7 of the Best Destinations in the World to Buy Jewelry

Jewelry makes you look sophisticated and shows off your style. Accessory shopping can be fun anywhere, but it can be even more exciting when you’re traveling. Buying jewelry worldwide allows you to add beautiful pieces to your collection while going on an adventure!

Here are seven destinations to add to the top of your bucket list.

1.  The Gold Souk, Dubai

This location has a variety of gold pieces available. Suppose you’re looking for jewelry symbolizing wealth and confidence? This is the place to go. Gold accessories also have some health benefits alongside their elegant appearance. They can allegedly improve blood circulation, help heal wounds, and soothe your skin.

The Gold Souk is a covered market inside the city. Some of its shops include Damas, Liali Jewelry, and Taiba.

2.  Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech is a great place to shop because you can buy directly from merchants. This city has many marketplaces lining the streets. If you’re looking to add to your silver jewelry collection, then you’re in luck. They offer a variety of sleek and chunky pieces alike.

Some of the top shops to look out for include Joanna Bristow, Jewels, and Gallerie Al Yel.

3.  Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva is known as the watch capital of the world. Companies from all over are headquartered in this stunning city. Tiffany & Co. is a popular one to check out. Some other shops to consider are Piaget, Escape Temps, Bucherer, and Swatch.

If you want to browse for a classy new accessory while enjoying beautiful scenery, this is the perfect place to go.

4.  Jerusalem, Israel

This location is home to some of the most luxurious jewelry made by both local and foreign designers. Here are some of the top jewelry stores to check out:

  • Baltinester Jewelry and Judaica: This store offers customized jewelry. It provides a wide variety of contemporary Jewish accessories in silver and gold.
  • Avi Luvaton Jewelry and Judaica: Their design style is a blend of traditional and contemporary elements. They also feature diamond and South Sea pearl collections.
  • Turquoise 925: They sell handcrafted wedding rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings made from gold, silver, and Israel stones. The jeweler also makes customized items for buyers.

5.  Paris, France

Paris is the location to visit if you’re looking for high-end jewelry. If you’re looking for a trendy and unique spot, try The 3rd Arrondissement.

Paris is also a romantic destination. If you’re looking for an engagement or wedding ring, this is an excellent place to go. Diamond bands are a classic choice. To verify it’s a natural diamond, take it to an expert for examination.

6.  Cape Town, Central Africa

Consider checking out the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, which offers many stores to fit your budget. St. George’s Mall is another place to search for jewelry. If you’re looking for jewelry with beading, this location is an excellent option.

7.  St. Maarten, Caribbean

Check out Philipsburg on Front Street for sellers who specialize in gem and diamond accessories. French Marigot is another palace that offers a wide variety of options. If you’re primarily looking for diamond pieces, consider visiting Caribbean Gems.

Find the Perfect Jewelry While Exploring the World

Jewelry helps to complement your outfit and is a way to express yourself. Shopping for these accessories can be even more fun when you add in an exotic location! Consider these destinations next time you want to explore.

Dubai CommerCity Launches Second Edition of MEASA E-commerce Landscape Report

  • Amna Lootah: The value of the e-commerce market will reach $148.5 billion in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia in 2022
  • The Gulf region witnessed a 214% year-on-year increase in cross-border online sales by mid-year 2020
  • MEASA B2C products e-commerce market equates to 2.5% of the global B2C e-commerce market

Dubai CommerCity (DCC), the first dedicated e-commerce free zone in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA), announced the launch of the second edition of ‘MEASA E-Commerce Landscape: B2C Products Edition’. Amna Lootah, Assistant Director General, DAFZA, and a Board Member at Dubai CommerCity, stated that the value of the e-commerce market will grow to $148.5 billion in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) by 2022.

This comes in line with the free zone’s efforts to strengthen its position as a gateway for growth of the regional e-commerce sector through the emirate of Dubai. The report also aims to provide insights from experts and industry specialists in the free zone to enhance knowledge transfer.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of the e-commerce sector in the MEASA region with a focus on its activities and growth. It also analyses trends in 29 countries within the MEASA region and its expected developments within the next three years. The report offers regional and international businesses and entrepreneurs guidance on how to better benefit from the B2C MEASA market.

Amna Lootah, Assistant Director General, DAFZA, and a Board Member at Dubai CommerCity said: “The e-commerce sector in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia is witnessing a significant growth, which is driven by the confidence of its business community and ecosystem. This has also been led by the continuously changing consumer behavior and the adaptation of advanced technologies that played a key role in easing the overall consumer shopping experience. The MEASA region’s e-commerce market is experiencing a staggering CAGR at 18.4%, higher than the global 16.6% growth over the 2019-22 forecasted period, which represents a big opportunity for the region to benefit from the growing e-commerce activity. The report highlights regional growth, future opportunities and latest trends, which can guide SME’s and multinational companies on the right direction to benefit from and to expand their regional and global operations,”

“Dubai CommerCity aims to provide the business community with the latest insights, trends and statistics for the e-commerce sector. These reports support businesses in developing strategies to establish or expand their operations in e-commerce within the UAE and the wider region. This falls in line with Dubai CommerCity’s position as the first dedicated e-commerce free zone, which through its expertise, knowledge and industry specialists, supports entrepreneurs and businesses to achieve economic prosperity and growth in e-commerce,” Lootah added.

The report features interviews conducted with executives from top B2C companies in the region including Mr. Geoff Walsh, Country Manager DHL Express UAE, Mr. Hadi Raad, Regional Head of Digital Solutions Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA), VISA and Mr. Firas Ahmad, CEO Azam Pay who all provide firsthand insights.

The study shows that e-commerce has experienced a significant leap during the COVID-19 pandemic with the Gulf region witnessing a 214% year-on-year increase in cross-border online sales by mid-year 2020. Findings of the report indicate that the MEASA B2C products e-commerce market equates to 2.5% of the global B2C e-commerce market.

South Asia represents the largest sub-regional e-commerce market size, with India the largest country by e-commerce sales in the MEASA region, valued at $45.7 billion sales in 2019. GCC is the fastest growing sub regional e-commerce market over the forecasted period 2019-22, where Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates take the lead at 39% and 38% CAGR respectively. African markets are showing strong potential, covering at least 19% of the regional sales within the MEASA e-commerce market share in 2019. Nigeria is the second largest e-commerce market in the region at US$ 7.7 billion sales, with South Africa and Morocco also making it to the top 10 markets. Kenya is the 4th fastest growing economy at 36.6% CAGR.

The findings of the report suggest that the affluent, young population and cross-border e-commerce are the two strongest e-commerce growth drivers for the MEASA region. Other growth drivers include internet penetration, smartphone and social media adoption, government policy and ease of doing business. The evolving consumer demands and habits represent an important opportunity for the region to advance the e-commerce industry to reach international standards. This opportunity is further reflected with the United Arab Emirates leading many e-commerce related rankings regionally and globally including the highest global internet penetration at 99% and securing the 13th position out of 99 countries for ease of starting an online business ranking.

DeVere Forster, Chief Operating Officer at Dubai CommerCity, said: “At Dubai CommerCity, we are committed to developing and providing advanced infrastructure and innovative logistics, e-fulfilment and shipping solutions to enhance trade within the e-commerce sector. We are working with our strategic partners to build a world-class e-commerce ecosystem, which helps businesses start up, expand and enhance their operations at a time when the sector provides promising opportunities.

“This report shows the potential growth expected to take place in the e-commerce sector. It will help local, regional and multinational companies to better understand the B2C product market in the MEASA region. It will also guide the regional government entities and industry bodies to explore potential developments that can better facilitate the e-commerce sector at a regional and global level,” Forster added.

The region’s high rankings have made it increasingly attractive to some of the leading global e-commerce players. The report presents a unique list of the top 100 B2C e-commerce companies operating in the MEASA region, offering B2C e-commerce products. The ranking is based on unique visitors from MEASA, and collectively the top 100 websites represent 1.94 billion unique visitors from MEASA. These companies are mostly based in the Middle East with 38 companies, Africa with 26 companies and South Asia with 15 companies.

Within the report, marketplace represent the highest number of companies on the list, with 32 companies, followed by electronics and fashion with 19 companies each. Next on the list is food delivery with 10 companies. Other categories with less than five companies include bookstore, home and furniture shop, sports and clothing, and others. Some of the leading companies from the United Arab Emirates include Sharaf DG, Noon, Namshi and Centre Point (Landmark Group).

For the MEASA region to become an increasingly competitive global player, the report suggests that there are key structural barriers that must be addressed at a government and industrial support level. The report devises five broad strategic considerations around key e-commerce barriers. These strategies include robust policy framework, consumer awareness and trust-building, logistics and postal services, digital infrastructure, and global collaboration.

Dubai CommerCity is the first and leading e-commerce free zone in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. With an area covering 2.1 million square feet and an investment of around AED 3.2 billion, Dubai CommerCity is uniquely designed to cater to regional and international e-commerce businesses. The free zone provides a unique e-commerce ecosystem providing not only business setup solutions but also services such as e-commerce strategy consulting, guidance on e-commerce regulations in the region, end-to-end logistics and fulfilment solutions inclusive of warehousing and last mile delivery, complete e-commerce platform solutions, digital marketing services, and other e-commerce support services.

The free zone has implemented state-of-the art technologies to provide e-commerce players and investors with a smart and quality-focused ecosystem. Some facilities include high-end modern business community zone, clusters equipped with the latest technologies designed for e-commerce businesses and other high-tech features that will allow clients to establish and launch their businesses in the free zone efficiently and quickly.

Dubai CommerCity provides a holistic e-commerce ecosystem connecting logistics, electronic payment, and customer service providers. It will enable mega innovation trends like IoT, big data analytics, cloud solution and blockchain and offers simplified regulation and process, allowing major regional and international players to collaborate and leverage local talent to set a benchmark for the e-commerce industry.

Bank of Abyssinia Taps Into Path Solutions to Achieve Sharia Compliance and Operational Efficiency

Path Solutions, a global provider of AAOIFI-certified software solutions and services for Islamic banks and financial institutions, today announced the signing of a new partnership agreement with Bank of Abyssinia (“BoA”), one of the leading banks in Ethiopia serving more than 4.6 Million customers through 580+ branches and Islamic windows. As a new addition to Path Solutions’ fast-growing client base, BoA will be implementing iMAL*IslamicFinancing and iMAL*ProfitCalculationSystem for its Islamic window operations.

iMAL*PCS provides end-to-end capabilities to manage the entire profit calculation and distribution cycle, making Islamic profit distribution highly efficient. The process automation coupled with a complete set of dashboard data analytics capabilities gives decision makers of Islamic financial institutions the tools to make fast and accurate decisions. The solution includes innovative pool structures and profit distribution rates to ensure customer satisfaction is maximized in accordance with Sharia principles. All profit rate adjustments are made according to the Sharia and handled automatically by the system, which also allows Islamic financial institutions to specify the rules for splitting profits. The system provides each bank with facilities to tailor its own profit calculations according to the product set and define pool structures that reflect the income and expenses for finance and investment transactions funded by each pool.

Mohammed Kateeb, the Group Chairman & CEO of Path Solutions commented, “I am delighted to welcome BoA to our growing list of partners in Africa. We’ve got an impressive track record of working with financial institutions in integrating our AAOIFI-certified suite of services with their existing core banking platform, whether conventional or Islamic. BoA’s decision to entrust our Sharia-compliant profit calculation and distribution system is testament to our ability to effectively address the business pains financial institutions are experiencing, and the severe consequences for Sharia non-compliance”.

Ethiopia has recently allowed the formation of full-fledged interest-free banks, and thus several banks are currently planning to convert to Islamic or raising fund to start Islamic banking services. However, most technology and software solutions in the country are designed for the conventional banking infrastructure. A pure Islamic software, certified by AAOIFI such as iMAL from Path Solutions can be seamlessly incorporated into an Islamic financial institution, and it can be integrated with any conventional core banking platform to enable the organization to compete more effectively in this competitive business environment.

“After much research and due diligence on Islamic banking software, we chose Path Solutions’ iMAL for its broad and comprehensive set of features, flexibility, and compliance with AAOIFI’s Sharia and accounting standards”, said Abdulkadir Redwan, Director – Interest Free Banking at BoA. Our partnership with Path Solutions is vital to ensure all Islamic requirements are met for our stakeholders, and to compete in the rapidly changing Islamic financial landscape in the country. The iMAL*PCS deployment will enable us to utilize the net income during the calculation period and distribute it among investors according to the Sharia guidelines. In addition to its advanced automation capabilities, this all-inclusive system will allow us to offer new Sharia-compliant products to our customers with a truly differentiated customer experience”.

BoA represents the first signing for Path Solutions in Ethiopia. Driven by ambitious objectives and the lure of new untapped markets, more and more IT vendors are looking to expand in Africa. Path Solutions has a long history of addressing the special needs of Islamic banks in the African continent, particularly with the provision of AAOIFI-certified software solutions and services.

Pegasus Airlines is One of the World’s First Airlines to Trial the IATA Travel Pass

Pegasus Airlines has signed an agreement with The International Air Transport Association (IATA) for the IATA Travel Pass, a mobile application which allows guests to digitally store and manage their health-related certifications required for international travel, such as their COVID-19 test results.

Leading low-cost carrier, Pegasus Airlines, has signed an agreement for the IATA Travel Pass, a mobile application developed by The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and which allows guests to digitally store and manage their health-related certifications required for international travel, such as their COVID-19 test results. Pegasus Airlines is one of the first airlines in the world, and the first carrier in Turkey, to pilot the IATA Travel Pass. Pegasus aims to help guests to have a faster and secure travel experience in terms of the country entry requirements for international travel that have been frequently changing during the pandemic. Information on test centres, test results and flight information can be managed digitally through the app.

The IATA Travel pass combines the verification of health information in a single digital app, whilst allowing guests to securely and easily verify that they meet the COVID-19 related country entry requirements that have been changing throughout the pandemic. Within the scope of the application, that has been designed to protect the privacy of its users due to the sensitive nature of health-related data, the data is stored on the mobile phones of the guests instead of any central database. Thus, guests have full control over the sharing of their personal information.

How does the system work?

The IATA Travel Pass app enables guests to create a secure digital version of their passport on their mobile phones and then enter their flight information to find the health requirements of the country they are travelling to. Guests who are required to take a test before they travel can access information on authorised test centres, and securely receive their results via the app. When guests upload their COVID-19 test results to the app and match this information with the digital passport they have created, the app verifies that the result meets the regulations of the destination country.  If the necessary criteria are met, a digital verification certificate is sent to the guest’s phone. Thus, guests can securely continue their travels by presenting this verification certificate at the airport or by sharing it with the airline digitally prior to travelling.

The next implementations are on the way

As the first implementer of the IATA Travel Pass in Turkey, Pegasus Airlines is working with Hitit, one of the world’s leading global providers of airline applications, to realise the integration. Pegasus Airlines is aiming to enable guests to travel in the most safe and healthy way possible by simplifying the health-related barriers for international flights with new implementations that are being planned for the upcoming period.

Saudi Payments Launches Instant Payments System ‘sarie’ in Cooperation with IBM and Mastercard

Saudi Payments, under the supervision of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) announced the launch of Saudi Arabia’s instant payments system ‘sarie’ in cooperation with IBM and Mastercard, the leading technology company in the global payments industry. This collaboration marks a key milestone for payments innovation in the region and is aligned with Saudi Payments’ aim to improve the Kingdom’s financial ecosystem, mainly through the adoption of faster payments and improvements to banking reconciliation. Today, ‘sarie’ supports all Saudi banks across the Kingdom and is available for use by their customers.

‘sarie’ allows bank customers to send and receive money in real-time using a wider range of services and transfer options. Customers of local banks can make instant transactions of up to SAR 20,000 (USD 5,300) through the system. Further, “sarie” users can benefit from the quick transfer service to send up to SAR 2,500 (USD 660) using aliases, such as mobile number, email address, ID number, or IBAN number.

