South African point-of-sale tech startup Qwili raises $1.2m 

South African point-of-sale tech startup Qwili raises $1.2m 
The company offers a NFC-enabled smartphone and digital sales solution. (Supplied)
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Updated 31 July 2022

South African point-of-sale tech startup Qwili raises $1.2m 

South African point-of-sale tech startup Qwili raises $1.2m 

RIYADH: South African point-of-sale hardware and software startup Qwili has raised $1.2 million in a seed round led by venture capital firm E4E Africa. 

The company offers a near-field communication or NFC-enabled smartphone and digital sales solution by turning users' phones into POS devices to enable them to sell more services, according to MAGNiTT. 

Founded in 2019, the company will use its funding to expand its team, as well as boost its product development to introduce more offerings. 


IMF lowers Saudi Arabia’s economic growth to 2.6% for 2023

IMF lowers Saudi Arabia’s economic growth to 2.6% for 2023
Updated 8 sec ago

IMF lowers Saudi Arabia’s economic growth to 2.6% for 2023

IMF lowers Saudi Arabia’s economic growth to 2.6% for 2023

RIYADH: The International Monetary Fund has lowered Saudi Arabia’s economic growth forecast to 2.6 percent for 2023, 1.1 percentage points lower than its October estimate of 3.7 percent, its latest report showed. 

This is in line with its projection for the Middle East region which is projected to decline from 5.3 percent in 2022 to 3.2 percent in 2023, primarily attributed to Saudi Arabia’s growth slowdown, according to IMF’s World Economic Outlook report.

In 2022, Saudi Arabia witnessed an economic growth of 8.7 percent, the highest in the region. 

IMF, in its report, noted that the economic growth slowdown in Saudi Arabia could be due to the decision made by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies known as OPEC+ to reduce the oil output. 

Earlier in October 2022, OPEC+ had agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels per day, which equals to about 2 percent of world demand, from November 2022 until the end of 2023.

The IMF report, however, noted that non-oil growth in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region will remain robust in 2023. 


Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
Updated 30 January 2023

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform

Dubai International Financial Centre launches metaverse platform
  • Strategy aims to grow the region’s GDP, attract companies

DUBAI: Dubai International Financial Centre announced the launch of the DIFC Metaverse Platform on Monday in a bid to attract technology innovators from across the globe, Emirates News Agency reported.

The platform is part of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to add $4 billion to the emirate’s GDP by 2030, support 40,000 virtual jobs, and attract 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies. 

The platform also supports the Dubai Economic Agenda’s goal of generating economic value worth $27 billion per year from digital transformation. 

Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications Omar bin Sultan Al Olama said that the metaverse platform is the first in a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering Dubai’s position as a global hub for the latest digital trends, and accelerating the pace of achieving the strategy’s objectives.

DIFC Authority CEO Arif Amiri said: “The Dubai government has shown great foresight in introducing a metaverse strategy that has the objective of making the emirate a global hub for technology and innovation.

“The development of the integrated DIFC Metaverse Platform will accelerate the achievements of Dubai’s aspirations in this sector.

“The initiative is a natural extension of our Innovation Hub proposition that has shaped the technology and innovation landscape in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.”

The DIFC Metaverse Platform includes an accelerator program with a physical studio for metaverse technology, which will foster the growth of a creator community and venture creation.

It will also work on metaverse policy development and legislation on open data, digital identity, and metaverse company law frameworks.


Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows
Updated 30 January 2023

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

Saudi banks’ profits up 21% in December, central bank data shows

RIYADH: Deposits in Saudi banks grew by 9 percent year-on-year to SR2.29 trillion ($609.97 billion) with the major chunk deposited by government agencies, the monthly bulletin issued by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, showed.

Data showed that deposits by government entities rose by 27 percent, the highest in 16 years, reaching SR651.2 billion.

