Moroccan fintech WafR raises $455k in its latest funding round

Moroccan fintech WafR raises $455k in its latest funding round
WafR was founded in 2018 (Shutterstock)
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Updated 06 June 2022

Moroccan fintech WafR raises $455k in its latest funding round

Moroccan fintech WafR raises $455k in its latest funding round

RIYADH: Morocco-based financial technology and rewards startup WafR has raised $455,000 in its latest funding round, MAGNITT reported. 

This funding will be used to support the growth of the company and meet its requirements, according to the company. 

WafR helps consumers find discounts and deals on products in local shops.

"We are very pleased with the group of investors we were able to secure in this new funding round and are proud of the strong growth experienced by WafR over the past 12 months," Ismail Bargach, co-founder of WafR said. 

The round was led by Launch Africa Ventures, First Circle Capital, WeLoveBuzz, with participation from a group of angel investors.


PIF’s National Water Co. launches $23m environmental project in Qassim

PIF’s National Water Co. launches $23m environmental project in Qassim
Updated 17 sec ago

PIF’s National Water Co. launches $23m environmental project in Qassim

PIF’s National Water Co. launches $23m environmental project in Qassim

RIYADH: National Water Co., a joint stock firm fully owned by the Public Investment Fund, has announced the completion of an SR89.8 million ($23 million) environmental project in Saudi Arabia’s central Qassim region. 

The new project will provide sanitation services to a projected 27,000 recipients across 29 neighborhoods in the region. 

In a press release, NWC indicated that networks with a length of 108,634 meters were extended, and 3,519 household connections were implemented across the governorates of Onaizah, Al-Rass, Al-Muthnab, Al-Bukairiyah, Al-Bada’i, Al-Khubra and Riyadh. 

Its sanitation project also includes the construction of a pumping station in Al Bukayriyah Governorate with an estimated capacity of 7,280 cubic meters per day. The station is anticipated to serve over 27,207 citizens. 

The project also falls in line with NWC’s goal to elevate the level of customer service, expand coverage rates for sanitation services, and raise the operational efficiency of services. 

Earlier this year, in August, NWC announced plans to roll out 1,429 projects for tender with a total value exceeding SR108 billion, as part of its strategy to support the Kingdom's five-year plan to develop the sector's infrastructure.   

Terming this as the largest package of projects ever in the water distribution sector, NWC said the announcement is part of its continued plans and programs for developing water and environmental infrastructure.   

This includes expanding the coverage of water and wastewater networks and increasing sewage treatment plant’s capacity, in addition to extending water services coverage to all citizens and residents across the Kingdom regions, it said.   

“The projects will contribute to the realization of the National Water Strategy and Vision 2030’s objectives, diversify the economy and boost overall development,” NWC Acting CEO Nemer M. Al-Shebl said in a statement. 

He noted that these projects will greatly complement the sustainability of water and environmental services. “The water and wastewater coverage will be immensely increased in all Saudi regions following the completion of these projects,” added Al-Shebl. 


Driven by economic diversification, KSA’s construction industry leads the MENA region: JLL

Driven by economic diversification, KSA’s construction industry leads the MENA region: JLL
Updated 20 min 3 sec ago

Driven by economic diversification, KSA’s construction industry leads the MENA region: JLL

Driven by economic diversification, KSA’s construction industry leads the MENA region: JLL

RIYADH: Despite macroeconomic conditions impacting the sector globally, the construction industry in the Kingdom continues to lead the Middle East and North African region, said a recent report.
Demonstrating its commitment to driving economic diversification and transforming the Kingdom in line with its Vision 2030, the Kingdom witnessed the highest value of project awards in 2022, according to JLL’s Q4 2022 KSA Construction Market Intelligence Report.  

Construction output growth in Saudi Arabia is anticipated to rise by 3.2 percent in 2022, with a further annual average growth rate of 4 percent between 2023 to 2026 as indicated by Global Data.  

Not surprisingly, the Kingdom has maintained its position as the strongest market across the MENA region with the highest total value of project awards for four consecutive years.
As of October 2022, the Kingdom holds a 35 percent market share with a recorded $31 billion worth of contract awards against an overall MENA total of $87 billion as tracked by MEED Projects.  

Saudi Arabia’s pipeline value of unawarded (pre-execution) projects is estimated at $1.1 trillion, which includes projects from the study stage through to the main contractor bid. Approximately 70 percent comprise ‘construction’ sector projects with residential, cultural, leisure and hospitality as sub-sector leaders, which is the driving force behind the Vision 2030 strategy.
In the second half of 2022, 13,000 hotel keys are expected to be delivered in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Makkah, accentuating the continuation of the Kingdom’s hospitality sector development.  

