LONDON: A recent report by Mastercard has revealed a rise in the use of digital payment methods in the Middle East and North Africa.
Mastercard’s New Payments Index 2022 found that 85 percent of MENA consumers have used at least one emerging payment method in the last year, including tappable smartphone mobile wallets, buy now, pay later schemes, biometrics, and payment-enabled wearable tech devices.
While traditional payment methods remain popular, 19 percent of MENA consumers reported using less cash in the past year.
According to the report, security is a key factor when deciding what payment methods to use. Other factors are ease of use, rewards and promotions.
Sustainability is also a key driver in the region, with 31 percent of MENA consumers citing social and environmental benefits as factors.
BNPL instalments are increasingly used as a budgeting tool in the region, the report found. About 45 percent of MENA consumers said they are comfortable using BNPL today.
“Consumers want the flexibility and convenience of BNPL, but with the sense of security associated with a trusted provider like a bank or payment network,” the report noted.
MENA consumers are also turning to fintech, with 73 percent using open banking to meet their daily financial needs.
Furthermore, 64 percent agreed that using biometrics rather than a card or device makes payments easier.
Saudi Arabia issues first license at OXAGON to NEOM Green Hydrogen
Updated 01 February 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources on Tuesday issued the first industrial license to NEOM Green Hydrogen Co. at OXAGON, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
It is an equal joint venture between NEOM, ACWA Power, and Air Products.
It is part of the Kingdom’s efforts to catalyze the global hydrogen economy by becoming the world’s leading hydrogen producer while maintaining its position as a key player in the energy sector.
The NEOM Green Hydrogen plant is expected to begin green hydrogen production using 100 percent renewables in 2026. It will produce up to 1.2 million tons of green ammonia annually, or 600 tons of green hydrogen daily. Green ammonia will be exported to global markets to support the decarbonization of the heavy transport sector.
It is estimated that the plant will provide up to 5 million tons of CO2 annually. When the plant commences operations at OXAGON in 2026, 100 percent of the green hydrogen will be exportable to global markets in the form of green ammonia, under an exclusive long-term agreement with US-based Air Products Co.
The plant will run on around 4 GW of wind and solar energy and produce green hydrogen using the electrolysis 2.2GW technology.
Saudi-Oman Investment Forum sees 13 MoUs signed as trade ties deepen
Updated 01 February 2023
RIYADH: The Saudi-Oman Investment Forum and exhibition beginning in Riyadh on Wednesday discussed various ways and means to enhance long-term economic partnership between the two Gulf states in the investment and industry sectors.
Held under the theme “Partnership and Integration,” the four-day forum aims to build sustainable partnerships in key sectors and contribute to enhancing mutual interests between the two sides.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment hosted a senior delegation from Oman, which culminated in the signing of 13 Memoranda of Understanding in various sectors, including biochemicals, energy, mining, financial investment, logistics, maritime transport, and information technology among others.
The agreements signed at the forum underscore the long-standing partnership between Saudi Arabia and Oman, which has accelerated in recent years with several high-level engagements.
In December 2021, Saudi Arabia and Oman announced the opening of the first land crossing between the Gulf states to promote trade exchange, while in April last year Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih met with the Chairman of the Oman Investment Authority Abdulsalam bin Mohammad Al Murshidi to explore the enhancement of investment cooperation between the two countries.
This week’s four-day forum was opened by Al-Falih with Qais bin Muhammad Al-Yousef, Omani minister of commerce industry and investment promotion, who led the Omani delegation of diplomats and business leaders.
Al-Falih stressed the importance of the private sector’s role in Oman and Saudi Arabia in pushing the wheel of development forward as an active partner and contributor to the growth of economic, investment and trade sectors in the two countries.
He affirmed that the Saudi government is keen to strengthen investment relations with Oman, noting that the volume of trade exchange between the two countries during the first half of 2022 reached SR11.39 billion ($3.03 billion).
“This forum is the embodiment of a deep relationship between Oman and Saudi Arabia, coming together under the theme of ‘Partnership.’ We have the opportunity to create a roadmap that supports businesses and investments for a prosperous future,” said Al-Falih.
Al-Yousef lauded the distinguished relations between Oman and Saudi Arabia, which resulted in an increase of 219 percent in the volume of trade exchange between the two countries until September 2022 as compared to 2021.
Alongside the forum, Al-Falih and Al-Yousef jointly opened the maiden Saudi-Omani Industries Exhibition.
The exhibition is open to the public from Feb. 1 to 4, highlighting the strong economic relationship between both nations across several sectors, and showcasing products and services from small and medium enterprise, businesses from both sides to stimulate opportunities for investment.
Participating in the exhibition Sumaiya Abdullah AlRamdhani, CEO of the ELIF Entrepreneurship of Oman told Arab News: “This exhibition has opened for us so many lines, sharing experiences, exchanging business ideas with our counterparts from Saudi Arabia, and sharing our experiences with them, if they are interested in what we produce, our perfume. This gives us a new trade opportunity.”
The session on Wednesday saw several presentations by both Oman and Saudi representatives.
From the Oman side, Invest in 2040 and Special Economic Zones in the Sultanate of Oman were highlighted as opportunities available to Saudi investors, while Saudi officials presented Invest in Saudi Arabia and Special Economic Cities and Zones which showcased the areas available in the Kingdom.
On the sidelines of the forum, business-to-business meetings were held between representatives of the private sector in the two countries, discussing opportunities for cooperation and partnership and reviewing available investment opportunities.
