IsDB’s Thiqah to promote trade & investment in member countries

IsDB’s Thiqah to promote trade & investment in member countries
The agreement was signed between IsDB president Dr. Bandar Hajjar and ICD CEO Ayman Sejiny.
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Updated 21 February 2021

IsDB’s Thiqah to promote trade & investment in member countries

IsDB’s Thiqah to promote trade & investment in member countries

An agency agreement has been signed between the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) to leverage the services of Thiqah, the IsDB Group business forum, for the promotion of cross-border investment and trade among the group’s member countries.

The move underscores the importance of the role of the private sector in sustainable development, job creation and promotion of investment and trade among IsDB’s member countries.

The agreement, signed between IsDB president Dr. Bandar Hajjar and ICD CEO Ayman Sejiny, reaffirms Thiqah’s efforts to promote and attract foreign direct investment in member countries, transfer know-how and open new markets to investors. In addition, it sets the ground for the establishment of a unique and innovative platform for effective dialogue, cooperation, and inclusive partnership for the IsDB Group and business leaders committed to partnering in promising investment opportunities.

Thiqah is well positioned to play a catalytic role in attracting the private sector and market resources into the IsDB Group and projects emanating from member countries and programs within the framework of the new President 5-Year Program (P5P) business model.

Dr. Hajjar said: “I was impatient to see Thiqah coming aboard. Indeed, each of our entities has a crucial role in this new vision of IsDB Group. We count on all the entities to capitalize on their network to considerably complement and scale up IsDB Group’s vision and strategy. We also rely on each entity’s years of experience to implement IsDB Group’s programs.”

Sejiny added: “Thiqah organized and promoted more than 100 events last year. It will also build on its experience to organize several business forums this year as part of the agency agreement to support the IsDB’s ‘Restore Program’ and Member Country Partnership Strategy (MCPS) 2.0. 

“Thiqah formalizes its excellent cooperation in promoting and maximizing cross-border investment and trade among member countries to be supported by IsDB Group’s financial products and services.”

The agency agreement highlights Thiqah’s determination to foster a stronger strategic partnership with leaders of the private sector in order to capitalize on their expertise and know-how on one hand, and to synergize with IsDB Group entities, on the other.


DIFC, EdAid partner to deliver digital education

DIFC, EdAid partner to deliver digital education
Updated 25 February 2021

DIFC, EdAid partner to deliver digital education

DIFC, EdAid partner to deliver digital education

The UAE’s DIFC Academy has partnered with EdAid, a London-based fintech platform dedicated to increasing access to higher education, to launch the Future Campus. The platform will offer online education opportunities to UAE nationals and residents from leading global academic institutions. The academy is part of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading financial hub in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region.

The initiative supports UAE Vision 2021 to build a competitive knowledge-based economy by developing local capabilities driven by sustained investment in education. It will become a catalyst for expanding and deepening Dubai and DIFC’s talent pool, whose acquired knowledge and skills will support the growth of more sustainable, inclusive societies and economies.

The Future Campus will become the fourth initiative at the DIFC Academy, alongside three schools dedicated to finance, law and management. The opening of the Future Campus coincides with the academy’s transition into the new state-of-the-art DIFC Innovation Hub at Gate Avenue, the largest innovation ecosystem in the region, supporting early and growth stage startups, unicorns and big tech firms to accelerate success and shape the future of finance. The Future Campus will welcome up to 25,000 students a year, offering programs that focus on acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to develop a sustainable and innovative future for the global finance industry. 

Students will benefit from the center’s dynamic and vibrant ecosystem, including a supportive environment to apply to more than 400 online degree programs, practical skills-based training courses, and vocational boot camps and study with a community of peers. All eligible online education opportunities are powered by 2U, Inc., a global leader in education technology, and will include a number of programs focused on artificial intelligence, blockchain cybersecurity, software engineering, data analytics and fintech. DIFC Academy and EdAid will also offer students career guidance, mentoring and networking opportunities, including internship and employment prospects with over 2,500 companies based within DIFC. 

