An Egyptian company helps local businesses adopt AI

An Egyptian company helps local businesses adopt AI
Cairo-based digital transformation firm Synapse Analytics has been exploring AI’s benefits in market sectors ranging from robotics to banking. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 December 2019

An Egyptian company helps local businesses adopt AI

An Egyptian company helps local businesses adopt AI
  • AI is expected to make an economic contribution of $320bn by 2030 in the MENA region
  • Cairo-based venture experimenting with integration of AI in a variety of sectors

CAIRO: An Egyptian technology business is aiming to help regional enterprises benefit from the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is being relentlessly integrated into the fundamentals of business and everyday life, demonstrating exceptional potential for boosting the global economy.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the new technology is expected to make an economic contribution of $320 billion (SR1.2 trillion) by 2030, with gains expanding annually by between 20 percent and 34 percent.

Saudi Arabia is forecast to be the chief beneficiary of this trend as it adds an estimated $135.2 billion to its gross domestic product, with the Neom smart city project being a clear sign of the Kingdom’s commitment to technology and AI.

On the other hand, there has never been a more controversial time for AI, not just in the region but also around the globe.

While companies are excited to explore its use to obtain insights that can help them transform their products and services, employees are fearful of losing their jobs to AI-powered bots.

“AI is trendy now, and there are so many talks and events about it, (but) many executives might agree that despite all the interest, tangible business results are scarce,” said Ahmed Abaza, co-founder and CEO of Synapse Analytics, an Egyptian digital transformation company helping businesses adopt AI solutions.

Founded in January 2018 by 29-year-old Abaza and Galal El-Beshbishy, 24, the Cairo-based venture has been experimenting with a variety of market sectors — from robotics to banking — and utilizing AI for everything, from image tracking and analysis to business analytics.

The company’s ultimate goal is to revisit how AI could be Incorporated within enterprises. In spite of an influx of funds into AI business adoption, Abaza believes that firms can easily fall victim to the powerful hype surrounding the technology instead of making results-driven investments.

Dr. Mark Esposito, the instructor of Harvard’s two-day intensive AI in Business program, shares this view, with one publication quoting him as saying that “the low-hanging fruit is recognizing where in the value chain (companies) can improve operations. AI does not start with AI. It starts at the company level.”

However, this is not the only challenge for the region’s AI sector. Many executives that Synapse Analytics worked with could not understand the potential of the technology.

“Pitching that we could save 15 percent of their working capital using AI seemed too good to be true,” said Abaza.

IT personnel were not exposed to much AI, either, which made them demand extensive testing and led to project delays.

Finding and maintaining talent was another challenge for the fledgling industry.

Abaza said that a good AI engineer was a person with comprehensive knowledge across multiple domains, including software development, IT, statistics and mathematics, plus a hefty dose of business acumen.

Synapse Analytics currently has a team of more than 30 employees, all from highly diversified backgrounds.

“Retaining these talents in the Egyptian market could be a bit challenging since competent AI engineers and data scientists are in huge demand globally,” Abaza added.

To make it easier for businesses to tap into AI, the company is transforming the services it offers into products.

The first one, Azka Vision, is an AI suite designed to collect data from surveillance cameras and CCTVs to provide material for actionable insights.

Two more products are expected to launch soon, including Azka Analytics, an end-to-end supply chain optimization platform using AI that will help companies cut operational costs.

According to Abaza, Synapse Analytics is a profitable operation with a range of local and international clients across the retail, fashion, and finance industries.

His aim is for the company to become a big data and AI lab not only for businesses but for economies, too.

•  This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. 

 


Saudi sovereign fund PIF boosts US equities exposure to over $15 billion

Saudi sovereign fund PIF boosts US equities exposure to over $15 billion
Updated 20 min 34 sec ago

Saudi sovereign fund PIF boosts US equities exposure to over $15 billion

Saudi sovereign fund PIF boosts US equities exposure to over $15 billion
  • Fund increased its US stock holdings to $15.4 billion in the first quarter

DUBAI : Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has increased its US stock holdings to $15.4 billion in the first quarter from nearly $12.8 billion at the end of 2020, according to a US regulatory filing on Monday.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought 2.9 million class A shares in SoftBank Group Corp-backed Coupang Inc, equivalent to $141 million, and dissolved its share stake in Suncor Energy, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
It more than doubled its position in Activision Blizzard to 33.4 million shares from 15 million shares at the end of the fourth quarter, which led it to a $3.1 billion exposure from $1.4 billion.
The fund increased its shares in Electronic Arts Inc. to 14.2 million, equivalent to $1.9 billion, from a $1.1 billion position at the end of the previous quarter.
PIF, which did not immediately respond to a comment request on the filing, is at the center of Saudi Arabia’s plans to transform the economy by creating new sectors and diversifying revenues away from oil.
The $400 billion fund is expected to inject at least $40 billion annually in the local economy until 2025, and increase its assets to $1 trillion by that date, which would make it one of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds.
“PIF would have wanted to take advantage of the bullish sentiment in equity markets in Q1 to make opportunistic investments and add to its portfolio,” said Rachna Uppal, director of research at Azure Strategy.
“In line with domestic efforts to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030, the Saudis also appear to be favoring investments into sectors such as technology, mobility, and especially future mobility, tourism and entertainment,” she said.
At the start of last year PIF piled up minority stakes in companies worldwide, taking advantage of market weakness caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Monday’s filing showed the value of its biggest US stock holding, Uber Technologies, rose to nearly $4 billion in the first quarter, from $3.7 billion as of Dec. 31, as the ride-hailing company’s shares gained value during the period.
PIF was an early investor in Uber, taking a $3.5 billion stake in 2016, three years before its listing in 2019.


