Startups flourish from Morocco to Saudi Arabia

Startups flourish from Morocco to Saudi Arabia
Founded in 2023 by Thabet Al-Subaie, LYNK connects financial institutions, commodity markets, and beneficiaries through its Shariah-compliant services. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 November 2023
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Startups flourish from Morocco to Saudi Arabia

Startups flourish from Morocco to Saudi Arabia
  • KSA’s fintech sector make significant stride with LYNK investment round

CAIRO: Startups across the Middle East and North Africa region managed to raise significant funding rounds, hailing a rebound in the venture capital space.

Saudi Arabia’s fintech sector marked a significant stride with LYNK successfully securing an investment round.  

This financial boost came from notable backers Al Fozan Holding and Ramla Holding Group, although the investment amount remains undisclosed.  

Founded in 2023 by Thabet Al-Subaie, LYNK connects financial institutions, commodity markets, and beneficiaries through its Shariah-compliant services.

This latest infusion of funds is set to catalyze the company’s growth, facilitating the introduction of new financial products and expanding its footprint both locally and globally. “LYNK is considered a leading company in the fintech industry. LYNK is dedicated to expanding its scope of work and strengthening its position among prominent financial institutions by establishing strategic partnerships aimed at meeting the aspirations of customers and fulfilling market needs,” Al-Subaie said.

Since its launch by BIM Ventures’ Saudi Venture Studio, LYNK has demonstrated remarkable performance in automating financial transactions. The platform has efficiently processed over SR100 million ($26 million) in Murabaha transactions.

The company claims to handle up to 15,000 transactions daily, each executed in less than a minute, and collectively valued at over SR5 billion.

Saudi BNPL Tamara raises $250m in debt financing

Saudi Arabia’s buy now, pay later giant Tamara managed to secure an additional $250 million in debt financing, bringing its total facility to $400 million.

The investment consists of an up to $200 million senior debt contribution from Goldman Sachs, complemented by a $50 million tranche by Shorooq Partners.

Co-founded in 2020 by Abdulmajeed Al-Sukhan, Turki bin Zarah, and Abdulmohsen Al-Babtain, Tamara’s offers its consumers the opportunity to purchase products in installments.  

Last March, the company successfully raised a $150 million debt financing round, also from Goldman Sachs. This consistent backing from prominent financial institutions underscores Tamara’s growing influence in the fintech sector. 




Co-founded in 2020 by Abdulmajeed Al-Sukhan, Turki bin Zarah, and Abdulmohsen Al-Babtain, Tamara’s offers its consumers the opportunity to purchase products in installments. (Supplied)

“We are pleased to announce this significant debt financing, a testament to our excellent operational performance to date and our future growth outlook,” Stefan Marciniak, Tamara’s chief financial officer, said.

“In a challenging economic climate, we are grateful to Goldman Sachs and Shorooq Partners for their support. These funds will catapult us forward, enabling us to further develop our flagship BNPL product and invest in new, innovative products and services, which will further strengthen our position as a leader in the industry,” Marciniak added.

The strategic utilization of this new financing is set to catalyze Tamara’s expansion. With its capital, the company is poised to invest in developing new products and services, further cementing its position in the competitive BNPL market.  

Saudi Arabia’s VMS invests in Egypt’s Akhdar

Egyptian educational technology company Akhdar has successfully completed a six-figure funding round, led by Saudi Arabia’s venture studio, Value Maker Studio. This strategic investment is aimed at bolstering Akhdar’s expansion efforts into the Saudi market.  

Established in 2016 by Mohamed Osama and Shady Ahmed, Akhdar has carved a niche in the education technology space by providing a wide array of Arabic-language educational materials.

Their offerings encompass over 2,500 pieces of content, including audio and written books, comprehensive book reviews, and engaging podcasts.  

This diverse range of educational resources caters to a vast audience, with the app being utilized by 1.5 million users across 174 countries globally.  

The recent funding underscores the growing interest in edtech solutions and reflects the confidence of investors in Akhdar’s potential for growth and impact.  

“This strategic partnership will greatly support our expansion plans into the Gulf Cooperation Council region, with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia. Additionally, it will enable us to fuel our growth and further enhance our technology to effectively address the challenges faced by today’s learners,” Osama said.

This investment acts as a stepping stone for Akhdar to strengthen its presence in the Middle East, starting with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi cybersecurity startup COGNNA raises $2.25m

Saudi Arabian cybersecurity startup COGNNA has successfully secured $2.25 million in a seed funding round led by IMPACT46 and saw contributions from Vision Ventures, Faith Capital, along with other investors.  

