Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021
Sakani aims to raise Saudi home ownership to 70% by 2030. (SPA)
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Updated 16 April 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021
  • Sakani beat target of 51,000 familes in Q1
  • Sakani announces launch of home finance app

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Sakani program helped 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing its target of serving 51,000 families.

Sakani was formed in 2017 by the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70% home ownership by 2030.

Sakani revealed the data at an event in Riyadh on Thursday where it announced the launch of an online home finance app, SPA reported.

The program aims to serve 220,000 Saudi families this year, through the creation of 50,000 housing units, facilitating the reservation of 30,000 residential land plots and arranging 140,000 real estate loans, said CEO Marwan Zawawi.

More than 66,000 financing contracts were signed in the first quarter of 2021, supported by SR40 billion, a 23 percent increase compared to the same period of 2020. This brings the total number of families benefiting from the subsidized mortgage since its inception in mid-2017 until the end of the first quarter of 2021, to more than 487,000 families in various regions of the Kingdom, said Mansour bin Madi, general supervisor of the Real Estate Development Fund.

Sakani has enabled more than 350 thousand families to own homes to date, Bin Madi said.

About 178 infrastructure projects covering 244 million square meters have been developed at a cost of more than SR8 billion, said National Housing Company CEO Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Bati.

“In 2017, housing options under construction were limited, but now developers are racing to obtain licenses,” said General Supervisor of Real Estate Development Deputyship at the Ministry of Housing, Sultan Al-Sheikh. “Reservation of residential units on new developments is often complete within a few days and in some cases hours.”


Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor
Updated 24 June 2021

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

DUBAI: A jet ski tour of Dubai has emerged as the world’s top tourism experience according to Tripadvisor.
The company announced its annual list of Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best Things To Do Awards,” which is based on data from January to April this year.
The jet ski tour which gives travelers panoramic views of Dubai’s iconic buildings and beaches beat competition from a long list of rival activities from around the globe, from white water rafting in New Zealand to paragliding in Turkey.
Tripadvisor noted this year’s list was largely dominated by outdoor and water-based activities, as travelers became more excited about going outside after months of lockdown.
The UAE has been investing heavily in activity-based tourism with Dubai seeing greater competition from other emirates including Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah which recently revealed 20 new outdoor attractions.

 


Egyptian transport minister delivers ultimatum to ‘lazy’ railway chiefs in wake of crashes

Egyptian transport minister delivers ultimatum to ‘lazy’ railway chiefs in wake of crashes
Updated 24 June 2021

Egyptian transport minister delivers ultimatum to ‘lazy’ railway chiefs in wake of crashes

Egyptian transport minister delivers ultimatum to ‘lazy’ railway chiefs in wake of crashes
  • Egypt’s crumbling railway infrastructure requires billions of dollars of investment

RIYADH: The Egyptian transport minister has branded the country’s railway industry leadership as lazy and warned that the country will turn to foreign operators to intervene to run the network.
His comments follow separate two railway accidents within 24 hours.
Transport Minister Kamel El-Wazir, said he “did not find sufficient cooperation from the leaders and employees of the railways since he became minister,” Al Arabiya reported, citing a statement.
“If this laziness continues, I will seek the assistance of foreign companies cooperating with the Ministry of Transport in the field of railways to manage and operate the lines,” he said.
Egypt’s crumbling railway infrastructure requires billions of dollars of investment while a spate of deadly train crashes has highlighted the lack of investment in the sector.
Dozens of people were injured in a train collision in Alexandria on Tuesday which came less than a day after another incident in Cairo when a freight train collided with a minibus, killing two people and injuring at least six others.
The minister’s remarks also coincided with the signing a contract between Egyptian National Railways and the Hyundai Rotem-Daea consortium of South Korea.The $110 million project will modernize signaling and communication systems on the 118 kilometers-long Nag Hammadi-Luxor line.

