Web3 enterprise service capabilities. One of the key focuses will be establishing a Web3 hub within NEOM, leveraging Animoca Brands’ expertise and fostering innovation within the local Web3 ecosystem. This initiative aligns perfectly with Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to become a major player in the global Web3 landscape.

Public Interest Fuels the Crypto Fire:

A YouGov survey revealed a fascinating trend in Saudi Arabia (December 2023): easy accessibility is the primary driver for residents considering crypto investments. With 77% of Saudis aware of cryptocurrencies and nearly half (49%) citing accessibility as a key motivator, a surge in public interest underscores the potential for wider crypto adoption once clear regulations and user-friendly platforms are established.

Big Players Take Notice: Investment in Blockchain and Crypto

The winds of change aren’t just felt by consumers. Major investment firms and VCs from KSA are actively investing in blockchain and crypto projects. Saudi Aramco has already built a blockchain-based supply chain management system, demonstrating a practical application of the technology within a major state-owned company. These investments by leading players signal confidence in the potential of Web3 and its applications.

The BRICS Factor and Potential for Digital Currencies

As a member of the BRICS economic bloc , Saudi Arabia’s Web3 embrace has a wider geopolitical context. BRICS nations are increasingly seeking ways to reduce dependence on the US dollar in international trade. Blockchain technology, with its potential for facilitating direct settlements between member states, aligns with this goal. There’s also speculation that some BRICS countries, including Saudi Arabia, might launch their own digital currencies in the future.

Regulation: The Question Mark

The exact timeline for comprehensive crypto asset regulations in Saudi Arabia remains unclear. While The Saudi Central Bank has indicated no plans for a CBDC, their interest in blockchain technology for cross-border payments suggests a willingness to embrace the underlying tech. This cautious approach ensures financial stability while fostering innovation. It’s important to note that currently, there are no legal penalties in place for trading in digital assets like crypto or NFTs.

The Road Ahead for Saudi Arabia’s Web3 Journey

With its strategic partnerships, a burgeoning gaming scene, a commitment to learning from regional experiences, and a young, tech-savvy population, Saudi Arabia is well-positioned to establish itself as a major player in the global Web3 arena. Additionally, its Web3 embrace could have a significant influence within the BRICS economic bloc, potentially paving the way for a future of collaboration and innovation in the digital asset space. The coming years will be crucial in determining the success of Saudi Arabia’s Web3 strategy. How effectively they navigate the regulatory landscape, foster a thriving ecosystem, and capitalize on the potential of blockchain technology will determine their ultimate impact on this rapidly evolving space. One thing is certain: Saudi Arabia’s cautious leap into Web3 is a story worth watching.

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