Regional startups fuel surge in investments

Regional startups fuel surge in investments
Abu Dhabi-headquartered digital assets infrastructure provider Fuze raised $14 million in a funding round led by Further Ventures and Liberty City Ventures. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 September 2023

Regional startups fuel surge in investments

Regional startups fuel surge in investments
  • Deep tech startups capture significant portion of venture capital activity

CAIRO: Venture capital investments in the region have surged, with deep tech startups capturing a significant portion of the activity.

Web3 applications, blockchain, and ventures focusing on carbon control have secured substantial funding, reinforcing the region’s role as a driver of innovation and change.

UAE-based digital assets infrastructure provider Fuze has announced a successful seed funding round, securing $14 million.

The investment was spearheaded by Abu Dhabi’s Further Ventures and saw participation from US firm Liberty City Ventures.

Founded in 2022 by Mohammed Yusuf, Arpit Mehta, and Srijan Shetty, Fuze offers a platform that enables financial institutions, fintech startups, and traditional enterprises to integrate regulated digital asset products into their native applications.

“We are excited to build the future of regulated financial infrastructure and digital assets out of the UAE,” Yusuf said.

“Regulations have played a pivotal role in propelling the UAE into a central position within the global Digital Assets industry. To receive the backing of Abu Dhabi-headquartered Further Ventures combined with the deep expertise of US-based Liberty City Ventures, confirms the relevancy and potential of Fuze’s mission to rapidly expand our cutting-edge infrastructure across the region,” he added.

With this fresh capital in hand, Fuze is poised to further its expansion goals, enhance its technological offerings, and recruit new talent to its team.

The company claims to be the first-of-its-kind infrastructure provider to offer regulated digital asset products to its customers in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“We are building a suite of products that addresses the growing demand for regulated digital asset capabilities through trusted channels. Our technology-first approach is a game-changer for the region and offers our customers a reliable bridge to the new era of investments and to the future of finance,” Yusuf added.

Dubai’s Cultos Global secures investment for Web3 innovations

Dubai’s Web3 innovator Cultos Global has garnered an undisclosed sum in its recent funding round.

Among the notable contributors were Sameer Mehta of Boat, Tarun Katial of Coto, Ashwath Bhat from Fractal Analytics, and Vijay Ratnaparkhe of Bosch Southeast Asia, the latter of whom will now contribute as part of the company’s advisory panel.

The influx of funds is earmarked to bolster Cultos Global’s product and engineering divisions in both the UAE and India. 

We’re thrilled to welcome his highness Sheikh Ahmed not only as an investor but also as our chairman.

Martin Reynolds, CEO of Zero Carbon Ventures

“Cultos Global is revolutionizing brand-customer engagement with a sophisticated, unified platform that seamlessly combines digital marketing and customer rewards programs. This transforms passive consumers into an active network of nano-influencers,” Adib Samara, the company’s co-founder, said.

The company enables brands to devise and implement their brand token and rewards strategies, ensuring a more organic acceptance which fuels operational efficiency, a surge in conversion ratios, and a tangible uptick in sales, as per the press release.

“Cultos Global is excited to have industry leaders on board as we scale up our mission to offer brands the capability to bring their rewards, loyalty, and influencer marketing to Web3,” CEO Pavan Govindan, said.

“This grants brands access to first-party data with advanced security and enhanced privacy for consumers. With strategic investors supporting our vision, we are more confident than ever in establishing Cultos Global as the preferred Web3 wallet for major global brands,” he added.

Zero Carbon secures $5m from Dubai ruling family

Zero Carbon Ventures, a cleantech startup based in the UAE, has successfully secured a seed funding round of $5 million.

The investment comes from Sheikh Ahmed Mana Khalifa Al-Maktoum, an Emirati businessman and a member of Dubai’s ruling family.

In addition to the financial boost, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Maktoum will also lend his expertise as a strategic adviser and take over the role of chairman of the board.

Co-founded by Peter Jodlowski and Martin Reynolds in 2022, Zero Carbon Ventures is steadfast in its commitment to champion carbon-reduction technologies across the MENA region.

