MENA’s Digital News, Week #13

A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and the public sector.

Investments & Acquisitions

Ajeer, Saudi based handy services app, raises $540k (2M SAR) 

Saudi based Maharah Human Resources Company acquires stake in Bloovo, UAE-based algorithm-based online recruitment platform


Expensya, Tunisian SaaS for expense management, raises $4.5M from French investors ISAI and Seventure Partners 

Quiqup, London-based last-mile delivery, raises £5M to expand into the GCC 

French refreshments leader Pernod Ricard will invest in African online retailer

Kuwait’s Agility in talks with banks to raise ~$800M

Sector News

Investor News

BIAC x VentureSouq teams

The Business Incubators and Accelerators Company (BIAC), a KACST subsidiary, has joined forces with VentureSouq (VSQ) to launch a new investment services vertical within BIAC that is designed to bridge the funding gaps for startups in Saudi 

UAE’s Ministry of Finance launched Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) Accelerator. MBRIF has been active since 2016 

Egypt’s Commercial International Bank launches CVentures, a corporate venture capital (CVC) to invest in finTech startups in the Middle East & Africa 

Saudi Aramco signed an agreement with Saudi Information Technology Company to form a joint venture that will invest in tech companies 

Service Launches and Expansions

Zain launches Amazon Prime Video in Kuwait 

Careem launches a new food delivery service; revamped from the Roundmenu acquisition in February 

Aramex launches a CrowdShipping Solution, Aramex Fleet, in Saudi 

WaystoCap, Morocco-based B2B eCmmerce, expands operations into Burkina Faso and Togo opens new fulfillment center in Dubai 

Adform, global adtech company, opens Dubai office

Fintech and Crypto

Monami, UAE fintech startup, launches Know Your Customer (KYC) verification solutions

UAE’s Network International, announced it will integrate Google Pay into it’s payment network

Emirates NBD Now Supports Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay 

FundedByMe granted approval to start operating in Dubai and will become the United Arab Emirates first DFSA regulated and DIFC incorporated Equity Crowdfunding Platform 

UAE Exchange, to launch cross-border remittance to Asia via Ripple 

Locus Chain, Singapore, to will launch a Digital Asset Exchange Platform in Dubai

VeChain Tech, Chinese Blockchain-as-a-service provider, launches in MENA via BIOS Middle East, a managed cloud solutions provider

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has issued the draft rules on Crypto-asset Platform Operators (CPO) for consultation

Further Readings

Schengen Nationals can now travel to Saudi Arabia with an eVisa

UAE diplomats explore investment and partnership opportunities in Utah, USA and Vietnam

High-speed rail planned between Fujairah, UAE and Mumbai, India to exchange water, oil and passengers

UAE’s Shuaa Capital, financial services group, acquires Kuwait’s Amwal International Investment Company (Amwal)

Egypt’s Central Bank Vice Governor states that Egyptian banks have issued 12M digital wallets to date 

Long Reads

Chinese travelers to GCC will increase 81% by 2022 says Arabian Travel Market’s “GCC Source Market: China” Report
The report can be found here: and if you’re in the hospitality and travel space, I recommend you check out other reports by Colliers International as well

What came first: piracy or intellectual property? 

I have a bone to pick with the copyright holders (music publishers, book publishers, movie studios, you name it!) in regards to their constant cry about content piracy in emerging markets. 

Lack of services and antiquated copyright laws in emerging markets is the problem, not piracy.

I got into eBooks a few years ago while living in Lebanon, and with no access to a US/EU issued credit card, I was stuck with the whatever iOS had to spare of eBooks to Lebanon (and MENA as whole) which is: the Bible, the Quran, Anna Karenina, and a few Shakespeares. Quite dismal. I could not pay for eBooks or acquire them in any legal way.

Kindle’s, MENA stores didn’t (and still don’t) carry the endless selections available to users in the US/EU. Using a VPN and an international credit card is also not a guarantee; I have had friends’ revoked their books that they have paid for because of continuous access to Kindle through a Lebanese IP.

Book 2 of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You Trilogy is not available in MENA, but books 1 & 3 are… go figure.; even though I have a paid premium subscription, I currently can’t listen to the second book of a trilogy, but can listen to the first and the third (go figure!). Among other books that are just simply not there.

You cannot not serve a market (or sometimes blatantly ignore it) and expect people to sit around and wait for a miracle. If the content is there and inaccessible – those that can and want will find a way of acquiring, those that want and cant will find someone whom can acquire it for them, even for some extra cash. 

Instead of publishing article after article about “rise of piracy” and “piracy in emerging markets”, maybe hiring some market managers that care a tad bit about the markets they serve more than their pay checks, and have the sympathy (or relationship) to the local markets that allow them to develop the right market strategies, would be a better course of action.

Better prices, access and service may be your saving grace, because frankly, if you don’t care about your consumers, why should they care that you’re not making money in return?

To make things worse, EU’s tightening regulations on copyrighted material is simply suffocating the internet culture. (Yes, Article 13 doesn’t exactly “ban memes” but it’s vague enough that conglomerates can abuse it for censorship). Read more on Article 13 & 11 on Wired.

*rant over*

Have a blessed festive week

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