Qatar Investment Authority to take $740m chunk of US renewables firm Avangrid

Qatar Investment Authority to take $740m chunk of US renewables firm Avangrid
Updated 26 min 19 sec ago

Qatar Investment Authority to take $740m chunk of US renewables firm Avangrid

Qatar Investment Authority to take $740m chunk of US renewables firm Avangrid
  • QIA will buy shares worth $740 million and Iberdorla, the largest shareholder in Avangrid

RIYADH: Renewable energy provider Avangrid said it would sell shares worth a total of $4 billion to both the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Spanish Iberdrola Group for $ 51.40 a share.
QIA will buy shares worth $740 million and Iberdorla, the largest shareholder in Avangrid (based in Orange County, Connecticut, US), will purchase approximately $3.26 billion of stock, Asharq Business reported.
The deal is expected to close on Tuesday.
The Qatar Investment Authority last March also acquired 16 percent of the 53 million shares offered by Siemens Healthineers, through a private placement of $2.8 billion.
The fund is targeting deals in Asia, in an attempt to diversify its investment portfolio, which has a great focus and weight in America. Northern and Europe, Chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said in a previous interview with Bloomberg.

 


Egyptian neobank Telda raises $5m in Sequoia-led pre-seed round

Egyptian neobank Telda raises $5m in Sequoia-led pre-seed round
Updated 38 min 17 sec ago

Egyptian neobank Telda raises $5m in Sequoia-led pre-seed round

Egyptian neobank Telda raises $5m in Sequoia-led pre-seed round
  • It was the first investment for the American venture capital firm in the Middle East and North Africa

DUBAI: Telda, a Cairo-based digital banking application, has raised $5 million during its pre-seed funding round organized by US firm Sequoia Capital.
It was the first investment for the American venture capital firm in the Middle East and North Africa.
Global Founders capital and Class 5 Global also participated in the round.
The app recently announced it has received license from Egypt’s central bank to issue cards and on-board customers to its platform.
It has received 30,000 sign ups since it started its operations, it said.
The funding comes as digital-only banks rise in popularity across the region, where 60 percent of the population is estimated to be under the age of 25.
“Egypt boasts of a large, young, talented and tech savvy population with a strong appetite to innovate,” Sequoia partner George Robson said.
Egypt is among the top 10 countries most reliant on cash and with the highest rate of unbanked people, according to Merchant Machine.
“Today’s funding milestone promotes the digital transformation of the Egyptian economy and allows Telda to provide everyone with access to important financial services so they can fully participate in the economy,” Telda chief technology officer Youssef Sholqamy said.
Sholqamy, who was a former senior engineer in Uber’s infrastructure team, co-founded the startup with Ahmed Sabbah, who also founded the Egyptian bus-hailing service Swvl.


Europe slaps anti-dumping duties on MEG Saudi petchems product

Europe slaps anti-dumping duties on MEG Saudi petchems product
Updated 47 min 23 sec ago

Europe slaps anti-dumping duties on MEG Saudi petchems product

Europe slaps anti-dumping duties on MEG Saudi petchems product
  • The anti-dumping duties on MEG imports from Saudi Arabia are estimated at 11.1 percent

DUBAI: The European Commission (EC) announced proposed anti-dumping duties on monoethylene glycol (MEG) imports from Saudi Arabia and the US, Argaam reported.
The anti-dumping duties on MEG imports from Saudi Arabia are estimated at 11.1 percent, the financial news site reported, citing a document.
The companies affected by the new levy include Yanbu National Petrochemical Co. (Yansab), Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Co. (Saudi Kayan), Eastern Petrochemical Co. (Sharq), Saudi Yanbu Petrochemical Co. (Yanpet), Arabian Petrochemical Co. (Petrokemya), and Jubail United Petrochemical Co. (JUPC).
The original anti-dumping probe into Saudi and US MEG exports began in October 2020, Argaam said. It followed a petition from European ethylene glycol producers, which represent a quarter of total producers.
In December 2019, India also started an anti-dumping probe into imports of MEG from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, and Singapore, Argaam said.
Monoethylene glycol is used to make polyester fibers and film as well as engine coolant.


Jabal Omar losses widen on hotel closures in Makkah

Jabal Omar losses widen on hotel closures in Makkah
Updated 18 May 2021

Jabal Omar losses widen on hotel closures in Makkah

Jabal Omar losses widen on hotel closures in Makkah
  • Construction work extends across two square kilometers where some 40 towers are at various stages of development.

DUBAI: Jabal Omar Development Co. reported a widening first-quarter loss as hotels in Makkah were forced to close amid the pandemic.
The developer that is spearheading the vast redevelopment of land around the Grand Mosque in the holy city, said losses widened by 45 percent to SR345.3 million ($92 million). Sales fell 89 percent to SR21.6 million, it said in a stock exchange filing on Tuesday.
It blamed the performance on the “significant decline in revenues due to the decrease in the occupancy rate of hotels and commercial malls.”
At the same time its financial charges rose due to the non-capitalization of borrowing costs, it said in the filing.
Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars to develop hotels, malls and other real estate in Makkah to accommodate the expected surge in pilgrims.
Current construction work extends across two square kilometers where some 40 towers are at various stages of development.
They are expected to accommodate some 4,000 guests on any normal day, and up to 100,000 visitors on any given day during the Hajj and Umrah seasons.