UK navigation company what3words looks to Saudi Arabia to develop Middle East foothold

UK navigation company what3words has split the world into 57 trillion three-meter squares with three unique words. (Supplied/what3words)
UK navigation company what3words has split the world into 57 trillion three-meter squares with three unique words. (Supplied/what3words)
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Updated 02 November 2022

UK navigation company what3words looks to Saudi Arabia to develop Middle East foothold

UK navigation company what3words looks to Saudi Arabia to develop Middle East foothold
  • What3words has been partnering with the Saudi Red Crescent Authority since 2019
  • It has also set up partnerships in the UAE, Egypt and Oman

LONDON: What3words, a global address system, is focusing on developing partnerships in Saudi Arabia with government and private sectors, ranging from emergency services and ride-hailing apps to deliveries and logistics.

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words, said establishing a solid foothold in the Kingdom is his company’s main focus in the region, with more “really exciting” expansion opportunities to come.

“We’re incredibly excited about Saudi’s plans over the next decade. Vision 2030 and infrastructure are a huge part of that, and I think we see ourselves as addressing infrastructure to be able to get wherever you want to go. With the rapid pace of development you’re seeing around the country, it just means that what3words and the services we work with can start operating straight away once something new is built,” he told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

 

 

Sheldrick, who has worked in the music industry and organized live events around the world, found that, particularly with large venues or when traveling in a foreign country, people experienced navigation issues, as addresses were inaccurate or not precise enough.

In 2013, Sheldrick co-founded what3words with three friends, Jack Waley-Cohen, Mohan Ganesalingam and Michael Dent. They developed an algorithm and split the world into 57 trillion three-meter squares, each named with three unique words from the dictionary in 54 languages.

“It’s been a really interesting experience developing the system in so many different languages,” he said. “Of course, with things like Arabic, you have right to left, with Vietnamese, you have spaces in the middle of words, there are some languages in Cyrillic character sets, but fundamentally, what3words does work exactly the same in all of those languages.”




The three-word GPS system is particularly useful in Saudi Arabia as it can pinpoint exact locations in the middle of the desert, the mountainous regions, and the sea. (Supplied/what3words)

In the UK, what3words is a “household name,” and millions of people around the world are using three-word addresses to find and share locations, said Sheldrick.

“We’re starting to now see the same thing happening across the Gulf region and in KSA.”

In the past few months they have made a number of visits to the Kingdom and done a lot of advertising work. People in Saudi Arabia are now downloading the app and they are starting to see business integrations as well.

 

 

Aramex was the first delivery company in the Gulf region to integrate what3words in its products, and more delivery companies are coming on board in Saudi Arabia, such as SLS Express, Zain e-commerce, as well as ride-hailing apps Careem and Jeeny, with food delivery soon to follow.

“So many times I’ve been in Riyadh or in Jeddah, and it’s been difficult to clarify the destination. You can now drop those three words right into the destination box with Careem and Jeeny to specify where you want to go,” he said.

What3words, which works with 85 percent of police, fire and ambulance services in the UK, has been partnering with the Saudi Red Crescent Authority since 2019.

 

 

The emergency medical service has encouraged Hajj pilgrims, especially, to use the app, which can save precious time when urgent medical treatment is needed.

Sheldrick said that talks are taking place with government agencies to form similar partnerships on a nationwide level.

The three-word GPS system is particularly useful in Saudi Arabia as it can pinpoint exact locations in the middle of the desert during camping season, in the mountainous regions while trekking, and at sea when diving.




Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words, said establishing a solid foothold in Saudi Arabia is his company’s main focus in the region. (Supplied/what3words)

“It’s so exciting up in AlUla, just seeing things like Habitas AlUla now taking shape there, which are great projects further north, of course, in NEOM as well, and we would love to be a part of any of these really exciting, groundbreaking projects,” he added.

Although the company’s primary focus is Saudi Arabia, it has also set up partnerships in the UAE, Egypt and Oman in an effort to take a regional approach to expansion in the Middle East.

“We see the Middle East as a region that has often struggled with address infrastructure. But, of course, with the on-demand economy absolutely exploding, we think that the Middle East and Asia are key regions for what3words to be successful, and ultimately become a global standard for location,” Sheldrick said.


