MENA’s Digital News, Week #36

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

Hope you’re re-energized post Eid and back in full gear, also staying safe from the heat! A few of the email subscribers have mentioned that the auto-emails are arriving in a less than enticing manner, so bare with me this week and we’ll hopefully fix that for the next week 😉

It’s a long one. Go!

Investments & Acquisitions

The Stories Studio, Bahrain social gaming startup, has raised follow on funding from an Angel investor post graduation from Flat6Labs Bahrain http://bit.ly/2Zdw9ab 

Foloosi, UAE-based fintech startup, raises undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from angel investor http://bit.ly/2WyTUYV 

Orcas, Cairo-based online marketplace for babysitters & tutors, raises $500k in pre-series A from Khaled Ismail, Kamelizer, and Cairo Angels http://bit.ly/2XAzoIu

Maroc Numeric Fund, Moroccan Government fund, announces its exit from Ma-Navette.com to Glen Invest (FR) http://bit.ly/2XLuAAe

Tenderd, Dubai-based heavy equipment rental marketplace, raises $5.8M sees round lead by Y Combinator and BECO Capital, and also includes Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Paul Buchheit, Justin Mateen, Matt Mickiewicz, VentureSouq, SOMA, Dynamo, and Global Founders Capital http://bit.ly/2WvtMxN 

Wadi.com app gets absorbed by Carrefour Saudi. Wadi was acquired by MAF earlier in May after it had pivoted to groceries delivery only in March. The shift to groceries may have been influenced by MAF as they had invested in Wadi during October 2018 http://bit.ly/2W2p8XT

Ivi, Russian VOD service, raises $40M lead by Mubadala and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) http://bit.ly/2QZA3Rl

FreshToHome, India’s fresh produce delivery startup, raises $11M in series A lead by CE Ventures, joined by Das Capital, Kortschak Investments, TTCER Partners, Al-Nasser Holdings, Abdul Azeez Al-Ghurair and M&S Partners http://bit.ly/2WsboWM 

Sector News

BeyondCapital raised $450K from Mercy Corps to invest in a pool of early-stage companies in Jordan http://bit.ly/2K0gTKs

Amazon Prime now available in the UAE for $4 http://bit.ly/2WquMmR 

Trolley, Kuwaiti e-grocery startup, partners with Jazeera airways, Kuwait’s low-cost carrier, to provide on-board convenience store http://bit.ly/2QQ1wEU

Swvl, Egypt shuttle service, expands to Nigeria and to launch in Lagos (they had launched in Kenya in January) http://bit.ly/2F1RHiz 

Oliv, Dubai-based career platform, announces expansion into Singapore http://bit.ly/2EYnEbs

Careem expands services to Basra, Iraq http://bit.ly/2Wuis5e 

XtreeE and Concreative, French concrete 3D printing companies, to set up 3D solutions production unit in UAE http://bit.ly/2WC7hwf 

Arabian Bourse (ABX), UAE crypto asset exchange and custodian, has received initial regulatory approval from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) http://bit.ly/2WHQ58G

Mastercard Partners with Bahrain FinTech Bay http://bit.ly/2wGquxs 

Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is working on a draft law for crypto-related activities which will oblige financial institutions to obtain licenses creating, advertising or operating platforms that issue or facilitate trading of cryptocurrencies http://bit.ly/2Wz7Q9R

Long Reads


ArabNet’s State of Digital Investments in MENA 2013-2018 Report http://bit.ly/2WFn3qc

Further Readings (Non-tech news that should be on your radar)

GEMS Education buys Saudi school group Ma’arif, through a joint venture with Hassana Investment http://bit.ly/2XgpdZv (GEMS schools network grew substantially over the past two years in the UAE and are known among tech circles for continuously engaging with coding and entrepreneurship ecosystems) 

Egyptian Ministry of Public Works announced a plan to merge three public land #transport government companies into one entity and offer it as an opportunity for foreign investment (the system transports 1.4B passengers a year) http://bit.ly/2wNq7Rv 

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) and SEERA (previously Al Tayyar Travel Group) signed a strategic partnership agreement to strengthen travel demand from Saudi to Dubai http://bit.ly/2MEVSHr

