Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia captures nearly half of MENA’s Q1 funding 

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia captures nearly half of MENA’s Q1 funding 
Saudi ventures secured $224 million out of the $429 million raised across the Middle East and North Africa. Shutterstock
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Updated 05 April 2024
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Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia captures nearly half of MENA’s Q1 funding 

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia captures nearly half of MENA’s Q1 funding 

CAIRO: Saudi startups continue to demonstrate a pioneering stance by capturing almost half of the region’s total venture funding in the first quarter of the year, underscoring the Kingdom’s growing influence in the regional startup ecosystem.  

In a notable achievement, Saudi ventures secured $224 million out of the $429 million raised across the Middle East and North Africa, showcasing a robust entrepreneurial landscape in the Kingdom, according to Wamda’s monthly report. 

The surge in startup activity, particularly in March, saw MENA startups raising $254 million across 54 deals, indicating a significant uptick compared to the previous months and a slight increase from the previous year.  

Regional funding saw a 186 percent growth in March compared to February’s $88.7 million, and a 1.17 percent increase compared to the same month last year. 

This resurgence in March’s investment activity, particularly during LEAP24 held in Riyadh, has placed Saudi startups at the forefront, with significant contributions – such as Salla’s substantial pre-initial public offering round of $130 million. 

While the UAE and Egypt trailed with $39 million and $7 million respectively, the majority of the quarter’s funding was directed towards software as a service providers, followed by fintech and e-commerce sectors.  

Despite a predominance of seed rounds and series A funding, there was a noticeable absence of larger ticket sizes and later-stage investments compared to the previous year. 

Investment trends also highlighted a preference for the business-to-business model over business-to-consumer, with male-led startups dominating the funding landscape, the report stated. 

B2C models garnered $48 million, 19 percent of March’s total funding, while B2B saw $188 million, 74 percent of the total amount. 

However, female-led startups and teams with mixed-gender founders also made their mark, albeit to a lesser extent. 

The month was also rich in mergers and acquisitions, including significant deals like MBC Group’s investment in Anghami and Classera’s acquisition of Expert Solutions.  

Additionally, substantial investment funds were announced at LEAP24, further energizing the startup environment and promising more growth and innovation in the region’s entrepreneurial sector. 

Out of the funds announced at LEAP, Investcorp is spearheading the initiative with a $500 million fund dedicated to supporting growth-stage ventures in Saudi Arabia, bolstered by a $35 million investment from Saudi Venture Capital.   

Concurrently, Oasis Capital also announced the introduction of a $100 million fund focusing on early-stage international ventures.  

In the gaming sector, the Saudi Esports Federation, in collaboration with the Social Development Bank and the National Technology Development Program, announced plans to unveil two funds under its Gaming and Esports Sector Financing Program.   

Furthermore, Saudi venture capital firms Merak Capital and Impact46 announced $80 million and $40 million funds, respectively.  

Plug and Play Tech Center is also entering the scene with a pioneering $50 million fund aimed at nurturing software and tech ventures in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region.   

Meanwhile, Takamol Ventures announced a $53 million venture capital fund at LEAP, targeting early-stage tech companies to fuel innovation.  

UAE’s fintech Fortis secures $20m in a series A round 




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UAE’s fintech Fortis announced the successful closure of its series A funding round, securing $20 million led by Opportunity Venture.  

This investment signifies a major step forward for Fortis as it seeks to redefine the retail tech and fintech environment in the MENA region. 

With a decade of experience under its belt, Fortis is on a mission to enable entrepreneurs to efficiently manage their business operations, both offline and online.  

“We are thrilled to have secured this significant investment, which will enable us to accelerate our growth and deliver even greater value to businesses in the MENA region,” Alberto Caruso, Fortis CEO and founder, said.  

“We are committed to leveraging this funding to develop progressive solutions and provide unparalleled support to our clients as they navigate the rapidly evolving retail and fintech landscape,” he added. 

