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MENA’s Digital News, Week #18

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

Have you noticed it’s slow on fintech news this week? This week’s round up has no “thoughts” section because I have been bed-bound most week with a terrible chest-infection, however it is full of reports and research, so scroll to the bottom and enjoy the weekend!

Investments & Acquisitions

Eat App

Eat, Bahrain-HQ restaurant booking startup, attracts investments to existing Tenmou held shares https://goo.gl/L6qnXW 

Wimo, Dubai-based delivery logistics management platform, raises $500k in seed funding from Dubai Angel Investors https://goo.gl/jPtMHD 

Safra, Ramallah-based online travel platform for travel agents, raises investment from Ibtikar Fund https://goo.gl/PUHyST 

Al Tayyar acquires rest of 40% stake in Saudi OTA Almosafer for ~$19M https://goo.gl/FQD5j5

Sector News

Amazon officially launches Kindle in Egypt via Souq.com, of course (AR) https://goo.gl/b5fXvu

MENA “Pay TV revenues fell 16% from $1.25B in 2016 to $1.06B in 2018” https://goo.gl/DfVFz7

Noon.com launches private label “East by Noon” on it’s platform https://goo.gl/jYaU9g 

Iris Capital, known regionally as the fund managers of STC Capital, are forming a ‘corporate venture partnership’ with Bridgestone Europe. The partnership feeds into IrisNext’s €250M multi-corporate vehicle https://goo.gl/DFSbzU 

Kuwait‘s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah launched an initiative to form a $200M fund to support technology investments https://goo.gl/Fr771H

IAB’s GCC chapter elects new board for 2019 https://goo.gl/h81yFg

Omnicom Group consolidates FleishmanHillard Middle East and Impact Porter Novelli https://goo.gl/hFeabQ 

Alain Bejjani, CEO, MAF and Will.i.am at WEF

Majed Al Futtaim partners with Omega AI Platform, an AI-powered conversational and contextual voice assistant https://goo.gl/JphJC9

Moven Enterprises, New-York based digital banking startup, partners with Bahrain’s fintech company Almoayed to provide Moven’s digital banking solutions to local banks https://goo.gl/eVUqGX

Further Readings

Liquid Telecom has appointed Mohamed Abdel Bassit as its new Regional CEO for Middle East and West Africa https://goo.gl/3EGVYx

Protiviti, global consulting firm, opens first North Africa firm in Cairo to add to it’s existing network of firms in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi and UAE https://goo.gl/JBh5xW

The national French tourism development agency launched of an official dedicated Arabic website for French tourism https://goo.gl/CGkV63

Long Reads

KPMG’s 2018 Saudi CEO Outlook https://goo.gl/KuPZ1H 

YouGov BrandIndex Buzz Rankings for Middle East: UAE https://goo.gl/5oDv6Z  Egypt https://goo.gl/8TY2dA  Saudi https://goo.gl/mmk4in 

Bloomberg’s “Most Innovative Countries Index 2019” – The regional leader in innovation is the UAE at a global rank of 46, followed by Tunisia at 52 (down 9 ranks from 2018), then Kuwait (55) Saudi (56) and Qatar (57) https://goo.gl/LbXbyc 

Mintrics’ “How Arabs React to Videos on Facebook” Infograph: https://goo.gl/apuABZ

African Business Angel Network (ABAN) ranks Cairo Business Angels as the second most active angel network in Africa and Tunisia’s Carthage Angels was ranked third https://goo.gl/sJrua7

According to NewZoo’s “Top 100 Countries/Markets by Game Revenues” ranking, turkey ranks 18th and Saudi Arabia ranks 22nd globally in game revenues, followed by UAE at 35 https://goo.gl/6werha

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MENA's Digital News on Telegram

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 https://goo.gl/jn9awz 

Kamkalima, Lebanon based edtech, raises $1.5M in Series A from Phoenician Fund and iSME https://goo.gl/wBKEbf

Webjet acquires Dubai travel firm Destinations of the World for $173M https://goo.gl/oA1qPt 

Sector News

Uber and Careem may start paying 22.5% corporate tax in Egypt https://goo.gl/d77W9w 

Chalhoub Group launches Dubai based co-working space and accelerator: Greenhouse, and announces first cohort startups https://goo.gl/EJ7WA6

Chalhoub Greenhouse Photo Credit to MENABytes

Saudi’s Badir Incubator launches in 4 new locations in the kingdom: Madina, Abha, Qassim and Dammam (AR) https://goo.gl/giojN5

Modus Capital, New York based venture capital firm, plans to expand into Egypt with incubation, seed and series A investment, and co-working space https://goo.gl/vZtyYs

Deutsche’s DWS to buy 15% stake in Dubai-based digital investment firm, Neo Technologies https://goo.gl/wtzzqn

Emirates NBD publicly launches their API sandbox https://goo.gl/cXJLTR 

Dubai’s Fintech sandbox announces it’s first licensed graduate Sarwa https://goo.gl/WyHoh9 

UAE announces the list of entities not allowed 100% foreign ownership (in follow up to law announced in August) https://goo.gl/UpwUgQ 

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) to Create Infrastructure for Cryptocurrency Assets https://goo.gl/XdAugm 

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 https://goo.gl/CXEmp5

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) https://goo.gl/sn6tgk 

Norton research shows that Saudi children are among the youngest in EMEA that receive smartphone, at approximately 7 years of age (AR) https://goo.gl/b1mFDC

Digital Gurus release a survey of average salaries of data engineers, scientists and analysts in the UAE https://goo.gl/krkRDk

Facebook releases it’s Egyptian market penetration numbers: 24M daily users and 37M monthly mobile users (more) https://goo.gl/Xgv2wS

According to Gartner, 787,000 bitcoins were mined in the first half of 2018 through illicit targeted crypto-mining in MEA https://goo.gl/L9PTQa 

Long Reads

Faith Capital release a MENA Venture Capital Regulatory Framework white paper https://goo.gl/MjxcZD

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. https://goo.gl/Ye89at

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! 

