Saudi Arabia goes blockchain! … maybe? Who knows

There’s been a pile of breathless stories this week in the crypto press, saying how the “Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has recently used blockchain technology” — with extended discussions of what this could imply. [CoinDesk; Finance Magnates; The Block; CoinTelegraph; many others]



These are all based on a single press release, which is literally the entire available information concerning this claim: [SAMA]

SAMA Deployed Blockchain Technology for Money Transfer with local banks
08/06/2020 10:00 AM

Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has recently used blockchain technology to deposit  part of the liquidity that SAMA had previously announced, to be injected into the banking sector, as part of SAMA’s actions aimed at enhancing the sector’s capabilities to continue its role in providing credit facilities. This action comes as a part of SAMA’s continues efforts in exploring and experimenting emerging technologies and keeping lead pace with the global trends of central banks in assessing the impacts of such technologies on the financial sector.

SAMA is one of the pioneer central banks to experiment blockchain technology for money transfers, this move was one of the key innovative initiatives launched by SAMA in its program to enable and develop Fintech in the Kingdom.  This include among others: The Fintech Saudi Initiative in cooperation with the Capital Market Authority, the introduction of SAMA Regulatory Sandbox, and an array of digital banking services and payments.

As I’ve said before — “blockchain technology” is a phrase you only see when the press-release writer can’t even reasonably claim this thing is a “blockchain.”

But let’s not just assume. I contacted SAMA’s Info Center through their web form, asking for more detail:

  • What was the “blockchain technology” in question?
  • How much was the amount injected via blockchain?
  • Has there been any release of technical details concerning this blockchain infrastructure?
  • Is there someone I could contact on the technical side of this?

The official SAMA contact form needs work — the only options for “Country” are Austrailia (with that extra “i”), Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Spain and United Arab Emirates. I picked “Austrailia” as the least-wrong option. The form also forces all text into Capitalising The First Letter Of Every Word, Including Your Email Address. [contact form]

I finaly heard back from SAMA!

You can access the Complaints page at the following link

Or call toll free 8001256666

Erm … thanks?

There’s a pile of countries that are really into press releases about “blockchain” — with zero verifiable evidence of anything in particular actually happening, even when you try to look into it. Saudi Arabia seems to be another one.

Some crypto news stories speculated that Ripple Labs was involved — based only on a 2018 Ripple press release announcing an xCurrent pilot programme. [Ripple Labs] There’s no checkable evidence that the announced xCurrent pilot ever resulted in anything either, let alone that it had any relation to this week’s SAMA announcement.

Others mentioned Saudi Arabia participating in IBM’s TradeLens supply chain blockchain pilot programme in 2019 [TradeLens press release] — as if that could conceivably have anything to do with the SAMA announcement.

But, ginned-up non-news keeps the content engines churning. Quick! More copy! There’s ads to fail to sell!

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