Their services, which include streamlined order management, personalized loyalty programs, and comprehensive business operation tools, are now set to expand in the UAE.  

Fortis is committed to aiding local businesses in enhancing revenue by facilitating better connections between merchants and customers. 

“We are excited to lead Fortis’ series A funding round and support their expansion into the MENA region,” said Philip Ma, managing partner at Opportunity Venture.  

“Fortis’ innovative approach to fintech and retail tech solutions aligns with our investment thesis, and we believe they are well positioned to drive significant value creation in these sectors,” Ma added. 

The newly acquired funds are earmarked for several strategic initiatives aimed at bolstering Fortis’ market position and service offerings. 

Key focus areas include the enhancement of customer-centric services, with plans to improve integration with external platforms while also refining Fortis’s own offerings with an emphasis on user experience and interface design. 

Furthermore, Fortis intends to establish strategic partnerships with key financial and business service providers, integrating its cutting-edge solutions with those of banks, payment systems, and B2B services.  

The development of omnichannel capabilities is also a priority, ensuring that users have a consistent and engaging experience across all platforms and touchpoints. 

In addition to service development, a significant portion of the investment will be channeled into brand-building efforts to boost Fortis’s visibility and credibility in the fintech and retail tech sectors.  

The expansion drive includes broadening Fortis’s footprint across the MENA region and augmenting its team with new talent to support its growth and innovation objectives. 

Bahrain’s Daleel secures investment from Hambro Perks 

Bahrain-based Daleel has successfully raised an undisclosed investment from Hambro Perks Spring Studios.  

Established in 2022 by founders Dania Alshowaikh, PK Shrivastava, and Ridaa Shah, Daleel offers a platform that simplifies the process for consumers to discover and compare various financial products while providing banks and financial institutions with valuable insights to improve customer acquisition. 

The strategic investment is set to fuel Daleel’s expansion efforts, particularly focusing on extending its services to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 
 


Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports

 Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports
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Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports

 Saudi Arabia’s trade surplus hits yearly high of $11bn in April amid surge in non-oil exports

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s trade balance surplus hit a year-high of SR41.4 billion ($11.04 billion) in April, a 36 percent increase from the previous month, fueled by a surge in non-oil exports. 

According to the General Authority for Statistics, the Kingdom’s non-oil shipments rose by 12.4 percent in April compared to the same month last year. 

This comes as the Kingdom intensifies its efforts to boost non-oil exports to reduce its reliance on the energy sector and diversify its economy. The significant growth underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to strengthening other sectors and achieving a more balanced economic structure. 

National non-oil exports, excluding re-exports, saw a modest rise of 1.6 percent in April this year compared to April 2023, while re-exported goods experienced a substantial increase of 56.4 percent over the same period. 

In contrast, overall outbound merchandise supply fell by 1.0 percent, primarily due to a 4.2 percent decline in oil exports. As a result, the proportion of oil in total outbound supply decreased from 80.6 percent in April 2023 to 78.0 percent in April this year. 

Imports also saw a slight decline of 1.3 percent, and the merchandise trade balance surplus dropped by 0.5 percent compared to the previous year. 

Month-over-month comparisons show a decrease in the value of merchandise exports by 1.7 percent, non-oil exports by 6.3 percent, and imports by 17.4 percent. However, the Kingdom’s trade balance still saw a substantial increase. 

The ratio of non-oil merchandise exports to imports improved significantly, rising to 37.1 percent in April from 32.6 percent in April 2023. This improvement is attributed to the increase in non-oil exports and the decrease in imports. 

Plastics, rubber, and their products were among the top non-oil exports, making up 26.2 percent of the total and growing by 20.5 percent compared to April 2023. 

Chemical products also constituted a significant portion, accounting for 25.7 percent of non-oil exports, although they saw a 13.8 percent decrease from the previous year. 

