Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report

Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report
Over half of MENA consumers purchased food online in the past year (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 November 2022

Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report

Food delivery orders rise as MENA continues embracing digital economy: Report

RIYADH: The appetite for food delivery in the Middle East and North Africa region has continued to grow in 2022 after the pandemic kick-started demand for the services in the region, according to a new report.

According to data in ‘Digital Transformation in MENA 2022’, produced by cloud-based payments platform Checkout.com, over half  — 53 percent — of MENA consumers purchased food online in the past year, with 42 percent consumers saying they are buying food online more frequently this year than in 2021. 

The online food ordering sector has numerous moving parts that need to come together in each transaction, from the restaurants to drivers and aggregators to payment providers. Close collaboration is therefore vital for the many stakeholders, noted Ramzi Alqrainy, chief technology officer at The Chefz, a leading Saudi-based food delivery app. 

“Collaboration allows us to innovate effectively and to reach and serve society in its most inclusive sense. These days, one provider doesn’t need to manage all aspects of a consumer experience from A to Z. We all need to work together. This is the death of ownership,” said Alqrainy. 

The findings fit the trend of the region increasingly embracing digital technology.

Data from the report shows that 91 percent of consumers across MENA bought products online in the past year, with fashion and clothing making up 46 percent of all online purchases in the region. A fifth of consumers across the region purchased retail products online more frequently than last year, with 33 percent shopping more often for fashion and clothing online.  

Paul Carey, executive vice president of Cards & Payments at Al-Futtaim Group said the figures point to a rapidly developing digital ecosystem that allows government agencies, established companies and start-ups to flourish.

“This is particularly evident in payments, where governments have set up regulatory sandbox infrastructure and made it easier for businesses in the region with more flexible visa options and commercial licensing,” he added. 

The survey shows that remittance apps remain the most widely utilized form of fintech in MENA, but as other products increase, so does adoption. 

The report found that 82 percent of consumers in MENA use some form of fintech app in 2022, up from 76 percent in 2021. 

Innovation has been underpinned by solutions such as Visa’s Account Funding Transactions which pull funds from an account and for use on a prepaid card, top up a wallet, or fund a person-to-person money transfer. 

“The secure, reliable, and fast movement of digital money between individuals, businesses and governments is the engine powering today’s global economy”, said Saeeda Jaffar, senior vice President and group country manager for the Gulf Cooperation Council region at Visa.

The findings come from the second phase of Checkout.com’s Digital Transformation in MENA 2022 report. 

Part one, which was released in October, included insights from 15,000 consumers in the region, while the latest publication contains interviews with business leaders in the digital economy.


Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  

Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  

Saudi Arabia expands its mineral exploration with 377 mining complexes  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s mining sector is witnessing unprecedented growth as the government is pushing to develop the industry with increased investment and upgraded laws to attract more private players.   

This saw the number of mining complexes in the Kingdom as of the end of 2022 rising to 377, with an estimated area of 44,365 sq. km, according to the latest government data. 

Makkah is home to the majority of 76 mining complexes last year.   

This is followed by Riyadh and Madinah with 60 and 53 complexes respectively, while Asir’s complexes totaled 34, revealed the ministry.   

Saudi Arabia possesses more than 20 different types of minerals, including gravel, gold, iron, copper, granite and marble, stated the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources in a tweet. 

The Kingdom has 35 locations with specific geological formations, called mineral belts, that contain abundant mineral deposits  

As of 2022, these belts represent 14 percent of the Kingdom’s size and cover 305,000 sq. km.  The ministry added that the mineral deposits of these belts are around 75 percent of the Kingdom’s total mineral deposits, which have a projected value of SR5 trillion ($1.3 trillion).   

Around 94 percent of the mineral belts are located in the Arabian Shield, which spans over 622,00 sq. km.   

The belts are spread over the country’s administrative regions, also led by Makkah which contains nine belts, revealed the ministry data.  

The remaining 26 belts are located around the Kingdom — seven in Asir, six in Riyadh, five in Tabuk, four in Madinah, two in Baha, and one each in Qassim and Najran. 

Most of the mineral belts contain gold and sulfides, where the former has 16 and the latter 15.  In addition, there are three belts for nickel and one belt for zinc. 

The Ministry upgraded its mining investment law in 2020 to develop the mining sector and designed a long-term integrated mining system aimed at protecting both employees and the environment.  

The government expects such improvements to spill over to adjacent sectors by way of providing jobs and boosting local spending in Saudi Arabia. 


Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event

Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event
Updated 06 February 2023

Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event

Dubai’s government and private sector discuss common vision for the future at landmark event

RIYADH: Representatives of Dubai’s government and private sectors are set to discuss developing a common vision for the future of the emirate at a three-day event starting on Feb. 6.

Organized by the Executive Council of Dubai, the Innovation Talks series will include substantial sessions and knowledge seminars delivered by government and private sector officials focusing on the importance of innovation at a time of prompt global change.

“The program has embraced innovation as an effective tool for developing government capabilities, and included it as one of the main criteria for evaluating the performance of government agencies,” said Sharina Lootah, coordinator of the UAE Innovates 2023 events.

The gathering will tackle the significance of innovation when it comes to offering services, boosting the effectiveness of procedures, and keeping pace with the latest technical and technological developments.

“The Government of Dubai is working to ensure that Dubai remains a leader in setting global standards in the field of government excellence and adopting innovation as a criterion for excellence by building global partnerships and developing capabilities in accordance with international best practices,” Lootah added.

The first day of the event saw an opening speech by the Secretary General of The Executive Council of Dubai Abdulla Mohammed Al Basti.

It also featured a knowledge seminar on “Innovation and Economy in the Media sector” and a keynote speech by CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation Khalfan Belhoul on the UAE’s future as well as other seminars hinged on innovation.

The second day will include a major speech by Chairman and CEO of DP World Sultan bin Sulayem on “Dubai’s Story in Sustainable Innovation in Shipping and International Logistic”.

On the final day of the event, Assistant Director General of Dubai Digital and CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment Younus Al Nasser is set to deliver a vital speech on the “Role of Data in Innovation and Future Shaping”.

The last day will also entail important knowledge seminars and will conclude with a panel discussion on “Social Innovation Towards Sustainability”.


Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference

Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference
Updated 06 February 2023

Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference

Private sector needs to help drive forward climate change innovation, Princess Noura tells IAEE International Conference

RIYADH: A catalytic event is needed to encourage the private sector to scale up renewable and sustainable energy projects to aid the transition to green fuel, according to Princess Noura Turki Al-Saud, a founding partner at AEON Strategy.

Speaking on the second day of the International Association for Energy Economics Conference, Princess Noura praised recent moves by world leaders in the battle against climate change, but called for more involvement from private companies.

She made the comments during a panel discussion on the pathways to energy transitions, where she also praised the impact of the 2016 Paris Agreement, saying it “brought in the private sector.” 

However, Princess Noura felt that pilot projects in this area need to be further developed, and added: “That would really come with private sector involvement, and for the private sector to really be involved and putting that capital that is necessary to drive innovation and to scale up these technologies and to find the necessary solutions, you really need to have strong governance and transparency.”

She added that the Paris Agreement not only brought in the financial sector, it also attracted civil society into the dialogue. 

“That in itself created the conversation that is wider than what's just happening within the negotiation rooms, which is a process in itself which takes, I would say more than decades,” said the princess.

This session further explored whether climate ambitions and energy security can be harmonized, and the realistic pathways to best meet global, and regional goals and the aspirations of a just energy transition. 

Khalid Abuleif, senior sustainability advisor to the Ministry of Energy, said he considers the climate accords signed in Copenhagen in 2009 – which did not have any legally binding commitments for reducing carbon emissions – as a success rather than a failure. 

“In Copenhagen, we realized at that point, that top-down type of agreement would not really help us get to our goals and reach a consensus of the whole world moving together to address this issue.”

Abulief spoke about the two approaches that currently exist in the world, saying: “One approach that is very much implemented by our partner in the EU, which is, you know, the top-down processing that focuses on the move away from fossil fuel. 

He went on: “The other path focuses on…getting to have a much wider scope to it, because it deals with both successes – that we have to move in the future towards renewable – but also we do not ignore ‘what do we have today?’”

Abulief said that the Saudi initiative is building in the wider band, adding: “We’ve done emission reduction aspects, and we have our targets on that basically doubled what we promised in 2015.”

He added that Saudi Arabia’s approach toward sustainability is holistic, with its energy policies balanced between trade-offs, and its climate actions accelerated to form one of the optimal energy transition pathways.

Princess Noura argued that what is missing is the catalytic effect necessary to scale up these pilot projects and the solutions right. 

“That would really come with private sector involvement, and for the private sector to really be involved and putting that capital that is necessary to drive innovation and to scale up these technologies and to find the necessary solutions, you really need to have strong governance and transparency.”

Ken Koyama, senior managing director, and chief economist at the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan, called for a “pragmatic, inclusive, and holistic approach” to tackle the transition to green energy, while “simultaneously addressing climate change and energy security.”

