Mohsen Al Zahrani, a former Managing Director at Accenture, has been appointed to manage the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority’s (SAMA) digital assets and the Central Bank’s Digital Currency initiative. Since officials in Saudi Arabia are wary of the speculative nature of virtual assets, the country has taken a more cautious stance on the topic up until now.

A sense of urgency exists in Riyadh to draft more formal rules for the asset class, according to people familiar with the matter, due to the emergence of the neighboring United Arab Emirates as a global crypto hub.

Why Were Saudi Officials Concerned?

Mohsen AlZahrani has been appointed to manage Saudi Arabia’s virtual assets and central bank digital currency initiative, indicating the Gulf state’s future crypto ambitions. According to the source, Al Zahrani and Al Yousef are part of a team in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, discussing future rules with some of the largest cryptocurrency companies.

Saudi officials have expressed concerns about the speculative nature of virtual assets, leading to a more cautious stance to date. However, in light of the UAE’s rise as a global center for cryptocurrencies, Riyadh is under pressure to develop more formal restrictions for the asset class, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Saudi Arabia Establishes Crypto Priorities

According to the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information is private, AlZahrani, a former managing director at the consulting firm Accenture, reports to Ziad Al-Yousef, the Central Bank’s deputy governor for development and technology. They claimed to be a member of a team in Riyadh discussing upcoming laws with some of the world’s largest cryptocurrency companies.

SAMA officials, however, did not respond to requests for clarification. Saudi Arabia has been forcing companies to expand their presence in Riyadh as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitions to transform the nation’s capital city into a global center. It has directly challenged Dubai, the commercial powerhouse of the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE Working on a Common Digital Currency

The kingdom has the Middle East’s largest economy and a generally wealthy population, making it an important market for any regional company. Binance Holdings Ltd., one of the largest firms in the field, has increased the size of its Saudi teams because it believes that if the restrictions are lifted, the kingdom will be a largely untapped market.

In 2018, Riyadh prohibited banks from conducting cryptocurrency transactions, but there are still ways to trade. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, regional financial institutions have recently reinforced the limits on client communication.

Furthermore, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been collaborating on a possible shared digital currency for a long time.


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