On the import side, machinery, electrical equipment, and parts were the leading category, representing 26.6 percent of total imports and increasing by 32.4 percent compared to April 2023. 

Transportation equipment and parts followed, making up 11.7 percent of imports but decreasing by 24.5 percent from the previous year. 

China remained Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, receiving 16.6 percent of total exports in April 2024. Japan and India followed with 9.2 percent and 8.1 percent of total exports, respectively. 

These top three countries, along with South Korea, the UAE, and the US, alongside Poland, Bahrain, Malaysia, and Singapore, collectively accounted for 65.6 percent of the Kingdom’s total exports. 

China also led in imports to Saudi Arabia, constituting 22.4 percent of total imports. The US and India followed, with 8.3 percent and 6.6 percent of total imports, respectively. 

Imports from the top ten countries made up 62.2 percent of the total. 

The main entry points for imports into the Kingdom included King Abdulaziz Sea Port in Dammam with 29.7 percent, Jeddah Islamic Sea Port with 18.4 percent, and King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh with 14.3 percent. 

Other ports included King Abdulaziz International Airport with 7.6 percent and King Fahad International Airport in Dammam with 5.9 percent. 

Together, these five ports handled 76.0 percent of Saudi Arabia’s total merchandise imports. 

These statistics are based on administrative records from the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority and the Ministry of Energy, with classifications according to the Harmonized System maintained by the World Customs Organization. 


Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data

Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data
Updated 23 June 2024
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Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data

Oman’s capital market draws 135 nationalities; foreign investments up 19%: MSX data

RIYADH: Oman’s capital market has attracted investors from 135 nationalities, up from 67 in 2023, supported by favorable policies including low tax rates and flexible capital transfer options. 

Newly released statistics from the Muscat Stock Exchange reveal a 19 percent increase in foreign investments as of May, including participants from the Gulf Cooperation Council, Arab countries, and beyond. 

Oman’s capital market has implemented policies favoring foreign investments, including unrestricted profit repatriation and exchange operations. This trend aligns with the nation’s economic resurgence and growing institutional confidence in government strategies aimed at reducing public debt, increasing investment in essential services, and launching infrastructure projects to bolster private sector participation. 

The MSX data also indicates that foreign investments are predominantly focused on the industrial and service sectors, accounting for 15.8 percent and 15.7 percent respectively. 

Gulf investors are particularly focused on the services sector, accounting for 15.4 percent, and the financial industry at 8.5 percent. 

Conversely, non-Gulf Arab investments are primarily directed toward the financial sector, comprising 3 percent. 

Local investments heavily favor the financial industry at 87.6 percent, followed by the industrial sector at 75.6 percent and the services sector at 67.7 percent. 

The first half of this year has seen significant growth in trading activity at MSX, underscoring heightened market dynamism.  

Trading volumes surged to 3.1 billion securities, surpassing 517 million Omani rials ($1.3 billion) in value by the end of May, marking a notable 38.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Executed transactions also rose, reflecting increased market participation and liquidity. 

The exchange is expanding its database on listed companies to enhance transparency and advocate for disclosure standards among publicly traded entities, the Oman News Agency reported.  

Additionally, efforts are underway to encourage government and family-owned businesses to transition into privately held entities, enriching market diversity and investment opportunities. 

Foreign investors can invest in shares of MSX-listed companies or investment funds without prior permission, under the oversight of an independent supervisory body ensuring market fairness, investor protection, and transparency.  

Foreign investment in MSX-listed public joint-stock companies is permitted up to 100 percent, with significant interest observed in the industrial and services sectors, highlighting diversified investor preferences. 

Reflecting positive sentiment, the market capitalization of MSX-listed public joint-stock companies reached 9.4 billion rials by May’s end, up 448.5 million rials since the start of the year.  

The broader market value of all MSX-listed securities rose to 24.48 billion riyals, a gain of 676 million riyals year-over-year, bolstered by contributions from closed companies and the bond and sukuk market. 