The top 10 contractors in the Kingdom are responsible for $400 billion in projects that are currently in the execution stage, accounting for 40 percent of the total future pipeline value of $1.1 trillion.
According to MEED Projects, the total value of projects awarded in the Kingdom between 2021 and 2025 will reach $569 billion, with a total of $85 billion (15 percent) awarded to date across 2021 and 2022 (October end).  

JLL’s market intelligence data further revealed that global economic volatility in the first two quarters of 2022 created challenges in the local construction market in terms of delivery lead times and instant price increases, with suppliers reluctant to guarantee prices for extended periods of time.  

“Given the volatile market conditions and rising construction material prices, which reached a significant peak during the second quarter of this year, there is a need for robust mitigation strategies,” said Laura Morgan, market intelligence lead MEA at JLL.  

She added: “Moving forward, the construction sector will prioritize development needs that are aligned with evolving trends and demands, with an emphasis on innovation and digitization playing a significant role within the segment and in powering Vision 2030 projects.”


GCC region has over 170K hotel rooms under development: Report 

GCC region has over 170K hotel rooms under development: Report 
Updated 07 December 2022

GCC region has over 170K hotel rooms under development: Report 

GCC region has over 170K hotel rooms under development: Report 

RIYADH: Gulf Cooperation Council countries have over 170,000 hotel rooms under active development, equivalent to 40 percent of the region’s existing inventory, according to research by hotel market intelligence company STR. 

The development figure is almost four times greater than the rest of the world, which currently lags at an average of 11 percent more being created compared with existing supply. 

Danielle Curtis, exhibition director of Arabian Travel Market, the firm that commissioned the research, said: “Between Expo 2020, the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 strategy, the GCC’s hospitality sector development pipeline remains robust in contrast to global hotel development, which is slowing, due to weak economic growth forecasts. 

“While the hospitality sector’s growth does highlight the region’s increasing popularity on the global stage, it is also indicative of regional government strategy to diversify gross domestic product growth away from hydrocarbons into tourism, which will help to drive demand still further, over the coming years.” 

The STR report estimates there are 135,560 existing rooms in Saudi Arabia with an active pipeline of 82,639 rooms, making a total room inventory projected for 2030 at over 218,000. Similarly, for the UAE, there are more than 202,000 existing rooms with an active pipeline of 48,910 rooms, leading to a combined total of almost 251,000 rooms by 2030. 

The UAE’s historic occupancy performance defines what the region can expect as new rooms enter the market. Rooms supply increased by more than 70,000 rooms between 2010 and 2019, a staggering 68 percent increase or about 6 percent average annual growth. 

“With such levels of investment and development, we are expecting a marked increase in the number of GCC participants at ATM 2023, including inbound tour operators and travel agents from across the globe, as the region continues to attract growing numbers of tourists, for whom environmentally friendly and sustainable development will be critical,” added Curtis. 

ATM, the leading Middle East travel and tourism event for international inbound and outbound tourism professionals, takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre on May 1-4 2023 under the official theme of ‘Working Toward Net-Zero.’


Metaverse to contribute $7.6bn to Saudi economy by 2030: report  

Metaverse to contribute $7.6bn to Saudi economy by 2030: report  
Updated 07 December 2022

Metaverse to contribute $7.6bn to Saudi economy by 2030: report  

Metaverse to contribute $7.6bn to Saudi economy by 2030: report  

RIYADH: The potential contribution of the metaverse to Saudi Arabia’s economy could be around $7.6 billion annually by 2030, as the Kingdom steadily diversifies its economy in line with its goals outlined in Vision 2030, according to a new analysis.  

Released by Strategy& Middle East, a part of the PwC network, the report noted that besides the Kingdom, the 3D-rendered internet business in the UAE could contribute approximately $3.3 billion to its economy by the end of this decade.  

Moreover, the emerging technology’s contribution to Qatar and Kuwait is expected to hit around $1.6 billion and $1 billion, respectively, by 2030.  

“The potential contribution of the metaverse to Gulf Cooperation Council economies could be around $15 billion annually by 2030, of which $7.6 billion would be in Saudi Arabia and $3.3 billion in the UAE,” said Strategy& Middle East in its report.  

The metaverse could contribute $800 million to Kuwait’s economy, while Bahrain’s share will be around $400 billion.  

