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Hill & Knowlton Europe now managed out of Dubai, e-sports recognized by the Arab Olympic Committee, and deal news | The Middle East Weekly Roundup

The UAE announces government changes to empower digital transformation, creates new Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology.

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USD 659 million was invested in 251 deals in startups in the first half of 2020. 70% of gamers in MEA use their smartphone as their primary gaming platform, and the Union of Arab National Olympic Committee recognizes e-sports as an official sport. Arabic audiobooks get a boost with a major acquisition.

Investments in MENA-based startups

Spotii, the UAE-based buy-now-pay-later fintech platform, raises investment from Daman Investments, amount undisclosed. Spotii launched its platform in April 2020.

Verofax Limited, UAE-based blockchain-powered drug traceability provider, raises pre-seed funding with participation from Privity, UAE-based venture advisory.

MidChains, Abu Dhabi-based blockchain-enabled financial investment exchange, raises funding from Mubadala Capital, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), Miami International Holdings, and others. Amount undisclosed. Midchains had raised funding from Mubadala in August 2019, also an undisclosed amount.

Galactech, the Tunisia-based telecom VAS content aggregator, raises a six-figure pre-Series A funding round from Oman Technology Fund (OTF) and angel investors.

OnePay, a Morocco-based fintech startup, raises USD 409,500 (MAD 4 million) from Maroc Numeric Fund II.

GrubTech, the UAE-based SaaS platform for F&B operations, raises USD 2 million in seed funding from undisclosed investors.

Lean, a Saudi-based financial APIs platform, raises USD 3.5 million in seed funding led by Raed Ventures with the participation from Shorooq Partners, Outliers VC, Global Founders Capital, Global Ventures, and angel investors.

Nomad Homes, UAE-based real estate rental and buying marketplace, raises USD 4 million in seed funding led by Comcast Ventures and joined by Abstract Ventures, Partech, Precursor Ventures, WndrCo, and Class 5 Global.

Mobilexpress, a Turkey-based mobile payment startup, raises USD 2 million funding led by Collective Spark and angel investors.

Kitab Sawti, the UAE-based Arabic audiobook producer and platform, was acquired by Storytel AB, a publicly-traded Swedish audiobook and e-book platform. The deal will be part cash part shares, final amount undisclosed.

Sector News

Careem expands ride-hailing services to Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

Amazon UAE launches a home-services marketplace.

Tabby, the Dubai-based buy-now-pay-later startup, launches services in Saudi.

The Union of Arab National Olympic Committee recognizes e-sports as an official sport (via Linkedin).

DEX, UAE-based Digital Assets Exchange marketplace, secured a Financial Services Permission (FSP) from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) in Abu Dhabi. The startup had secured principal approval from the FSRA in July 2019 to test the platform.

Saudi Telecom Company’s STC Pay partners with Visa to provide STC Pay consumers with access to VISA-powered payment services, cards, and international remittances.

Clara, a UK-based legal-tech startup, announces that it has secured the rights to incorporate companies Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Clara provides a SaaS-solution for incorporation of companies and legal support, its founding team is based in the UAE, and has raised money from MENA investors.

Bedaya Fund (second fund by Shorooq Partners) secures commitment from Al Waha fund of funds. Bedaya secured commitment from Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) announced in June 2020.

Hill & Knowlton (H+K) headquarter in Dubai which were responsible for their operations in MEA, Turkey, and India, are now also the main HQ for their Europe and Nordics operations.

Fawry, the Egypt-based mobile payment platform, is currently trading on the Egyptian Exchange at USD 830 million market cap value. Fawry IPO-ed a year ago (July 2019) at a market value of USD 300 million.

Research & Reports

Magnitt publishes “H1 2020 MENA Venture Snapshot” report that reveals USD 659 million invested in 251 deals in the first half of 2020. UAE takes the lead in value of investments, while Egypt attracts the highest number of investments. Saudi shows the highest growth in investments.

Intaj Jordan reveals findings from a survey it conducted on tech companies in Jordan during June 2020 on the sustainability and perception of the ICT sector beyond COVID-19. The report was published in Arabic only so we translated some of the key findings:

*55% are not satisfied with the economic performance of the public sector in relation to COVID-19.

*Only 5% received outstanding payments due from public entities in relation to COVID-19.

*46% have halted all hiring and 62% may hire remotely.

*46% of startups are not satisfied with the digital transformation and solutions provided by the public sector.

*51% suffered significant revenue loss and 57% reported challenges in payment collection.

*45% do not believe the banking sector perception of the tech sector has changed and therefore unlikely to support them with financial facilities.

*87% have developed plans for remote-working in case of a future lockdown.

Startup Blink publishes “Startup Ecosystem Rankings 2020” that ranks the UAE as 43rd globally, Jordan at 67, Lebanon at 74, Bahrain 75, Tunisia 77, Egypt 81, Morocco 83, Qatar 84, Saudi 88 (out of 100 tracked countries).

GlobalWebIndex publishes “The World Gaming” insight report for 2020 which surveys global gamers including Saudi, Egypt, UAE, and Morocco, and shows adoption of e-sports, live game streaming (watching and broadcasting) in MEA is on par with advanced markets. Also, 70% of gamers in MEA use their smartphone as their primary gaming platform.

Salesforce publishes its annual “State of Marketing” report that includes a survey of 200 professionals in marketing in the UAE (Page 51).

Ipsos publishes “Saudi Arabia’s Primary Consumer Sentiment Index – June 2020”. 28% of surveyed find that their personal economic situation is strong second only to China (31%) globally. 51% believe the state of the country’s economy is strong, which is the highest recorded confidence globally according to other comparable Ipsos surveys.

Ipsos publishes “Impact of COVID-19 on food and health across MENA” a study conducted across Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi, and the UAE. The report shows that 49% of surveyed are consuming more cooking channels and content, 33% are more likely to buy groceries online, while 39% are more likely to buy groceries from neighborhood stores (it doesn’t clarify if there is overlap between both).

Policy

Saudi extends COVID-19-related Saudi employees stimulus packages, details to be announced by mid-July. This stimulus is meant to cover 70% of employees of highly impacted sectors and 50% in less impacted. As well as other exemptions and deferments related to specific fines, customs, and more (we could not find a trusted source for the second list of exemptions in English).

UAE passes Law No. 04 of 2020 that outlines regulations governing drone activity in Dubai which addresses: use of drones by the public and private sector, manufacturing, and registration. The full draft of the law not yet available.

UAE announces government changes to empower digital transformation:

*Creation of a new Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology

*Minister of State for AI evolves to Minister of State for Digital Economy and AI

*Ministry of Economy will have three senior ministers, with one dedicated as “Minister of State for Business and SMEs”

*Plans to cut down government centers and in-person services by 50% over the next two years, and move those services online.

Further News

Mergermarket publishes “1H20 Global Report” covering M&A, private equity, and investments globally, including MEA. The global activity has decreased globally by 50%. For the MEA section, check pages 41-45 (link to report).

International Finance Corporation (IFC), Proparco (France), and the Danish Investment Fund for Developing Countries are providing a USD 108.5 million equity financing package to Humania (Bait Al Batterjee), Saudi healthcare investment fund, to establish specialized medical facilities in Egypt and Morocco.

Salalah Free Zone (SFZ) signed an agreement for USD 350 million with an undisclosed UAE investor to establish a “Technology City” that includes a data Park, technology academy, and other support facilities. It is unclear who the UAE-based investor is, and a little odd that it has been undisclosed for a project of this type.

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