Established in 2022 by Ibrahim Al-Shamrani and Ziyad Al-Shehri, COGNNA specializes in leveraging artificial intelligence and sophisticated data analysis to identify and neutralize threats in customers’ systems and networks.  

Notably, COGNNA was part of the first-ever Cybersecurity Accelerator Program initiated by the Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority in August 2022, underlining its commitment to advancing cybersecurity solutions.

UAE’s fintech startup Mafhoom Technologies raises $1.36m  

Mafhoom Technologies, a UAE-based fintech startup, has successfully raised $1.36 million in a pre-seed funding round by Al-Wafra Al-Thanya for Investments, complemented by contributions from various angel investors.  

Established in 2022 by founders Ahmad Khatib and Ziad Melhem, Mafhoom is designed to empower users to manage their finances more effectively.  

It offers tools to optimize spending, reduce bills, clear debt, and enhance financial literacy, while also helping users to meet their saving and investment goals. 

This strategic partnership will greatly support our expansion plans into the Gulf Cooperation Council region, with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia.

Mohamed Osama Akhdar, cofounder and CEO

“Mafhoom Technologies is at the forefront of financial innovation, and we are delighted to have the support of esteemed investors who share our vision for a financially empowered future,” said Khatib.    

This fresh injection of capital will enable Mafhoom to expand its team and facilitate its growth plans in Saudi Arabia.

Morocco’s CloudFret raises $2.1m

CloudFret, a Morocco-based logistics startup, has successfully raised $2.1 million in a funding round jointly led by AfriMobility and Azur Innovation Fund.  

Launched in 2021 by Driss Jabar, CloudFret leverages an AI algorithm-based platform to facilitate connections between shippers and carriers across Mediterranean shores.  

With this new capital, CloudFret aims to significantly expand its operations. The company has set ambitious targets to double its workforce by the end of 2024, a move that is poised to enhance its service offerings and broaden its network of shippers and partner carriers.  

UAE’s logistics startup Wize raises $16m

Wize, a UAE-based logistics startup, has successfully secured $16 million in a pre-seed funding round predominantly backed by angel investors.  

Established in 2022 by Alexander Lemzakov, Wize is carving a niche in the logistics sector with its eco-friendly last-mile transportation solutions.

The company operates on two primary fronts, firstly, as a marketplace for electric motorcycles, and secondly, as a subscription platform that enables businesses to efficiently manage their own fleets.  

In a bid to support sustainable transportation, Wize offers a unique battery-as-a-service model, along with swapping stations.  

Additionally, it has developed the Battery Swap App, designed to aid drivers in locating and reserving batteries, while also keeping them updated on charge levels.

With the injection of this new capital, Wize is set to accelerate its product development initiatives.  

The funding will also facilitate the company’s expansion within the UAE, and enable it to explore and establish new partnership opportunities across the broader MENA region.


PIF to acquire stake in Saudi construction giant Binladin Group – reports

PIF to acquire stake in Saudi construction giant Binladin Group – reports
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PIF to acquire stake in Saudi construction giant Binladin Group – reports

PIF to acquire stake in Saudi construction giant Binladin Group – reports

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is set to take a 36 percent stake in the Kingdom’s construction giant Binladin Group, according to Bloomberg.

While PIF did not offer an official response to the report, Bloomberg said the fund is “working with Morgan Stanley on a potential deal to buy into Saudi Binladin Group,” citing people with knowledge of the matter.

“The PIF, as the $700 billion wealth fund is known, is considering acquiring part or all of the 36 percent stake owned by the ministry of finance, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private,” reported Bloomberg.

It added that the sovereign wealth fund is looking to local firms to build the infrastructure needed to host showcase events such as the World Expo.

Spokespeople for Morgan Stanley and PIF declined to comment. Representatives for Binladin couldn’t be reached for comment, according to the outlet.

The Kingdom’s fund is helping Saudi Arabia boost its transition from oil and overseeing several giga-projects such as NEOM.

Bloomberg said PIF spent $1.3 billion last year to acquire stakes in four local construction companies to bolster the Kingdom’s domestic construction industry.

In a press statement, PIF revealed earlier this month that it had acquired a 40 percent stake in the Zamil Offshore Co., one of the largest Saudi-based offshore support vessel operators. 