Saudi Payments Managing Director Fahad Al-Akeel said, “The instant payments system ‘sarie’ can enable us to drive usage and engagement across the Saudi payments ecosystem of banks and businesses. It can help lay the foundation for new payments business initiatives, encouraging financial inclusion and banking reconciliation of Saudi banks. We welcome this momentous collaboration with IBM and Mastercard. It is a huge step forward that aligns with our ongoing smart solutions and payments modernization strategy, aimed towards achieving the assigned goals in vision 2030.”

Maria Medvedeva, Vice President and Country Business Development Lead, Saudi Arabia, Mastercard, said, “This is a significant milestone in our real-time payments journey and is the result of hard work. Saudi Arabia is an important market for Mastercard, and we anticipate that with this real-time payment system going live in the MEA region, many doors may soon open for ongoing innovation, both in the Kingdom and further afield. The initiative can significantly contribute towards digitizing and modernizing transactions in line with the goals of Vision 2030, and can also help increase the efficiency of the financial systems and offer consumers access to a wider range of financial services, positively impacting the Saudi economy and its citizens.”

Saudi Payments selected IBM Global Business Services (GBS), the services and consultancy arm of IBM, to lead the project as the System Integrator (SI) partner and a leading end-to-end digital payments solutions provider. IBM GBS designed and architected the solution through its complex system integration methodology, built a technical platform and integrated Mastercard’s instant payments platform into Saudi Payments’ existing infrastructure while connecting it to the IT systems of locally operating banks. Not only is this a milestone for payments innovation locally, it is the fastest end-to-end rollout globally of a digital payments system of its kind and scale.

Mastercard’s innovative and secured real-time payment technology was selected for the rollout by Saudi Payments, enabling people and businesses in the Kingdom to send money instantly. It is part of the tech company’s broader multi-rail strategy to lead payment innovation in the MEA region across all digital payment rails,  enabling people and organizations to send and receive money how, where, and when they choose, across both card and account-to-account payments rails. Mastercard’s experience of real-time payments implementations includes the launch of The Clearing House’s RTP® – the transformative real-time payment system in the U.S. – an evolution of Mastercard’s highly successful and reliable systems developed for Faster Payments in the U.K., FAST in Singapore, and PromptPay in Thailand. Mastercard is now providing real-time payments infrastructure technology for 12 of the largest 50 countries ranked by GDP.

Dina Abo-Onoq, Managing Partner, IBM GBS, Saudi Arabia, said, “In order for banks and financial institutions to remain current, they should be prepared to adapt to the changing and on-the-go customer needs, using the latest innovations. This launch is another step towards the advancement of the payments and banking landscape in Saudi Arabia and the region. The new payments solution is designed to provide the citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia with Mastercard’s real-time capabilities and help promote financial innovation.”

Saudi Payments has successfully rolled out ‘sarie’ across all banks operating locally, using the most advanced technology built on the latest ISO 20022 messaging standards. The ambitious system is expected to support local government, business, and consumer payment needs across various payment flows, creating a more convenient and accelerated economic activity across the Kingdom.

E-commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa: Can Covid-19 Growth Be Sustained

– Covid-19 prompted widespread growth in sub-Saharan e-commerce

– African giant Jumia used record expansion to fuel share demand

– Limited ICT infrastructure remains a significant barrier in the region

– The African digital economy is set to continue its exponential growth trend


The coronavirus pandemic triggered an e-commerce boom in sub-Saharan Africa, alongside the rest of the world. With a global recovery under way, the question now is: can that growth be sustained?

There is no doubt that 2020 was a watershed year for the digital transition. Lockdowns around the world accelerated the deployment of digital solutions in most aspects of daily life: the expansion of e-commerce was one standout consequence. E-commerce companies and platforms enjoyed a rise in activity and profits, while retailers that had not previously developed their online presence found themselves obliged to do so in order to survive.

To take an example, Latin America saw a boom in the sector, with an estimated 13m people making an online transaction for the first time in 2020, while retail e-commerce in the region grew by 36.7% to around $85bn, according to data company Statista.

A recent UNCTAD report anticipates that this growth will be sustained even as the pandemic is brought under control, with e-commerce platforms likely to retain gains in market share, and around 50% of consumers planning to continue to shop online more often than they did before Covid-19. However, growth in e-commerce has been unevenly spread in global terms, being concentrated in wealthier countries and regions.

On a related note, the UNCTAD report highlighted that the benefits of this uptake will depend on the digital readiness of individual countries.

One key determinant is ICT infrastructure. As OBG has detailed, one of the most important challenges currently facing emerging markets is the digital divide.

This is particularly important in the context of e-commerce. Simply, if enough people do not have access to the internet, the expansion of digital commerce will be severely curtailed.

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly prone to the effects of limited ICT infrastructure: the International Telecommunication Union estimates that the proportion of individuals in the region who use the internet at least occasionally is 28.2% – considerably below the average of developing (47%) and developed (86.3%) countries.

Other common barriers include the high cost of broadband; limited digital training and a lack of trust among citizens; a traditional preference for cash; and little government support.

Notwithstanding these considerations, however, e-commerce in the region saw significant successes last year, suggesting that growth in this field could be sustained going forward.

Leading lights

One emblematic African success story has been e-commerce platform Jumia, which reported a 50% rise in transactions during the first six months of 2020.

Jumia was founded in 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria, and grew to become Africa’s biggest e-commerce platform, as well as the continent’s first unicorn, in 2016. Today, it is often mentioned in the same breath as other regional leaders, such as China’s Alibaba and Latin America’s Mercado Libre.

Capitalising on its success during the pandemic, in December 2020 Jumia raised $243m by selling American depositary shares. This move was followed by a secondary share offer at the end of March, which netted $341.2m in proceeds.

While there are still question marks around Jumia’s medium-term prospects – the company has yet to make a profit – these results show confidence in both the company and the future of e-commerce in the region.

Companies within the broader e-commerce ecosystem have also seen impressive growth in recent times. For instance, by March this year Paystack, a Nigerian financial payments company with more than 60,000 merchants across Africa, reported a five-fold increase in transactions relative to pre-pandemic levels.

Logistics companies have similarly enjoyed a surge in business. In Nigeria, Max.ng and Gokada pivoted away from ride-hailing at the outset of the pandemic in order to concentrate on logistics, while Kenya’s GetBoda, an e-commerce delivery company, saw a 150% rise in orders in the first weeks of the pandemic.

Elsewhere, various initiatives were founded to cater to an increase in demand amidst the challenging conditions. For example, in April last year the UN Capital Development Fund partnered with transport company SafeBoda Uganda to create an e-commerce platform designed to connect small businesses to customers.

A bright future?

As well as mitigating the worst effects of the pandemic, this expanded e-commerce offering has changed consumer habits.

Survey results published in the UNCTAD report in March found that more than 40% of customers in four large African countries were planning to reduce their supermarket shopping in the future by purchasing food, clothing and electronics online.

Other developments are also set to boost e-commerce in the region, among them the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational on January 1 this year. The third phase of AfCFTA negotiations – covering e-commerce and digital trade – are set to take place this year.

If this impetus can be harnessed then e-commerce could well continue expanding in the sub-Saharan region.

This, at least, is the opinion of a report released at the end of last year by Google and the International Finance Corporation, according to which Africa’s digital economy could contribute $180bn to the continent’s GDP by 2025, an increase on the $115bn for which it is currently responsible.

The report also forecast that the sector’s contribution will grow to $712bn by 2050.

Meanwhile, the digital economy’s contribution to GDP in Kenya – which leads the way among African countries in this regard, followed by Morocco and then South Africa – is set to rise from 7.7% to 9.2% by 2025, then 15.2% by 2050.

Designer Studio Recognized For Luxury Interior Design

In recent years the Qatar skyline has undertaken a transformation with ground-breaking projects taking their place alongside traditional architecture. From the modern landmarks such as The Torch Doha to the traditional styled Qatar National Library, Qatar is an ever-evolving landscape and amalgamation of contemporary and historic design. A common bond between the two is the need for high end interior designers that are able to marry the contemporary with the classic and create the luxurious interiors that befit the end users lifestyle and requirements.

Established in 2018, Doha based Designer Studio emerged to respond to the need for intelligent and considered interior design. Their unique focus on creating ‘liveable’ luxury that not only provides a superior aesthetic but fulfils the requirements of the client has resulted in an impressive portfolio of both residential and hospitality projects and a plethora of satisfied clients.

It all starts with the consultation process and the team dedicate a huge amount of time to focus on the client and really understand their key project goals. Once these have been identified then the team can start the exhaustive process of sourcing and designing the interiors unique to their client within their specified timescale.

While many aspects of each interior design are sympathetic to the local culture and design accents, the Designer Studio has an enviable connection with some of the key manufacturers from around the globe. Whether that’s sourcing the latest upholstery from Belgian weavers, unique marbles from Portuguese quarries or finding statement lighting, the team’s understanding in going that extra mile to source the exquisite is what sets the practice apart from the average studio and helps then exceed the expectations of their clients.

Taking inspiration from the surrounding landscape and culture sees many of their projects utilise the use of calming neutral palettes. The idea to provide opulent calm lends itself well to their luxury clients who typically seek interior spaces that help rejuvenate and provide an oasis of calm in often business lead lifestyles. This also plays a key part in some of their hospitality designs, where the ability to provide luxury hotel rooms that suit both the business and leisure traveller play a fundamental role.

With an ever-growing hospitality sector in Qatar, the need for interior services that understand the importance of how materials, design and specifications work in the contract sector is paramount. The continued high-level traffic in hotel rooms and the effect this has on fittings and fixtures is one that the Designer Studio understands and continues to invest time in keeping abreast with the latest developments in contract sourcing. Taking the time to discuss suitability for contract sectors, the Designer Studio have built up an impressive contacts list that helps prevent unnecessary replacement and keeps their designs looking their best.

It was this eye for detail and meticulous preparation that caught the eye of the Luxury Lifestyle Awards panel. Browsing through their portfolio of projects provided a true understanding of the fine balance between providing luxury aesthetics and creating usable space and resulted in the studio being awarded The Best Luxury Interior Design Studio in Qatar. Despite being one of the youngest professional practices in Doha, the team had built a strong foundation in providing quality throughout each project. This highly sought award celebrates the best in luxury design and the movers and shakers that help define its aesthetics.

Current projects include an extensive residential project that incorporates vast living areas while incorporating the luxury elements such as leisure spaces, pool and gym. This project is due to be slated in 2021 and will be a testament to the teams’ dedication to design and an ability to provide versatile luxury living spaces.

As per their ethos, the Designer Studio is committed to creating luxury interiors one space at a time and with an ever evolving location such as Qatar, it is very likely that their practice will be key at defining some of the most iconic buildings of the future within this exciting and competitive region.

Consumers Set to Spend More Online this Ramadan, Driving Adoption of Digital Payments Across MENA

A new survey from Checkout.com a leading global payment solution provider suggests there will be an even greater surge in online shopping during the upcoming Ramadan period.

Going into the Holy month, consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have noted a strong inclination towards online shopping. 95 per cent of those surveyed in these two countries say that they shop online, with 29 per cent doing so weekly or even daily. That is largely consistent with an earlier Checkout.com report from September 2020 indicating that consumers’ embrace of online shopping is more of a long-term behavior change rather than a temporary shift resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In countries like Saudi Arabia, the frequency of online shopping overall seems to be increasing, with the percentage of consumers making online purchases either daily or weekly increasing from 20 per cent in September 2020 to 26 per cent today. 

Looking to the month ahead, approximately three-quarters of those surveyed (76 per cent) plan to purchase products and services online more frequently this Ramadan, or at least the same amount as last year. Meanwhile, a quarter (26 per cent) say that they will be shopping in-person less frequently for products and services. Merchants can expect certain demographic groups to drive more frequent online Ramadan purchases, particularly the most affluent consumers and those aged between 18-34 years of age.

Not only do people anticipate making more online purchases, but they also plan to purchase a wide variety of products and services more frequently this Ramadan compared to last year. The most popular category of products is expected to be groceries, with 60 per cent of respondents planning to purchase these online more frequently this Ramadan. That is followed by food delivery (50 per cent), clothing (44 per cent), and household products (39 per cent).

For such purchases, the most common form of payment for the majority of consumers (67 per cent) is card payments and digital wallets, breaking the mold of what has historically been a region dominated by cash payments. This is a behavior change that has been accelerated by the global health pandemic as consumers shun cash in favor of contactless and online purchases. In fact, one in three (37 per cent) say that they anticipate using cash-on-delivery less this Ramadan compared to last year. The survey further suggests that consumer preference for digital payments is higher during Ramadan than at other times of the year (59 per cent), comparing similar data from six months ago. 

Mohammed Ali Yusuf, MENAP Regional Manager at Checkout.com, said: “Many traditionally cash-centric countries in the Middle East are now converting to higher rates of digital payments. The pandemic has spurred a payments revolution of sorts, and it is not one that is going away. With more consumers now appreciating the convenience of online purchasing and payments, there is a clear opportunity for forward-thinking businesses to do what they do better by unlocking more value in every transaction. This is particularly important during a period like Ramadan when competition amongst merchants is high, and businesses need to provide the online shopping experience that consumers are looking for.”  

According to Checkout.com’s Connected Payments in MENAP report released in November 2020, nearly half of consumers in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) region are likely to increase their online shopping this year compared to 2020. At the time, Checkout.com confirmed that between March and September 2020, it saw an 86 per cent growth in its own online payment volumes year on year within the region, and had processed approximately 400 million e-commerce transactions in the region between 2019 and 2020 alone.

U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 Launches: Promotes U.S. Role as Primary Investor in African Energy

The U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 – organized by Africa Oil&Power, in partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee – will foster alignment between U.S. and African governments’ energy policies and highlight African oil, gas, power and renewable projects across the energy value chain for U.S. investors; the multi-day forum unites U.S. and African policymakers, energy executives and industry leaders to create new linkages and foster discussions that drive long-term policy formation and project execution; the in-person, two-day summit and gala dinner will be hosted in Houston, Texas (October 4-5, 2021) and an online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. (July 12).

Africa Oil&Power (AOP) and the African Energy Chamber are excited to announce the launch of the first-ever U.S. Africa Energy Forum (USAEF). This event aims to create deeper cooperation between the U.S. and Africa on energy policy, to reach alignment on long term sustainability goals, to stimulate greater American investment in the African oil, gas and power sectors, and to engage and reposition the U.S. as the primary partner of choice for African energy developments. 

Under the theme “New Horizons for U.S. Africa Energy Investment” the forum will explore diverse foreign investment and export opportunities across the continent, including natural gas as a vital fuel for the energy transition; energy storage and battery minerals; Africa’s place in global energy supply chains; the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area; evolving energy technologies and how they relate to the future role of petroleum resources; and on-and off-grid power developments. 

An online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. on July 12, 2021, building up to the in-person U.S. Africa Energy Forum summit and gala dinner, to be hosted in Houston, Texas, on October 4-5, 2021. Africa Oil&Power and the African Energy Chamber invite all U.S.-based companies with an interest in engaging with African industry leaders and project developers to participate in the USAEF Houston summit.

This initiative comes at an important juncture in U.S.-Africa relations. The Biden Administration’s announcements of its intentions to proactively build a stronger U.S.-Africa partnership coincides with the fact that African projects are seeing rising interest from U.S. companies and lending institutions alike. The USAEF event is thus dedicated to enabling dialogue between its participants that advances these developments.

“Our mission has always been to showcase the resource potential that Africa has to offer while at the same time showing its growing preference for sustainable energy policies and technologies. Toward that end, we hope it becomes evident that Africa does not just want investment capital: it wants smart capital and an accompanying partnership with the investors,” says James Chester, Senior Director of Africa Oil&Power. “The U.S. Africa Energy Forum represents the first-of-its-kind opportunity to catalyze U.S. participation in Africa’s energy transformation – via technology, policy support, capital injection and skills development – and turns a new page in the chapter on global energy investment.” 

In partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee, AOP will introduce American companies to African opportunities and advance an agenda of sustainable, long-term investment in African energy and other sectors by U.S. organizations. 

