MENA’s Digital News, Week #19

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

Investments & Acquisitions

Melltoo, Dubai-based secondhand ecommerce platform, closes bridge round from 500 Startups, KISP Ventures, Khwarizmi Ventures and Shorooq Investments http://bit.ly/2B3dCnu

VentureSouq invests in US-based Oxygen, digital bank, focused on freelancers and the gig-economy http://bit.ly/2t0axQQ 

Sector News

Saudi’s PIF hedged most of its 4.9% stake in Tesla http://bit.ly/2Wt6Osh 

Oyo, Indian hotel management chain, signs tech deal with Saudi’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah http://bit.ly/2Dx4n0o 

Saraha, Saudi anonymous posting app, launches “Enoff” an app for anonymous office-place harassment reporting (AR) http://bit.ly/2ML1HPH 

Swvl, Cairo’s on-demand shuttle service, expands operations to Nairobi, Kenya http://bit.ly/2HBuHe9 

Viu, Singapore-HQ OTT service with MENA presence, launches original content series in Saudi Arabia http://bit.ly/2HDLfCh

Etihad Airways the launch of an in-house AI academy in partnership with Microsoft http://bit.ly/2UsWAXb

Wired Middle East to launch with a partnership between Condé Nast International and Nervora http://bit.ly/2G2G1Ov

Further Readings

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) and Union National Bank (UNB) to merge and together to acquire Al Hilal Bank http://bit.ly/2MEQ2SI

Independent Arabia has been launched under a licensing agreement between the UK news brand and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) http://bit.ly/2HHFnHZ

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) announces a Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank Merger http://bit.ly/2HwE7rb

China is looking to increase investment in the UAE via an “Annual Investment Meeting” http://bit.ly/2CUPYK4 

MSCI and Saudi’s Tadawul launch a tradeable index: MSCI Tadawul 30 Index http://bit.ly/2WzHr8b

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Is it really Newspapers vs. Social Media everywhere?

2 minutes
This post is inspired and in reply to Farhad Manjoo’s “For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned” post NYTimes. I loved the article and agree with most of it, but…

In an ideal world where there are multiple relatively credible media outlets governed by freedom of speech, open dialogue and democracy that practice is fantastic.

I never turn-on news alerts on my phone nor follow breaking news in any form. My social timelines are not for following “breaking news”, but opinions, long reads, debates and social interaction. As Farhad mentions “If something really big happens, you will find out”.

The Media Consumption Pyramid by @Faris
The Media Consumption Pyramid by @Faris

Reading the news after things have crystallized and minus the conspiracy theorist drama is always the best choice, whether it’s online, offline or in whatever form you prefer.

The problem however is in countries were the media is not independent, free, protected or available. Where it is not possible to read an argument and a counter argument. Where there is even nothing to read.

In countries with heavy monitoring of media and confining PR controls, you can only know what is happening by following social channels. Chances are once the government issues it’s version of the story all media outlets will comply and people that have any contrary views will delete them in fear of repercussions.

There are cities that have no media coverage, facing famine, war and extreme situations that the media cannot be left alone to cover. An example would be the Syrian war, if you depend on official media you’ll miss many details that constitute the full story. And the available outlets are far too biased for the full picture. Countries like Yemen have no real media to speak of, and the media itself is dependent on social channels. Egypt and Turkey are prime examples of countries arresting journalists for showing an opposing opinion or narrative. Thailand, China, and many more countries are not shy of such activities as well.

While being patient to get a better picture of the news is important, how does the rest of the world tell its story?

The winning formula for me would be to not block the counter argument, even online. Keep an open mind and question everything. Improve critical thinking and encourage people to read, explore and disconnect more. Don’t treat social media as fact, but neither should you treat traditional media as fact (with all those alternative facts now surging).

BuzzSumo launched a report that shows that article sharing has dropped 50% from 2015 to 2017 in the US. There is a sharp decline in “viral” content, people are sharing more privately and less publicly, this is further the direction on Facebook’s timeline algorithm, and Google’s new social network. Less mass, more catered.

While Facebook adapts it’s algorithm to the plight of US media and spam, how will all this affect the rest of the world that depends on it to share their plight?

I have to point out that there are journalists that are on the ground in the most dire situations trying to cover the news for the rest of the world. The numbers are far from what is needed and understandably the risks are high. To those that have risked and lost their lives I give my deepest respect.

This post originally appeared on Medium on March 12, 2018