On Demand: Spearheading digital innovation and cross-border payments: the Arab CBDC conference

OMFIF’s Digital Monetary Institute and the Arab Monetary Fund convened the ‘Spearheading digital innovation and cross-border payments: the Arab CBDC conference’ on 7 October 2021. Key points of discussion included national retail payment strategies and the unbundling of banking services, CBDC developments in the region, innovations in cross-border interbank payments and the cryptoasset landscape.

Watch the public sessions On Demand:

National retail payment strategies and the fintech expansion

Covid-19 and changes in global trade trends are accelerating the region’s focus on fintech and digital payments. With consumer trends and the rate of the decline of cash varying across the region, governments are exploring different priorities, from bolstering new sector needs to combatting financial exclusion. This panel explored national retail payment and digital currency strategies across the region. It addressed the shift from a bank-centric model, the need for retail CBDCs and the overlap with legacy systems, as well as the expansion of instant payment systems.

Payments innovation in the Arab region from a private sector perspective

Abdulwahid Janahi is chief executive officer of BENEFIT, Bahrain’s electronic network for financial transactions. He joined in 2005 with 34 years’ experience in the financial industry, covering marketing, telecommunications and business development. He has a BSc in focus and marketing from St Edward University in Texas, US, and an MBA from the University of Bahrain.

Evolution in Arab financial markets: next steps for legacy systems

Bilaterally agreed correspondent banking networks and remittances remain expensive and slow with the lack of standardisation hindering further economic integration. Project Buna, a multi-currency payments platform, aims to address these challenges by bringing together the markets of the Gulf Co-operation Council, Middle East and North Africa for all intraregional payments. This panel explored the potential for pan-regional cross-border payments and developments in financial market infrastructures.

Wholesale CBDCs and cross border payments

A wholesale CBDC could transform interbank settlement, offering speed, resilience and cost efficiency. However, innovative payments solutions, platforms and upgrades are in development which do not require a wholesale CBDC. This panel explored the potential for domestic and cross-border wholesale CBDCs in the region, discussing when and how new innovations are needed, the role of blockchain and private sector settlement instruments in improving wholesale payments and the importance of interoperability.

The crypto-asset landscape

Emmanuel Givanakis is the chief executive officer of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Abu Dhabi Global Market. He oversees the financial services regulatory framework that governs the activities of ADGM and its registered entities. Givanakis joined ADGM in October 2014 as the head of policy and legal, overseeing the establishment of ADGM’s legislative framework, which was a pivotal step in the creation of ADGM as an international financial centre. He also manages the enforcement function of the FSRA.

Financial inclusion on the blockchain

Anca Bogdana Rusu is head of strategic partnerships, policy and advocacy at cLabs, working on Celo. She joined cLabs after having spent over eight years at the World Bank and International Finance Corporation focused on financial inclusion and fintech. She has worked both with regulators and public authorities, as well as with private sector institutions on digital financial services in emerging markets in Africa, Latin America and Europe. Prior to joining the World Bank, she worked in economic research, consulting and the non-profit sectors. Rusu serves as an expert for the European Blockchain Observatory and Forum and as executive committee member for Global Impact Fintech. She represents cLabs in its interactions with United Nations agencies, the Alliance for Financial Inclusion and government agencies looking to deploy solutions on blockchain. She holds degrees in economics from the Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, and a master’s in public policy from Georgetown University.

Ghady Rayess is the co-founder and managing partner of FOO, a leading fintech technology provider in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. FOO enables banks and financial institutions to roll out innovative products to markets quickly. Rayess is passionate about transforming the financial and payments system to a friendlier, more secure and accessible ecosystem by combining the right technology, policies and product design. He holds a master’s degree in information networking from Carnegie Mellon University.

Al Hamidy
Director General Chairman of the Board
Arab Monetary Fund


Rami Aboul Naga
Deputy Governor
Central Bank of Egypt

Panelist animation

Alexandre Mouradian
Vice Governor
Banque du Liban


Bader Al Aghbari
Vice President
Central Bank of Oman

Habib Attia
Senior Specialist, Financial Sector
Arab Monetary Fund

Koji Fusa
Chief Executive Officer

Bernard Ferran
General Manager

Maha Bahou
Chief Executive Officer
Jordan Payments & Clearing Company

Wolfram Seidemann
Chief Executive Officer
Giesecke+Devrient Currency Technology GmbH

Mehdi Manaa
Chief Executive Officer

Phantom Seokgu Yun
Chief Executive Officer
Sovereign Wallet Network

Sara Castelhano
Managing Director, EMEA Head of Payments Product and Solutions, Wholesale Payments
J.P. Morgan Chase Bank

Emmanuel Givanakis
ADGM Financial Services Regulatory Authority

Salvador Perez-Galindo
VP of Government Engagement, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa

DMI members:

This virtual discussion was part of the OMFIF Digital Monetary Institute. The OMFIF Digital Monetary Institute is a high-level forum which convenes key policy-makers, technology experts, investors and regulators to explore the challenges, opportunities and implications of digital finance in the 2020s. See more information on OMFIF’s DMI here. Please contact folusho.olutosin@omfif.org directly for membership details.

Join Today

Connect with our membership team

Scroll to Top