LONDON/DUBAI: An OPEC+ panel endorsed the oil producer group’s current output policy at a meeting on Wednesday, leaving production cuts agreed last year in place amid hopes of higher Chinese demand and uncertain prospects for Russian supply.
Ministers from OPEC+ countries — members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and others including Russia — met in a virtual gathering that OPEC+ sources said lasted less than 30 minutes.
The ministers on the panel, called the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, reviewed production figures and “reaffirmed their commitment” to the OPEC+ accord that runs to the end of 2023, OPEC said in a statement after the meeting.
The message was OPEC+ is staying the course until the end of the agreement and the group was on “mute mode,” a source said.
The ministers did not discuss the prospects for Chinese demand and supply from Russia, other OPEC+ sources said. Oil product exports from Russia will as of Feb. 5 be subject to a EU ban and G7 price cap.
OPEC+ agreed to cut its production target by 2 million barrels per day, about 2 percent of world demand, from November last year until the end of 2023 to support the market.
Oil fell at the start of the year but has rallied, supported by hopes that Chinese demand will rebound, although fears of global recession remain a drag on prices.
Brent crude was little changed around $85 a barrel after the JMMC meeting.
Magrabi announces new leadership structure, unveils latest mission statement
Business group eyes international expansion and listing
Updated 01 February 2023
RIYADH: Marking the beginning of a new chapter in its growth story, Magrabi Retail Group, the Middle East’s leading eyewear retailer, announced its newly formed leadership structure and unveiled its latest mission statement in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
While Amin Magrabi, formerly CEO, is stepping up as the chairman to lead the business forward and oversee strategic expansion goals in the region and beyond, Yasser Taher, formerly COO, is moving up to become the CEO as part of a gender-balanced C-suite.
“I am very excited by what the future holds as we see us expanding internationally and also listing the organization in the public markets,” Amin Magrabi told Arab News.
He added: “We will also announce a new progressive board of directors in a couple of months.”
As the newly appointed CEO, Taher told Arab News that he is proud to become the first non-family member to hold this position in the history of the group.
“We are transforming this family business to become a world-class business group. And I’m very excited about this transformation mission,” he said.
Last year, Magrabi achieved several milestones including the founding of the Lens Innovation Center based in Dubai, the first fully automated production installation in the region which aims to produce 2 million lenses a year by 2025.
The company’s growing portfolio includes Magrabi, the biggest luxury eyewear chain in the region, as well as the lifestyle chain Doctor M, multiple owned brands, and a robust wholesale and distribution arm. Its retail network consists of 142-plus outlets and a growing omnichannel presence.
Magrabi seems all set to move forward now, with a strategic shift that is aligned with the group’s accelerated gender equity commitments.
With the new leadership structure firmly in place, Magrabi went on to unveil its new mission exclusively to Arab News. “We are delighted to announce the latest update, our new mission: Re-envisioning the world of eyewear to empower the lifestyles of millions.”
“Re-envisioning entails transformation,” he explained. “It means going beyond the traditional approach, trying to unleash this industry from a very traditional setup to the way we think about it. It entails a new vision of how we look into this. This is the ‘how’ in the mission statement, the ‘what’ is the world of eyewear.”
Magrabi added: “We look at how we can introduce new brands, new banners, new products, and services and create differentiated store concepts, online and offline proposition. This is how we look at the world of eyewear.”
“The ‘why’ is to empower lifestyles,” Taher explained. “So what does this mean? We don’t want to only sell products. In reality, we want to empower our customers. We look at customer engagement with a very different approach.”
This is an industry where consumers are not very well informed about their options and how to make the right selection, he said.
“Hence, we wanted to empower consumers; we want to educate them. We want to simplify this industry for them to make sure that they are capable to make their own decisions and understand their options,” Taher went on to say.
The last piece of the mission, according to him, is the millions. “The millions is the ‘who,’” Taher said. “It not only implies the international expansion across different markets in different segments but it also implies corporate social responsibility and social impact programs.”
Summing it up Magrabi said that the company would like to drive home the message that Magrabi Retail Group is not a typical regional Middle Eastern company nor is it a typical family business.
“It’s a very progressive business that wants a place for itself on a global platform and is not just about finances and numbers,” he concluded.
“It’s about creating something truly differentiated; that is there to change an industry. And this executive transition is just part of this progressiveness as this company matures and moves from family hands to professional leadership hands.”
Ma’aden awards Phase 1 Phosphate 3 project contract to Worley and JESA International
Updated 01 February 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Mining Co., also known as Ma’aden, awarded an engineering, procurement and construction management contract to Australian consultant Worley and Morocco’s JESA International for the first phase of its Phosphate 3 project.
All sides plan on reaching a conclusive agreement regarding the EPCM contracts in the coming months, Worley noted in a statement.
“We are pleased that Worley has been selected for providing services to Ma’aden’s Phosphate 3 development program that is expected to make Saudi Arabia one of the leading phosphate fertilizer exporters worldwide,” said Chris Ashton, CEO of Worley in the statement.
As per the agreement, in-Kingdom services will be provided by Worley, while out-of-Kingdom services will be provided by JESA International.
The project consists of the design and construction of new process plants in the Saudi industrial cities of Wa’ad Al Shamal and Ras Al-Khair.
The statement also noted that the plants are part of an integrated greenfield complex that aims to generate 1.5 million metric tons of phosphate fertilizers a year.
Implementation will take place through Worley’s offices in Saudi Arabia and India and JESA’s facility in Morocco, according to the statement.
Ma'aden aims to complete the first phase of its Phosphate 3 complex in 2025 and the second phase in 2027, it said in its second-quarter 2022 investor presentation.