UAE, France, India to cooperate on energy, climate and adopt implementation roadmap

UAE, France, India to cooperate on energy, climate and adopt implementation roadmap
Updated 16 sec ago

UAE, France, India to cooperate on energy, climate and adopt implementation roadmap

UAE, France, India to cooperate on energy, climate and adopt implementation roadmap

LONDON: The UAE, France and India have established a tripartite cooperation initiative in several areas including energy and climate change, the Emirati state news agency WAM reported on Saturday.

A joint statement, which came following a phone call between UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, his French counterpart Catherine Colonna, and their Indian counterpart Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, affirmed that the trilateral initiative will promote the joint design and execution of projects in various fields, including solar and nuclear energy, combating climate change, and protecting biodiversity, particularly in the Indian Ocean.

“For this purpose, the three countries will explore the possibility of working with the Indian Ocean Rim Association to pursue concrete, actionable projects on clean energy, the environment, and biodiversity,” the statement said.

The initiative will also serve as a platform to expand cooperation between the three countries’ development agencies on sustainable projects, as well as to organize a range of trilateral events in the framework of the Indian presidency of the G20 and the UAE’s hosting of COP28 this year.

“It was agreed that the three countries will seek to ensure greater alignment of their respective economic, technological, and social policies with the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” the statement added.

The countries also agreed to expand cooperation through initiatives such as the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, led by the UAE, and the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership, led by India and France.

“It was agreed that the three countries should seek to focus on key issues such as single-use plastic pollution, desertification, and food security in the context of the International Year of Millets, 2023,” the statement noted.

The three sides also underlined their desire to adopt a circular-economy model under the aegis of India’s Mission LiFE, which aims to bring individual behaviors to the forefront of the global climate-action narrative.

The three countries stressed the need to strengthen defense cooperation and agreed to increase efforts to further promote compatibility and joint development and co-production, whilst seeking out avenues for further collaboration and training between their defense forces.

They pledged to strengthen communication on emerging threats, including infectious diseases and measures to combat future pandemics.

“In this regard, cooperation with multilateral organizations such as World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi — the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund, and Unitaid will be encouraged,” the statement said.

They also agreed to cooperate on the implementation of WHO’s “One Health” approach — to achieve optimal health outcomes that recognize the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment locally, regionally and globally, and to support the development of local capacities in biomedical innovation and production within developing countries.

“As countries at the very forefront of technological innovation, the development of trilateral cooperation between relevant academic and research institutions and efforts to promote co-innovation projects, technology transfer, and entrepreneurship will be encouraged,” the statement said.

This will include organizing trilateral conferences and meetings on the sidelines of high-level technology events, such as Vivatech in Paris, Bengaluru Tech Summit in INdia, and GITEX in Dubai, to support such cooperation.

The UAE, France and India said they will ensure that the trilateral initiative will be used to promote cultural cooperation through a range of joint projects, including heritage promotion and protection, “in recognition of the critical role social and human bonds play in their constructive partnership.”


Almana set to expand network of hospitals outside of the Eastern Province: CEO

Almana set to expand network of hospitals outside of the Eastern Province: CEO
Updated 03 February 2023

Almana set to expand network of hospitals outside of the Eastern Province: CEO

Almana set to expand network of hospitals outside of the Eastern Province: CEO

RIYADH: As part of its five-year plan, Almana Group of Hospitals, one of the oldest and largest medical groups in Saudi Arabia, is set to expand its network of hospitals, its CEO told Arab News in an exclusive interview. 

Being the first private medical center established in the Eastern Province, the group’s initial focus will be on exploring opportunities for a new hospital outside of the eastern region within the next few years with the view to expanding into other areas following that, Mana Almana informed.

“We are strongly aligned with the vision of our great leaders and stand ready to support the government to build capacity within the sector due to our expanding facilities and offerings tailored to the evolving needs of our communities,” he said.

Almana added: “We recognize that to meet the future needs of the medical sector, we need to partner with world-renowned healthcare institutions to help us accelerate and further develop the Kingdom’s healthcare system.” 

Not surprisingly, the group is also seeking to partner with the Ministry of Health under public-private partnerships to deliver advanced and specialist services.

As the only dedicated oncology unit in eastern Saudi Arabia, the group has recently expanded its specialists department in Dammam to cater to cancer patients’ mounting needs in the region. 

CEO Mana Almana. (Supplied)

“When it comes to oncology, Almana’s goal is to provide cancer patients with the highest international standard of care and cater to the growing need for cancer care in the Kingdom,” Almana said. 