Saudi-listed banks reported a 21 percent rise in aggregate net profit before zakat and tax to SR6.16 billion in December 2022, compared to SR5.11 billion a year earlier.

The data covered the results of Tadawul-listed banks and some foreign banks operating in Saudi Arabia.

Banks’ aggregate assets increased nearly 10 percent year-on-year to SR3.62 trillion in December.

Loans issued to individuals in the Kingdom saw a 14 percent surge during 2022 reaching SR1.17 trillion by the end of 2022 as compared to SR1.02 trillion by the end of 2021.

The volume of residential real estate financing for individuals declined by 21 percent in 2022 for the first time since 2016. The total volume remained at SR123.4 billion.

The SAMA report showed that remittances from Saudi Arabia fell by 7 percent during 2022 to SR143.2 billion while remittances to the Kingdom from citizens living abroad recorded a growth of 11 percent to reach SR7.25 billion.

Assets held by the central bank shrank by SR63.8 billion month-on-month to SR1.93 trillion in December 2022. However, as compared to December 2021, SAMA’s assets rose by SR85.1 billion.

The central bank’s investments in foreign securities, which make up 58 percent of its total assets, edged down 0.2 percent year-on-year to around SR1.13 trillion last month.


 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool
Updated 30 January 2023

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

 LEAP tech conference launches two competitions with a $1.5m prize pool

RIYADH: The world’s largest technical conference “LEAP” has launched two competitions with a SR6 million ($1.5 million) prize pool aimed at rewarding Saudi-based startups and boosting cloud technologies.

Supported by the National Information Technology Development Program and the Misk Foundation, the Rocket Fuel competition aims to support new businesses, highlight entrepreneurial projects, and build innovative solutions that address technical challenges.

As many as 90 local startups will compete for a chance to be one of 15 to be awarded a share of SR4 million, with a top prize of almost SR940,000.

As for the Alibaba Cloud hackathon, it aims to enhance cloud technologies in the Kingdom through a number of various challenges that will be set up prior to the start of the conference. The competition offers cash prizes amounting to SR2 million.

LEAP, which is set to kick off its second edition in Riyadh from Feb. 6 to Feb. 9, is anticipating the participation of major government and private agencies as well as technology and communications companies.

The conference is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and UAE-based IT services and consulting firm Tahaluf.


ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 
Updated 30 January 2023

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

ACWA Power adds record desalination capacity to serve 5.5m more people daily 

RIYADH: Saudi-based ACWA Power created the largest water desalination capacity in the company’s history in 2022, enabling it to serve 5.5 million more people in the Gulf Cooperation Council region every day.

The power generation firm added a record-breaking 2.4 million cm3/day of water desalination capacity, according to a press release, through four reverse osmosis megaprojects in the Middle East pushing ACWA power’s aggregate water capacity up to 6.4 million cubic meters. 

Saudi Arabia’s water giant currently manages 16 projects in four different nations, and fulfills almost 30 percent of the Kingdom’s overall water needs.  

Desalinated water produced by the company reaches 40 million people daily, according to the international consumption per household.  

“ACWA Power has been at the forefront in mitigating water resources challenges over the past decade and a half through innovative, resilient solutions that are benefitting millions of people across the world,” said Kashif Rana, chief portfolio management officer of ACWA Power. 

“Enhancing capacity is a significant milestone not only for us, but for our industry. I am confident that through our expertise we will continue to build water security reliably and responsibly for Saudi Arabia and the world,” he added. 

The release further noted that reverse osmosis technology has been incorporated in all of the company’s projects, which saves up to 80 percent more energy than the conventional processes.

ACWA Power is anticipated to boost its capacity by around 15 percent through developing three new desalination projects in 2023.  

“As the leading water desalination operator in the world today, managing 6.4 million m3/day of desalinated water at lowest possible cost, ACWA Power is continuing to bring an innovative, and practical change to the industry, as we have been doing since 2006,” said Dr. Tariq Nada, the vice president of Water and Technical Service at the company.