Market indices reflected this growth, with the main index climbing to 4845 points by May’s close, up 331 points from the previous period.  

Successful IPOs by entities like Abraaj Energy Services and OQ Gas Networks have attracted new investors and boosted market liquidity, with OQ considering IPOs for two more subsidiaries this year, according to Bloomberg. 

This upward trend underscores investor confidence in MSX’s growth potential, supported by Oman Investment Authority’s plans to offer additional companies for public subscription in the coming years.  

The OIA reported a 7.4 percent year-on-year increase in Oman’s sovereign wealth fund assets, reaching 19.24 billion rials in 2023, with a 9.95 percent return on investment, as disclosed in a statement on X. 

This performance underscores the authority’s pivotal role in fostering economic growth and stability in the Middle Eastern country.  

The robust results also reflect the OIA’s strategic investment approach and effective management of its diverse portfolio, in line with its mandate to manage national funds and assets, build financial reserves, and advance targeted economic sectors through government policies. 

At a media briefing in Muscat earlier this month, the authority affirmed its commitment to contributing over 6 billion rials annually to the state’s general budget from 2016 through 2023.  

The statement further outlined the OIA’s plans to geographically diversify its new foreign and local investments across various sectors, while facilitating technology transfer and modern techniques to bolster targeted local industries. 

Looking ahead, MSX aims to strengthen its regulatory framework, expand investor outreach initiatives, and cultivate an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth, the Oman News Agency reported.  

By enhancing its reputation as a gateway for international investment and adhering to global best practices in financial markets, MSX aims to maintain its position as a leading choice for investors interested in opportunities in Oman’s dynamic capital market, it added.


Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,729

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,729
Updated 23 June 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,729

Closing Bell: Saudi main index rose to close at 11,729

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Sunday, gaining 231.04 points, or 2.01 percent, to close at 11,729.97.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.18 billion ($1.38 billion) as 79 of the stocks advanced, while 151 retreated.

Similarly, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu gained 71.63 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 26,825.62. This comes as 32 of the listed stocks advanced while 36 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index also gained 38.14 points, or 2.65 percent, to close at 1,475.68.

The best-performing stock of the day was Rasan Information Technology Co. The company’s share price surged 10.60 percent to SR53.20. 

Other top performers include ACWA Power Co. as well as Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co.

The worst performer was Batic Investments and Logistics Co., whose share price dropped by 5.81 percent to SR3.08. 

Other worst performers were Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. as well as Saudi Manpower Solutions Co.

On the announcements front, Yanbu Cement Co. has announced the signing of a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Southern Province Cement Co. to evaluate the feasibility of merging the two companies.

According to a Tadawul statement, both firms will commence the process of due diligence, examining operational, technical, and financial as well as legal and actuarial aspects. 

They will also engage in non-binding discussions regarding the details of the terms and conditions for the proposed merger.

The MoU shall terminate upon the signing of the merger agreement by both companies or upon the expiration of 12 months from the date of its signing. It may also be extended with the approval of both firms jointly.

Additionally, either company may terminate the MoU by providing written notice to the other party in this regard.

Moreover, Edarat Communication and Information Technology Co. has announced the receipt of a letter of award from Almoammar Information Systems Co. to provide facility management support services for Sahayeb Data Centers.

A bourse filing revealed that, under the terms of the agreement, Edarat will provide support services, including managing, operating, and maintaining Sahayeb Data Centers located in Riyadh and Dammam, starting in the second quarter of 2024 and continuing until the end of 2025.


Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report

Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report
Updated 23 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report

Saudi Arabia’s FDI soars to $65bn post-pandemic, among top in West Asia: report

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia attracted $65.1 billion in foreign direct investment in the three years post-pandemic until 2023, placing it among West Asia’s top recipients, according to new data.  

According to the latest World Investment Report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the Kingdom's FDI outflows totaled $73.1 billion over the same period, with $16 billion recorded last year alone. This places Saudi Arabia among the top 20 economies globally for FDI outflows, ranking 16th. 