 


Egypt eyes surge in fintech investment

Egypt eyes surge in fintech investment
The government recently allowed the central bank to issue licenses to fintech firms. (Reuters/File)
Updated 24 June 2021

Egypt eyes surge in fintech investment

Egypt eyes surge in fintech investment
  • MNT will also leverage more than a hundred warehouses and distribution points it has around Egypt and a fleet of vehicles to deliver products ordered online the same day

CAIRO: New legislation and regulatory changes in Egypt are set to unleash a surge in new fintech investments and change the way the country’s largely unbanked citizens do business, industry players say.
Fintech innovation in Egypt has trailed other emerging market powerhouses such as China, India, Kenya and Indonesia, a situation the industry hopes the new legal environment will change.
One innovator is MNT NV, a microfinance lending and payments company with more than a million active customers and a 21.7 percent market share. It has just completed a share swap to take over fintech company
Halan Inc., Mounir Nakhla, a cofounder of both firms, told Reuters. The deal had not previously been reported.
MNT-Halan is Egypt’s first private nonbank company to be licensed by the central bank to operate a digital wallet, a mobile telephone application that allows consumers, vendors, lenders and borrowers to transfer money, pay bills, buy goods on installment, secure loans and make other transactions.
MNT is marrying its large base of unbanked users with electronic technology, hoping to place itself at the forefront of a digital transformation.

FASTFACT

In September, the government passed a new law governing the central bank with provisions allowing it to give out banking licenses to fintech firms.

“What we’re going to do will be revolutionary, I believe. We have the reach, the technology and the capacity to scale,” said Nakhla, who created the first of a series of startups in 2010.
MNT has attracted $50 million from venture capital funds and other investors, and hopes to raise more capital soon.
MNT will also leverage more than a hundred warehouses and distribution points it has around Egypt and a fleet of vehicles to deliver products ordered online the same day.
In September, the government passed a new law governing the central bank with provisions allowing it to give out banking licenses to fintech firms, said Mohamed Essam, a fintech specialist at the law office of Matouk, Bassiouny and Hennawy.
A second law for the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) and governing nonbanking fintech such as nano-finance, consumer tech and insurance tech is in parliament and due to be finalized in the coming months.
“Suddenly in two years we have the new central bank law, regulations for wallets,” and soon the FRA law, Essam said.
“We believe that within the next few months or couple of years we will see a big bang in fintech.”

 


Digital licenses will lead to a ‘new style’ of banking, experts say

Digital licenses will lead to a ‘new style’ of banking, experts say
The e-commerce payment sector is surging in Saudi Arabia. The number of transactions in the first quarter of 2021 rose 95 percent year-on-year. (Social media)
Updated 24 June 2021

Digital licenses will lead to a ‘new style’ of banking, experts say

Digital licenses will lead to a ‘new style’ of banking, experts say
  • Saudi bankers, financial experts welcome government’s approval to issue licenses for two new digital lenders

JEDDAH: Saudi banking and financial experts have welcomed the Saudi Cabinet’s decision on Tuesday to approve the licensing of the first two local digital banks in the Kingdom — STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank.

STC Bank will be created from the conversion of STC Pay into a digital lender with paid-up capital of SR2.5 billion ($670 million), having received an investment of SR750 million from Western Union for a 15 percent stake.
Saudi Digital Bank will have paid-up capital of SR1.5 billion and will include Al Moammar Information Systems Co. (MIS) and other investors. MIS shares soared on Wednesday by 9.95 percent on the back of the news.
Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, who is also chairman of the Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP), revealed that the intention behind the approval is to acclimate to global digital and financial advancements.
Talat Zaki Hafiz, an economist and financial analyst, said the new licenses will add increased value to the Saudi banking sector and the fast-growing digital financial system at large, especially in relation to the Kingdom’s goal for non-cash payments to account for 70 percent of the total financial transactions.
Hafiz also praised the effort of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) to “broaden the scope and efficiency of innovative services” available in the Kingdom.

