MENA’s Digital News, Week #23

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

In this week’s edition: A clarification on the “Further readings” section, and an announcement that you could for now join a whatsapp group (admin posting only) for the daily headlines – right here

Investments & Acquisitions

Rain, Bahraini crypto exchange, raises investment from Vision Ventures (Rain was incubated at the Central Bank of Bahrain)

Eunimart Multichannel, “AI-powered” cross-border e-commerce platform, raised bridge funding from UAE-based digital services company TMT Connekt 

Trella, Cairo trucking marketplace, raises $600k led by Algebra Ventures raises $4M from Emaar & AddVenture in Series B Funding 

Nana Direct, Saudi grocery delivery startup, raises $6M from MEVP, Impact 46 and SVC (twitter)

JustClean, Kuwait’s on-demand laundry, raise $8M from Faith Capital 

Jumla Club, Kuwait’s B2B F&B platform, “seven-figure pre-Series A” funding from GCC based individual investors 

Emaar buys remaining 49% of website Namshi (previously acquired 51% before launching 

EMPG, parent company of Bayut, acquires Rocket Internet’s Lamdui Bangladesh 

Sector News (sectioned)

Investment Landscape

MEVP announces $125M regional fund (twitter)

Equinox Gold Announces $130 Million Strategic Investment by Mubadala Investment Company 

Speed@BDD, Beirut based accelerator, raised funding for the next three years of acceleration and decrease equity-stake from startups to 5% 

Etihad Airways and the Department of Culture & Tourism – Abu Dhabi Partner with Plug and Play ADGM 


Central Bank of Bahrain issues final rules on Crypto-asset services and Crypto-asset exchanges 

Wahed Invest has received an associate membership approval from the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), a global standard for sharia-compliant financial operations 

Emaar denies that it will be accepting crypto-payment for real-estate 

According to SAMA “2.3B transactions over the last year alone (through SAMA supported payment gateways), with a total financial value exceeding SR50T”

Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi-based Islamic bank, appoints Temenos to “power” digital transformation


Turkcell, Turkish Telecom, Introduces Blockchain ID Management Product 

Etisalat partners with Huawei to deploy Next Generation Modular Data Center & with Ericsson for 5G network (bridging China and the US)

Zain (KSA) partners with Huawei for new video streaming service 

Further Readings: The Bigger Economic Picture

This segment usually focuses on things beyond tech. As I’m seeing increasing big moves in the region that may help facilitate startup growth and economic stability

Warner Music Group is in talks to buy a large minority stake in Rotana Music (who invested in Deezer and empowered their growth into MENA)

Abdul Latif Jameel Land and Al Muhaidib Group form JV facilities management company in Saudi

Jumeirah Group unveils new luxury hospitality project in China’s Zhujiang New Town Central Business District 

Acwa Power, Saudi-based and PIF backed, signed an agreement with the Egyptian Government for an electricity plant with capacity of 2,250MW in Luxor, with total investments estimated at $2.5B (the company will also finalize three projects, valued at $200M and with a total capacity of 160MW, at Benban Solar Park in Aswan by the end of June) 

BlackRock and KKR are acquiring a 40% stake in UAE’s ADNOC Oil pipelines, ADNOC distribution also just inaugurated first service station in Saudi

Emirates NBD will complete the takeover of Turkey’s DenizBank in the first half of this year

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MENA’s Digital News, Week #5

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Wadi Group ( raises investment from UAE’s Majid Al Futtaim

This week’s investments had a common theme: Regional VCs investing abroad:

Tarfin, Turkish agricultural micro-lending startup, raises a $1.3M seed round led by Turkey-based Collective Spark Fund with co-investment from Wamda Capital 

Fakespot, NY based fake reviews spotter, raised a $1.3M seed fund with participation from Faith Capital 

Blueground, NY-based airbnb for business travelers, raises $12M from Jabbar Internet Group, VentureFriends, and Endeavor Catalyst 

Wahed Invest, UK based Halal Online Investment Platform, raises $7.75M (£6M) from BECO Capital and Cue Ball Capital

Sector News

Recap of some of the big name deals signed at the Future Investment Initiative worth $50B

The UAE’ Statistics Authority signs with Esri, global leader in location intelligence, to geo-enable its work

Cairo hosts it’s first NASA App Challenge sponsored by Nile Pioneers 

Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announces “Miza” “ميزة”, a mobile payment solution to be launched by December (EN) (AR) 

Qatar Sports Tech Accelerator Launched, powered by Startupbootcamp 

Womena Graduates First Cohort Of Female-led Tech Startups 

Meet the Startup winners at DEMO Africa

Further Readings

Deezer, French Music Streaming Service, Launches in the Middle East with “exclusive Rotana catalogue” 

A Palestinian-American billionaire plans a $1.4B city, Rawabi, in Palestine says it’s a ‘golden opportunity’ to build a ‘model state’ for the Middle East

Reports claim that Russian malware was attempted to be used to sabotage a Saudi petrochemical plant last year

Opportunities from Silicon Valley’s Dystopia 

In my years of working on covering the latest in the tech ecosystem regionally and globally and consistent pattern persists. American, Canadian and European startups ignoring fast adoption in MENA and market growth potential.

From Kik messenger in Canada who failed to capitalize on their massive sudden adoption in the GCC, only to have failing attempts after the train has passed, Flipboard, Foursquare, and many more, to more recently Path’s closure and failure to capitalize on their emerging market appeal.

Path appealed to adopters of the dark social web due to its private and mobile-first nature, but failed to evolve with the proliferation of multimedia and story-features taking over. It sort of faded in the world of influencers pull to instagram. However due to it’s popularity a regional replica launched to fill the void, but will it? 

I have no doubts that regional entrepreneurs are more capable to understand the client and market, and provide better, more adaptive solutions to the market. However my fears have been realized twice already with Saraha’s data scandals, and Careem’s 14M accounts leak

Now I’m not saying this only happens to regional startups, but I find that regional startups hire less in-house cryptographers and security engineers, due to the lack of availability or the lack of oversight, it’s not for certain. 

I already struggle with my information living on too many social platforms and how to cut down on tracking, while I’m curious and excited to see Moments launch, I need reassurance of it’s infrastructure before investing me time. 

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It was great meeting awesome entrepreneurs and professionals at Global South Tech Istanbul earlier in the week