“The rise in support from the U.S. to the continent is a credit to Africa itself, which is increasingly viewed as a favored destination for global investors, multilaterals and export credit agencies,” says Jude Kearney, President of Kearney Africa and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Service Industries and Finance at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Clinton Administration. “Africa continues to command a healthy share of global FDI in oil and gas industries. It has for decades shown that investment in those sectors is favorable compared to other jurisdictions and can be successful by many measures. Even as Africa and the rest of the world wrestles with a global pandemic, Africa’s energy sector shows vitality and resiliency – not only in hydrocarbons but in regard to new opportunities in mining, liquefied natural gas, and agriculture.”

Both African governments and private sector sponsors of African energy projects value highly the combination of investment and partnership that US investors famously convey. The USAEF seeks to enable successful partnerships between its participants such that the energy development goals of U.S. investors and strategic partners and their African counterparts can be achieved.

Dubai Economy and DIFC Join Hands To Unify Their Corporate E-KYC Platforms

Dubai Economy and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority have signed an agreement to consolidate efforts and expand the UAE KYC (Know Your Customer) Blockchain Consortium positioning it as the national corporate e-KYC Platform, making it the first such platform in the region. It will facilitate faster, more secure and streamlined customer onboarding and allow sharing of verified e-KYC data between licensing authorities and financial institutions through advanced distributed technologies.

The founding Consortium Members include Dubai Economy, Dubai International Financial Centre, Emirates NBD, Emirates Islamic, Commercial Bank of Dubai, HSBC, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, RAKBANK and Mashreq Bank. The first phase went live in 2020 and more entities have joined since resulting in the platform holding close to 50 per cent of corporate e-KYC records in UAE.

“This pioneering blockchain initiative demonstrates the rapid advancements in technology implementation made by Dubai Economy to facilitate and improve the ease of doing business in the Emirate of Dubai and across the UAE. The Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department is proud to be one of Dubai Economy’s key strategic partners on this first-of-its-kind initiative for the region where we have provided and continue to provide legal support to Dubai Economy in their consolidation efforts with DIFC and the formation of the Consortium Agreement for the UAE KYC Blockchain Consortium,” His Excellency Dr. Lowai Mohamed Belhoul, Director General of the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department, said. “The ability to support this blockchain initiative demonstrates our continuing endeavour to keep pace with the progress achieved by Dubai and to provide expert legal services on niche, complex and rapidly evolving areas of law in line with international best practice, embodying the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai”. 

“Dubai Economy is focused on strengthening our digital economy and the launch of the UAE KYC Blockchain Platform in partnership with our key banking partners is a testament to our ambitions to transform Dubai into a global investment destination. Following its launch in 2020, the platform has become increasingly crucial not only in simplifying the procedures for opening bank accounts for investors, but also in enabling banks to digitally receive verified KYC data. This initiative has a positive impact in attracting business and on the global ease of doing business ranking of Dubai and the UAE,” said Abdulla Hassan, CEO, Corporate Support Sector, Dubai Economy. 

“By sharing our experiences with DIFC, we will continue to work to enhance the ease of doing business in Dubai. This further complements the Invest in Dubai (IID) Portal announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, which provides an exceptional experience for investors to discover opportunities, and secure business licence in a seamless manner through one integrated platform. The UAE KYC Blockchain Platform supports the vision of the Invest in Dubai (IID) Portal by facilitating instant opening of bank accounts for investors. A significant number of financial institutions and licensing authorities have decided to onboard the platform and we welcome others to be part of this success story,” added Abdulla Hassan. 

Alya Al Zarouni, Executive Vice President of Operations at DIFC Authority, said: “DIFC has been at the forefront in positioning Dubai as the leading business destination in the region since its inception 16 years ago. We are looking forward to working with Dubai Economy to share best practices so we can collectively advance Dubai’s digital economy. Implementing a nationwide e-KYC solution will make it easier for new businesses to open accounts easily when they set up operations in the UAE and supports our leading position in the region for managing privacy and data protection to the highest international standards.

“The global finance community holds Dubai and DIFC in high regard for our commitment to innovation, which includes driving the future of finance through emerging technologies such as Blockchain. DIFC has already had success in this area having been the first to launch a one-click blockchain solution that shared verified data with a banking partner so clients could get a corporate account opened quickly, efficiently and safely.”

Microsoft Empowers More Than A Quarter Million UAE-based Professionals To Train In Digital Skills During COVID-19 Crisis

Programme launched with LinkedIn in June 2020 benefits 30 million people worldwide and supports employers looking to adopt skills-based recruitment tactics and contribute to strong, speedy, inclusive economic recovery

Microsoft today announced that a global digital-skilling initiative launched in partnership with LinkedIn has allowed more than a quarter million people in the United Arab Emirates to acquire digital skills during the COVID-19 crisis.

The achievement stems from a programme launched in June 2020 by Microsoft and LinkedIn to support companies in moving to a skills-based recruitment methodology, leaving behind legacy approaches that placed emphasis on less relevant attributes, such as previous role or age. Since the programme launched, more than 30 million people around the world – including 250,313 in the UAE – engaged with the initiative and developed digital skills. Encouraged by the progress, Microsoft and LinkedIn have decided to extend the programme and help 250,000 companies globally make skills-based hires in 2021.

“Digital resilience is more critical than ever, as businesses rely on technology to adapt and thrive in the new normal,” said Ihsan Anabtawi, Chief Operating and Marketing Officer at Microsoft UAE. “The skilling programme with LinkedIn is part of our long-term commitment to skill, upskill, and reskill workforces to make them future ready for a global, digital economy. The ongoing pandemic has impacted so many of us, so we decided to create a suite of new tools and platforms that connect skilled jobseekers with employers to ensure a strong, speedy and inclusive recovery.”

As detailed in the Official Microsoft Blog, the Microsoft-LinkedIn skilling programme empowers professionals to train in highly sought-after digital skills and offers new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub, and Microsoft, including analytics to identify the most in-demand roles and the skills needed to fill them. Other offers include free access to course materials and job-seeking tools and reduced-cost certifications.

In 2021, Microsoft will extend free LinkedIn Learning and Microsoft Learn courses based on the 10 most in-demand jobs, as well as low-cost certifications, until 31 December. LinkedIn will pilot its Skills Path tool with select employers to connect LinkedIn Learning courses with Skill Assessments and help recruiters source candidates based on proven skillsets. In addition, Microsoft Career Connector will aim to place 50,000 job seekers in technology jobs over the next three years.

New LinkedIn profile features will help candidates market themselves more clearly, including via a video Cover Story. Career Coach – part of Microsoft Teams – will provide personalised guidance for higher education students, and expanded access to LinkedIn’s Skills Graph will help create a common skills language for individuals, employers, educational institutions, and government agencies.

Raxio Group and Meridiam Partner to Deploy Sustainable Data Centres in Africa, supporting the Local Economies and Digital Transformation

The Raxio Group (“Raxio”), a premier pan-African data centre developer and operator, and Meridiam, a global developer, asset and fund manager specialising in sustainable infrastructure and energy transition projects today announced a partnership to deploy a network of data centres across the African continent. Under this agreement, Meridiam will invest $48 million to support the continued deployment of data centres in Africa, where both Raxio and Meridiam already have strong local presence. Meridiam’s investment is made alongside Raxio’s founding equity partner, Roha Group who established Raxio in 2018, and has been funding the company since inception.

With the rise of connectivity on the African continent, Raxio’s facilities are built to boost digital transformation, economic growth and job creation, whilst using state-of-the-art design and technologies to minimise the impact on the environment. From the design phase, equipment choices are adapted to the local environmental and climatic conditions with a view to continuously reduce energy consumption. Raxio is also actively working on connecting its facilities to local renewable generation capabilities such as solar power, in addition to the hydropower sources it is currently using.

Raxio data centres will facilitate internet traffic to and from content providers locally and make the internet experience faster, more resilient, and more affordable for all digital users. Raxio’s data centres will also support the growth of the African IT sector and will be a catalyst for highly skilled job creation in all the planned countries. To improve latency and connectivity for businesses, Raxio works with local, regional, and international connectivity providers to share ducts and ensure its sites are located along major fibre routes, ensuring its facilities are true connectivity hubs in the local markets.

Robert Mullins, CEO of Raxio Group said: “We are delighted to welcome Meridiam as our new investment partner in our shared vision. This investment comes at an ideal time, as we have continued our expansion activities by investing in our third facility – in the Democratic Republic of Congo – following our first flagship facility in Uganda and launching the construction of our Ethiopian data centre. It is testament to our strategy of developing an Africa-wide network of local, interconnected facilities, that provide our customers with affordable, state-of-the-art solutions for their IT infrastructure, in a neutral, “always on” environment. Customers are core to the design process to ensure our facilities are efficient, sustainable and cost-effective. With its extensive knowledge in the development of sustainable infrastructure in the region, we are convinced Meridiam is the partner of choice for us to continue our deployment plans and reach our targets.”

Mathieu Peller, COO Africa for Meridiam said: “Investing in Raxio’s data centre platform was a natural move for us, as it fits our purpose to delivering sustainable infrastructure that improves the quality of people’s lives. We are excited to contribute to developing Africa’s digital infrastructure, by helping to roll-out energy efficient data centres that will drive the digital transformation of the continent and be a catalyst for highly skilled jobs creation, whilst respecting the local environment.”

By building its network of data centres with a focus on environmental sustainability and with the objective of driving technological advancement in the region, Raxio delivers impact across a wide range of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), most notably:

  • the Industry Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG#9), as the project is using a fit-to-market, modular design to build an infrastructure critical to the digital transformation of Africa
  • the Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG#8), Raxio is expected to enable new opportunities for the digitisation of African economies, while providing high-skilled permanent jobs locally
  • and Climate action (SDG#11). Raxio will be maximising energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources, thus providing much-needed capacity while minimising carbon emissions

Raxio’s data centres are designed and built to Tier III standards, with an availability rate over 99.9% a year. They are fully redundant and able to operate independently of the power grid for extended periods of time, and do not require any shutdown when equipment needs maintenance or replacement. 

In Africa, Meridiam has already invested in major infrastructure for a total amount in excess of 4 billion euros. In the continent’s transition energy sector, it has successfully invested in

  • 4 solar power plants in Senegal, offering some of the lowest tariffs in Africa,
  • Tulu Moye,a geothermal power plant and the first IPP (Independent Power Producer) in Ethiopia,
  • the Kinguele Aval Hydropower plant, which will deliver about 13% of the electricity needs of Libreville, the capital city of Gabon,
  • the Biokala biomass power plant in Côte d’Ivoire, the largest biomass power plant in Sub-Saharan Africa which will be fuelled from agricultural waste and will meet the electricity needs of the equivalent of 1.7 million people per year,
  • NeOT, a company rolling out 300,000 solar home systems and mini-grids across West Africa

Top 100 Young African Conservation Leaders’ List 2021 Announced

One hundred youth from 23 countries in Africa have been recognised today as the top youth leaders in conservation in the continent. This is the first ever Top 100 young African conservation leaders list, a collaboration between the Africa Alliance of YMCAs , World Organization of the Scout Movement, African Wildlife Foundation and WWF to empower the efforts of youth talented Africans and inspire other youth in leading the way to ensure nature and people will thrive for generations to come. These exceptional young men and women have proven to be leading lights for sustainable development of the continent.

The youth have been advocating and creating huge positive impact in sustainable agriculture & food security, forest and land restoration, ocean protection, wildlife conservation, waste management, clean energy access and research, education and awareness. These Top 100 youth and many more who did not make it to the list have demonstrated that the youngest generations are not the future, but the present driver for change in Africa.

Among those selected in the top 100 young African leaders, there are youth who have started their community based organisations to build the capacity of local populations on conservation issues in addition to pursuing research on endangered species and using the information to further strengthen their conservation initiatives. Others have tapped into their hobbies, such as sports, to create awareness and act to protect and conserve nature through tree planting, clean up campaigns or recycling initiatives.

Millions of post-consumed plastics have been recovered from the environment, creating job opportunities, especially for women and youth, and indirectly met the social and economic needs of over thousands of households. Others have been at the forefront of advocacy campaigns leading to national and international policy interventions targeting key conventions, to include CITES (Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species) and the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity).

Thanks to some of these youth vast areas of forest reserves have been restored in the continent and co-operative movements have emerged to promote the equitable and sustainable use of the natural resources and to create value addition of agricultural products, helping communities earn more income from their produce. Moreover, there are youth leaders who have set up their own eco-companies and have provided green jobs for many more. In short, these top 100 youth are leading extraordinary stories of impact.

In the selection process, youth networks and conservation organizations were invited to nominate young African leaders under the age of 35 who are actively involved in impactful conservation work at community, national, or international levels in Africa. A total of 565 nominations were received from 425 conservation organizations and youth networks. The submission underwent a rigorous judging and verification process before we came out with the Top 100 youth African conservation leaders list.

 

In addition to being recognized in the first ever publication of its kind, the shortlisted Top 100 young  African conservation leaders will be the beneficiaries of a bespoke one-year leadership development programme that will mentor them with systems thinking and practical skills to scale-up their initiatives.

Join us in celebrating and recognising the work of these 100 young African leaders by amplifying their voice and spreading their stories which can be found at https://top100youth.africa.

In the Midst of COVID-19, We’re Seeing a Pandemic of Cyber Attacks

Author: Babur Khan, Technical Marketing Engineer – Enterprise Security at A10 Networks


In the first quarter of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc around the globe. The coronavirus is continuously evolving and presenting new challenges.

In addition to the direct effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also saw a sharp rise in cybercriminal activity. From simple phishing attacks to one of the largest DDoS attacks ever recorded, we saw the cyber threat landscape evolve and grow.

At the same time, we also saw a rapid growth in the tech and cyber security industry. From the roll out of 5G in many parts of the world to exponential growth in the SaaS industry, we saw the pandemic put many positive changes into full gear as well.

We believe that these challenges, and the changes that they brought about, will not stop. The effects of this pandemic on the tech industry will be long lasting. Moreover, some of the challenges introduced in 2020 will affect cybersecurity well into 2021, and even beyond. As we move deeper into 2021, here are some of the cyber security trends that we see:

Cybercrimes Will Experience a Surge

Last year was a busy year for both attackers and hackers as well as cybersecurity personnel defending against the plethora of attacks to which they were subjected. With an election year in the United States in 2020, we saw a rise in anti-government cyber activities, a prominent example of which was the attack on FireEye, allegedly by a foreign nation state sponsored entity, where multiple tools were stolen for use in attacks later on.

In 2021, such attacks will not just be more frequent, but they will also be very specific regarding who they target. International cyber espionage will be one of the main motivators for cyber attacks and we will see security vendors being attacked and compromised at an even greater pace. Even the attacks that happened in 2020, like the FireEye attack or the Sunburst attack, that targeted the SolarWinds supply chain,  will have long lasting effects. We have only seen the beginning of these attacks. Investigators suspect, for example, that up to 250 organizations may have been compromised in the SolarWinds attack. Actual results are yet to come.

Such attacks will not only create opportunities for newer attacks, or variants/branches of the existing ones, but will also drive cybersecurity innovation in 2021.

The Intelligent Edge will be Weaponized

One of the major innovations driven by 5G is the implementation of multi-access edge computing (MEC). Building intelligence into the edge will boost the availability and efficiency of 5G networks. However, keeping the global cybersecurity trends in mind, we can see that the intelligent edge might be hijacked by attackers for launching different kinds of attacks, both on the mobile core networks as well as on victims outside of the realm of the service provider that has been compromised. If nothing else, MEC can be used for propagating malware into different networks for drone recruitment in IoT botnets.

Low-volume DDoS Attacks will be More Frequent

In 2020, even though we saw one of the largest DDoS attacks ever recorded target one of the biggest names in the tech industry, we also saw that a large number of DDoS attacks went unnoticed because, even though the frequency of these attacks was very high, their size was not. These high-frequency, low-volume attacks will keep the security industry busy in 2021 and may be instrumental to disabling security infrastructures or just acting as smokescreens for larger malware attacks such as the recent Sunburst attack.

