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Careem partners with VISA, digital gold now available in the UAE, and more | The Middle East Weekly Roundup

Written by Qadisha Group, Digital Digest, Smarkk Published on 

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This week in MENA: Saudi Customs begins applying 15% VAT on incoming e-commerce packages.

Investments by MENA-based startups in international tech companies continue to rise. China’s Innoway launches in Dubai. Softbank Vision Fund and Qatar Investment Authority join investment round into Zuoyebang. New Venture Capital funds launch, and more.

Investments in MENA-based Startups

Play:Date, a UAE-based parent-child social app, raises investment from Modus Capital. Amount undisclosed.

Refd, a Saudi-based on-demand service marketplace for people with disabilities, raises funding from OceanX. Announced via twitter, amount undisclosed.

KRISPR, the UAE-based urban indoor vertical farming company, has successfully raised USD 600,000 in pre-seed funding, led by KAIZEN FZCO, a family office based in Dubai.

Felix, a UAE-based insurance sales platform, raises USD 800,000 in seed funding from Oman Technology Fund and an undisclosed Saudi investor.

Trella, the Egypt-based trucking marketplace, raises investment from Vision Ventures. The announcement was made on Twitter, no further details announced yet. Trella has raised USD 750,000 to date with the last injection in August 2019 from Y Combinator.

Shumookh Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) invests USD 1.8 million (OMR 700,000) into Trust FinTech (TFT) and Al Manjam Agricultural Development. Under the agreement, SIDF will acquire a 15% stake in TFT, and will launch a JV focused on hydroponic agriculture with AlManjam.

Ureed, the UAE-based freelance marketplace, raises a 7-figure seed fund from Wamda Capital and Anova Investments. They also announced plans to acquire Nabbesh, UAE-based freelance marketplace, operations.

Investments by MENA-based investors

Blue Studios, a US-based edtech streaming platform, raises seed funding led by Global Millennial Capital (GMC), a UAE-based VC. Amount undisclosed.

Wallets Africa, Nigeria-based fintech startup, raises an undisclosed amount of funding from Samurai Incubate Africa, Mozilla Corporation, Friale Fund, 9 Yards Capital, VentureSouq (Dubai), and angel investors.

Airlift, the Pakistan-based mobility startup, raises USD 10 million in Series A-1 funding (their initial series A was USD 12 million, this USD 10 million is additional), led by Quiet Capital and joined by TrueSight Ventures as well as RT Ventures, Shorooq Partners (UAE), ACE Capital, First Round Capital, Fatima Gobi Ventures, and Indus Valley Capital.

Owkin, France-based machine learning for medical research startup, raises USD 18 million in additional funding to their series A round from Mubadala Capital and Large Venture fund (Bpifrance). This Series A extension brings the startup’s total amount raised to USD 70 million.

W3BCLOUD, the Ireland-headquartered JV between Advanced Micro Devices (US) and ConsenSys (US), announces an initial close of USD 20.5 million from the JV companies: AMD, ConsenSys, as well as several undisclosed family offices in the UAE. ConsenSys has regional HQ in Dubai and provides technology to power digital transformation for local government entities.

Zuoyebang, the Beijing-based edtech platform, raises USD 750 million in Series E funding led by Tiger Global and FountainVest Partners and joined by SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital China, Xiang He Capital, and Qatar Investment Authority.  

Sector News

Careem and Visa announce a strategic partner to bring digital payment and financial services to captains and consumers. In phase one the services will focus on Careem’s users in the UAE, Saudi, Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt. (video from Visa).

Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC) invests in “Roa Al Numu” Growth Vision VC through its fund of funds program. Amount undisclosed.

People Equity Fund, a new “talent investor platform for emerging markets,” announces it has raised USD 12.5 million for its first fund (it aims to close at USD 15 million), which will invest in people to help them become founders. The fund is looking to invest in potential-founders in Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan & Bangladesh. A similar program to WamdaX and Launch with BECO.

Innoway, the China-based incubator and accelerator, opens its first office in MENA in Dubai’s Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).

Lucid Motors emails, from a lawsuit, reveal that Saudi’s PIF owns 67% of the company after its USD 1.3 billion investment last year.

Majed Al Futtaim launches a hybrid mobile commerce-concept store in the UAE called “That <Concept> Store,” and the app “That App”. No press release has been issued about the concept, but an ad campaign is already running on Instagram. Instagram account, website.

US Gold Currency (USG), a gold-backed digital currency, launches in the UAE. The currency is a collaboration between US Gold Currency Inc (US) Blockfills, US-based digital asset liquidity provider, and IBMC Financial Professionals Group, the UAE-based financial consultancy. The crypto-asset is targeted towards MEA and India.

Research & Reports

Startup Genome publishes its annual “Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) 2020” with deep dives into Sharjah, Cairo, and Bahrain ecosystems. Also ranking Dubai as the 18th in the “Top 100 Emerging Ecosystem Ranking”.

INSEAD and MAGNiTT release a “Startup and Investor Sentiment” report measuring the impact of COVID-19 on the MENA startup ecosystem. Startups are more worried about the economic impact and outlook than investors.

Cheesecake Digital, the Bahrain-based e-sports provider, publishes “MENA Game Streaming Report – Q1 2020” which shows that Youtube streaming experienced a three-fold growth in viewership in March 2020, leading the viewership growth is Saudi, Bahrain, and Tunisia. Tunisia has had the most consistent growth since the beginning of 2020.

Nama Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), UAE, publishes “Women in the Economy, The Gulf Region Outlook – 2019” report that covers diversity in the workforce across 9 sectors in the GCC. (full report)

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Royal Commission for Riyadh City publish a report on the city’s progress in meeting the targets. of smart city strategies and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, evaluations undertaken with the U4SSC Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities. (full report)

Policy

Saudi Customs begins applying 15% VAT on incoming e-commerce packages into the Kingdom starting July 1, 2020. Via Twitter.

UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has announced that it will shut down the 2G network (GSM) by the end of 2022.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) sign an agreement to establish an International Centre of Digital Innovation (I-CoDI) in Geneva by the end of 2020.

UAE’s Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) New Data Protection Law No. 5 of 2020 comes into effect on July 1, 2020. The law was issued on June 1 and aims to regulate the sharing, storage, and transfer of personal data.

Egypt’s Ministry of Public Business Sector signed a protocol of cooperation with Egypt Telecom to connect all government premises with optical fibers over the next 36 months.

Further News

Systeme Panneaux Sandwichs (SPS), Algerian solar panel maker, Qi-energy, UAE-based mounting system provider, signed a joint venture (JV) agreement to jointly manufacture mounting structures for photovoltaic (PV) systems in Algeria for domestic and African markets.

FlexiDAO, Amsterdam-based blockchain-powered verification platform for production and tracking of clean energy, expands services to Lebanon in conjunction with the UNDP.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a partnership between Wizz Air (Hungarian low-cost airline) and Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company (ADQ), announces plans to launch their low-cost airline in fall 2020.

Photo credit: Mike Swigunski/Unsplash.

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