He added that promoting energy transition towards carbon neutrality means the demand for critical minerals and rare metals will increase exponentially.

The 44th IAEE International Conference is being held in Riyadh from Feb. 4 to 9, in what is a first for the Middle East and North African Region.

The event’s theme is “Pathways to a clean, stable, and sustainable energy future”, and is being hosted by The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center and Saudi Association for Energy Economics.

More than 500 delegates from 40 countries are set to attend the 44th International Association for Energy Economics International Conference, which is being held in the Middle East and North African region for the first time.


Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 

Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 
Updated 06 February 2023

Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 

Dubai’s international passenger arrivals climb 97% to reach 14.36m in 2022 

RIYADH: International passenger arrivals in Dubai reached 14.36 million in 2022, up 97 percent from 7.28 million in 2021, the latest government data showed.  

The figures from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism indicate that the emirate is closing in on its pre-pandemic visitation levels when 16.73 million international passengers arrived in Dubai in 2019.

“The remarkable rise in international visitation in 2022 supports the ambitious goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to double the size of the emirate’s economy by 2033,” said the Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.  

He added: “The tourism and travel sector contributes significantly to the leadership’s aim of making the emirate a model for excellence in the global economy.”  

Al Maktoum further noted that Dubai is emerging as a greater catalyst for the growth of global tourism and travel connectivity in the years ahead.  

It should be noted that the latest data from the UN World Tourism Organization shows global tourist travel went down by 37 percent in 2022 compared to 2019. 

The Middle East, however, showed the strongest relative increase in 2022, with arrivals climbing to 83 percent of pre-pandemic figures.  

Dubai exceeded both global and regional barometers of recovery with visitors to the city reaching 86 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.  

“While the global economy remains in a state of flux, Dubai has emerged as a clear leader in the tourism industry. The robust performance is a testament to Dubai’s growing role at the vanguard of global tourism recovery,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism.  

Almarri added: “The effectiveness of our strategies and initiatives gives us the confidence to tap new growth opportunities in the global travel and business sectors over the next few decades.”  

Meanwhile, the hospitality sector in Dubai also achieved significant growth in 2022, as the average occupancy for the hotel sector last year stood at 73 percent, up from 67 percent in 2021, news agency WAM reported.  

This figure is just short of the 75 percent occupancy in the pre-pandemic period of 2019. 

Dubai’s hotel inventory at the end of December 2022 comprised 146,496 rooms at 804 hotel establishments, compared to 126,120 rooms available at the end of December 2019 across 741 establishments. 


Saudi British Bank meets with Hong Kong delegation to elevate investment opportunities  

Saudi British Bank meets with Hong Kong delegation to elevate investment opportunities  
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi British Bank meets with Hong Kong delegation to elevate investment opportunities  

Saudi British Bank meets with Hong Kong delegation to elevate investment opportunities  

RIYADH: Top officials from Saudi British Bank met with a high-level business delegation from Hong Kong to discuss cross-border business and investment opportunities between Saudi Arabia and the special administrative region of China.  

According to a press release, the Hong Kong business delegation that reached Riyadh on Feb. 5 was led by CEO John Lee Ka-chiu. He was accompanied by Peter Lam, chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, as well as top businessmen and executives.  

The meeting also included a panel discussion between distinguished leaders of Saudi Arabia’s business community and officials from government institutions to discuss points of cooperation and explore investment and trade opportunities that will enhance the economic development plans in the two countries and increase the volume of trade exchange.  

“As countries around the world have to contend with the challenges of climate change, war and inflation, many are looking for new markets and new technology to restart their growth,” said Lam.  

He added: “Especially for Hong Kong, we are excited about the opportunity to leverage the strong ties between Saudi Arabia and Mainland China around the Belt and Road (which enters its 10th year) and ride on long-term national development plans across the two nations, such as the Mainland’s 14th Five Year Plan and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.”  

Tony Cripps, managing director and CEO of SABB said that Hong Kong’s vital position as a financial hub which is a fundamental part of China’s Greater Bay Area and Belt Road strategies makes it a key player in the rapid build-up of business ties with the Kingdom.  

“SABB, together with our international partner and shareholder HSBC, is ideally positioned to support both inbound and outbound trade and investment between these important partners,” said Cripps.  

After arriving in Riyadh on Sunday, Lee said that he will meet top executives of Saudi Arabian Oil Co. during the visit, and added that he would highlight what Hong Kong had to offer as an international financial center.  

“Saudi Aramco’s businesses are very diversified with its different subsidiaries. I will try my best to encourage them to come to Hong Kong for participation, including listing in the city,” said Lee, as reported by the South China Morning Post.