Five Million DDoS Weapons will be Added to the Global DDoS Arsenal

The A10 Networks security research team observed that the number of DDoS weapons doubled from around six million at the end of 2019 to 12.5 million in 2020. This trend will remain the same in 2021 as more IoT devices come online with each passing day, with an expected addition of at least five million weapons.

The large number of DDoS weapons will also enable attackers to launch another record-breaking DDoS attack in 2021.We will have to wait and see whether it will be made public by the victims or not.

2021 will be the Year of Zero Trust Implementation

2020 was the year of understanding what the Zero Trust model is in a practical sense. Throughout the year, we saw security vendors align their solutions with the Zero Trust model, adjust the model as we got more clarity on what it means to be a Zero Trust user, device, or network, and explore the policy changes necessary to a successful implementation of the Zero Trust model. As the COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked the move to SaaS and made the “work from home” model mainstream, the importance of Zero Trust security has gained critical importance.

Organizations now understand that Zero Trust is not a specific device or vendor, but rather a series of strategic policy and practical changes that help enable better security. A successful implementation requires good understanding of what the Zero Trust model is as well as the many diverse solutions that have to work in unison to enable its implementation.

We believe that the concept of Zero Trust has reached a level of maturity and clarity where it will be effectively adopted and implemented by many organizations in 2021, and that it will become the go-to security model for all types and sizes of organizations. Sophisticated attacks like Sunburst will also drive the need for effective Zero Trust implementation.

SASE Adoption will Accelerate

Since 2020 forced most of the workforce to work remotely, attackers have been experimenting with new ways of exploiting security loopholes or shortcomings exposed by these rapid changes. This accelerated and will continue to accelerate the development and adoption of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions.

However, since the move to the cloud does not happen overnight, many organizations still have most of their resources hosted on-premises. They will keep on struggling with maintaining the remote work model and will revert back to business as it was once a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes readily available and things go back to normal.

This, however, might be temporary as the world has now experienced a pandemic and many organizations have already started moving their businesses from on-premises to the SaaS-based model, with the trend only being accelerated by COVID-19. In summary, SASE will be an essential part of the enterprise security infrastructure in 2021 and beyond.

2021 will the Year TLS 1.3 Shines

TLS 1.3 will finally start seeing widespread adoption, in part, driven by the adoption of QUIC/HTTP3 given that TLS 1.3 is built into it. Many vendors support TLS 1.3 already and that will help drive the protocol into mainstream use. Changes will also be made to the TLS 1.3 standard as the demand for encrypted SNIs rise.

That said, TLS 1.2 will still remain the more widely used choice as an encryption protocol over the internet since moving to the newer version may prove to be expensive for many organizations. But as QUIC/HTTP3 becomes more widely used by the end of the year, we may see this change.

In conclusion, we are facing new, persistent threats of all shapes and sizes, and we have to make sure that, going forward, we face these threats with the best of our collective abilities. 2021 will be the year of cybercriminal activities, but it will also drive innovations in cybersecurity like never before.

Saudi Industrial Development Fund Approves USD 4.5 Billion in Projects for the First Time In Its History

The approved loans covered different tiers, out of which 84% of total loans were dedicated to SMEs, ensuring the fund’s strong continuous support to the key contributors of the economic growth in the Kingdom


The Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF), Saudi Arabia’s main financial enabler for its industrial transformation, has approved 212 loans that amounted to USD 4.5 billion in 2020 for 201 companies in the fields of industry, mining, energy, and logistic services. The approved loans covered different tiers, out of which 84% of total loans were dedicated to SMEs, ensuring the fund’s strong continuous support to the key contributors of the economic growth in the Kingdom.

These exceptional results have proven to be the largest in the history of the fund’s history, thus demonstrating, despite the economic pressures of the pandemic, the strength, and resilience of the Saudi private sector. Over the past years, the Saudi government has implemented programs to realize Vision 2030 structural, economic, and financial reforms that aim to diversify the economy. Such efforts have played a crucial role in the economy’s sustainability in times of global crisis.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, SIDF proactively supported small, medium, and large companies and offered financial initiatives tailored to their specific needs during these difficult times. The initiatives SIDF offered, which were part of a wider package of governmental support, resulted in three urgent financial aids that exceeded USD 1.3 billion; the aids were in the form of restructuring installments of 546 loans due in 2020, amounting to USD 1 billion. Financial The financial liquidity of the companies was augmented by credit instruments to finance the operating expenses of the companies, especially the ones impacted by the lockdown, out of which 86 companies have benefited from the initiative for a total amount of USD 127 million.  Finally, launching an accelerated working capital loan amounting to USD 172 million directed to finance the raw material requirements of the companies involved in the medical sector to help in boosting the local medical content and the Kingdom’s pharmaceutical security.

SIDF’s 2021 strategy aims to stimulate investments in priority economic sectors, improve client experience, enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations, strengthen governance and risk management, and focus on human capital development. The strategy will position SDIF in driving its support to realize the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

Healthcare Staffing Specialist Sees 400% Increase in Telemedicine Enquiries

New insights reveal the demand for telemedicine services and solidify its presence as a permanent healthcare offering

The recent boom in telemedicine is here to stay, according to TrueProfile.io, a leading provider of Primary Source Verification (PSV) services, which has seen a 400% increase in telemedicine enquiries from all over the world during the last quarter alone.

The industry of virtual health appointments, otherwise known as telemedicine, has seen a dramatic increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a Forrester report indicating that virtual care visits reached 20 million in 2020. It’s an approach to primary care that is here to stay and while healthcare institutions largely implemented temporary solutions to keep up with patient demand early on in the pandemic, they are now looking at implementing more dynamic and secure systems.

This is according to Alejandro Coca, Co-Head of TrueProfile.io, who says, “Given how COVID-19 has completely changed the world we live in, it comes as no surprise that the telemedicine industry is booming. What’s great to hear from the conversations we’re having is that healthcare institutions aren’t seeing telemedicine services as a stop-gap anymore and it’s firmly part of long-term strategies.

“For patients, telemedicine services provide quick and easy access to healthcare experts, therefore offering greater peace of mind around health issues, so it’s exciting to see this offering really taking off. We’re currently actively working with four telemedicine organizations to source verified, credible healthcare professionals – from doctors and nurses to radiologists and psychologists – for their platforms. In addition, we’ve seen our verification business grown 40% due to new business lines such as telemedicine and our sourcing industry has grown over 140% in the last quarter, demonstrating the sheer demand for these services from all over the world.”

Alejandro concludes, “Healthcare institutions are keen to get these new service lines up and running and properly functioning, but it’s critical that they focus on sourcing both the right technology and the right healthcare professionals. Only through both of these elements can patient safety and privacy be assured. What’s clear to see is that telemedicine services have seen a real turning point as a result of the pandemic and it’ll be interesting to watch this service line adapt and grow over the coming years, becoming part of our everyday lives.”

 

Al Hamra’s New 12-Year UAE Residence Visa Initiative Drives Record Sales of Homes in Rase Al Khaimah

  • Al Hamra registers record sales of homes in Ras Al Khaimah in Al Hamra Village and Bab Al Bahr residential communities during the first phase of Live & Work initiative. Investors from across the world showed great interest in the property visa package with both apartments and villas moving fast.
  • All the units at the starting price of AED 292,000 have been sold out and now the available units start at a price of AED 400,000. Investors interested in securing a 12-year residence visa and a business licence with the purchase of a ready-to-move-in home must act fast to avail this limited-time offer.
  • The freehold home will be owned 100% by the investor. 5-year payment plans are also available with 20 percent upfront payment of the total value.


Al Hamra, the leading real estate developer, services provider and investment company in the Northern Emirates, has recorded strong investor response for its residence visa and business licence package, whereby those who purchase ready-to-move-in homes in its communities will receive a 12-year residency visa and business licence.

Al Hamra had rolled out an unmatched opportunity for investors in partnership with Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) few months ago. The company received strong interest from the expats in the UAE and MENA region recording the impressive sale of apartments, townhouses and villas in Al Hamra Village and Bab Al Bahr communities. As a result, all the units priced at AED 292,000 have been sold out.

Living in Ras Al Khaimah – Al Hamra Village & Bab Al Bahr Communities

Owing to the solid response for a well-priced and suburbanised premium developments in prime locations, Al Hamra has now launched the phase 2 of the initiative. Located on the AI Marjan Island and AL Hamra village, just 45-minutes from Dubai International Airport, these are the most sought-after communities in Ras Al Khaimah with a mix of over 100 nationalities. Admired for the scenic vistas of the Arabian Gulf, AL Hamra Village and Bab Al Bahr Residences offers direct beach access and have world-class community gyms, swimming pools for children and adults, supermarkets, pharmacies, and beauty salons. 

Al Hamra Village is a fully integrated gated community, one of very few in the UAE, with a championship golf club, marina and yacht club and a shopping mall alongside waterfront walkways.

Bab Al Bahr Residences also offers a three-kms long jogging and cycling track on Al Marjan Island, alongside beautiful sea views, a corniche and promenade, a waterfront tennis court and family picnic areas.

Benoy Kurien, Group CEO of Al Hamra, said: “We are delighted to see such a positive response from the investors around the world who chose the Emirate as their preferred destination for living and doing business. Ras Al Khaimah is the first Emirate to be certified as safe by WTTC, with record number of people taking advantage of living in less populated and more affordable communities, where they can be close to nature as well as benefit from world class amenities and facilities. Al Hamra’s products and initiatives have always been customer centric. The pandemic has presented us a new opportunity to evaluate our offerings and redesign our products to meet the changing demands of our customers. The ‘Live and Work’ initiative by Al Hamra is a great example of this exercise.”

Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of RAS Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ), said: “Our focus is to make it a breeze for investors to set up and expand to the region by providing them with customised business solutions as well as helping them settle in Ras Al Khaimah with ease. With the ‘Live and Work’ product, we are able to achieve these and seamlessly plug them into the Ras Al Khaimah’s unique ecosystem which comprises of a thriving business community and high-standard way of living, all for a cost that is lower than other major business cities. We invite all global investors looking to take a dive into the booming markets across the region and experience first-hand what RAKEZ and Ras Al Khaimah has to offer.”

Payment Plans

An elegantly designed apartment in the picturesque gated communities in Ras Al Khaimah starts at AED 400,000. Investors can also make the payment over a five-year period with a 20 per cent upfront payment of the total value. The freehold home will be 100 per cent owned by the investor.

Live & Work Package Explained

Al Hamra’s package is also best-suited for investors seeking to set up business in the UAE, while enjoying living in a fully owned home in pristine settings. In addition to the 12-year residence visa, investors enjoy exceptional incentives and benefits including a free business licence to undertake any of the hundreds of business activities offered by RAKEZ, an additional partner visa and a flexi-desk with modern amenities to conduct business seamlessly.

In addition to the excellent quality of life in an extremely safe environment, investors who choose to set up a business in Ras Al Khaimah can take advantage of low cost of resources, modern infrastructure, and state-of-the-art facilities. Furthermore, they stand to benefit from 100 per cent ownership of the business, 100 per cent repatriation of capital and profits, no corporate tax and zero personal tax.

The offer will also assure long-term return on investment with an average internal rate of return at Al Hamra estimated at up to 8 per cent annually. Investors also benefit from high rental values with Bab Al Bahr being one of the in-demand residential communities renowned for its amenities, bigger layouts, competitive service and utility charges and an uninterrupted access to the pristine white sandy beaches of the Arabian Gulf.

Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that form the UAE, is today the fastest-growing tourism and investment destination in the country. In addition to its natural beauty, the world’s largest zipline and other historic attractions, Ras Al Khaimah also offers a competitive business environment. The Gulf Tourism Capital award is a testament to Ras Al Khaimah’s early and sustained action to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in global recognition as a safe destination for travel and tourism.

MEA Markets Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2020 MEA Business Awards

United Kingdom, 2021– MEA Markets magazine has announced the winners of the 2020 MEA Business Awards.

2020 marks the fifth year that MEA Markets Magazine has hosted the MEA Business Awards. 2020 has also been one of the most challenging years the region has faced, with little in the way of precedence to guide solutions. In the circumstances businesses of all sizes found themselves in, this vast region’s entrepreneurial spirit took hold, acting as a guiding light when other options were lacking. It is with this in mind that we organised the 2020 awards.

Awards Coordinator Katherine Benton took a moment to comment on the success of those recognised: “Sincere congratulations to all of those recognised in the 2020 edition of this programme. While it has been a difficult 12 months, all of those recognised have managed to succeed in a time where success has an almost unachievable goal. I hope you all have a fantastic 2021 ahead.”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit http://www.mea-markets.com/ where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.

ENDS

Notes to editors.

About MEA Markets

Published quarterly, MEA Markets endeavours to provide readers with the latest business and investment news from across the Middle East and African regions.

Keeping pace with a vast array of ever-changing sectors thanks to regular contributions from some of the region’s top corporate professionals across a variety of industries, MEA Markets is home to the very best news, features and comment from the people and institutions in the know.

Tata Consultancy Services Explores the Future of Open Banking

Tata Consultancy Services recently participated at the 10th Annual Middle East Banking Innovation Summit at Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre on March 01, 2021. The Middle East Banking Innovation Summit was the first banking and fintech industry event of the year in Dubai and explored the latest advancements in fintech and banking technology. Tata Consultancy Services was joined by partners, Abu Dhabi Global Markets, Commercial Bank of Dubai and Gulf International Bank, Bahrain during the event.

Tata Consultancy Services recently participated at the 10th Annual Middle East Banking Innovation Summit at Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre on March 01, 2021. The Middle East Banking Innovation Summit was the first banking and fintech industry event of the year in Dubai and explored the latest advancements in fintech and banking technology. Tata Consultancy Services was joined by partners, Abu Dhabi Global Markets, Commercial Bank of Dubai and Gulf International Bank, Bahrain during the event.

Tata Consultancy Services participated at the summit this year to discuss developments of Open Banking platform and share their insights on the new collaborative business models. Sumanta Roy, VP & Head of Middle East, Africa, Mediterranean, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) moderated a panel discussion around Open Banking and the innovations in the current banking ecosystem. The panel discussion saw participation of the key banking industry leaders such as Stefan Kimmel, Chief Operating Officer, Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), Vikas Sethi, Group Chief Digital Officer, Gulf International Bank, Bahrain (GIB) & Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta, Associate Director, Market Development, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).

While talking about the development of any country’s financial ecosystem for open banking to be applicable and useful in any country, Sumanta commented, “Conceptually, the combination of the strength of fintech market of a country and the framework which helps in the integration and collaboration are the keys for the application of open banking in any country”.

Tata Consultancy Services’ Open Banking API Framework has been built to help banks, fintech and gateways to accelerate their digital transformation journey by securely abstracting and carefully sharing customer data for internal and external consumption. The framework assists these industries to comply with government regulation and promotes collaboration in interest of the overall customer. 

Tata Consultancy Services discussed the state of the Open Banking platform in the Middle East. Bahrain is leading the way for Open Banking in the Middle East region, with the country being the first to draft regulations around the platform in November 2018. Saudi Arabia closely follows Bahrain, in terms of acceptance towards the platform and is currently aiming to reach overall market implementation by the end of 2021. Furthermore, 88% of UAE banks said they were looking to open their APIs (Application Programming Interface) to enable Open Banking within the next year, according to a 2020 survey by fintech firm Finastra.

The development of new collaborative business models can help the industry grow and transform in the coming years and Open Banking is a step towards massive growth and transformation. Central Banks in the GCC region are coming up with open banking regulations to foster competition and innovation.

UAE & Republic of Korea Enhance Strategic Cooperation in Advanced Technology Industry

His Excellency Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, met with His Excellency Sung Yun-mo, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy of the Republic of Korea to discuss ways of enhancing strategic cooperation between the two countries in the fields of industry and advanced technology.

His Excellency Omar Suwaina Al Suwaidi, Undersecretary of MoIAT, His Excellency Abdullah Saif Ali Al Nuaimi, UAE Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, His Excellency Kwon Yongwoo, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the UAE, and other senior government officials attended the event. The gathering also drew the participation of C-suite executives of select public and private sector entities from the two countries. These included Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Masdar, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS), Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC), H2KOREA, GS Caltex, GS Energy, Hanwha Solutions, LOTTE Chemical, SK E&C, SK innovation, and Samsung Engineering.