“I initially met Martin and the Zero Carbon team in April this year, and fell in love with their vision,” Sheikh Ahmed Al-Maktoum said.

“The world now needs people like them to actually get to work on the delivery of these kinds of projects. I hired Zero Carbon to begin work on decarbonizing my own Dubai real estate portfolio. I see immense potential in Zero Carbon, and I am eager to guide and do my part in this pivotal journey toward net-zero,” he added

The company’s approach is structured around four central pillars: waste management, water conservation, energy efficiency, and sustainable materials.

The fresh infusion of capital is set to catalyze Zero Carbon’s sustainable endeavors, particularly in the lead-up to COP28.

The global climate summit will be hosted by the UAE later this year, and Zero Carbon Ventures is gearing up to play a significant role in steering sustainable development conversations during the event.

“We’re thrilled to welcome his highness Sheikh Ahmed not only as an investor but also as our chairman,” Reynolds said.

“His involvement is more than an endorsement; it’s a powerful union of vision and purpose. Our ambition has always been to enact tangible change. Our fully established and experienced senior management team, with his Highness by our side, is incredibly well-positioned to drive our sustainability initiatives even further,” he added.

Jordan’s DigiZag secures seven-figure series A funding round

DigiZag, a digital advertising and performance marketing startup headquartered in Jordan, has successfully closed a seven-figure series A funding round.

The substantial investment comes from the SME Investment Fund, which is managed by Al-Arabi Investment Group.

Established in 2015 by Saif Atout, DigiZag offers a suite of technology-driven solutions in performance-based marketing.

These solutions help companies and institutions optimize their advertising campaigns, in order to drive revenue growth and sales.

With the capital, DigiZag is poised to further strengthen its market position and enhance its digital footprint in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, signaling a promising growth trajectory for the startup.

Saudi crown prince launches urban plan and brand for the city of Qiddiya

Saudi crown prince launches urban plan and brand for the city of Qiddiya
Updated 3 min 39 sec ago

Saudi crown prince launches urban plan and brand for the city of Qiddiya

Saudi crown prince launches urban plan and brand for the city of Qiddiya
  • Qiddiya City is expected to create over 325,000 jobs
  • Prince Mohammed: Qiddiya to become foremost global entertainment, sports, culture destination

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman launched on Thursday the urban design for the Qiddiya City and Qiddiya’s international trade brand, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Qiddiya City is expected to create over 325,000 jobs, yielding nominal GDP of SR135 billion ($36 billion) per annum, the report added.

The crown prince said on completion Qiddiya would become the foremost global entertainment, sports, and culture destination.

“This will have a positive impact on the Kingdom's economy and its international standing, as well as on enhancing Riyadh’s strategic position and contributing to its economic growth. It aims to improve the quality of life, making Riyadh one of the top 10 economies globally,” he said.

Prince Mohammed added that the investment into Qiddiya was a cornerstone of the Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy, creating thousands of job opportunities for the ambitious Saudi youth.

Closing Bell: TASI ends green at 11,225 points with $1.62bn trading volume 

Closing Bell: TASI ends green at 11,225 points with $1.62bn trading volume 
Updated 07 December 2023

Closing Bell: TASI ends green at 11,225 points with $1.62bn trading volume 

Closing Bell: TASI ends green at 11,225 points with $1.62bn trading volume 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index experienced a slight rise on Thursday, gaining 51.33 points, or 0.46 percent, to close at 11,225.35.   

The benchmark index saw a total trading turnover of SR6.1 billion ($1.62 billion), with 107 listed stocks advancing and 107 retreating.  

Moreover, the parallel market Nomu witnessed an increase of 399.17 points, or 1.70 percent, to end the day at 23,949. The market had 24 listed stocks advancing and 31 retreating.  

The MSCI Tadawul Index also saw an increase, inching up by 4.56 points, or 0.32 percent, to close at 1,439.56.  

TASI’s top performer was Development Works Food Co., which saw its share price surge by 9.92 percent to SR135.20.   