In accordance with the goals set out in the National Investment Strategy and Vision 2030 targets, Saudi Arabia has enacted substantial legal, economic, and social reforms aimed at stimulating inflows of foreign direct investment.

Launched in 2021, NIS looks to develop comprehensive investment plans across various sectors such as manufacturing, renewable energy, transport and logistics, tourism, digital infrastructure, and healthcare.

Furthermore, it aims to increase annual FDI flows to over $103 billion and boost annual domestic investment to more than $453 billion by 2030.

The UN report also noted a 55 percent annual increase in the value of international project finance deals in Saudi Arabia in 2023, reaching $22 billion. 

Last year, the nation witnessed 19 deals, marking a 90 percent growth compared to the previous year. 

Additionally, Saudi Arabia saw 389 announced greenfield projects in 2023, totaling $29 billion, reflecting a 108 percent annual increase in value. 

On a global level, FDI experienced a marginal yearly decline of 2 percent in 2023, dropping to $1.3 trillion.  

The analysis highlighted that the overall figure was significantly influenced by substantial financial flows through a few European conduit economies. 

Excluding the impact of these conduits, global FDI flows were more than 10 percent lower than in 2022. 

Conduit economies refer to countries that act as intermediaries for financial flows, especially foreign direct investment. 

These economies attract multinational corporations with favorable tax laws and regulatory environments, allowing funds to pass through on their way to final investment destinations, often for tax optimization and regulatory benefits. Examples include the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, as well as Cyprus and Ireland.  

The challenges  

UNCTAD stated that the global landscape for international investment remains challenging in 2024. Factors such as declining growth prospects, economic fragmentation, and trade and geopolitical tensions are influencing FDI patterns. Industrial policies and the diversification of supply chains also present limitations.  

These factors have prompted many multinational enterprises to adopt a cautious approach to overseas expansion.  

“However, MNE profit levels remain high, financing conditions are easing and increased greenfield project announcements in 2023 will positively affect FDI. Modest growth for the full year appears possible,” the report stated.  

International project finance and cross-border mergers and acquisitions were particularly weak in 2023.  

M&As, which predominantly impact FDI in developed countries, fell in value by 46 percent, while project finance, a crucial factor for infrastructure investment, was down 26 percent.  

According to the report, the principal causes of this decline included tighter financing conditions, investor uncertainty, volatility in financial markets, and increased regulatory scrutiny for M&As.  

In developed countries, the 2023 trend was significantly influenced by MNE financial transactions, partly driven by efforts to implement a minimum tax on the largest MNEs.  

Regional deep dive  

Due to volatility in conduit economies, FDI flows in Europe shifted dramatically from negative $106 billion in 2022 to positive $16 billion in 2023.  

Inflows to the rest of Europe declined by 14 percent, while inflows in other developed countries stagnated, with a 5 percent decline in North America and significant decreases elsewhere.  

FDI flows to developing countries fell by 7 percent to $867 billion, primarily due to an 8 percent decrease in developing Asia.  

Flows fell by 3 percent in Africa and 1 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. The number of international project finance deals dropped by a quarter.  

Although greenfield project announcements in developing countries increased by over 1,000, these initiatives were highly concentrated in specific regions.  

Greenfield project announcements refer to the initiation of new investment undertakings where companies build operations from scratch on undeveloped land, leading to the construction of new facilities and infrastructure.  

South-East Asia accounted for almost half of these projects, West Asia for a quarter, while Africa saw a small increase, and Latin America and the Caribbean attracted fewer initiatives.  

FDI inflows to Africa declined by 3 percent in 2023 to $53 billion. Despite several megaproject announcements, including Mauritania’s largest worldwide green hydrogen project, international project finance in Africa fell by a quarter in the number of deals and half in value, negatively affecting infrastructure investment prospects.  