The ministers stressed the joint commitment of their countries to accelerating the post-COVID-19 economic recovery and the transition to a low-carbon future. They expressed keen interest in working together to build capacities in several strategic areas, including energy, climate change, green hydrogen, Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, as well as the space, electronics, metal, pharmaceutical, and food industries.

The meeting culminated in the signing of two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between MoIAT and MOTIE.

The first agreement targets cooperation in developing the hydrogen economy. The two ministries aim to support laws, rules, regulations, and national policies governing hydrogen trade between the UAE and the Republic of Korea, and facilitate collaboration between the Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance – comprising ADNOC, Mubadala, and ADQ – and H2KOREA. They also seek to collaborate in relevant international forums.

Under the terms of the MoU, MoIAT and MOTIE plan to run joint feasibility studies and pilot projects with a focus on hydrogen, carbon recycling, and related low-emission technologies, industries, and value chains.

The second agreement covers the development of industrial and technological policies. Areas of cooperation include identifying agendas and exchanging regulatory best practices in industrial development. Among the main fields of interest are medtech (telemedicine, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, and advanced drug delivery systems), space (small satellite manufacturing), agritech (smart aquaculture and smart farms), and Industry 4.0 (smart factories as well as relevant technologies and policies).

Within the framework of the second MoU, the ministers agreed to hold regular strategic meetings to discuss industrial and technological policies, and explore potential new areas for collaboration.

His Excellency Dr Al Jaber said: “The UAE leadership has always encouraged mutually beneficial international partnerships, and the Republic of Korea has been a long-standing valued partner to our country. The new MoUs support MoIAT’s mandate to develop the UAE’s industrial sector, boost its contribution to economic diversification, encourage foreign direct investment in this domain, and strengthen the country’s R&D ecosystem. The collaboration is part of the Ministry’s endeavors to build synergies with global stakeholders with the aim of exchanging and localizing knowledge in the field of advanced technology.”

Emphasizing the importance of the strategic partnership, he added: “We are open to learning from global best practices, and leverage this expertise to enhance our technology infrastructure, create an enabling environment for bright minds, improve operational efficiency, and increase the quality and competitiveness of local products. The Republic of Korea possesses a wealth of experience in the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution solutions, therefore it represents an ideal partner on our path towards a tech-powered, knowledge-based economy.”

His Excellency Dr Al Jaber noted that MoIAT coordinates joint efforts of the public and private sectors to achieve world-class national production, and works to enhance the role of academic and R&D institutions in this regard. He highlighted pharmaceuticals, F&B, and hydrogen technologies as the priority sectors.

His Excellency Sung Yun-mo said: “Despite the restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak last year, the Republic of Korea and the UAE engaged in active cooperation, including business interactions as well as pandemic control. Our two countries have enjoyed successful collaboration in the oil and gas sector, however, we are keen to expand the scope of our partnership with a focus on the development of low-carbon technologies, IT, and the zero-contact economy. Today, we are pleased to establish cooperation in fostering future industries and promising start-ups through the signing of the two new agreements.”

The UAE is the largest trade partner of the Republic of Korea in the MENA region, while Korea is one of the UAE’s most prominent trade partners in Asia. Over the years, especially in the past decade, the two countries have significantly stepped up cooperation in the fields of artificial intelligence, innovation, defense, science, culture, education, renewable and nuclear energy, and other sectors. By end-2019, the volume of bilateral non-oil trade amounted to AED18.3 billion (US$5 billion).

Women in Senior Leadership Positions Pass Critical 30% Mark Global Pandemic

Seeing the proportion of women leaders rise to 31% is encouraging, given the global figure remained stubbornly stuck at 29% for the previous two years (2019 and 2020)

The number of women holding senior leadership positions in mid-market businesses globally has hit 31% despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting economies around the world, according to Grant Thornton’s annual Women in Business report.

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader at Grant Thornton International Ltd says: “Passing the 30% of women in senior roles globally is an important milestone for businesses, but not the end goal. Those businesses that want to reap the benefits of a better gender balance, must continue to take action to enable women to realise their ambitions.”

Seeing the proportion of women leaders rise to 31% is encouraging, given the global figure remained stubbornly stuck at 29% for the previous two years (2019 and 2020). It also passes the important 30% threshold, which research shows is the minimum representation needed to change decision-making processes. All regions surveyed except for APAC (28%) have now surpassed the crucial 30% milestone.

Another encouraging finding is the types of leadership roles women are occupying. Grant Thornton’s research reveals higher numbers of women across operational C-suite roles compared to last year, with the proportion of female CEOs up 6pp to 26%, female CFOs also up 6pp to 36%, and female COOs up 4pp to 22%. The proportion of women in the more traditional senior HR roles was down slightly at 38% (-2pp on 2020), and has trended downwards since 2019.

Additionally, over two-thirds (69%) of respondents agree that in their organisations, new working practices as a result of COVID-19 will benefit women’s career trajectories long-term, despite potentially hindering factors which may be down to the flexibility that remote working offers.

While the number of women in leadership roles has grown, questions remain over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, particularly working mothers. UN data shows that, before the pandemic, women did three times as much unpaid housework as men, and mounting evidence indicates that COVID-19 is only increasing this disparity – as well as adding the extra responsibilities of childcare and home schooling while schools are closed.

Francesca Lagerberg says: “Breaking the 30% barrier certainly does represent progress – having grown from 19% 17 years ago when we first started tracking this – but these gains can easily be lost. Reassuringly, 92% of businesses globally say they are taking action to ensure the engagement and inclusion of their employees against the negative backdrop of the pandemic and with the normalisation of remote working, employers are becoming ever more flexible about how, where and when employees do their jobs.

“Now more than ever, businesses need to stay focused on what is enabling women to progress to leadership positions, so that women move forward rather than back as a result of the global pandemic.”

Resilience in the New Reality

The real estate sector has experienced a dramatic change in recent years. In many scenarios challenges remain – yet increasingly there are also significant opportunities. Making sure your real estate decisions are based on sound advice and support has never been more important. Throughout the pandemic, Range’s agile approach established them as the clear choice for all real estate requirements. Range Managing Partner, Lester Verma, explains how they weathered the COVID19 storm.

2020 saw real estate owners, managers, and investors facing perhaps their most difficult challenges in generations, we are proud to have supported stakeholders seeking a way forward that protected property values and operations and yet also demonstrated compassion for our tenants likely struggling with unexpected challenges and uncertainty. To help mitigate issues arising from Covid-19 we developed a framework for our staff that enabled us to be agile and remain focused on the market demands. We understand the value of transparency and agility to support our customers and we were there to address all aspects of vulnerability within real estate due to rapid change. We pride ourselves on providing assurances and immediate insight as to the contours of the current landscape rapidly change.

Times like these have a way of clarifying what matters most and on a positive note, we have noticed that the fallout from COVID-19 means many families are beginning to look towards greener pastures while taking advantage of the significant opportunities offered in the current market. We have been providing residents across Dubai with luxury real estate since 2016 and have a reputation for connecting iconic, high-quality facilities to the right new owner. Lester believes Range’s success is down to the company’s resilience and innovation, coupled with trained high-quality staff offering a service that is more human than many other real estate companies.

With our winning team, you can only expect to receive a high standard professional experience. We pride ourselves in connecting the right people with the right opportunities, year after year after year. Despite the challenges we faced, despite the losses that we will feel deeply as a community, we will continue to work together and put our customers first. We have an important responsibility to our customers wherever they are on their real estate journey, and we care deeply about supporting them.

We listen and that has given us the chance to seize every opportunity over the last twelve months, ensuring we can continue to meet the market demands and stay resilient through the COVID-19 crisis. “We will always be there when needed and have a very modern way of thinking which has helped to keep us ahead of the curve” says Lester.

The sudden impact of COVID-19 propelled the need for real estate businesses to mobilize quickly. “Our digital strategy has really helped us to continue selling throughout the pandemic. It meant we were able to place properties directly into the palm of consumers even throughout social distancing, which was truly innovative. In my view, any real estate company not exploring and exploiting property technology and innovation should question its strategy” says Lester.

As the world begins to move back to a new normal and the housing market is strengthened, Range is expecting to see real estate to be one of the most active sectors. The last few months have been a challenge for everyone but as 2021 gets underway, we have seen homeowner inquiries continue to pick up considerably. We look forward to supporting real estate shoppers find access to some of the world’s most remarkable homes, as we move into a new phase of adjustment and support. We’d be delighted to tell you more about how we can do the same for you – so please do get in touch with our team to see how we can help.

81% of Business Leaders Believe Covid Has Increased the Need for Improved Security of Finances

Over one-third (35%) of those who saw a need for improved security also singled out securing data as one of their biggest financial technology priorities post-pandemic

ESET, a global leader in cybersecurity, reveals that over two-thirds of business leaders (68%) expect their company’s investment in FinTech to increase in 2021/2022. This comes as 81% of senior managers surveyed agree that COVID-19 has increased the need for improved security of finances.

ESET has explored the attitudes of senior managers towards financial technology (FinTech) and security in the business segment of its global FinTech research, surveying 1200 senior managers in a variety of industries across the UK, US, Japan and Mexico. One of the key areas the survey focused on was predictions concerning threats and attitudes towards financial technology post-pandemic, especially in light of the widespread effects COVID-19 has already had on the global economy.

The research reveals that 42% of business leaders believe cybercrime and a coronavirus lockdown are equal threats to the security of their business’s finances. Companies with over 1000 employees were more likely to believe cybercrime to be a bigger threat, whereas businesses with less than 50 employees saw the impact of coronavirus lockdowns as a larger threat. This likely reflects the toll that COVID-19 has had on small businesses, which have fewer resources to help them deal with the current situation.

In terms of business focus post-pandemic, however, one-third of businesses (32%) said securing data will be their biggest financial technology priority, followed closely by improving efficiency (28%). Business leaders were also asked about the specific technologies that could help to secure finances post-COVID. The most popular answers were payment/credit card fraud detection (54%) and identify theft monitoring (50%).

Commenting on the results, Ignacio Sbampato, Chief Business Officer at ESET, said, “Ensuring businesses’ data is safe and secure is a core part of ESET’s mission, and with much of the world in a struggling economic situation, it is more important than ever that businesses and their finances are protected with the very best in cybersecurity solutions. In order to protect our users and their financial future, we embarked on the FinTech research project as a way to understand what businesses’ priorities and attitudes are. Our findings reveal that businesses remain security-focused and most are willing to invest in order to protect themselves from potential threats.”

 

Sovereign Reshapes Middle East Management to Deliver a Focus on Growth in the Region

Nicholas Cully, who also sits on the Group Board of the Sovereign Group as Sales Director, stepped down as Managing Director of Sovereign’s Dubai office after five years in the role and over a decade in the Emirate

Sovereign Middle East, one of the largest independent corporate and trust service providers in the world, today announced changes to the boards of its Dubai, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia offices that are designed to deliver a focus on growth in the region and to meet the high level of business generation that this entails.

Nicholas Cully, who also sits on the Group Board of the Sovereign Group as Sales Director, stepped down as Managing Director of Sovereign’s Dubai office after five years in the role and over a decade in the Emirate. He will be relocating to Zug, Switzerland, in March 2021, where he will concentrate on developing business in Central Europe and on managing the Group’s global sales efforts in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. He will remain on the boards in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Dubai and will continue to oversee the Middle East with regular trips to the region.

Simon Gordon, currently a Director in Dubai and Bahrain, has been promoted to the position of Managing Director of Sovereign’s Dubai office. After seven years with the company and three years in a Sales Director role at Sovereign Dubai, Simon is well placed to take the business forward and will be ably supported by an experienced board.

Paul Arnold has also been appointed as Managing Director of Sovereign’s new Saudi Arabia office in Riyadh, from where he will lead Sovereign’s ‘Saudi Expansion Plan’. Paul has been working in the Gulf region for 14 years and joined the Sovereign Group over three years ago as Head of New Market Development based in Dubai.

Further changes include the appointments of Zana Jablan Mousa to the Board of our Dubai office and Philip Gilboy to the Board of our Bahrain office. Zana heads up the Onshore Team in Dubai, where she advises her clients on corporate structuring and on UAE regulatory matters, while Philip is Legal Counsel for the Sovereign Middle East Region. Both appointees will put their highly-valued expertise at the service of the respective boards.

Sovereign set up its first Middle East office in 1997 in Dubai and is extremely proud of what it has achieved in the Gulf region. The company now has four offices – Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia – with a total headcount that now exceeds 50 and looks forward to assisting clients, new and old, for many years to come.

Qatar Becomes First Middle East Country to Launch a Joint CISI & QFMA Digital Learning Solution

The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) has announced a ground-breaking project whereby it has developed an Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) assessment with the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA), the Qatari capital markets regulator.

With 45,000 members globally, the CISI is the not-for-profit global professional body for those working in the wealth management, financial planning and capital market sectors. A strategic cooperation has been in place between the CISI and QFMA since 2007 when an educational and a QFMA licensing program was devised to enhance the qualification standards in the Qatar financial services market.

This AML/CFT project is an extension of that cooperation. Its launch will confirm Qatar as the first country in the Middle East to implement a country wide, digital, AML/CFT assessment, with a unique reporting function, as part of QFMA efforts to combat the causes of financial crime in the Qatar capital market.

The CISI and QFMA have developed an AML/CFT digital learning assessment, in English and Arabic, for professionals working within the Qatar capital market, the aim of which will be to enhance the AML/CFT awareness. The successful completion of the e-learning module will be well recognized in the QFMA’s licensing process.

The assessment will be available for public and concerned professionals. It will be read and accessed on any mainstream mobile, tablet or laptop, the aim being to disseminate knowledge and improve money-laundering and terrorism financing detection throughout the capital market in specific and the financial sector in general.

The QFMA will have full access to the results of an individual’s professional assessment to monitor the AML/CFT compliance across the country. 

Simon Culhane, Chartered FCSI, CISI CEO said: “We are delighted and honoured to be working with the QFMA on this important project to ensure sound training and competence standards for those working in the financial services domain in the Qatari capital market. The aim of the program is to help increase the effectiveness of all staff to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism, enabling the financial sector in Qatar to be at the forefront of combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

“In addition, owing to Covid-19 restrictions, many staff are working from home. Employers globally have experienced how effective online systems can be for productivity, with particular benefits for the e-learning process.”

Nasser Ahmad Al Shaibi (left) QFMA CEO, said: “QFMA’s cooperation with the CISI, as the first Capital Market Regulator in the Middle East joining the Institute in this project, reflects QFMA’s keenness and commitment towards promoting the awareness and the specialized technical learning of those involved in the financial market, through providing a digital platform to disseminate knowledge about combatting money-laundering and  financing of terrorism, and enhancing AML/CFT compliance oversight, in addition to supporting the national efforts aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the Qatar capital market AML/CFT.

“QFMA attaches great importance to the educational and awareness aspect of professionals in the capital market, and for concerned and interested ones in Qatar, especially regarding AML/CFT, considering its key role in ensuring the ongoing development of the financial sector and investor protection.”

Growth in Health and Med-tech Industry Set to Accelerate as Regional Demand for Service Provision Rises

A new Covid Response Report (CRR), produced by Oxford Business Group (OBG) in partnership with the digital health platform Altibbi, explores the rapid development and uptake of medical and health technology across four MENA markets in 2020, while considering the major part that further innovation will play in driving economic recovery in the region.

The report tracks the investment made by all four countries in health care provision in recent years which, while varying in terms of funds allocated and inflows, bolstered their efforts to contain the virus when it arrived and care for patients.

It looks, in particular, at the broad range of tech-led medical and health services introduced by each market, which proved crucial in the pandemic by making alternative, remote solutions available and reducing the overall pressure on traditional systems.