Other significant gainers included Al-Omran Industrial Trading Co. and National Agricultural Development Co., with their share prices rising by 7.99 percent and 5.66 percent to SR37.85 and SR28, respectively. Leejam Sports Co. and ACWA Power Co. also reported strong performances.  

Conversely, Al-Baha Investment and Development Co. experienced a decline, with its share price dropping by 6.67 percent to SR0.14.   

Taiba Investments Co. and Savola Group also faced downturns, with their share prices decreasing by 5.35 percent and 3.38 percent to SR25.65 and SR38.55, respectively. Arabian Pipes Co. and Saudi Reinsurance Co. were among the day’s worst performers.  

On the announcement front, Riyadh Cables Group Co. has completed the second phase of its share buyback program, designed to support its long-term employee stock incentive program.   

The buyback, which occurred between Oct. 31 and Nov. 30, 2023, saw the repurchase of 252,500 shares, amounting to SR18.89 million, at an average price of SR74.82 per share, as per the company’s announcement to Tadawul.  

This step is part of a 12-month plan that commenced following approval at the company’s extraordinary general meeting.

Following this phase, Riyadh Cables’ treasury now holds 282,500 shares, acquired at an average price of SR74.68 each.  

The company has indicated that this buyback process is not expected to have a significant impact on its financial results. This move aligns with Riyadh Cables’ strategy to invest in its workforce while ensuring the company’s continued financial stability and growth.  

Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee explores ways to boost trade

Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee explores ways to boost trade
Updated 07 December 2023

Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee explores ways to boost trade

Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee explores ways to boost trade

RIYADH: Trade exchange between Saudi Arabia and Vietnam is on course to prosper following discussions in a ministerial meeting.  

The fifth Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee, taking place in the Asian country’s capital of Hanoi, saw the participation of the Kingdom’s Assistant Deputy Minister for Mining Enablement Abdulaziz Al-Ahmadi, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Phan Thi Thang, as well as joint representatives from several government agencies.  

During the meeting, the two nations reviewed the trade volume between them and expressed their intent to enhance it, broadening the range of exchanged products.  

This aligns with both countries’ efforts in recent years to bolster economic and trade relations.  

During the talk, the officials also discussed implementing support initiatives to facilitate trade exchange by encouraging the exchange of trade missions and participating in the economic activities held in the two countries.

The meeting also shed light on ways to enhance relations and common interests in accordance with the economic, scientific, and technical cooperation agreement concluded in Hanoi on May 25, 2006.

Additionally, both sides discussed increasing the volume of investments in priority sectors between them and elevating partnerships in trade, exports, and investments.

As the assembly concluded, both nations pledged to continue working to develop bilateral cooperation in key areas, including foreign relations, trade, energy, and industry.

Additional sectors included investment, finance, development support, health, as well as education, training, human resources development, media, and justice.

Other areas of interest entailed culture and tourism, security and defense, science, technology and innovation, among others.

The Kingdom is a significant market for Vietnam and a vital partner in the Middle East and Africa.

The region’s exports to the Asian country during 2022 included plastic products, mineral products, and organic chemicals. They also entailed animal food and fish meat preparations.  

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s imports from Vietnam included electrical appliances, equipment and their parts, and metal products. They also included copper and its products, shoes, machinery and tools.    

The Saudi-Vietnamese Joint Committee was established in 2006 to promote cooperation across various sectors for mutual development.

Central Bank of UAE’s assets rise 1.3% to $1.08tn

Central Bank of UAE’s assets rise 1.3% to $1.08tn
Updated 07 December 2023

Central Bank of UAE’s assets rise 1.3% to $1.08tn

Central Bank of UAE’s assets rise 1.3% to $1.08tn

RIYADH: Total assets held by the Central Bank of UAE rose to $3.95 trillion dirhams ($1.08 trillion) by the end of September 2023, representing a 1.3 percent increase compared to the previous month.

According to CBUAE’s statistical monthly bulletin, this growth in assets was complemented by a 1.4 percent rise in the volume of bank credit, which went from 1.95 trillion dirhams at the end of August to 1.98 trillion dirhams at the end of September.

CBUAE revealed that the surge in bank credit in September was driven by a significant 7.3 percent surge in foreign credit and a modest 0.7 percent increase in domestic credit.