In developing Asia, FDI fell by 8 percent to $621 billion. China, the world’s second-largest FDI recipient, experienced a rare decline in inflows, with significant decreases recorded in India and West and Central Asia.  

The report stated that only South-East Asia held steady, with industrial investment remaining buoyant despite the global downturn in project finance.  

FDI flows to Latin America and the Caribbean were down 1 percent to $193 billion.  

The number of international project finance and greenfield investment announcements fell, but the value of greenfield projects increased due to large investments in commodity sectors, critical minerals and renewable energy as well as green hydrogen, and green ammonia.  

Conversely, FDI flows to structurally weak and vulnerable economies increased. FDI inflows to least developed countries rose to $31 billion, accounting for 2.4 percent of global FDI flows, the report stated.  

“Landlocked developing countries and small island developing states also saw increased FDI. In all three groups, FDI remains concentrated among a few countries,” the report added.  

The global downturn in international project finance disproportionately affected the poorest countries, where such finance is relatively more important.  

Industry trends showed lower investment in infrastructure and the digital economy but strong growth in global value chain-intensive sectors such as manufacturing and critical minerals.  

Weak project finance markets negatively impacted infrastructure investment, and digital economy sectors continued to slow down after the boom ended in 2022.  

The report further stated that global value chain-intensive sectors, including automotive, electronics, and machinery industries, grew strongly, driven by supply chain restructuring pressures. Investment in critical minerals extraction and processing nearly doubled in project numbers and values. 


Saudi Arabia offers 5th round of ‘Sah’ savings product with 5.55% return 

Saudi Arabia offers 5th round of ‘Sah’ savings product with 5.55% return 
Updated 23 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia offers 5th round of ‘Sah’ savings product with 5.55% return 

Saudi Arabia offers 5th round of ‘Sah’ savings product with 5.55% return 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has opened its fifth round of the subscription-based savings product, Sah, for June, offering a 5.55 percent return, encouraging financial stability and growth among citizens.    

The Shariah-compliant, government-backed sukuk started on June 23 and will run until June 25, with redemption amounts scheduled within a year, as announced by the National Debt Management Center in a release on X. 

Organized by the NDMC and issued by the Ministry of Finance, these fee-free savings products provide low-risk returns and are distributed through digital channels of approved financial institutions. 

Sah is the first government sukuk issued aimed at enhancing saving habits by motivating Saudis to deduct a portion of their income periodically and allocate it to their savings.   

The sukuk aligns with the goals of the Financial Sector Development Program, a key initiative of Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to increase the national savings rate from the current 6 percent to the international standard of 10 percent by 2030. 

Moreover, the release added that the minimum subscription amount is SR1,000 ($266.43), equivalent to the value of one bond, while the maximum is SR200,000, allowing up to 200 bonds per user during the program period. 

The Sah product is available to Saudi nationals aged 18 and above who open an account with SNB Capital, Aljazira Capital, or Alinma Investment. SAB Invest and Al Rajhi Capital are also eligible options. 

Moreover, it offers attractive returns aligned with prevailing market rates, leveraging government backing to ensure it remains a low-risk financial instrument. 

Participants can redeem their investments according to the published annual calendar; however, early withdrawals forfeit accrued returns and profits. 

In February, Hani Al-Medaini, CEO of the National Debt Management Center, highlighted that the sukuk aims to foster private-sector collaboration. Future initiatives include developing and launching tailored savings products for various individual categories through banks, fund managers, financial technology companies, and others. 

“I believe that issuing Sah is a great financial initiative led by the Saudi government to encourage people to save and enhance financial inclusion in the Kingdom. This initiative entitles everyone to access financial products and services that meet their needs, such as having a bank account or savings product like Sah,” Al-Madini said at the time. 

The CEO further added: “It will not only benefit Saudi individuals by encouraging them to save, but it will also have a positive impact on the national economy. It is expected to stimulate economic growth and elevate national savings rates to international standards.”