Alya Al-Zarouni, executive vice president of operations and head of DIFC Academy, DIFC Authority, said: “DIFC is committed to shaping the future of finance through collaboration, innovation, and technology. The Future Campus will become part of the DIFC Academy and will accelerate the country’s economic growth by developing much-needed local talent. In time, they will lead the transformation of the financial sector, delivering positive impact and sustained growth. Given the breadth of campus’ offering, we will also be able to supply talent that will contribute to a revolution in other industries that will contribute to economic growth in Dubai, the region and major international economies.”

Tom Woolf, founder and CEO of EdAid, said: “Providing affordable access to high-quality online education and driving life-changing outcomes are everything to us at EdAid. Students enrolled in selected online courses will have access to co-working, co-study space within the Future Campus along with access to the DIFC’s comprehensive and vibrant ecosystem.”


NCB and Mastercard launch credit card for corporates

NCB and Mastercard launch credit card for corporates
Updated 25 February 2021

NCB and Mastercard launch credit card for corporates

NCB and Mastercard launch credit card for corporates

Mastercard and the National Commercial Bank (NCB) have launched a new corporate credit card offering the bank’s corporate and micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) clients a range of financial solutions. 

The Mastercard Corporate World card allows companies to effectively manage their expenses and corporate payment needs. The card aims to maximize companies’ financial control and provide them with full visibility in order to reduce costs and enhance cash flow. 

J.K. Khalil, country manager, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Levant, Mastercard, said: “As a trusted technology leader and proud supporter of the business community, we are delighted to collaborate with NCB to expand inclusion for best-in-class financial control, B2B expenditures and corporate travel benefits. We remain committed to helping businesses by offering innovative tools and payment solutions that enable them to make the most of the digital economy and an ever-strengthening payment ecosystem.” Majed Al-Ghamdi, chief executive of retail, NCB, said: “We are delighted to once again collaborate with Mastercard for another solution which we believe will provide strong value to businesses by offering the tools to enhance efficiency as well as meet their working capital requirements. Through the commercial credit card, our large corporate customers as well as SME clients will be able to make cashless transactions seamlessly and conveniently, while maintaining a stronger control over their cash flows. Furthermore, the initiative will add benefits to our corporate customers, such as control of spending and compliance with corporate policies.” 

The new corporate credit card delivers a range of innovative benefits and product offerings designed for the diverse needs of large corporations. Additionally, the dedicated self-service portal on AlAhlieCorp responds to requests and enables best-in-class relationship management. The card also offers consolidated e-statements and spending trends, so that cardholders and the management can benefit from simplified reconciliation and enhanced, integrated reporting.

The new credit card features a host of offers and rewards, including complimentary airport lounge access in more than 1,000 lounges across 300 cities with LoungeKey. It further includes complimentary travel and accident insurance, cover for medical emergencies, trip cancellations and lost baggage, in addition to other value-added benefits.

Additionally, companies that request an NCB corporate credit card before June 30 will have their annual fee waived for the first year.


Bosch and Dragon/Penske Autosport begin long-term partnership in Formula E

Bosch and Dragon/Penske Autosport begin long-term partnership in Formula E
Updated 24 February 2021

Bosch and Dragon/Penske Autosport begin long-term partnership in Formula E

Bosch and Dragon/Penske Autosport begin long-term partnership in Formula E
  • Bosch planning to develop an entire electric powertrain for Formula E for the Gen3 cars

Bosch Motorsport and the Dragon/Penske Autosport Formula E Team have agreed on a long-term technology and engineering partnership for the Los Angeles and UK-headquartered racing team’s cars in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Within the framework of this cooperation, Bosch will be developing an electronic vehicle management system specially tailored to the requirements of the Formula E vehicle along with the corresponding hardware and software components required.

The system core is represented by the central MS 50.4P vehicle control unit (VCU). Apart from the motor functions and central energy management, the MS 50.4P also controls other vehicle functions such as brake energy recovery and the display in the driver cockpit.

“Collaboration with Dragon enhances our successful involvement as a series sponsor of Formula E. With this partnership, Bosch underscores its claim as a leading supplier of powertrain management solutions, both in electromobility for production vehicles and in electrified motorsports,” said Dr. Markus Heyn, member of the board of management at Robert Bosch GmbH.

Plans entail deploying the innovative vehicle management system in a race for the first time in spring 2021. Preparations are already underway. Bosch is also planning to develop an entire electric powertrain for Formula E for the Gen3 cars.

