MENA’s Digital News, Week #12

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Tabeeby, Kuwait based social health network, raises $770k from Ground One Ventures, a UK-based VC 

Wasla, Egypt-based mobile internet provider, raises $180k in pre-seed led by a Cairo-based Private Investment Banker Omar Barakat 

Nawah Scientific, Egypt based scientific research startup, raises $1M in pre-Series A funding from Endure Capital, 500 Startups, Averroes Ventures and Egypt Ventures 

Little Thinking Minds, Jordan based edtech startup, raises $1.26M led by Algebra Ventures

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

Agility, Kuwait warehousing and logistics leader, to invest $100M in Shipa Freight, Dubai based freight forwarding platform 

Badr, Egypt based data solution startup, acquired by Incorta, US analytics company 

Vezeeta, Egytian healthtech startup, raises investment from IFC

Rise Up Cairo

RiseUp, Egypt’s leading tech and entrepreneurship conference, raises seed funding led by Endure Capital, as well as Enara Capital, 500 Startups, and Kamelizer 

Sawari Ventures raise $35M as part of its $70M fund to invest in Egypt, Tunisia, & Morocco 

Mubadala and SoftBank invest in ParkJockey, American parking startup, at valuation over $1B 

Tokopedia, Indonesian eCommerce, raises $1.1B led by Softbank’s Vision Fund and Alibaba 

Sector News

Egyptian Minister announced plans to launch a Digital Library in collaboration with the UAE and Saudi, 26 international publishing houses have already signed 

OSN appoints new CEO, Patrick Tillieux, who served as chairman and board member 

SAGIA issues investment license to ArabNet (EN) (AR)

Business Incubators and Accelerators Company (BIAC), collaborate with VentureSouq (VSQ) to launch a new investment services vertical within BIAC targeted towards Saudi startups

MENA based investors: Mindshift Capital and Global Ventures, and Flat6Labs, commit to The Billion Dollar Fund for Women, to increase investment in women led startups 

UAE regulators will expand their recognition of investment fund licenses

US-Libya Space Camp Scholarship Program open and accepting applications

Wamda launches “Wamda X” fellowship program that offers grants and co-working in Dubai Design District

Now the fintech news:

Two new fintech accelerators announce their launch at RiseUp Summit:
Ahli Bank launched their Corporate Fintech Accelerator in Amman, Jordan
Startupbootcamp, in partnership with Pride Capital, launched Fintech Cairo, Egypt 

Egypt’s Enara Capital and Falak start-up accelerator sign MoU to establish new clean technology investment fund 

Beam Wallet announces plans to expand services into Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan in the next 6 month 

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

EmiratesNBD’s Liv., has signed a service agreement with Australian payments fintech Verrency (They launched in 2016 and have raised $7.5M to date) (  EmiratesNBD also announced plans to expand digital services into Egyptian market 

Network International has partnered with China’s Alipay to provide mobile payment service to Chinese shoppers

Almoayed Technologies, first company to graduate from Bahrain’s Regulatory Sandbox

It’s more than a decentralized financial market

The biggest fear that crypto-currency sparks in governments (and world leaders) is a potential radical shift in world order. Financial institutes, world trade agreements, fiat currencies, markets, regulators, and a plethora of institutions whose sole purpose is to maintain centuries of “order”.

The trade war between the US and China, renewed sanction on Iran, and looming financial bubbles have shown that maybe the centuries old dynamics are due for disruption.

Governments around the world are beginning to rethink the financial strong hold that the US and EU have on trade, and alternate paths (crypto- or not) and weighing the risks involved.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have announced that they’ll be using (their uniquely developed) crypto-currency for cross-border settlements.

The UAE also signed with India on currency swap agreement, amounting to 2B AED (35B INR), allowing the governments to settle directly in INR, strengthening the Rupee. As part of agreement travelers can use INR for purchases in the UAE without having to convert to AED (a first for the country)

India and Iran signed another a pact, based on which, Iran will accept payments for oil purchased by India in INR.

Russia and China have been settling bilateral trade in the yuan and ruble in sectors such as agriculture and machinery, and looking to expand that to new sectors as well.

Regardless of whether countries decide to build crypto infrastructures for the trade, or their respective local fiat currencies, a global shift is upon us. It will empower financial technology providers and open the door for more innovators. Maybe a chance for a true financial revolution, in lieu of the fourth industrial one.