According to the central bank, the domestic credit increase was attributed to a 3.3 percent increase in the public sector, 3.8 percent in non-financial institutions, and a 0.2 percent increase in the private sector.

The report added that banking deposits hit 2.42 trillion by the end of September, representing a rise of 0.7 percent compared to August.

“The growth in total bank deposits was due to an increase in resident deposits by 1.8 percent, overshadowing the reduction in non-resident by 10.1 percent,” said CBUAE in the report.  

Additionally, CBUAE said the monetary base expanded by 0.4 percent from 595.1 billion dirhams in August to 597.3 billion dirhams by the end of September. The expansion included a 0.5 percent increase in issued currency and a significant 13.1 percent rise in the reserve account.

CBUAE added that the overall money supply indicators also witnessed growth in September. M1, which signifies the most liquid form of money, observed a rise of 2.2 percent to 795.5 billion dirhams in September compared to August, while M2, which includes M1 and also less liquid short-term time deposits, grew by 2.6 percent to 1.90 trillion dirhams during the same period.

M3, which comprises M2 and includes less liquid assets and large time deposits, grew by 1.6 percent month-on-month to 2.35 trillion in September.

Earlier this month, CBUAE and Bank Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at expanding cooperation across various sectors.

The MoU entails the extension of the already established framework of cooperation between both central banks, which seeks to strengthen their relationship, enhance information exchange, and collaborate across various areas.

Turkish banks secure $40m Murabaha deal with ITFC to boost private sector financing  

Turkish banks secure $40m Murabaha deal with ITFC to boost private sector financing  
Updated 07 December 2023

Turkish banks secure $40m Murabaha deal with ITFC to boost private sector financing  

Turkish banks secure $40m Murabaha deal with ITFC to boost private sector financing  

RIYADH: Turkiye’s private sector is poised to benefit from Murabaha financing, with two of the country’s banks signing a total funding deal of $40 million with the International Islamic Trade Finance Corp.      

ITFC, a member of the Islamic Development Bank Group, has announced the completion of two Murabaha financing deals valued at $20 million each with Vakif Katilim Bank and Ziraat Katilim Bank, the Saudi Press Agency reported.    

Signed during the 39th session of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, the agreement specifies that the funds will be directed toward supporting private sector clients and small and medium enterprises served by the two banks to meet their trade financing requirements.   

Murabaha, an Islamic financing structure, operates as a sales contract wherein the price of goods or items is determined based on customer requirements, including a pre-agreed profit margin.    

This initiative aligns with ITFC’s mission to promote sustainable economic development in member countries, and the corporation’s CEO Hani Salem Sonbol explained that these new deals represent a crucial step in enhancing commercial and economic activities, fostering further growth in the country’s private sector. 

Additionally, they will play a pivotal role in promoting sustainable development and prosperity for the private sector and SMEs in the country, Sonbol stressed.   

Solar project in Senegal 

In another development, Senegal is set to install up to 50,000 solar streetlights in rural areas, thanks to a new agreement signed by the Islamic Corp. for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit. 

The IsDB member announced a project financing worth €103 million ($111 million) in cooperation with Standard Chartered Bank for Senegal’s Ministry of Finance to purchase and install solar streetlights.  

This initiative aligns with the country’s pursuit of green renewable energy goals, coinciding with the climate conference held in Dubai.  

“Our cooperation for a solar street lighting project in Senegal is a testament to our commitment to sustainable development in our member states and stimulating economic growth in rural areas in line with the sustainable development goals,” said Oussama Kaissi, CEO of the ICIEC. 

The project aims to utilize solar energy for street lighting in rural areas of Senegal, enhancing the quality of life dependent on continuous access to energy and promoting economic growth. 

“This loan is the first green loan to adopt environmentally friendly energy practices provided by the bank to Senegal, which in turn will improve the lives of local communities while supporting the climate goals of the Senegalese government,” said Sunil Kaushal, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank in Africa and the Middle East. 

From an environmental standpoint, the project relies on adopting environmentally friendly energy practices to reduce carbon emissions.