“Startups have the ability to mobilize economies by providing employment opportunities, driving innovation, and advancing technology, and Bahrain is well positioned to foster a thriving ecosystem, facilitating their growth.”
Companies based in Bahrain benefit from a liberal business climate, zero corporate taxes, and a welcoming culture. Bahrain ranks #14 in the world's most competitive emerging markets and #6 in business fundamentals, according to the 2022 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index. It also ranked #1 in MENA for financial, investment, and trade freedom in the 2022 Heritage Foundation index. Forty-four Bahraini startups raised $136 million in 2022, and the Kingdom attracted over $1.1 billion in direct investments.
Bahrain is prioritizing efforts to train and upskill its citizens in ICT, recognizing the critical role of digital literacy in the country’s economic growth and development. Building on Bahrain’s tradition as a regional financial hub, Fintech is a key focus area. In 2022, the Central Bank of Bahrain successfully completed a test run using the JPM Coin and now permits established banks to work with crypto exchanges.
Hope Ventures has launched a series of initiatives designed to support high-growth businesses led by local entrepreneurs. It also created Beban, a reality TV show in which entrepreneurs pitch to investors. In January 2023, equity crowdfunding platform Beban Crowdfunding was launched. Multiple tech training programs to reskill and upskill locals were also launched in 2022, including Reboot Coding Institute and Citi Global Tech Hub. Tamkeen also announced an updated version of its Young Entrepreneur program. Tamkeen has stepped up its efforts to support Bahraini women, providing financial assistance to start, grow, and expand their businesses through its Riyadat Scheme. Tenmou, Bahrain’s first business angels company, launched the Investors’ Awareness Programme in June 2022.
Ecosystem by the Numbers
Bahrain's financial sector contributes around 17% of its GDP, and Bahrain FinTech Bay is the leading Fintech hub in MENA. The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) launched an Open Banking Framework to facilitate a more seamless implementation of services for both banks and third-party providers. BEYON Money provides open banking, connecting all the banks across the Kingdom in one app. In 2022, Mastercard partnered with Payment International Enterprise to launch FLOOSS, a digital-first program providing microfinancing services. In October 2022, Binance launched binance.bh.
A national training initiative for Bahrainis in Cybersecurity and advanced IT was launched in December 2022. The program aims to train Bahraini university graduates and job seekers. In January 2023, Cybersecurity training provider SANS Institute and Tamkeen launched the second phase of the Cyber Reskilling Programme. Two programs will allow 60 students to gain GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) and GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) certifications. The Arab International Cybersecurity Exhibition and Conference was held here in December 2022.
Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 speaks of the ambition of an efficient, enabling public sector. A cloud-first policy encourages the use of advanced technologies to provide efficient government services. The Kingdom launched a four-year telecommunications, ICT, and digital economy sector strategy in 2022. It includes developing telecommunications infrastructure, supporting the digital economy, and enhancing e-governance. The BeAware Bahrain app is a digital wallet that stores digital versions of important government documents and allows users to access e-services such as health appointments.
Reasons to Move Your Startup to Bahrain
Bahrain allows 100% foreign ownership for nearly all business activities. It is a member of the GCC single market and the Pan-Arab Free Trade Areas, and has signed free-trade agreements with countries including the U.S., Singapore, and Norway. Operating costs in Bahrain are 12% lower than the regional average. A Golden Residency Visa is available to investors, entrepreneurs, and highly talented individuals.
Bahrain ranked #35 in the World Talent Ranking from the International Institute for Management Development World Competitiveness Centre. Tamkeen offers entrepreneurship training programs, as well as training in the manufacturing sector. It also plans to train 1,200 individuals in coding and other emerging technology skills in collaboration with the General Assembly and the Bahrain Institute of Banking & Finance.
Bahrain imposes no personal or corporate income tax (except for oil companies), no capital gains tax, and no variable stamp taxes. Bahrain’s value added tax regime, with a rate of 10%, offers VAT rates substantially lower than elsewhere in the region and in most of Western countries.
Selected Startup Organizations
Startup Genome Members
Tamkeen empowers Bahrainis to become employees of choice and enables the private sector to become the key engine of economic growth. It works with enterprises to innovate, grow, transform, digitalize, and internationalize. It also supports Bahraini talents with their training needs, ensuring their competitiveness both locally and internationally.
Key Ecosystem Players
News from the Ecosystem
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