Further Readings

Middle East Group suspected of series of hacks against telecoms, embassies and oil companies 

London based Private Equity Firm, Actis, is bid to take over more than $2B of assets from Abraaj Group 

Abraaj Credit Fund to Be Taken Over by Kuwait’s NBK Capital

Sharp drop in Nvidia’s stock price impacts Softbank’s Vision Fund portfolio valuation 

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

Long Reads

“The Egyptian Startup Manifesto” launched at RiseUp Summit, read more about it here:

ArabNet Business Intelligence launches report: “Corporate Artificial Intelligence Adoption Strategies and Implementation 2018″ by DSOA’s D-tec and NYUAD’s startAD

According to the UN’s “B1C E-Commerce Index 2018” report, Morocco is 5th Most Ready for eCommerce in Africa,

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MENA’s Digital News, Week #7

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Load ME, UAE based freight exchange startup, raises $1M 

Kamkalima, Lebanon based edtech, raises $1.5M in Series A from Phoenician Fund and iSME

Webjet acquires Dubai travel firm Destinations of the World for $173M 

Sector News

Uber and Careem may start paying 22.5% corporate tax in Egypt 

Chalhoub Group launches Dubai based co-working space and accelerator: Greenhouse, and announces first cohort startups

Chalhoub Greenhouse Photo Credit to MENABytes

Saudi’s Badir Incubator launches in 4 new locations in the kingdom: Madina, Abha, Qassim and Dammam (AR)

Modus Capital, New York based venture capital firm, plans to expand into Egypt with incubation, seed and series A investment, and co-working space

Deutsche’s DWS to buy 15% stake in Dubai-based digital investment firm, Neo Technologies

Emirates NBD publicly launches their API sandbox 

Dubai’s Fintech sandbox announces it’s first licensed graduate Sarwa 

UAE announces the list of entities not allowed 100% foreign ownership (in follow up to law announced in August) 

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) to Create Infrastructure for Cryptocurrency Assets 

UAE’s Al Zarooni Group and US’s Crypto Bulls trading house to open the first official crypto-currency exchange to be registered in the UAE

Further Readings

Twitter launches very insightful data on users in Saudi Arabia, from influence to level of education, even behavior: 64% of users perceive a piece of news not as significant if it was not shared or discussed on Twitter (AR) 

Norton research shows that Saudi children are among the youngest in EMEA that receive smartphone, at approximately 7 years of age (AR)

Digital Gurus release a survey of average salaries of data engineers, scientists and analysts in the UAE

Facebook releases it’s Egyptian market penetration numbers: 24M daily users and 37M monthly mobile users (more)

According to Gartner, 787,000 bitcoins were mined in the first half of 2018 through illicit targeted crypto-mining in MEA 

Long Reads

Faith Capital release a MENA Venture Capital Regulatory Framework white paper

So Much Fintech, Not Enough Time

Robo-advisors seem to be have taken center stage in the last 2 weeks, a continuation on the global (Fintech is the most funded tech sector) and regional trend. 

WeInvest, Singapore based robo-advisor, raises $12.2M and targets Dubai office launch. The company is not new to the region as it has been part of the Fintech Hive Cycle in 2017, however the capital injection would help it compete aggressively as more robo-advisors enter the market at the same time.

Image copyright to Investor Junkie

In the recent spotlight, Wahed, sharia compliant robo-advisor, that recently raised $7.75M from BECO Capital and Cue Ball Capital in late October. The company is a SEC registered Investment Advisory headquartered in New York and expanding to MENA as well

Meanwhile, Sarwa, also robo-advisor, was just granted license to operate in Dubai post DFSA sandbox incubation 

You can check out the international leaders in the space here

The financial management and payment landscape is changing rapidly and maybe a tad too fast for consumers to keep up, but significantly improving the regions financial infrastructure for future generations. From banks launching API’s (EmiratesNBD, and earlier this year Arab Bank) to crypto-exchanges. Bright days ahead! 

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Personally news: I have moved (back) to Dubai! After 7 years in Beirut (and on airplanes across MENA), I have resettled in the country I spent most of my life in: the UAE, and in Dubai (I grew up between Al Ain and Sharjah)

Reach out, let’s catchup over some tea or karak!