To get your daily dose subscribe to the Tech In MENA telegram channel here: https://t.me/technologyinmena

MENA's Digital News on Telegram

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! 

We Need More Female Leaders Represented

We need better professional female representation in every aspect of our lives at a global level. From social media influentials to political leaders, not enough women are in the spotlight to represent essentially 50% of the population.

This is particularly troublesome in the business, technology and entrepreneurship space. There are not enough role models for future generations to be inspired. I applaud the UAE for hosting the National Emirati Women Day, it’s a great initiative to highlight female leaders. Saudi Arabia is another country that has lots of women in leadership positions. Jordan is picking up on that front as well. Unfortunately, any Forbes Women of X year list will show you that many of the so-called influential women outside the GCC are celebrities and fashion icons, not to say these women should not be represented, but I would expect (or hope) a more business oriented list from such publications.

Dr Sana Odeh, Clinical Professor of Computer Science and Faculty Liaison for Global Programs of Computer Science at NYU, New York at ArabWiC Conference in Algeria

Most influential female social media icons are fashion and beauty icons, and that sucks. I have a favorite few, whom I love and respect, but I would love to also see more female social media influencers that discusses social, business, innovation, technology, news, arts, culture… and everything else. 

There are however multiple aspects to consider in this discourse: 

  • Would you follow a female and not judge her behavior and outfits at every turn? 
  • Would you trust her business acumen, aka, will you always double check her information?
  • Would she be comfortable enough showing her face on visual platforms like snapchat and instagram knowing that even though appropriately dressed she would be subject to inappropriate private messages? (first hand experience right here 🤚🏻)

I have recently posted a call out to share profiles of female leaders on social media over instagram, snapchat and twitter. I was particularly interested in those producing visual content… but, lets just say, the crickets took over.

Where are you ladies? 
Why do you not post online? 
And how can we encourage you to post more? 

Females Representation in Conferences

Having worked on digital business conferences for 7 years, I can whole-heartedly say: The struggle is real!

I was always aware of the need for more women on panels, my team had instructions to increase female speaker quotas. Number of female speakers was an actual KPI we measured, we never surpassed 28%, and our average was 20%. It disheartened me.

However, I have seen people bash conferences around the world for not having enough female speakers and here’s my two cents based on my long experience in the space:

  • Men are very aggressive at marketing themselves to conference organizers and PR agencies, they are sometimes borderline rude in their proposals and assumptions of expertise
  • There are many females in leadership positions that could speak on all kinds of topics in MENA
  • but, many reject speaking invites, to sit on panels or even attend conferences (trust me, I begged and pleaded) 
  • Because females speak less in conferences, they are sometimes less confident being stage (egg and chicken situation) and therefore less likely to get keynotes
  • Many companies have trained representatives that are allowed to speak on behalf of the company, when such strict rules apply the representatives tend to be men
  • Most conferences have a “propose a speaker” form, it is rare that a female would submit herself to speak, like 1 in 100 applications level of rare 
  • Females tend to make great moderators 
  • There are equally good and bad female speakers as there are on the male side, which makes things difficult given the relatively smaller pool
  • Within large corporations there are many very effective female leaders that have unrepresentative titles that can be make their seniority matching on panels challenging. Actually, often when a female and male with the same mid-management title are present the female would be better suited for the discussion, but titles of counterparts are panels are a sensitive topic in regional conferences and … if you want seniority the pool is smaller. 
  • Females are less likely to travel to another country to speak at conferences compared to their male counterparts
  • When reports are co-authored by a female and male colleague, usually it’s the male that emails in and asks to present the report, it becomes really awkward if you want to sideline them for their co-author

Starting two years ago, when emailing with company representatives requesting professionals to speak on a topic, we began explicitly saying: “We would highly appreciate if you had a female candidate that can represent the company” or “if the proposed speaker is a female that would be a plus” – that didn’t always work. In the cases where my relationship with the companies was close I can be honest and upfront about these issues, but in more sensitive relationships (like government or particularly difficult clients) you cannot be on offense.

Left to Right; Myself, Eliane Metni Co-founder of IEA, Sabine Kai Founder of Kids Genius and Farah Mtaweh, CEO ETC at ArabNet Beirut 2016

Conferences announce their agendas and speakers ahead of the event, if you see a gap in female representation, reach out and suggest people. If you have female friends that would be a gem of knowledge on stage, help them build a marketable presence, encourage their development, promote them, suggest them and talk about them. 

To be just, the ecosystem has developed quite a bit in the past few years, there are companies that have increased the ratio if females in leadership (yay) and supported their public profiles. There are also more female entrepreneurs, not enough, but just a little bit more. We still need more female investors, corporate CEOs and VPs, partners, and presidents.

…and more immediately, we need more outspoken ladies to inspire future generations online 💪🏻

P.S. If you need a female speaker on ANY topic in technology and digital business in MENA, ping me, I will have a recommendation for you