A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and the public sector.
Investments & Acquisitions
Brimore, egypt’s manufacturer to consumer platform, raises $800k from Algebra Ventures and Endure Capital, with participation from 500 Startups, Flat6Labs, and some angel investors http://bit.ly/2FI3Mcd
Social Champ, Pakistani media planning solution, raises $100k from Oman’s OTF Wadi (2nd investment into Pakistan this year) http://bit.ly/2OHEAqe
Forward Delivery, Dubai based last mile delivery, raises $2.6M in a pre-series A from multiple investors including Saudi-based Al Rajhi “family members” http://bit.ly/2HNdP3b
Equinox Gold Announces $130 Million Strategic Investment by Mubadala Investment Company https://prn.to/2Srr5LA
Speed@BDD, Beirut based accelerator, raised funding for the next three years of acceleration and decrease equity-stake from startups to 5% http://bit.ly/2T1fUhR
Etihad Airways and the Department of Culture & Tourism – Abu Dhabi Partner with Plug and Play ADGM https://prn.to/2EiQHW4
Central Bank of Bahrain issues final rules on Crypto-asset services and Crypto-asset exchanges http://bit.ly/2VmOJLo
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 http://bit.ly/2BWRtYt
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) https://on.wsj.com/2T9AnBm
Abdul Latif Jameel Land and Al Muhaidib Group form JV facilities management company in Saudi http://bit.ly/2tJIo0Q
Jumeirah Group unveils new luxury hospitality project in China’s Zhujiang New Town Central Business District http://bit.ly/2Vlw3vc
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) http://bit.ly/2ExnpUQ
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
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
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.
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.