“As such, in addition to our existing seven hospitals and clinics, we decided to create a dedicated space where patients could receive individualized and tailored treatment within a centralized and fully-fledged unit.” 

The new oncology center has been designed with the complexity of cancer in mind. By bringing the group’s 70 specialized oncologists under one roof, it can provide personalized treatments and precision fit for specific types of cancer. 

The new unit will include four new clinics specializing in medical oncology, radiation and surgical oncology in addition to four chemotherapy treatment rooms. 

“Besides providing exceptional treatment for patients, we also focus our efforts on preventive cancer care measures,” Almana explained. 

“Our efforts include free year-round breast-cancer screenings at all branches of Almana hospitals in Dammam, Alkhobar, Ahsa, Jubail and Rakah,” he continued. “Over the years, our free screening has touched the lives of over 10,000 patients, potentially helping to save even more lives.” 

In line with the ambition of Saudi Vision 2030 to unify patient care records and improve health information exchange, the group is investing heavily in technology within its hospitals to ensure all services will be automated while providing seamless service for its patients.

“We are also establishing a new central command center to improve patient outcomes by coordinating care between our hospital locations,” Almana informed. 

“As a group of hospitals, we continuously foster a culture of innovation to create value in areas of high unmet medical need across the Kingdom. For example, we’ve created unique offerings where they currently don’t exist such as our foot disease and diabetes center, the only one in the region,” he continued.

In addition, the group is also taking several steps to train and recruit medical professionals. 

“We also share the ambition of Saudi Vision 2030 to increase the number of females within the workforce,” Almana said. “Already, we have females leading our medical departments and are looking to increase this even further by 20 percent over the next five years.” 

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve also helped develop the next generation of doctors and nurses in the Kingdom through our official healthcare training academy, Mohammed Almana College for Medical Science, which contributes to over 180 Saudi graduate nurses each year,” he pointed out.


Global Markets: Stocks, bonds tumble as stellar US jobs report may force Fed rethink

Global Markets: Stocks, bonds tumble as stellar US jobs report may force Fed rethink
Updated 03 February 2023

Global Markets: Stocks, bonds tumble as stellar US jobs report may force Fed rethink

Global Markets: Stocks, bonds tumble as stellar US jobs report may force Fed rethink

LONDON: Global stocks and Treasury prices tumbled on Friday after an unexpectedly strong US jobs report indicated the Federal Reserve may need to keep interest rates elevated to control inflation, according to Reuters.

This placed another roadblock in the way of a weeks-long markets rally that stumbled in US after hours trading on Thursday over disappointing earnings from Google, Apple, and Amazon.

S&P 500 futures slid 1.1 percent, contracts on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 dropped 1.8 percent.

The MSCI index of global shares fell 0.3 percent, having hit its highest level since August on Thursday in a rebound buoyed by optimism that central banks are close to the end of their aggressive rate hiking cycles.

The keenly-watched US nonfarm payrolls report showed US employers added 517,000 new workers in January, vastly overshooting expectations of economists polled by Reuters for a 185,000 gain.

Average hourly wages, which analysts and investors focus on for clues about whether a tight labour market may continue to fan the flames of inflation, rose 0.3%, matching economists' forecasts.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which underpins borrowing costs worldwide, added 11 basis points to 3.51 percent after the jobs data. The two-year Treasury yield, which follows traders' expectations of Fed fund rates, rose by 12 bps to 4.24 percent.

The Fed hiked its main interest rate by 25 bps to a range of 4.5 percent to 4.75 percent on Wednesday, taking benchmark borrowing costs to their highest since late 2007, and signalled more hikes to come. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England also raised rates on Thursday to contain inflation.

"In a year when the economic data is more important than the Fed, the January employment report clearly justified the Fed having tightened by 425 bps over the past 10 months," said Jack McIntyre, portfolio manager at Brandywine Global.

Ahead of the nonfarm payrolls data, markets had priced two US rate cuts by year-end on hopes the US economy was cooling enough to quell inflation but not on course for a downturn that could reduce companies’ earnings more than markets were already counting on.

US tech shares took a beating in after-hours trading on Thursday after Apple projected another revenue decline in the start of the year, Amazon warned that its operating profit could fall to zero in the current quarter, and Google parent Alphabet missed fourth-quarter profit and revenue expectations.

"We will see headwinds from further earnings downgrades, but we have incorporated quite a lot (of this) already so I think markets can hold here if we are indeed right on the Fed,” said Willem Sels, global chief investment officer at HSBC's private bank, who expects the US central bank to raise rates just one more time in 2023.