Key examples included e-health and telemedicine options, which were key in delivering vital public health information and facilitating remote consultations, thereby helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Subscribers will also find coverage of the medical and health technology industry’s potential for growth in areas such as medical record digitalisation, which is expected to gain momentum in line with demand for integrated health care systems, telemedicine and automation.

The report explores Altibbi’s growth story, tracking its expansion and the steps it took to continue operating throughout the pandemic, when demand for services – both established and new – rose sharply. It also looks in detail at the firm’s collaborative projects with the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which enabled them to continue delivering their health care provision through telehealth consultations and Covid-19 information hotlines, alongside other services, in a challenging environment.

Jalil Allabadi, Founder and CEO, Altibbi, said that having enabled governments to provide essential health information and medical services remotely when Covid-19 arrived, new technologies were now expected to play an even greater role in post-pandemic health care, driven forward by changing demographics, rising levels of internet use and pressure on current systems.

“Approximately 400m people in the Arab world are still without access to essential medical services, while the proportion of the MENA population aged over 65 is rising. At the same time, an estimated 70% of doctor visits are considered to be unnecessary,” he said. “Technological tools in various forms, ranging from telemedicine to apps, will play a critical part in meeting demand for health information and medical care, at a time when governments are keeping a close eye on their budgets.”

Karine Loehman, OBG’s Managing Director for Africa, said that unlike key areas of the global economy, technology-enabled health services had performed strongly during the pandemic, with health-tech companies able to tap into the disruption to doing business.

“The outlook for the sector is bright, with industry players already focused on developing solutions that will help to fill vacuums in quality and infrastructure,” he said. “From a regional perspective, all four study countries are expected to exhibit strong GDP per capita growth going forward, pointing to promising prospects for higher purchasing power and telehealth spending.”

MRO & Aircraft Interiors Middle East Exhibition Set for June 2021

The joint organisers of MRO Middle East & Aircraft Interiors Middle East (AIME), Aviation Week Network/Informa and Tarsus Group, today announced new dates for the region’s premier Interiors, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul exhibition, that will now take place from 15th – 16th June 2021 at DWTC, Dubai.

The exhibition, initially planned for March this year, was postponed to take into consideration the health and safety of exhibitors and visitors, as well as travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the international attendees.

“We remain committed to the stakeholders, exhibitors and visitors while prioritizing everyone’s wellbeing,” said Tim Hawes, Managing Director of Tarsus Aerospace. “We have been continually monitoring the developments on travel restrictions from governments around the world in recent weeks. After very careful consideration of the situation and taking into account invaluable feedback from our exhibitors and stakeholders we believe the decision to move the exhibition is in the best interests of the health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors, contractors and staff.”

“After a recent hiatus in industry events and the significant impact on the commercial aviation industry from the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition will provide an important platform for recovery, allowing for the community to discuss solutions to the new challenges we face, share new industry trends and well as showcase the latest technologies,” said Lydia Janow, Managing Director/Events at Aviation Week Network.

By attending MRO Middle East & Aircraft Interiors Middle East, organizations will have the chance to display their latest products and services to airlines, MROs, OEMs, lessors, suppliers and aircraft interior specialists.

“With the increased vaccination schedules implemented in key markets and the strength of Dubai’s recovery, we believe that moving the exhibition to June 2021 will allow us to deliver a quality event for everyone,” added Mr Hawes.

The upcoming editions of MRO Middle East & AIME will host engaging features including access to hours of free show floor content.  The 2021 event will include seminars, workshops and product demonstrations along with a pre-arranged meetings program to facilitate connections and networking between visitors and exhibitors. In addition, the Airline Buyers Programme will allow attendees to meet and network with regional and global airlines.

Key Role Earmarked for Travel & Tourism in Saudi Arabia’s Economic Rebound

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to boost airport capacity as part of a broader bid to make tourism and logistics new engines of growth, are mapped out in a new Covid Response Report (CRR), prepared by the Oxford Business Group (OBG) in partnership with Saudi Ground Services (SGS).

The CRR provides in-depth analysis of the Kingdom’s response to the pandemic in an easy-to-navigate and accessible format, highlighting key data in infographics relating to the country’s socio-economic landscape.

The report lays out the increases in passenger numbers witnessed at Saudi Arabia’s airport terminals prior to the suspension of international flights due to Covid-19, as the push to boost trade and attract more visitors gained pace.

It also considers the significance of the decision to lift all restrictions on air, land and sea transport on January 1, 2021, which is expected to play a major part in accelerating recovery across the Kingdom’s aviation industry and support long-term growth in travel.

Topical issues explored in the CRR included the move to bring the private sector on board to modernise operations at domestic and international gateways, and the role earmarked for digitalisation in enhancing ground services.

In addition, subscribers will find an analysis of SGS’s growth story, which has mirrored the expansion of the wider aviation sector, and the company’s decision to tap new revenue streams by introducing additional services during the pandemic. OBG’s coverage also considers the post-pandemic opportunities for both SGS and other players, which are expected as a result of the capacity increases planned for many of KSA’s gateways.

The report includes a wide-ranging interview with Fahad Cynndy, CEO at SGS, in which he highlights the increased focus in the industry on last-mile delivery services and opportunities for strategic partnerships.

“While Covid-19 has impacted flight operations, it has actually, cautiously speaking, advanced collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders to add value and diversify revenue streams,” he told OBG. “Essentially, there is a need to offer barrier-free entry for new players in the aviation industry; we aim to fill that gap by connecting airport operators, airlines and passengers through our services platform,” he added.

Jana Treeck, OBG’s Managing Director for the Middle East, said that firm fiscal foundations, successful efforts to control the pandemic, and an ongoing diversification drive meant that Saudi Arabia was well-placed to make a swift economic recovery after a challenging year, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasting growth of 3.1% for the Kingdom in 2021 – the highest among GCC countries.

“Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries in the world to approve the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine – a move in early December that followed on from a widespread testing regime, which was instrumental in keeping the country’s case-fatality rate among the lowest in the world,” Treeck said. “Looking ahead, the introduction of the vaccination programme is expected to pave the way for a resumption in day-to-day life, including heightened activity across the travel and tourism industry.”

Tonic Worldwide’s Research Division ‘GIPSI’ Unveils a Report Highlighting Positive Sentiment of 2021 for UAE

Tonic Worldwide, a UAE based digital first creative agency and GIPSI have released a report and identified five factors highlighting the positive sentiments of 2021 for UAE.  These factors cover economy, healthcare, tourism, women and celebrations.  The report highlights how UAE has won hearts and enjoyed positive sentiment not only from Emiratis but also from global audiences.

Dubai became a torch bearer of UAE’s buzzing Travel & Tourism scene in 2020, becoming one of the most preferred travel destinations globally. This led to good performance and created positive sentiment around the UAE’s economy. For women empowerment, the future looks limitless to UAE women, with the government’s continuous support.  UAE has led the way in celebrations and kept the festive spirit high throughout 2020. What’s more, there was a noticeable excitement around 2021 Dubai Shopping festival.

GIPSI applied its ‘Deep Listening’ methodology to arrive at unique insights. The data sources are multiple for the ‘Deep Listening’ Method and  goes beyond digital conversations and maps the data with interests and searches, coupled with unique HI perspectives giving actionable insights.

Here are the insights from the report:

  • Resilient economy and promising outlook in 2020 

GIPSI observed: 

  • 49% + search trends for “Growth of GDP” in UAE, with consistent positive sentiment for UAE economy vis-a-vis consistent negative sentiment for world economy throughout 2020
  • Global conversations on “Government measures” in the UAE harbours 3x more positive sentiment 5x more negative sentiment as compared to USA.
  • 83% increase in “Job opportunities” and related searches, with top Hospitality and Airlines as a result of Hospitality and Airlines companies embarking on hiring sprees. 
  • UAE goes beyond just an Oil-Economy, with 575.6K conversations and 13.8M engagement, including service sector, health, infrastructure, and business
  • Sustainability first measures creates a positive aura for UAE economy with 24.3K conversations, 222.6K engagement.GIPSI shares its implication: 

Ride the good performance and positive sentiment around the UAE economy and be a part of this good news.

  • Prompt healthcare in 2020

The positive sentiment around the UAE’s Healthcare measures taken during 2020, formed a strong backbone for a reliable UAE.


GIPSI observed:

  • Global conversations on Hospitals, Medicine and related topics showcase 2x more negative sentiment compared to UAE.
  • UAE government’s contribution to vaccine adoption and distribution, consistent care and the promise of world-class safety to Global citizens garners 1.3M conversations, 45M engagement, overall positive engagement 
  • 10 million meals, immeasurable goodwill at a global scale: 
  • This gesture of goodwill by government recognized globally for its positive impact with over 42.1K conversations, 789.5K engagement

GIPSI shares its implication: 

The trust and the confidence in healthcare makes for a willing consumer who is ready to engage and indulge. 

  • Preferred travel & tourism destination in 2020

Dubai became a torch bearer of UAE’s buzzing Travel & Tourism scene, becoming one of the most preferred travel destinations globally.

GIPSI observed: 

  • UAE immerses in Travel with a surge in “Hotel bookings” since April, while the world hesitates –  + 175% UAE search trends since April 
  • Emiratis revive their need for travel and getaways with a nearly 4X interest surge in “Vacation” since Apr’20, showcasing quick recovery.
  • 7K conversations on Dubai Travel; #visitdubai trends globally, and emerges as the top preference
  • UAE further leads the way in Trade and Tourism due to the rich cultural events, arts and sports, according to conversations across the world: 302.3K conversations, 21M engagement

GIPSI shares its implication: 

Make the most of the first movers’ advantage on T&T and participate in the positive momentum

  • Unstoppable UAE women in 2020 

The world is celebrating the new liberal UAE laws – especially related to Women.

GIPSI observed:

  • 227K+ global engagement: On conversations about women’s rights, celebrating personal freedom.
  • 25K+ global engagement on global conversations for equal pay reform in the UAE, contributing to the sentiment of #equalpay #uaelaws and the UN recognised Gender Equality Index positively.
  • 6K conversations and 2.6M engagement regarding celebration and recognition of Women leaders. 
  • Emirati Women’s day sees 78%+ positive sentiment, about women empowerment and the future looks limitless to UAE women, with the government’s support.

GIPSI shares its implication: 

Including women in the strategy should be a norm in marketing

  • Uninterrupted UAE celebrations in 2020: 

UAE led the way in celebrations and kept the festive spirit high throughout 2020 despite of all the challenges.

GIPSI observed:

  • 351K+ conversations on UAE festivities, with Ramadan, Diwali, UAE National Day and Christmas celebrations at the forefront. 
  • UAE’s New Year celebration with a safety filter has higher Celebration Quotient (CQ) vs the USA, with the former having almost 2x positive sentiment in comparison. 
  • Dubai shopping festival gets bigger this year, having Instagram content on the hashtag #MYDSF 50K+ updates and potential reach over the past 3 months on the topic globally: 2.4B
  • 49th UAE National Day witnessed nationwide excitement and celebrations: 277K+ key hashtag mentions, and 131K engagement.
  • Worldwide anticipation and expectations for Expo 2020, happening in 2021 on the rise:  565K+ key hashtag mentions, 89K+ conversations, 878K engagement.

GIPSI shares its implication: 

Audiences kept the optimism quotient high by discussing events, celebrations and festivities

Virtuzone Becomes the First Company to Accept Bitcoin Payments for Business Setup in the UAE

By officially receiving Bitcoin as a form of payment, Virtuzone reinforces its position as a leader in business innovation, while making its company incorporation and business support services more accessible, affordable and convenient for entrepreneurs based in the UAE and overseas.

The UAE’s leading company formation specialists, Virtuzone, have announced that they now accept Bitcoin payments for business setup, becoming the first company in the industry to accept the world’s most popular and largest cryptocurrency based on market value.

By officially receiving Bitcoin as a form of payment, Virtuzone reinforces its position as a leader in business innovation, while making its company incorporation and business support services more accessible, affordable and convenient for entrepreneurs based in the UAE and overseas.

The strategic move also builds on Virtuzone’s aim to help accelerate the adoption and growth of digital technologies in the country, ultimately positioning the UAE as a borderless business hub.

Globally, Virtuzone is joining renowned companies such as Microsoft, Whole Foods and Home Depot in accepting Bitcoin as payment for their products and services.

Launched in 2009, Bitcoin is one of the most widely used cryptocurrencies in the world, registering more than 300,000 daily transactions in December 2020. Its value has also recently skyrocketed, reaching over USD 40,000 for a time.

“We are always working towards innovating the company formation process to make it easier, more seamless and efficient for entrepreneurs to set up their businesses here in the UAE, whether they are based in the Middle East or anywhere in the world. Accepting Bitcoin as payment is only one of the steps we are taking to continuously revolutionise how business setup is done in the country, adding significant value to our SME community and aiding the local economy,” said George Hojeige, CEO of Virtuzone.

38% of Professionals Want to Move to Full-time Remote Working in the Middle East

38% of professionals in the Middle East have expressed their desire to move to full-time remote working, with a further 32% wanting at least 50% remote working this year


The findings come from recruiter Robert Walters 2021 Salary Survey – featuring data from the firm’s annual employment trends survey undertaken by 1,000 white-collar professionals.


Jason Grundy, Managing Director at Robert Walters Middle East comments:

“2020 was the year of the world’s largest remote working experiment, and employers would be amiss to think that there wouldn’t be some long-term changes to employee expectations as a result.

“Whilst the pandemic did not necessarily bring about entirely new trends in working-style, it certainly fast-tracked the inevitable around flexible working – speeding the transition up by as much a 5-10 years for some companies.

“We anticipate that some of the changes incorporated into workplaces as a result of Covid-19 in 2020 will be more enshrined in day to day working environments going forward – and for some professional industries there will be an element of remote working embedded for good.”

REMOTE WORKING PERKS

A staggering 73% of professionals have enjoyed the flexible hours afforded with home working, and over a third (31%) stated that working from home has allowed for an increased focus on wellbeing.

A quarter (26%) found that the more regular updates & check-in calls with managers and colleagues during lockdown to be a positive change to their work style.

Leading the list of changes to work that employees would like to keep for this year is the enhanced use of technology, apps & tools – with over half (56%) of respondents stating that this has improved or benefitted their way of working.

When considering the opportunities presented by Covid-19, almost half of professionals (42%) stated that compulsory remote working inadvertently encouraged them to improve on their business communication in a way that office working would not have encouraged – with the reliance on virtual presentations, over-the-phone discussions, and video calls being a key driver in this. In fact, during lockdown professionals in the Middle East ditched the age-old email (31%), in place of instant messenger (71%), video calls (69%) and telephone calls (62%) as their primary form of workplace communication – as the lack of physical interaction with the outside world drove professionals to be less formal and more conversational with colleagues and acquaintances.

HESITATION FROM EMPLOYERS

An overwhelming 61% of professionals state that their overall expectations of their employer have changed in the past year due to Covid-19.

In positive news, 61% of businesses will be looking to change their offering in response to the change in employee expectations. At the top of employers’ list is reduced or reconfigured office space (28%), enhanced mental health & wellbeing policies (38%), and an increased investment in technology, apps & tools (43%).

Employees who are hoping for full-time remote working are unlikely to get their wish, with a quarter of companies stating that their traditional senior leadership team will be a key barrier to this – with many still preferring a ‘bums on seat’ approach to white-collar working.


Jason adds:
 “A clear finding from the survey is that there are a number of hidden benefits to office working – such as providing structure, professional & personal support, social interaction, and all-round wellbeing benefits – that are not openly being discussed, perhaps due to individual cases or sensitivities.

“With many banging the drum on the benefits of remote working and no longer having to commute, it makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to open about the value they placed on face-to-face support from management, the ease of working on ergonomic desks & chairs, and the sense of belonging or cultural fit which provides some with a purpose.

“Whilst there is no right answer – companies will really need to take stock of working practices this year to see what will best serve the needs of both employees and the business in the long term.”