According to the wealth fund, this transaction is a part of the fund’s wider strategy to contribute to the development of the Kingdom’s energy base.

In January, PIF increased its stake in Japan-based video game firm Koei Tecmo to 6.60 percent from 5.56 percent. 

Similarly, in February 2023, PIF raised its stake in Nintendo Co. to 8.26 percent from 7.08 percent, making it the largest outside investor in the Japanese gaming company. 

Last month, the fund also acquired a 23.8 percent stake in Middle East Paper Co., one of the leading manufacturers specializing in producing and recycling paper products in the region.


Pakistan is aiming to increase trade with Saudi Arabia to $20bn: minister

Pakistan is aiming to increase trade with Saudi Arabia to $20bn: minister
Updated 22 min 40 sec ago
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Pakistan is aiming to increase trade with Saudi Arabia to $20bn: minister

Pakistan is aiming to increase trade with Saudi Arabia to $20bn: minister

RIYADH: Pakistan is aiming to increase its trade capacity with Saudi Arabia to $20 billion through enhancing business conditions, according to a top official.

The Saudi-Pakistani Business Forum kicked off in Riyadh on Feb. 22 under the patronage of Minister of Commerce Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, organized by the Federation of Saudi Chambers, according to the Kingdom’s official press agency.

During the event, Pakistan’s Minister of Commerce Gohar Ejaz highlighted the role of the Free Trade Agreement between the Gulf Corporation Council countries and his nation in opening up opportunities for investors from both regions. 

He expressed his ambition to increase trade volume to $20 billion by improving the business environment between the two countries and encouraging the private sector, especially since Pakistan represents a significant market and opportunity for Saudi investors.

Chairman of the Federation of Saudi Chambers Hassan Al-Huwaizi noted the leaps in trade exchange between the Kingdom and Pakistan, which reached $5.7 billion, adding that Pakistan now ranks 20th in the list of Saudi trading partners, with broader prospects for partnership and Pakistani investors in Vision 2030 projects.

Ejaz pointed out that the agreement provides protection and guarantees for Saudi and Gulf investments, explaining that the forum comes within Pakistan’s interest in developing its relations with the Kingdom and benefiting from Vision 2030 projects.

The minister of commerce emphasized in a speech, conveyed by Acting Deputy Governor of the Foreign Trade Authority’s Deputyship of Private Sector Affairs and Global Presence Fawaz bin Rafaah, the significant role played by the private sectors of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in developing the volume of trade exchange, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency.

Fahd Al-Bash, president of the Saudi-Pakistani Business Council, revealed several initiatives and projects the council is working on in cooperation with investors from both countries. 

These include launching a portal for rice importers from Pakistan, establishing a technology center in Riyadh, a halal meat center in Makkah, as well as a market for Pakistani products in the Kingdom and joint petrochemical industries to meet the needs of the market.

Forum participants discussed the opportunities and initiatives provided by Vision 2030 for Pakistani investors, as well as the investment options available to Saudi businessmen in Pakistan across various targeted economic sectors.

During the forum, the ministry of investment screened a presentation titled “Invest in Saudi Arabia,” covering the financial environment and opportunities in the Kingdom. 

The Agricultural Development Fund also presented its services and efforts in agricultural sector development. 

Additionally, the Saudi Export-Import Bank showcased its efforts and services in developing Saudi exports and serving exporters, while the Pakistani Investment Council reviewed the investment opportunities available in Pakistan.


Saudi Arabia and China explore investment opportunities in civil aviation 

Saudi Arabia and China explore investment opportunities in civil aviation 
Updated 50 min 28 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia and China explore investment opportunities in civil aviation 

Saudi Arabia and China explore investment opportunities in civil aviation 

RIYADH: Economic cooperation in Saudi-China civil aviation is set to strengthen, with top officials meeting in Beijing to discuss investment opportunities and technology transfer for industry advancements.  

This comes as a high-level delegation, led by Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, began a visit to the Asian country, convening a joint round table meeting to explore cooperation in connectivity and discuss partnership aspects across various areas. 

Furthermore, both nations discussed the exploration of innovative solutions in aviation, including sustainable fuels, advanced air mobility, and traffic management systems.  

They expressed interest in integrating artificial intelligence and digital technologies to enhance the aviation experience and operational efficiency. 

Additionally, the Saudi delegation emphasized substantial investments in the sector and reiterated the Kingdom’s openness to further opportunities.  