An index measuring the dollar against major currencies stood at 102.53, rising further from recent nine-month lows of 100.80.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 share benchmark fell 0.4 percent. Germany's benchmark 10-year bond yield rose 13 bps to 2.14 percent, having on Thursday dropped by the most since 2011 as prices shot higher.

The euro traded at $1.0841, down 0.65 percent and pulling further away from Thursday's 10-month top of $1.1033.

 


World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency

World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency
Updated 03 February 2023

World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency

World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency

ROME: World food prices fell in January for a 10th consecutive month, and are now down some 18 percent from a record high hit last March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UN's food agency said on Friday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 131.2 points last month against 132.2 for December, the agency said on Friday. It was the lowest reading since September 2021.

The December figure was revised down from an original estimate of 132.4.

Falls in the prices of vegetable oils, dairy and sugar helped pull down the index, while cereals and meat remained largely stable, the FAO said.

In separate cereal supply and demand estimates on Friday, the FAO raised its forecast for global cereal production in 2022 to 2.77 billion tons from a previous estimate of 2.76 billion tons.

The FAO cereal price index rose just 0.1 percent month-on-month in January to give a 4.8 percent increase on the year.

International wheat prices declined 2.5 percent as production in Australia and Russia outpaced expectations. Rice, by contrast, jumped 6.2 percent, driven in part by strong local demand in some Asian exporting countries.

Vegetable oil prices fell 2.9 percent in January, the dairy index dipped 1.4 percent and sugar declined 1.1 percent. Meat slipped a mere 0.1 percent.

Looking at supply and demand for cereals, FAO said it expected a record global output of wheat in 2022 thanks to revised crop forecasts from Australia and Russia.

The forecast for world rice production was revised down on the back of lower-than-expected output in China, and is now predicted to decline 2.6 percent from its all-time high in 2021.

Looking ahead to 2023, FAO said early indications pointed to a likely expansion of winter wheat cropping in the northern hemisphere. However, it warned that high fertilizer costs may impact yields.

World cereal utilization in 2022/23 was forecast to dip 0.7 percent from the previous year to 2.78 billion tons. The estimate for world cereal stocks was pegged at 844 million tons, pushing down the world stock-to-use ratio for 2022/23 to 29.5 percent from 30.8 percent in 2021/22


Oil steadies with spotlight on EU embargo, US jobs data

Oil steadies with spotlight on EU embargo, US jobs data
Updated 03 February 2023

Oil steadies with spotlight on EU embargo, US jobs data

Oil steadies with spotlight on EU embargo, US jobs data

LONDON: Oil prices steadied on Friday as investors sought more clarity on the imminent EU embargo on Russian refined fuels, with prices set for a second weekly loss in the absence of clear signs of demand recovery in top consumer China.

Brent crude LCOc1 futures gained 15 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $82.32 a barrel by 1301 GMT, having dropped by about 1 percent in the previous session. US West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 futures were up 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $76.00.

Brent is poised to register close to a 5 percent decline this week while WTI is on course for a 3.6 percent drop.

Investors are eyeing developments on the Feb. 5 EU ban on Russian refined products, with EU countries seeking a deal on Friday to set price caps for Russian oil products.

The Kremlin said on Friday that the EU embargo on Russia's refined oil products would lead to further imbalance in global energy markets.

"The exact details around what the cap will be and how they will implement it are still unclear," Capital Economics commodities economist Bill Weatherburn said, adding that the uncertainty is keeping a lid on prices.

"There hasn't been any data out of China to indicate the extent of the recovery in China's crude demand."

ANZ analysts noted a sharp jump in traffic in China's 15 largest cities after the Lunar New Year holiday but said that Chinese traders had been "relatively absent".

Markets now await US payrolls data due at 1330 GMT. US job growth in January is likely to have remained strong thanks to a resilient labour market, but expectations of a continued slowdown in wage gains offer the Federal Reserve some comfort in its fight against inflation, a Reuters survey showed.

The US central bank scaled back to a milder rate increase than those over the past year, but policymakers also projected that "ongoing increases" in borrowing costs would be needed.

Increases to interest rates in 2023 are likely to weigh on the US and European economies, boosting fears of an economic slowdown that is highly likely to dent global crude oil demand, said Priyanka Sachdeva, market analyst at Phillip Nova.