China’s MSA Capital and Al Salam Bank-Bahrain SALAM.BH launched a $50 million venture capital fund on Wednesday, using Bahrain as a hub to invest in sectors such as e-commerce and financial technology in the Middle East.
As part of efforts to tackle its deficit and diversify the economy, Bahrain has been trying to re-establish itself as a regional finance center after losing ground to Dubai, and has been marketing itself as a financial technology hub for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The fund is the first venture capital project between Chinese and Gulf money, MSA and Al Salam said. It is also the first formed under Bahrain’s Investment Limited Partnerships Law launched in 2017, a structure commonly used globally for such funds.
The fund also plans to target big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and logistics and networking systems, it said in a statement.
“We are at a turning point in terms of where our region is for technology and capital flows and we would like to be a first mover in that space,” Al Salam CEO Rafik Nayed told Reuters. “We hope to work on fund two very quickly.”
The $50 million MEC Ventures was raised from seed money, Chinese entrepreneurs and institutional investors and family offices from Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
MSA Capital has existing investments in Chinese entrepreneurs who have taken the Chinese model into the MENA region, Managing Partner Ben Harburg said.