Network International stocks now listed on FSE 250 Index raising over $1B since IPO http://bit.ly/2WGAPIX

Dubai Islamic Bank to acquire Noor Bank http://bit.ly/2WC4gM9

Dubai issues “new insolvency law for companies operating in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)” http://bit.ly/2IDLqe3

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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) https://goo.gl/UnnWk3 

Saudi based Maharah Human Resources Company acquires stake in Bloovo, UAE-based algorithm-based online recruitment platform https://goo.gl/WRw17h


Expensya, Tunisian SaaS for expense management, raises $4.5M from French investors ISAI and Seventure Partners https://goo.gl/wGSsG7 

Quiqup, London-based last-mile delivery, raises £5M to expand into the GCC https://goo.gl/BWDRTp 

French refreshments leader Pernod Ricard will invest in African online retailer Jumia.com https://goo.gl/5Y4kQc

Kuwait’s Agility in talks with banks to raise ~$800M https://goo.gl/9q8b83

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 https://goo.gl/LE4Fpk 

UAE’s Ministry of Finance launched Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) Accelerator. MBRIF has been active since 2016 https://goo.gl/BvQmgq 

Egypt’s Commercial International Bank launches CVentures, a corporate venture capital (CVC) to invest in finTech startups in the Middle East & Africa https://goo.gl/Y89oSy 

Saudi Aramco signed an agreement with Saudi Information Technology Company to form a joint venture that will invest in tech companies https://goo.gl/GA8Tv2 

Service Launches and Expansions

Zain launches Amazon Prime Video in Kuwait https://goo.gl/oAhuyE 

Careem launches a new food delivery service; revamped from the Roundmenu acquisition in February https://goo.gl/TiK2As 

Aramex launches a CrowdShipping Solution, Aramex Fleet, in Saudi https://goo.gl/zJHGEQ 

WaystoCap, Morocco-based B2B eCmmerce, expands operations into Burkina Faso and Togo https://goo.gl/se463T

Souq.com opens new fulfillment center in Dubai https://goo.gl/41uZxv 

Adform, global adtech company, opens Dubai office https://goo.gl/fjbx6m

Fintech and Crypto

Monami, UAE fintech startup, launches Know Your Customer (KYC) verification solutions https://goo.gl/zeDwCf

UAE’s Network International, announced it will integrate Google Pay into it’s payment network https://goo.gl/g9g6Ee

Emirates NBD Now Supports Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay https://goo.gl/2E5AGC 

FundedByMe granted approval to start operating in Dubai and will become the United Arab Emirates first DFSA regulated and DIFC incorporated Equity Crowdfunding Platform https://goo.gl/fxAf73 

UAE Exchange, to launch cross-border remittance to Asia via Ripple https://goo.gl/RGPHSb 

Locus Chain, Singapore, to will launch a Digital Asset Exchange Platform in Dubai https://goo.gl/MmhGyQ

VeChain Tech, Chinese Blockchain-as-a-service provider, launches in MENA via BIOS Middle East, a managed cloud solutions provider https://goo.gl/ptMLKq

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has issued the draft rules on Crypto-asset Platform Operators (CPO) for consultation https://goo.gl/GGoegX

Further Readings

Schengen Nationals can now travel to Saudi Arabia with an eVisa https://goo.gl/gmJ638

UAE diplomats explore investment and partnership opportunities in Utah, USA https://goo.gl/UmwDQK and Vietnam https://goo.gl/HSVXMX

High-speed rail planned between Fujairah, UAE and Mumbai, India to exchange water, oil and passengers https://goo.gl/eS839z

UAE’s Shuaa Capital, financial services group, acquires Kuwait’s Amwal International Investment Company (Amwal) https://goo.gl/MAja5b

Egypt’s Central Bank Vice Governor states that Egyptian banks have issued 12M digital wallets to date https://goo.gl/Vd89v3 

Long Reads

Chinese travelers to GCC will increase 81% by 2022 says Arabian Travel Market’s “GCC Source Market: China” Report https://goo.gl/4GCH4h
The report can be found here: https://goo.gl/nAK37e and if you’re in the hospitality and travel space, I recommend you check out other reports by Colliers International as well https://goo.gl/E2w92w

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.

Audible.com; 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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