Jay Penske, owner and team principal of Dragon/Penske Autosport, added: “We are very excited to embark on this journey with Bosch in Formula E. We are grateful for the support of Bosch Engineering and the entire Bosch Global board.

“Through our work together we will provide Bosch with a platform to both showcase its capabilities as it develops Formula E specific technologies, while also using the team’s storytelling abilities to illustrate the role Bosch is playing as a leader in the electrification of the mobility industry. This long-term technical partnership marks a significant turning point for the team, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of our alliance on track this season when we introduce our new Penske Autosport package later this year.”

Extensive technology package offered by Bosch

The central VCU, offered by Bosch represents the heart of the vehicle electronics for the electric race cars of the Dragon/Penske Autosport team. Bosch has developed a bespoke vehicle wiring harness to provide optimum integration within the cars. Bosch also equips the team’s development car with data loggers to improve the team’s research and testing capabilities. In order to optimally adapt the new vehicle electronics to the overall vehicle, Bosch provides its RaceConnect LTE cloud solution during development and test driving for transferring telemetric data and data analysis. This provides the race team engineers with all the important parameters and data on the vehicle, powertrain, and tires, enabling them to be analyzed and optimized swiftly and efficiently.

As the Formula E regulations prescribe the use of many systems, the performance of the electronic system makes a decisive contribution to racing success. “When optimizing the control software, we aim to always strike the right balance between energy efficiency and lap times under all track and racing conditions in order to optimally exploit the vehicle’s full potential. The extensive transfer of know-how and expertise at Bosch between volume production developments and applications for the race track helps us in this regard,” said Dr. Klaus Böttcher, vice president Bosch Motorsport. Moreover, with the race energy management function of the MS 50.4P the vehicle’s driving performance is adapted dynamically so that the fastest possible lap time can be achieved with a specified amount of energy. What is more, the central vehicle control unit also ensures maximum energy recovery rates in the interplay between the electric and hydraulic brakes, and adapts the powertrain and brakes to the individual race conditions, thereby optimizing vehicle feedback to the driver.

Nicolas Mauduit, EVP and chief technical officer of Dragon/Penske Autosport, said: “This alliance with Bosch is providing us with additional resources, amplifying our ability to scale our engineering, while giving us access to Bosch’s combination of hardware and software expertise to help us compete with the largest OEMs, in the most competitive motorsport championship. We have been hard at work together in order to hit the ground running this season, and I am eager to see the results of our efforts when the new Penske EV-5 package, supported by the Bosch electronic and hardware ecosystem, makes its debut this spring.”


Rasanah annual report provides in-depth analysis of Iranian affairs in 2020

Rasanah annual report provides in-depth analysis of Iranian affairs in 2020
Updated 24 February 2021

Rasanah annual report provides in-depth analysis of Iranian affairs in 2020

Rasanah annual report provides in-depth analysis of Iranian affairs in 2020

The International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) has published its Annual Strategic Report 2020, which provides in-depth data analysis on the interactions and developments in Iran last year. The report provides a clear picture of Iranian affairs and interactions, most prominently in the context of the emergence of a new international environment against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic — China has maintained its strong presence in the international arena in the post-COVID-19 world.

Despite the recent divisions generated by the departure of former US President Donald Trump from the White House, the report affirms that US policy is not solely crafted by Republicans and Democrats, but by US national institutions and national security interests. The report provides clarity on the phenomena of political Islam as local factions and organizations aspire to usurp power in many Arab and Islamic countries. This has become a serious concern for several countries, both in the East and the West.

By studying Iran’s intertwined files, its consecutive interactions and ramifications, the report reviews Iran’s internal affairs as follows: Ideologically, Iranian clerics have faced scathing public criticism amid rising political tensions. The deterioration of the economic and political situation at home has greatly exacerbated the most severe social problems.

The Economic File unveils the most important variables that have made the Iranian economy deteriorate further: US sanctions, the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and the government’s continued adherence to the policy of the “resistance economy.”

In Arab Affairs, the report discusses the renewed cooperation between the Gulf states and and their diplomatic efforts to highlight the risks of Iran’s behavior in the region and the threat Iran poses to international security and peace. It also reviews the escalation of the Houthis in Yemen by launching missile and drone attacks targeting neighboring countries and international maritime navigation; how Iraq has turned into a battlefield for confrontation between Iran and the US; the enrichment of Iranian influence in Syria; and the continuous suffering of the Lebanese people due to Hezbollah’s hegemony on Lebanon’s political life.