This aligns with GACA’s goal of modernizing the airport system and supports the Kingdom’s tourism sector target of attracting 150 million visitors by 2030. 


Saudi Arabia has 4k firms in entertainment industry thanks to Vision 2030 boom – top official

Saudi Arabia has 4k firms in entertainment industry thanks to Vision 2030 boom – top official
Updated 55 min 51 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia has 4k firms in entertainment industry thanks to Vision 2030 boom – top official

Saudi Arabia has 4k firms in entertainment industry thanks to Vision 2030 boom – top official

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s entertainment sector has surged to 4,000 companies from fewer than 10 since the launch of Vision 2030, according to a top official.

Speaking at the Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh on Feb. 21, General Entertainment Authority CEO Faisal Bafarat said the industry has already created over 150,000 local jobs since the Kingdom’s economic diversification initiative was instigated in 2016.

Bafarat also underscored the importance of high competitiveness among business sectors in creating new forms of entertainment, which is now attracting more capital in the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Aligned with the economic diversification goals of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia launched the General Entertainment Authority in 2016. 

The organization is currently working toward the development of entertainment options that fit the needs of people from all walks of life in the Kingdom.

The media sector’s contribution to Saudi gross domestic product reached SR14.5 billion ($3.86 billion) in 2023 and is targeting SR16 billion this year.

For his part, Ahmed Al-Mehmadi, the executive director of operations at the General Entertainment Authority, said that media has become a fundamental pillar in the entertainment industry. 

According to Al-Mehmadi, effective local and regional media partnerships will catalyze the growth of the entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia. 

He added that the authority is committed to diversifying and energizing its platforms to reach various local and global segments of society. 

The third edition of the Saudi Media Forum, hosted by the Kingdom’s Broadcasting Authority, was organized in Riyadh from Feb. 19 to 21. 

The gathering brought together some 2,000 industry specialists and experts from the region and beyond. The event also showcased the latest technologies and innovations from over 200 local and international companies. 

Saudi Arabia has launched multiple initiatives to grow the communications industry, which includes the Media Zone project that provides a dedicated space to gain knowledge of art practices within the industry.

Last week, the Kingdom also launched the Hajj and Umrah Mediathon to improve the quality of coverage of the holy practices.

The Hajj Media Hub was also announced, allowing media professionals to enhance their coverage and showcase their work in an immersive exhibition.


Oil Updates – crude rises for second day on improving signs of US refinery demand

Oil Updates – crude rises for second day on improving signs of US refinery demand
Updated 22 February 2024
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Oil Updates – crude rises for second day on improving signs of US refinery demand

Oil Updates – crude rises for second day on improving signs of US refinery demand

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose for a second day on Thursday on expectations that demand in the US, the world’s biggest oil consumer, will improve as refineries try to return to service after outages and as the dollar weakened, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures rose 34 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $83.37 a barrel at 10:40 a.m. Saudi time. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 37 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $78.28 a barrel.

“Oil prices have been resilient thus far, with market participants seemingly eyeing a retest of its year-to-date high following its rally in February,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG, adding that geopolitical tensions provided support.

“That said, gains could be somewhat contained for now, given the higher-than-expected inventories build in US crude stocks from the API (American Petroleum Institute) figure overnight drove some wait-and-see for the EIA (Energy Information Administration) numbers to be released ahead,” Yeap added.

Crude stocks rose 7.17 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 16, market sources citing API figures said on Wednesday. Gasoline stockpiles also rose while distillate fuel inventories declined.

US crude inventories have climbed amid outages at large refineries that have left utilization rates at the lowest level in two years, though the plants are resuming output.

BP’s 435,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Indiana, the largest in the US Midwest, will return to full production in March, according to people familiar with plant operations, after a power outage from Feb. 1.

TotalEnergies’ 238,000-bpd refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, is also working to complete a restart, though it is still operating minimally following a weather-related power outage.

Analysts expect US refinery run rates to have risen to 81.5 percent last week from 80.6 percent of total capacity in the previous week, according to a Reuters poll.

Investors will keep an eye on the official inventory data from the US EIA that is due at 7:00 p.m. Saudi time on Thursday, delayed one day by a US holiday.

Crude was also supported by a weaker US dollar, which makes oil less expensive for traders holding other currencies.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, fell to 103.905 at 8:10 a.m. Saudi time. 

“The retreat in the US dollar for the fourth straight session may also boost the short-term appeal for oil,” said Yeap.