Emirates Waste to Energy Company to Develop the UAE’s First Solar Landfill Project

  • Solar photovoltaic panels to be installed on top of Bee’ah’s landfill in Sharjah — the first project of its kind in the UAE
  • Project will provide up to 120 megawatts of clean energy and will be completed in three phases, with the first phase expected for completion by 2023

Emirates Waste to Energy Company, a joint venture between Bee’ah, the Middle East’s fastest-growing environmental management company, and Masdar, one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies, will undertake a pioneering project to develop Bee’ah’s landfill into a solar farm — the first of its kind in the UAE.

The agreement was announced jointly by Khaled Al Huraimel, Group Chief Executive Officer of Bee’ah and Chairman of the Emirates Waste to Energy Company, and Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar, during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week which takes place virtually this week.

Emirates Waste to Energy Company will deliver the solar photovoltaic (PV) project that will comprise up to 120 megawatts (MW) and will be constructed on top of Bee’ah’s Al Sa’jah landfill in close proximity to the Sharjah Waste to Energy facility and Bee’ah’s Waste Management Complex. The solar landfill project will be delivered across three phases, with the first phase due for completion in 2023.

“Masdar is proud to be extending our existing partnership with Bee’ah through the Emirates Waste to Energy Company to develop this landmark project in Sharjah. Waste is a growing issue in the Gulf Cooperation Council region. However, this project highlights how we can utilize closed landfills to deliver clean energy, while simultaneously supporting the UAE’s clean energy targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are confident that this project can become a benchmark for other landfill sites in the region,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar.  

“As a pioneer of zero waste solutions, Bee’ah is looking to create new value from capped landfills while supporting the deployment of renewable energy in the UAE and I am confident that we can replicate this same model of success for other cities in the Middle East. Through Emirates Waste to Energy Company, we are proud to be partnering with Masdar to support the UAE’s pioneering sustainability vision,” said Khaled Al Huraimel, Group Chief Executive Officer of Bee’ah, Chairman of the Emirates Waste to Energy Company.

Finding productive uses for closed landfills is a global industry issue due to stringent environmental monitoring and remediation requirements that can take up to 30 years. Redeveloping the landfill into a solar farm will add to Sharjah’s renewable energy generation, and it is also economically and environmentally beneficial.

Emirates Waste to Energy Company will be responsible for the financing, design, procurement and construction. Under the terms of the lease agreement, operation and maintenance services will also be provided by the company for a 25-year period. 

Established in 2017, Emirates Waste to Energy Company’s first project is the Sharjah Waste to Energy facility housed in Bee’ah’s Waste Management Complex. The 30 MW Sharjah Waste to Energy project is currently under construction and is due for completion later this year. The power plant will divert approximately 300,000 tons of solid nonrecyclable waste from landfill each year, helping Sharjah achieve its zero waste-to-landfill target and the UAE’s goal of diverting 75 percent of its municipal solid waste from landfill by 2021.

Salesforce Reveals 2020 Was the Biggest Holiday Season Ever For Digital Sales

  • Digital sales grew around 58 percent during the five days leading up to Christmas, despite earlier shipping cutoffs 
  • $330 billion in online purchases are expected to be returned globally—about 30 percent of all purchases made

Salesforce, the global leader in CRM, today released its 2020 Holiday Shopping Report, highlighting data and trends that shaped the holiday season and will impact how consumers shop in 2021. Salesforce data shows a 50 percent increase in digital spend over the 2019 shopping season, making it one of the biggest digital holiday shopping seasons to date. Consumers spent $1.1 trillion online worldwide and $236 billion in the U.S., compared to $723 billion worldwide and $165 billion in the U.S. in 2019. 

Top Salesforce 2020 Holiday Shopping Insights

Salesforce combined insights from over one billion global shoppers across more than 40 countries powered by Commerce Cloud during the holiday season—between November 1 and December 31, 2020. This season’s top highlights and trends include:

  • Digital commerce surged later in the year, despite an earlier start to the holiday season: Although retailers kicked off holiday discounts and promotions earlier in October, the bulk of this year’s digital sales were still generated during traditional shopping holidays. Total Cyber Week digital sales reached $270 billion globally and $60 billion in the U.S., while the first two weeks of December accounted for $181 billion in global sales and $39 billion in the U.S. 
  • Retailers offering curbside and other pickup options grew almost twice as fast as those that didn’t: With strained shipping systems and consumers prioritizing safety, retailers with curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options outperformed those without these services. U.S. retailers that offered these options increased digital revenue by 49 percent on average year-over-year, while retailers that didn’t only saw 28 percent average growth year-over-year. Retailers offering curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options also experienced 54 percent digital revenue growth year-over-year in the five days leading up to Christmas, compared to 34 percent growth for those that didn’t.  
  • Consumers embraced financing options: With consumers looking to pay for big ticket holiday gifts in installments, buy now, pay later usage saw a year-over-year increase of 109 percent, with the biggest increase taking place the week before Christmas.
  • Sporting Goods and Home Goods were the hottest product categories: Revenue for Sporting Goods grew 108 percent compared to the previous year, Home Goods grew 89 percent and Food and Beverage kept pace with 80 percent growth. Active Apparel (35 percent), Footwear (39 percent) and General Apparel (40 percent) experienced the least growth in revenue this holiday season. 
  • Retailers brace for “returnageddon”: Over $330 billion in online purchases are expected to be returned globally—about 30 percent of all purchases made—as a result of this holiday’s e-commerce spike. 

“The 2020 holiday season was defined by the pandemic and forced retailers and brands to innovate quickly with the introduction of services like curbside pickup, virtual concierges and a focus on social, messaging and live streaming to reach shoppers in new ways,” said Rob Garf, VP, Industry Strategy for Retail, Salesforce. “We expect to see these new innovations remain in 2021 with holiday strategies becoming the new standard that consumers expect from their favorite retailers and brands.”

Salesforce Powers the Holiday Season

As the pandemic forced shoppers out of stores and into the world of e-commerce, Salesforce helped retailers around the world double down on digital as they navigated new challenges, including scaling their e-commerce operations. Between November 1 and December 31, 2020, Salesforce customers drove more than 204 million online orders on Commerce Cloud, while delivering fast, easy and personalized digital experiences to shoppers. 

  • Commerce Cloud: Digital sales powered by Commerce Cloud grew 76 percent year-over-year this holiday season. 
  • Marketing Cloud: Global marketing communications made through Marketing Cloud overall surged this holiday with 7.2 billion push notifications, 3.7 billion SMS messages and 129 billion total emails sent, as marketers engaged consistently throughout the season.
  • Einstein: Artificial intelligence continued to play a role in how consumers shopped this holiday season. Einstein accounted for 11 percent of digital orders, growing 25 percent year-over-year.
  • Service CloudService Cloud: Agents viewed or worked on cases more than 5 billion times and received more than 946 million customer service calls this holiday season through Service Cloud.

2020 Salesforce Holiday Insights and Predictions Methodology

To help retailers and brands benchmark holiday performance, Salesforce combined data and holiday insights on the activity of over one billion global shoppers across more than 40 countries powered by Commerce Cloud, billions of consumer engagements and millions of public social media conversations through Marketing Cloud, and customer service data powered by Service Cloud. Several factors are subsequently applied to extrapolate projections and actuals for the broader retail industry.

To qualify for inclusion in the analysis set, a digital commerce site must have transacted throughout the analysis period, in this case November 1, 2018 through December 31, 2020, and meet a monthly minimum visit threshold. Additional data hygiene factors are applied to help ensure consistent metric calculation.

The Salesforce holiday predictions are not indicative of the operational performance of Salesforce or its reported financial metrics including GMV growth and comparable customer GMV growth.

Three Cybersecurity Resolutions Every Business Needs in 2021

By: Edwin Weijdema, Global Technologist, Product Strategy at Veeam

Being able to retain customer trust has never been more important – or more difficult – following the events of 2020. With so much disarray and widespread changes to working patterns, such as the mass migration to remote working, the job of keeping businesses secure has never been more difficult.

Between more sophisticated cybercriminals and immense pressure to ensure governance on compliance, 2021 is already shaping up to be a minefield. And as such, cybersecurity has risen to the top of most organizations’ agendas.

So, as we have just entered what promises to be a complicated year, here are three cybersecurity resolutions every business should consider in the new year.

1. Watch out – Dark Clouds are on the horizon

Businesses haven’t been the only ones accelerating their digital transformation this year – cybercriminals have been hard at it too.

There has been a sharp rise in ‘Dark Clouds’ as cybercriminals have migrated to the cloud, often for the same reasons businesses have – cloud allows them to avoid big up-front capital expenses, pay monthly for their shady businesses and scale up only when they need to. Coupled with the ability to access information from anywhere, it’s no wonder we’re seeing cybercriminals innovate.

This ranges from cloud-based caches filled with stolen user data such as email addresses and authentication credentials, to personal identifiable information (PII) such as scans of passports, driver’s licenses and bank invoices.

Data exfiltration has become so valuable it’s now the backbone of all cyberattacks. And it may only take one breach to ruin your reputation and relationship with your customers.

That’s why not having an effective cybersecurity program in place puts your business continuity at risk. Because, come 2021, you’re either going to be one of those proactive organizations aggressively looking to strengthen your systems ahead of time, or the other type of business not doing that – and becoming more vulnerable with every passing day.

2. Team up – cybersecurity has turned personal

Between collaborating cybercriminals, the upwards trajectory of data growth and the distributed workforce, the risk factor for every business is accelerating.

This is one reason why we expect to see most businesses increase their general IT spending by around 5-10% in the new year, despite the economic impact of the pandemic. And we expect most of that allocation to go towards IT security.

But even with these investments, it won’t be enough to cover all the potential threat vectors. So, businesses will still be forced to place strategic bets across their people, processes and technology in the hope of covering their weakest points.       

For example, will you invest in the education of employees (after all, people are always going to be the biggest weakness), or put that money into optimizing and securing processes by investing in a Security Operations Center (SOC)? Or, will new technology be the most effective investment?

It’s impossible for every business to get this mix perfectly right, so business leaders need to also strategize how best to avoid cyberattacks. Too often, businesses expect their security team to handle this. But most of the time, this leads to an over-reliance on IT professionals who are already stretched thin by constantly putting out fires. They don’t also have the time to develop this strategy.

That’s why making sure every member of the company plays in the cybersecurity challenge is key. For example, while employees may be a business’ biggest weakness, they also form the ‘human firewall’ and need to be equipped to do just that – which takes education.

But don’t let the collaboration end there – your entire ecosystem of peer-like organizations, experts, suppliers, vendors and even the government should be aligned and geared towards combating this threat.

Cybercriminals are already working together on a large scale, sharing information about critical vulnerabilities, breached systems and targets extremely fast. So, don’t fight alone; work with contacts in your local law enforcement agency – for example NESA, The National Electronic Security Authority in the UAE, to figure out how to best utilize risk management models and resiliency plans.

By ensuring you follow government regulations, the increased alignment and information sharing between the government and private organizations will help speed up the identification of threats and lead to faster resolutions. 

3. Gear up – look to hybrid security and intelligent backup to stay ahead

Technology is always going to be the heart of your cybersecurity fight, but no one product is going to maximize your cybersecurity state – you need to invest in your desired outcome. To do that, organizations need to look for software-defined models integrated with external services – a hybrid security approach.

This includes cloud-based software such as PenTesting-as-a-Service (PtaaS), Scanning-as-a-Service (ScaaS), Network Defense-as-a-Service (NDaaS), Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) and Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS).

A hybrid security approach which has your internal security teams connected to external cybersecurity experts and law enforcement will keep you the most secure, while also helping raise the experience level of your security teams. 

Conversely, backup should play a bigger role within organizations. It not only gives organizations the ability to restore and forensically analyze data in the event of a breach, but in a world that’s becoming more critically reliant on ballooning data stores to improve customer experience, backup can help better utilize it.

We’re already seeing some organizations combine application owners, backup, analytics and security teams in a new (virtual) data management team. This way, they can tackle the challenges around exposed data, service level expectation and risk growth in the most beneficial and economical way.

Ultimately, for businesses to really keep up with their growing data and continue to derive useful insights from it, they will need to invest in tools powered by Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to speed up data extraction and analysis processes.

As these technologies are also significant weapons in cybersecurity as well aiding in data-driven decision-making, their adoption is expected to grow at a rapid pace and will add tremendous intelligence and power to the fight. 

At its crux, the takeaway here is that in getting prepared for the cyber-threats of 2021, you will also be putting your business ahead of competitors and boost your productivity.

So, don’t just choose a supplier or buy a new product – build an ecosystem that will stand by your side when the cybersecurity battle starts to heat up.

Top 5G Core (5GC) and Mobile Network Predictions for 2021

By: Amr Alashaal, Regional Vice President – Middle East at A10 Networks

Contain your excitement… 5G is coming (again)!

Wait… wasn’t 5G launched over two years ago?

Well, yes. For those not familiar with the nuances of 5G technology, 5GC (core or standalone) takes 5G deployment to the next level and replaces the 4G packet core with a new, cloud-native core using containers and following 3GPP specifications (release 15). This is somewhat separate from the market-by-market launch that most operators publicize, and the activity is less visible to the casual subscriber.

We recently sponsored a 5G security survey to understand the extent of mobile operator 5G core deployment. It was a global survey of 115 service providers that included mobile operators as well as fixed broadband providers. We asked several questions about the timing and extent of 5G core deployment and adoption and where the functions A10 Networks provides will fit in. 

So, given that research, what do I see for 2021?

2021 Prediction – Over Half of Mobile Operators will have Launched 5GC (standalone) by the End of 2021

Most mobile operators that have launched 5G have chosen what’s called a “non-standalone” implementation. That is a hybrid of 4G and 5G that allows mobile operators to offer much of the 5G capabilities to their subscribers while still leveraging existing investment in their 4G packet core. Operators are eager to take advantage of the benefits of 5GC (standalone) – greater service agility and lower costs. The survey revealed that operators are committed to 5GC (SA or standalone) implementation, with 93 percent of mobile operators implementing within a three-year window and investing in multiple 5G security options.

2021 Prediction – a Half a Billion Mobile Subscribers Globally will be Using 5G by EOY 2021

Mobile operators also see rapid adoption of 5G over the next three years by subscribers as 5G deployment accelerates. Most operators said that within five years, at least 25 percent of their traffic would be carried via 5G – with 40 percent of operators predicting that most of their traffic would be carried by 5G. This is consistent with the recent Ericsson Mobility Report that forecasts 56 percent of total mobile data traffic will be 5G by 2026.

That’s a significant leap from today where almost half of operators report they have no traffic on 5G core at all. For 2021, 9 percent of operators say that most of their traffic will be on 5Gwith 70 percent predicting less than 50 percent will be 5G.

2021 Prediction – Three-quarters of Mobile Operators will have Whittled Down their 3G Traffic to 25% or Less

It’s really hard for mobile operators to get rid of old technology. 3G still exists in most mobile networks despite rapid 5G deployment. This is a combination of subscribers that won’t give up their older handsets, specific geographic areas, such as rural areas, that have legacy equipment and regulatory and industry practices that require a lengthy process for “sunsetting” older technologies. In North America, AT&T shutdown of 3G is expected in 2022; Verizon in 2021.

For example, today, only 13 percent of mobile operators surveyed have managed to eliminate support of 3G. By 2025, most operators (60 percent) said that they will no longer support 3G.  That means that by 2025, 40 percent of operators will still carry 3G traffic. This also increases concerns around 5G security, since older technologies have multiple security vulnerabilities that will still be present in these multi-generational networks.

2021 Prediction – In North America, 2G will Finally be Gone – not so in Europe

By the end of 2021, all major mobile operators will have shut down their 2G networks. In Europe, however, the shutdown has been complicated by the use of 2G in smart meters and eCall modems in cars that initiate a call to send information, such as the location of the accident, to emergency services.