This initiative was expected in the Saudi banking industry as a result of the digital innovation Saudi Arabia is currently witnessing.

Mohammed Alomran, President of Gulf Center for Financial Consultancy

Mohammed Alomran, president of the Gulf Center for Financial Consultancy, said the move was inevitable.
“This initiative was expected in the Saudi banking industry as a result of the digital innovation Saudi Arabia is currently witnessing,” he said. “The reaction is positive as consumers are looking for new high-tech financial products.”
While traditional banks already provide e-banking products, Alomran said this will help to transform the e-commerce sector: “I think we will see a new style of e-banking and new innovative products that are totally human-free.”
However, he also said the main obstacle facing digital-only banks will be the lack of personalization and it will take a while for confidence in them to grow.
“When it comes to banking, personalization is very important to financial trading,” Alomran said.

FASTFACTS

• The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved licensing of the first two local digital banks in the Kingdom — STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank.

• STC Bank will be created from the conversion of STC Pay into a digital lender with paid-up capital of SR2.5 billion.

• Saudi Digital Bank will have paid-up capital of SR1.5 billion and will include Al Moammar Information Systems Co. (MIS) and other investors.

“This is why consumers all over the world today still prefer dealing with regular banks rather than digital banks given the fact that regular banks already have advanced e-banking channels. In my opinion, this issue represents a major challenge to digital banks today.” SAMA Gov. Fahad bin Abdullah Al-Mubarak stressed that digital banks will be under strict supervision to combat illegal issues such as money laundering and terrorist financing.
The digital payment and banking sector of the Kingdom is certainly making major advances this year. Saudi Payments, a unit owned by SAMA, this week partnered with global payments giant Visa to launch a system to allow users in the Kingdom to make digital payments using their smartphones.
The e-commerce payment sector is surging in Saudi Arabia. Statistics from SAMA show that the number of transactions in the first quarter of 2021 rose 95 percent year-on-year, while the total number of point-of-sale terminals in the Kingdom rose 68 percent in the same period.
Paul Kayrouz, head of fintech, blockchain, and emerging technology at global consultancy firm PwC Middle East, told Arab News in May that traditional banks would need to think hard about their business models to remain relevant. “Digital banking is here to stay,” he said.
“So, for these incumbents, they have to decide where they place themselves on this spectrum, to what extent they want to adopt digital banking and make strategic moves to have strong relationships with their customers.”
SAMA in January also issued its policy on open banking. Once regulations are introduced, this will enable bank customers to securely manage their accounts, share their data with third parties, access bespoke financial products and services from the same platform, and experience smoother daily banking activities.

 


Indian fintech provider plans expansion into KSA, Oman

Indian fintech provider plans expansion into KSA, Oman
Ajay Adiseshann. (Supplied)
Updated 23 June 2021

Indian fintech provider plans expansion into KSA, Oman

Indian fintech provider plans expansion into KSA, Oman
  • The company is aiming to double the global volume of transactions it processes to nearly $6 billion by March 2022

RIYADH: Indian financial technology (fintech) provider PayMate is planning to expand into Saudi Arabia and Oman after having recently launched into the region in the UAE.

Mumbai-based PayMate, which helps companies manage their cash flow and invoice payments, is aiming that up to 15 percent of its total revenue will come from the Middle East market within the next year.

“Our first customer went live recently in the UAE. We have a strong pipeline of customers there. And we are also expanding to new countries like Saudi Arabia and Oman thereafter,” founder and CEO Ajay Adiseshann was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper this week.

“It is exactly the same model, the same use-case, same problem statement which we address here in India. We are delivering everything from India, via the cloud. But from a sales development, business standpoint, we have our local employees in those countries.”

The company is aiming to double the global volume of transactions it processes to nearly $6 billion by March 2022.

Chief Financial Officer Ravi Vishvanathan told the Economic Times that PayMate currently has 200 companies using its platform and is aiming to boost this to around 400 by March 2022.