Bahrain hopes 5G roll-out will attract more tech firms to its shores


Bahrain has completed the roll-out of 5G as part of its strategy to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil and gas.

Two of three mobile operators in the country have now achieved full 5G coverage to its population.

The tiny Middle Eastern island state, with a population of just 1.5 million, wants to attract more tech companies to its shores with the promise of the optimum IT infrastructure and a gateway to the Middle East region.

Bahrain’s telecoms sector attracted more than $2bn investment between 2009 and 2019 as part of its economic diversification and its ICT sector now accounts for nearly 3% of its national gross domestic product.

One of the advantages of Bahrain is its favourable business environment. It offers a tried-and-tested legal and regulatory environment and has minimal restrictions on foreign ownership.

Bahrain also has a respected financial services sector with more than four decades of experience.

In 2019, Amazon Web Services (AWS) connected the Middle East to its global network with the launch of its Bahrain AWS region, with three datacentres.

The wider Middle East is a growing customer base for AWS. Its customers there include Al Tayer Group, Anghami, Aramex, Bahrain Bourse, the Bahraini government, Classera, Dubizzle, Emirates NBD, Fetchr, Flydubai, Hassan Allam, MBC Group, Emirates NBD and Virgin Middle East.

Fintechs are not the only startups attractive to Bahrain and the Middle East as part of economic diversification strategies. A $60m Middle East tech fund was set up recently to invest in startups in the region.

Plus Venture Capital, as the fund is known, will have key operations based in Bahrain, with offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. The firm will invest in tech and tech-enabled startups across all sectors, including fintech, healthtech, edutech, logistics, content and e-commerce.

The Covid-19 pandemic has generated opportunities for tech firms to develop products and services to support people during a period when populations are in lockdown to reduce the spread of the disease. These include mobile banking services and digital communication tools.

Technologies such as 5G are critical for the development and adoption of the latest technologies.

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