The report further noted that the metaverse is still developing, and organizations in the GCC region should act appropriately and seize the opportunity to reap the maximum from this emerging technology.  

“The projections assessed growth in the component technologies, platforms, hardware, and software, as well as the economic contribution of new metaverse applications such as content creation, shopping, and so on,” said Tony G Karam, partner, Strategy& Middle East.  

The report also identified travel and tourism as the sector with the potential to reap the greatest economic gain from the metaverse, estimated at $3.2 billion.  

Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion megacity NEOM’s digital subsidiary has created a metaverse that allows people to be present in the virtual city and enjoy the experience as an avatar or a hologram.  

“There could be metaverse tours of AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, or fashion festivals, spas, wellness retreats, and entertainment and sports events. Metaverse visits would inspire in-person travel. Later, travelers could return through the metaverse to relive their experiences,” said Jad N Baroudi, principal, Strategy& Middle East. 

Earlier in October, Fares Akkad, regional director for Meta in the Middle East and North Africa, told Asharq Business that the metaverse is predicted to add $360 billion to the economy in the MENA and Turkiye over the next 10 years.  

In July, Dubai formally announced its Metaverse strategy would help it become a leading metaverse economy. The strategy aims to add $4 billion to the nation’s economy and create 40,000 new jobs in the next five years.  

The UAE has also established the Middle East’s first metaverse incubator 8 to develop early-stage metaverse and Web3 applications. 


Oil Updates — Crude up; China’s crude oil imports hit 10-month high

Oil Updates — Crude up; China’s crude oil imports hit 10-month high
Updated 07 December 2022

Oil Updates — Crude up; China’s crude oil imports hit 10-month high

Oil Updates — Crude up; China’s crude oil imports hit 10-month high

RIYADH: Oil futures edged slightly higher on Wednesday on hopes for improved Chinese demand while uncertainty about how a Western cap on Russian oil prices would play out kept markets on edge after a sharp fall the previous session. 

Brent crude futures gained 13 cents, or 0.16 percent, at 0416 GMT to $79.48 a barrel after they fell below $80 for the second time in 2022 during the previous trading session. 

US crude futures clawed back earlier losses and were steady from the previous close at $74.25 a barrel. 

China November crude oil imports hit 10-mth high 

China’s crude oil imports in November rose 12 percent from a year earlier to their highest in 10 months, data showed on Wednesday, as companies replenished stocks with cheaper oil and new plants started up. 

The world’s largest crude importer brought in 46.74 million tons of crude oil last month, equivalent to 11.37 million barrels per day, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. 

That was up from 10.16 million bpd in October and 10.17 million bpd in November 2021. 

Chinese state refiners stepped up purchases of US crude oil, taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities, while maintaining high imports of Russian oil ahead of the Dec. 5 European embargo and imposition of an oil price cap. 

Independent traders last month also moved a record amount of deeply discounted Iranian crude passed off as oil sourced from Malaysia, Oman or elsewhere in the refining hub of Shandong province, according to tanker tracker Vortexa Analytics. 

The higher imports resulted in a crude oil stock build of 41 million barrels over the month, Vortexa estimated. 

Imports for the first 11 months of the year totaled 460.26 million tons, or about 10.06 bpd, down 1.4 percent from last year’s corresponding period. 

Wednesday’s data also showed fuel exports reached 6.144 million tons, the highest since June 2021 and up from 4.456 million tons in October, reflecting Beijing’s additional release of quotas. 

Year-to-date exports, at 46 million tons, remained 19 percent below year-ago levels due to a broad curb on fuel exports earlier in the year. 

Turkish straits tanker delays not due to Russia oil price cap: official 

Disruptions in tanker traffic from Russia’s Black Sea ports to the Mediterranean result from a new Turkish insurance rule, not the price cap on Russian oil agreed by a coalition of Group of Seven countries and Australia, an official with the group said on Tuesday. 

Of the 20 loaded crude oil tankers facing delays in the region, all but one appear to be carrying Kazakh — not Russian — origin oil and would not be subject to the price cap “under any scenario,” the official said. 

“There should be no change in the status of their insurance from Kazakh shipments in previous weeks or months,” the official added. 

Markets are closely watching the impact of a G7-led price cap on Russian seaborne oil that took effect on Monday, but G7 officials say the measure did not cause the backup in Turkiye’s Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits into the Mediterranean. 

 “The price cap policy does not require ships to seek unique insurance guarantees for each individual voyage, as required under Turkiye’s rule,” the official said. “These disruptions are the result of Turkiye’s rule, not the price cap policy.” 

(With input from Reuters)