If you are planning to set up a company in the MENA region the first bell that rings: Dubai.

The most prestigious Arabic and international city with all these skyscrapers. The emerging city from the desert. 

While setting up your business, you need to check way more aspects than expected. The below article will try and give the reader a brief explanation of what fintech business looks like in the United Arab Emirates. 


You may be attracted by the United Arab Emirates because of its diversified economy and its diversity. Even the nonexistence of income tax, world-class broadband and a multilingual workforce, these attractions count for little if a prospective company cannot afford to get started. 

In Dubai or in any other Emirate, you are going to pay the same fees as a startup as IBM or Amazon or any other big company. 

Having a deeper look at it you may be more surprised, because hiring someone does cost 2000 USD approximatively. Notary and any little document you may require come with a considerable fee. Even more you are required to rent a full-time office. They do provide certain solutions where you can have a small desk, but it is still required to pay around 1000 USD per month. Compared to its surrounding countries the UAE is the most expensive one and at the same time the most flexible one in terms of ownership and in obtaining licenses. 

Briefly, financially in order to break even, you will require a lot of time than expected. The UAE’s reliance on fee income, rather than taxes, is problematic for startups. In total, it does cost around 9800 USD to run for one year in Dubai. The price mentioned doesn’t include employees wages, Bank Account Setup, Maintenance Fee, office rental and unexpected fines. 

Fintechs and Crypto Companies 

Every huge fintech or crypto company tend to enter the Arabic market by the “United Arab Emirate Gate” without considering the setup fee that much. To mention that TransferWise (fintech: Banking and Payment Solution) was planning an expansion to the region thru Dubai, but the plan was postponed for years. I would suggest having a deeper look at the current market and the benefits of each Emirate. 

For example, it is worth considering ADGM, which is in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The Abu Dhabi Global Market is an upcoming financial center in the MENA region for business and fintech. Provides more flexibility, excellent fintech infrastructure, and tax efficiencies make it the perfect base to take advantage of the rapidly growing demand for financial and business services in Abu Dhabi and the greater MENA region. 

Many licenses are provided for all fintech businesses (crypto included): 

• Crowdfunding 

• Managing Assets 

• Investment 

• Fund Providing Custody 

• Asset Manager 

• Fund Manager 

• Cryptocurrency Exchange C2C 

• Cryptocurrency Exchange F2C and C2F 

• Brokerage 

• Banking and more 

For a license, the price goes from 15000 USD to 10Millions USD (doesn’t include the setup fee). 

In Conclusion, think well before spending any penny. Personally, I have gone thru this struggle and decided to look for other Emirates that provides less fees and much more payment flexibility. Considering other countries in the region is another option, that is worth it. 

A good money quote to finish:

“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

—James W. Frick 

Written by me and shared on 7/10/2019, ICOBench