In International Affairs, the report argues that international interactions still affect Iran at all levels due to the “maximum pressure” campaign of the US and the ramifications of the nuclear file on Iran’s international relations. The report also discusses the steady economic cooperation between Iran and Russia and mainly focuses on Iran-Europe relations in regard to the nuclear file, Iran’s human rights record, and the countermeasures to address the coronavirus pandemic.

The report touches upon China’s support toward Iran against the US move to extend the UN arms embargo imposed on Tehran, reviewing the long-term comprehensive agreement concluded between the two countries. It also discusses how Iran’s relations with India and Pakistan are affected by the US position. This is in addition to discussing how Iran and Afghanistan kept their relations active. The report discusses Iran-Turkey relations in relation to the Syrian crisis and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and their mutual political, military and economic convergences. Further, it underscores that Iran’s relations with the Central Asian states are politically and economically stable. The report concludes that Iran in 2020 was mainly keen to pursue appeasement and rely on the “wait and see” policy, i.e. betting on time.

The report forecasts that Iran in 2021 is likely to face deeper internal crises, more intense interactions with the new US administration, growing divergence with the Europeans and the loss of its influence in Syria and Iraq. It does not forecast a potential breakthrough between Iran and the Gulf states.

Finally, the report concludes that the Gulf states have realized the risks and looming threats of Iran, the need for better political understanding and to integrate their defense capabilities to curb Iran’s potential threats in addition to cooperate with their strategic allies across the world. 

 


Carrefour boosts food traceability with IBM Cloud

Carrefour boosts food traceability with IBM Cloud
Updated 24 February 2021

Carrefour boosts food traceability with IBM Cloud

Carrefour boosts food traceability with IBM Cloud

Majid Al-Futtaim, which operates shopping malls, communities, and retail and leisure destinations across the Middle East, Africa and Asia — owner and operator of the Carrefour franchise in these regions — and IBM announced that the company has joined IBM Food Trust, a blockchain-enabled global ecosystem for the food industry run on IBM Cloud. 

Carrefour will become the first retailer in the region to offer new levels of insight and transparency to its customers about the provenance of their food via end-to-end visibility on products throughout its supply chain, promoting increased quality, credibility and safety for its shoppers.

The initiative will start with two initial product categories — Carrefour’s own fresh chicken brand and microgreens harvested from select in-store hydroponic farms — before expanding into more product lines. All participants in this initiative across the supply chain will benefit from a smarter and more sustainable food ecosystem. The digitization of transactions and data provides a more efficient way of working across the supply chain for growers, processors, shippers, retailers, regulators, and consumers. 

By simply using their smartphone to scan a QR code on participating products such as Carrefour’s fresh chicken, customers will be able to get immediate access to actionable food supply chain data, from farm to store shelf. The history of the product, including production process, halal and hygiene certifications, date of birth, nutrition information and temperature data, will be readily available once uploaded onto the blockchain.

The growing demand for food traceability is evidenced by research conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, showing that 73 percent of those responding to a survey said traceability of products is important to them. Of those who said it was very important, 71 percent of respondents indicated they are willing to pay a premium for brands that provide it.

“Trust in the food supply is becoming increasingly important worldwide, a trend accelerated by changing consumer demands and the subsequent health and well-being concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hani Weiss, chief executive, Majid Al-Futtaim Retail. “It is therefore imperative for us to invest in ensuring quality throughout the value chain while simultaneously working to build robust customer trust and loyalty. In meeting the new market expectations, we are now offering enhanced food traceability for our valued Carrefour customers and improved operational efficiency for our business.”

Majid Al-Futtaim is engaging with its supplier partners to enable broader participation in this initiative, giving Carrefour customers access to traceability details across diverse products throughout the UAE, before introducing it to other Carrefour markets operated by the company in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“Thanks to the availability of advanced cloud-based, blockchain technology and the commitment of Majid Al-Futtaim to deliver the highest quality to its customers, we are proud to be using this supply chain solution to provide the very best in quality, safety and trust to our customers in the markets we operate in,” said Nalla Karunanithy, chief digital officer at Majid Al-Futtaim Retail.