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
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
Schengen Nationals can now travel to Saudi Arabia with an eVisa https://goo.gl/gmJ638
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.
Have a blessed festive week
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