In Egypt, lending apps boost cash-strapped women business owners

In Egypt, lending apps boost cash-strapped women business owners
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Updated 30 December 2021

In Egypt, lending apps boost cash-strapped women business owners

In Egypt, lending apps boost cash-strapped women business owners
  • While gameyas were long organised informally and offline, they are now being offered through apps in a tech transformation

Nagat Mohamed was in dire straits. After sales at her clothes shop in Egypt's Nile Delta plummeted, she took out a loan from a microfinance company to keep the business going – but did not earn enough to pay that back either.

To escape default, the 43-year-old entrepreneur turned to a traditional money-lending system known as a 'gameya' — revived with a 21st-century twist as an app.

"It was a real lifesaver," Mohamed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.

A gameya is a type of community savings pool which also functions as a peer-to-peer loan system.

Members deposit a fixed, equal amount of money into a joint pot every month. At the end of each month, one person is awarded the full amount until everyone has had their turn.

While gameyas were long organised informally and offline, they are now being offered through apps in a tech transformation that is revolutionising financing for Egypt's cash-strapped female entrepreneurs.

One in five Egyptian workers are women, according to the World Bank, many of whom run their own small businesses or home-based initiatives.

That makes it hard to get a loan from banks, which require documentation proving a fixed salary or ownership of a shop.

Microlenders, meanwhile, typically impose exorbitant interest rates of up to 40 percent.

Many online gameyas have no interest rates, and registration requirements are minimal: just uploading an ID, signing a contract in person, and providing monthly income statements.

The apps also let members pay a fee to be among the first in line for a payout, thus letting them settle old debts quickly and avoid taking on new loans with onerous interest rates.

Mohamed turned to an online app called MoneyFellows to help her repay the 15,000 Egyptian pounds ($954) that she owed the microfinance company for her shop.

"Two months ago, I finally paid my loan. I'm joining another money circle to grow my business and fund my daughter's marriage," the mother of three said.

Many of Egypt's women entrepreneurs turned to the gameya model during the pandemic, which hit small enterprises hard.

Three-quarters reported a drop in business in 2020, and 9 percent had to shut down completely, according to a survey by Egypt's Ministry of Planning.

"People are showing growing interest in online savings systems because they are simple, easy to use and come with meagre interest rates," said Ahmed Wadi, the chief executive and founder of MoneyFellows.

The number of women entrepreneurs using the app has risen from about 20,000 before the pandemic to some 150,000, representing about 6 percent of its 2.5 million users.

On average, they took out loans of 12,000 pounds.

Women make up one in three users of another app, ElGameya, typically seeking loans of about 15,000 pounds.

"There was an already existing need for our business," its founder Ahmed Mahmoud Abdeen said.

"Women were already joining offline gameya apps or borrowing from their friends and families to pay their loans or grow their business. We only made life easier for them."

Part of the appeal is the flexibility.

If ElGameya's borrowers want to get their payout within the first four months of the lending circle, they pay a monthly interest rate of up to 9 percent. But if they accept a longer wait, the interest fees are waived.

Amal Abdel Aty, who owns a home utensils shop in the Nile Delta city of El Mahalla El Kubra, said she had been forced to borrow from her friends and sell some of her possessions to meet repayments on two loans she took from microfinance companies.

Her first loan was worth 10,000 pounds at an interest rate of 24 p ercentover 18 months. When she could not pay it, she took out another 10,000-pound loan.

Three months ago, she joined a 12,000-pound lending circle at ElGameya and has already been awarded the full pot, allowing her to pay back the first microfinance loan.

REVIVING OLD SYSTEMS

Gameya loan apps are not regulated, but the central bank is working on a system of authorisation.

The money-lending circles have a long history of boosting access to finances for marginalised communities, particularly in urban areas, according to Yomna El Hamaki, a professor of economics at Ain Shams University.

There is also a religious element.

"In a Muslim society like Egypt, people usually prefer to register for gameyas rather than go to the banks or other financial institutions which offer loans at interest rates that are considered forbidden by many Muslims," El Hamaki said.

And with economies squeezed by the pandemic, they have become an online lifeline for Egypt's budding women business leaders.

"These apps are a buffer for many who got their financials adversely affected by the pandemic," she said.


Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
Updated 28 January 2022

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
  • Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period

SAN RAMON, California: Apple shook off supply shortages that have curtailed production of iPhones and other popular devices to deliver its most profitable holiday season yet.
The results posted Thursday for the final three months of 2021 help illustrate why Apple is looking even stronger at the tail end of the pandemic than when the crisis began two years ago.
At that point, Apple’s iPhone sales had been flagging as consumers began holding on to their older devices for longer periods. But now the Cupertino, California, company can’t seem to keep up with the steadily surging demand for a device that has become even more crucial in the burgeoning era of remote work.
Apple’s inability to fully satisfy the voracious appetite for iPhones stems from a pandemic-driven shortage of chips that’s affecting the production of everything from automobiles to medical devices.
But Apple so far has navigated the shortfalls better than most companies. That deft management enabled Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period, a 9 percent increase from the same time in the previous year.
Those sales gains would have likely been even more robust if Apple could have secured all the chips and other components needed to make iPhones. That problem plagued Apple’s July-September quarter when management estimated that supply shortages reduced its iPhone sales by about $6 billion. The company may address how supply shortages affected its performance in the most recent quarter during a conference call with analysts scheduled later Thursday.
Despite what drag the shortages caused, Apple still earned $34.63 billion, or $2.10 per share, a 20 increase from the same time in the previous year. Revenue climbed from the previous year by 11 percent to $123.95 billion.
Apple’s ongoing success help push the company’s market value above $3 trillion for the first time earlier this month. But its stock price has tumbled 13 percent since hitting that peak amid worries about a projected rise in interest rates aimed at dampening the torrid pace of inflation that has been fueled in part by supply shortages.
Its shares gained more than 3 percent in Thursday’s extended trading after the Apple’s fiscal first-quarter numbers came out.
The supply issues looming around Apple’s devices have magnified the importance of the company’s services division, which is fueled by commissions from digital transactions on iPhone apps, subscriptions to music and video streaming and repair plans.
The up to 30 percent commissions collects from apps distributed through Apple’s exclusive app store have become a focal point of a fierce legal battle that unfolded in a high-stakes trial year, as well as proposed reforms recently introduced in the US Senate that tear down the company’s barriers that prevent consumers from using alternative payment systems.
For now, though, the services division is still booming. Its revenue in the past quarter hit $19.52 billion, a 24 percent increase.
Apple is widely believed to be maneuvering toward another potentially huge money-making opportunity with the introduction of an augmented reality headset that would project digital images and information while its users interact with other physical objects and people. True to its secretive form, the company has never said it is working on that kind of technology.
But Apple CEO Tim Cook has openly shared his enthusiasm for the potential of augmented reality in public presentations, and analysts believe the long-rumored headset could finally roll out later this year — unless it’s delayed by supply shortages.


Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’
Updated 28 January 2022

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Thursday replacing the central bank governor, Riad Salameh, today is not “wise.”
Finance Minister Youssef Khalil told local broadcaster MTV that nobody proposed removing the central bank governor, but “I do not imagine changing the central bank governor today is a wise matter.”
Salameh, who has support from several top politicians, is being probed in Lebanon and at least four European countries, with his role under close scrutiny since Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019.
Salameh denies any wrongdoing during almost three decades leading the central bank.


Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters

Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters
Updated 27 January 2022

Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters

Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters

BEIRUT: Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on Thursday that the energy transition “was not going smoothly,” pointing to a resurgence in demand for oil and gas as the global economy recovers while supplies lag on the back of falling investment, according to Reuters.

“We all agree that to move towards a sustainable energy future a smooth energy transition is absolutely essential but we must also consider the complexities and challenges to get there,” he told the B20 conference in Indonesia via video link.

“We have to acknowledge that the current transition is not going smoothly,” he said.

- Reuters


SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021

SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021
Updated 27 January 2022

SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021

SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021

RIYADH: Saudi National Bank, the Kingdom’s biggest lender, said its board has recommended cash dividends of SR4.03 billion ($1.1 billion), or 9 percent of capital, for the second half of 2021.

SNB’s shareholders will receive SR0.9 per share, with a total amount of 4.48 billion shares eligible for dividends, a bourse statement by the bank revealed.

This brings the annual dividend yield to 2.12 percent, based on a share price of SR73, given the bank paid out SR0.65 per share for the first half of the same year.

The distribution date is yet to be disclosed, according to the statement.


Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP

Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP
Updated 27 January 2022

Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP

Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP

RIYADH: The majority of Saudi businesses gather data faster than it can be analyzed and used, Dell Technologies has warned ahead of the LEAP tech event being held in Riyadh from Feb. 1-3.

The US firm is set to take part in the forum, which is focused on future and disruptive technologies.

Ahead of the event, Mohamed Talaat, vice president in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Levant at Dell Technologies, pointed to research by his company in 2021 that showed 70 percent of Saudi respondents have data-driven business and consider data as the lifeblood of their organisation.

However, 59 percent said they were gathering data faster than they could analyze and use.

Talaat said: “Saudi Arabia today stands at the threshold of change, underpinned by the nation’s ambitious vision and drive to transform, innovate and build a legacy for generations to come.

“Dell Technologies remains committed to advancing the country’s transformation agenda. We're empowering local organizations with end-to-end infrastructure and client solutions. They not only support a data-driven work culture, but are also capable of predicting the future and achieving better business results.”