2021 Prediction – Mobile Operators will Build More Relationships with Cloud Providers for Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) Services

According to a BPI report commissioned by A10 Networks, nearly all mobile operators state that mobile edge compute (MEC) is a vital part of their 5G deployment plans and most are actively deploying or will deploy within the next year or so. IDC forecasts 50 percent of all new infrastructure deployments (enterprise as well as service provider) will be at the edge by 2023. I believe that mobile service providers will also jump on the advantages of mobile edge compute, but take a more measured, strategic approach to their use of MEC, at least in the near term.  By 2025, we see most mobile operators will have deployed 5G (standalone) combined with MEC and will direct up to 25 percent of their traffic through these nodes. Operators will also use strategic partners for their enterprise customers that want the lower latency that a mobile edge compute service provides. 

2021 Prediction – In 2021, DDoS Detection and Mitigation will Become the Top Security Investment Priority for MEC networks

It’s already going in that direction now. DDoS attacks are getting more frequent, intense and most are smaller in size, making them harder to detect. The average attack size is only 12 Gbps, with most attacks being under 5 Gbps. A10’s  The State of DDoS Weapons Report, Q2 2020 shows 10M available DDoS weapons.

The Heavy Reading 5G Security Report shows that small DDoS attacks are the primary reason for investment priority for MEC. And with MEC capacity as low as 600 Mbps, mobile service providers and their new 5G enterprise customers are at substantial risk for these common DDoS attacks.

Those are the predictions for 2021.

Overall, in spite of the pandemic, we believe that demand for 5G services will be strong and that subscribers will continue to find more value and use cases from the growing 5G capability.

Six Cities With the Largest Hotel Construction Pipelines

Great hospitality experiences make travel fun for everyone, but that joy disappears when guests encounter construction. Still, increased demand for places to stay requires more hotel properties, so which cities currently balance these two industry factors? These are the six cities with the largest hotel construction pipelines and how they plan to ensure guest satisfaction while each project continues.

1. New York City

Hotels pulled double duty in New York City during 2020. They continued supporting the tourism industry while finding room for 60,000 unhoused individuals to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In doing so, the city expanded plans for hotel construction, creating a future pipeline of jobs and in-progress sites.

The work that began in 2019 will finish 139,000 new rooms in 2021, with a total of 114 new hotels across the city’s five boroughs. The widespread construction ensures a smooth tourism flow to other properties before the new sites become operational.

2. Dubai

The Expo 2020 will occur during Dubai’s peak 2021 tourism season. Experts expect the event to attract 25 million visitors during the six-month event period, which can only happen with enough hotel space. The city’s construction pipeline will complete 161 new hotels this year, with minimal construction occurring during peak travel times. Construction for this pipeline began four years ago, so the city only has to wrap up each project.

3. Shanghai

Shanghai is one of China’s most prominent business hubs. The hospitality market has to grow alongside the rise in business travel, which is why the city plans to finish nine hotels in 2021 with an extra 2,710 rooms. The majority will be four-star properties, speaking to the expectation of luxury in the bustling heart of Shanghai. Construction crews could only pull off projects of this size with well-trained teams dedicated to low-risk plans and minimizing guest disruptions.

4. Manchester

The growth of Manchester Airport and the city’s tourist attractions have created a growing need for additional hotel space. By the end of 2021, Manchester construction crews will build ten new properties and complete a 50% growth spurt by 2022. If the creation of new local festivals and the presence of film crews continue in Manchester, the city expects continued growth.

5. Hamburg

The Hamburg hotel pipeline includes plans for 197 hotels during 2021. Tourists continue to visit the city in waves to tour the famous port city and stop by the world-renowned concert hall. The extra 32,187 rooms will encourage even more visitors to fly in, whether it’s for fun or business.

6. Paris

Tourists will never lose fascination with Paris’s history, which shows in the city’s hotel construction pipeline. France will build 168 hotel properties in 2021, finishing 41 projects in Paris to open more rooms in the busy capitol. A continued boom in hotel growth is necessary to accommodate tourists and make up for historic hotels that frequently shut down rooms due to old pipe leaks and other age-related property maintenance.

Prepare for Anything

2020 reminded the world that no one knows what the future holds. Hotel owners and industry experts can watch these six cities with the largest hotel construction pipelines to see how their plans hold up with whatever 2021 has in store.

Study Reveals: These Languages Learners Give up Quickest

  • Arabic is the hardest language to learn, with learners giving up less than halfway through
  • Those trying their hand at Hindi also give up quickly – the average amount learned is just over half (51.9%)
  • Dutch language learners are least likely to give up – on average 89.7% of the way through their course
  • 42% of learners claim they gave up due to lack of motivation, with difficulty a close second (31%)
  • English is the global language of business, yet it places in 18th with only 59.6% completion on average

January is the month for new year’s resolutions, and an increasingly popular one is learning a new language. But while YouGov stated that a quarter of us didn’t keep any resolutions in 2020, which language learners are likely to give up first?

TheKnowledgeAcademy set out to find the answer. Calculating the average time taken to learn the top 20 languages in the world and surveying 6,250 individuals on when they quit, the easiest and hardest language to learn can be revealed!

Which language do learners give up quickest?

In last place, Arabic learners are likely to give up first. The unique alphabets, omitted vowels and unusual writing style can make Arabic incredibly difficult to learn, with TheKnowledgeAcademy finding that learners are likely to give up just 42.3% of the way through their course on average.

In 19th place is Vietnamese, natively spoken in Vietnam. As the most widely spoken Austroasiatic language, surprisingly it is the second hardest to learn in the study – most learners quit in the 26th week, achieving just 50% of the language.

Following Vietnamese is Hindi, an official language of India. Hindi’s complex calligraphy and grammatical structure means those studying it achieve just over half (51.9%) proficiency on average before giving up.

Russian claims 17th place as learners will give up after learning 53.8% of the language on average (28 weeks along).

Mandarin follows behind with 55.8% proficiency and English in 15th with 59.6%. English is the language of business across the world and many countries’ second official language, so it’s surprising to see learners giving up after just 31 weeks.

Which language learners will stick it out?

Those learning Dutch will continue the longest, according to TheKnowledgeAcademy. When asked, most quitters gave up after 26 out of the 29 estimated weeks required – that’s 89.7% of the way through.

In second place is Spanish. Its practicality and wide reach make it one of the easiest to learn – this is reflected in a success rate of 86.2% success rate according to those surveyed.

Other language learners least likely to give up early include:

  • Portuguese – 8% completion
  • Romanian – 3% completion
  • Italian – 9% completion

Why do learners give up?

After asking those surveyed why they gave up learning a language, the majority claim lack of motivation as the main reason (42%). This is followed by difficulty (31%), lack of resources (15%), inability to reach the next milestone in fluency (8%) and 4% claimed other reasons.

Finally of the 6,250 surveyed learners, 67% intend to try learning the language again at some point – 26% don’t and 7% stated they were unsure.

This research has been carried out by www.theknowledgeacademy.com

Post-Pandemic Travel: A Security Perspective

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on physical traveling, whether for business or private reasons like holidays. But switching to digital alternatives for meetings and communication still can’t cover all of the needs of our modern world. Meetings where a physical presence is required still exist, meaning trips are still in demand. The same goes for vacations, which will drive a recovery of the travel industry over the next years, particularly in light of recent success with a vaccine. Travel just may take on a slightly different shape. The impact of COVID will ultimately not only be seen on the physical aspects of travel, but also in the digital area, and there are new threats. Perhaps the biggest question moving forward will be one of privacy. 

Transparency 

For medical purposes, you have to register online to eat at a restaurant or write your name and address details on paper when entering a bar, you hand your personal data to unknown people. However, unavoidable tracking of physical location poses a huge threat to privacy, one that has not been solved. In fact, criminals may be able to access such data and use it to further attacks like phishing, spam or malware attacks like ransomware.

What’s more, some countries demand from travelers not only medical tests, but also that they share extensive amounts of private information, perhaps by forcing them to install Tracking Apps, which enable permanent, targeted surveillance. It is hard to foresee how long such policies are in place, but it may be here to stay in some countries.

Here are some other important considerations to keep in mind when staying at a hotel or a temporary location:

Your accommodation is not your home

You probably know the phrase “feels like home,” which hotels and other accommodation providers commonly use. To be honest, you should realize that it’s not your home! With the increase of smart technologies, you may be lost in all the technology you already have at home, but at places you don’t own, you have no control over the IoT-devices around you at all. Is there a smart TV with a camera in your room? What about smart air-controls, voice assistants, entertainment offerings and all the other small helpers integrated in modern accommodation rooms? All of them can be a threat to your privacy or cause a security problem if you connect your own devices to them. Even a power outlet with a USB port to charge your phone may be a risk either in terms of security or the physical health of your device. Hotels and event locations are also using the current period where there are few tourists to renovate and upgrade their venues, which means we may see more of such technologies integrated in the near future.

Self-service 

Nowadays, hotels and locations offer publicly accessible self-service kiosks – usually tablets or a computer. The idea is simple: you log in to your email account or wherever you may have stored your ticket, you open it, and print. This process may take a few minutes – but didn’t you forget anything? “Logout” and “Clear browsing data” may be forgotten due to stress while checking out. However, I’ve experienced many such devices that still retain full access to all data, like emails, documents, and your calendar, when you’re using accounts  of certain global service providers with a huge portfolio. This is not only a threat to your data, but also puts you at risk of your data being abused by criminals. They can send out spam or phishing emails to your contacts and social network.

Who is around you?

As a result of  COVID-19, many services, especially ticket sales and reservations, went from offline to online. Even before the pandemic, ensuring that you’re “talking” to the right person in the digital world was difficult, and in many cases phishers and other criminals abused this problem. People became even more vulnerable in 2020. Such criminals jumped on the pandemic topic and are trying to make a profit using social engineering to trick people. There have been cases of fake e-mails regarding cancelled flight refunds, fake messages from government entities and even those trying to sell fake equipment like masks. 

Conclusion

While the physical and digital world continue to merge further, security becomes more important than ever before. The pandemic forced the introduction of new restrictions and digital processes to protect citizens’  health, and this, in turn, has shaped the future of travel, either for business or holidays. The effects of 2020’s transformation on travel will last far beyond the end of the pandemic. Therefore, being protective about your own security, digitally and physically, is a necessity. The most fundamental precaution to take is to be aware of the risks and be cautious about your data and behavior.

Jaleel Holdings Partners with Softland to Digitalise Its Field Distribution

Jaleel Holdings, the UAE-based investment company with a turnover of AED 1.8 billion, has announced implementation of a Sales Force Automation program in partnership with Softland India. With this program, Jaleel becomes the first wholesale business in the region to adopt the latest Android mobile app technology for field operations and vehicles fleet management. 

Jaleel Holdings operates the region’s largest wholesale business and distribution of FMCG products, commodities, fresh fruits and vegetables with nearly 30,000 products covering over 15,000 businesses across the UAE.

Jaleel Holdings owns and operates Jaleel Cash & Carry, Jaleel Distribution, J-Mart Hypermarket, Jaleel Foodservice, Jaleel Fresh Produce, Jaleel Fruit & Vegetables, Al Jaleeb Trading, Eastern Condiments MENA, B&J Trading, Orbex General Trading and Jaleel Stratex. These businesses have a large number of daily transactions, using advanced technological solutions that are linked to a backend Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

Barato Software Solutions, a subsidiary of Softland India in UAE, introduced the latest digital tool ‘SIL SFA’ to the IT infrastructure of Jaleel Holdings aimed at transforming the daily distribution processes, which provides full control over the operations and helps to get a 360-degree view of the field activities of the salesforce and provide relevant data to them to take timely decisions.

Commenting on the new initiative, Mr. Sameer K Mohamed, Managing Director of Jaleel Holdings, said, “With the rapid developments in technology and the influence of E-commerce on the customer experience, it is imperative for us as a major wholesaler and distributor in the region, to digitalize our operations and remodel ourselves. This will keep us ahead of competition with increased productivity and new services. Technology is the biggest change architect in the modern businesses, and we are integrating the latest technological solutions to our business operations as well. We are happy to implement Softland solution in Jaleel Holdings aimed to enhance our field operations and offer better service to our customers.”

“We have reshaped the region’s wholesale industry for the past two decades by taking pioneering efforts to improve the service. Through these years, we kept re-inventing ourselves by constantly recreating our operational model and adapting new technological solutions to enable a faster, more accurate and cost-effective service. Moreover, the global pandemic has shifted priorities within the distribution and wholesale businesses. We, at Jaleel, feel proud to be the first FMCG business in the UAE to migrate the entire technological workload to Asia’s biggest tier-4 cloud solutions provider in 2017,” he added.

Mr. K Vinod, Executive Director at Softland India, said, “We are proud to implement the SIL SFA solution at Jaleel Holdings. This is a cutting-edge technological transformation, which receives master data from the ERP and makes it available in the Android devices of the field salesmen. This will enhance their day-to-day activities with van sales, billing, merchandising and so forth. The solution comprises of web-based backend application with an array of custom features for operations covering customer activities like order booking, billing, sales returns, payment collection, promotions and product and customer surveys”.

Mr. AbdulGafoor K Mohamed, Executive Director of Jaleel Holdings, said, “Automation of the wholesale field distribution will streamline our B2B sales, increase productivity at a team level, add transparency to the sales process, optimize and harmonize company-wide cooperation that are monitored with the real-time data made available to the sales operations”.

According to him, the sales and delivery team spend a considerable amount of time on the field, visiting customers. “If the time spent enroute is optimised, the sales force can execute their job better and faster. Consequently, a higher number of customers can be served daily resulting in operational and financial benefits.” 

This is a major functional restructuring in the business, after Jaleel Holdings shifted its corporate headquarters to MVK Central in Majan Dubai from its longtime operational base at Al Aweer Central Fruit & Vegetable Market in Ras Al Khor. Jaleel offers a high degree of personalized service to grocers, supermarkets, hypermarkets, convenience stores; and the hotels, restaurants and catering (HoReCa) segment.

Al-Awadhi New RVP for Africa and Middle East

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that Kamil H. Al-Awadhi will be appointed IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and Middle East (AME), effective 1 March 2021. 

Al-Awadhi succeeds Muhammad Albakri who will become IATA’s Senior Vice-President for Customer, Financial, and Digital Services (CFDS), also effective 1 March 2021. As previously announced, Albakri will replace Aleks Popovich in the CFDS role upon his retirement.

Most recently, Al-Awadhi was CEO of Kuwait Airways, a responsibility he held from November 2018 through August 2020. That capped a 31-year career at Kuwait Airways during which his positions included Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer. Al-Awadhi has also held several positions in the areas of safety, security, quality management and enterprise resource planning.

At IATA, Al-Awadhi will lead the Association’s activities across AME from its regional office in Amman, Jordan. He will report to the IATA Director General and CEO and join IATA’s Strategic Leadership Team.

“Muhammad has reinforced IATA’s strong presence in the AME region. As he moves to take on the challenges of leading our CFDS activities, Muhammad will leave in place a strong team for the capable leadership of Kamil. Kamil is an industry veteran who brings a tremendous depth of airline expertise and regional experience. These will be critical in leading IATA’s activities in the AME region at this very challenging time. As a former CEO, he knows what member airlines expect of IATA. And, I have no doubt that Kamil has the skills and determination to exceed those expectations as we aim to reconnect the world amid the coronavirus pandemic,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“I look forward to getting started at IATA. Like all regions, AME will need a strong air transport industry to kick-start the economic recovery from COVID-19. The priority to revive aviation is clear and IATA is at the center of this effort. There is no time to waste. We must help governments to re-open borders without quarantine and we need to ensure that the industry is ready to safely scale-up operations and implement the global standards that will keep passenger and crew safe during the pandemic and beyond,” said Al-Awadhi.

A national of Kuwait, Al-Awadhi holds an MBA in Aerospace Management from the Toulouse Business School and an Engineering degree in Aircraft Maintenance Management from Air Service Training (AST) in the UK.

Huawei Hosts Second Middle East IP Technology Summit

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd hosted the second edition of the Middle East IP GALA Summit. Held virtually, the summit entitled “Intelligent Connectivity, Enabling All Industries” saw the participation of Huawei IP product line experts, IDC analysts, and leaders from mainstream carriers in the Middle East.

In his opening speech, Vanness You, Vice President of Huawei ME Marketing and Solutions, said: “Industries in the Middle East are on the path to digital transformation and new services such as VR, AR, 5G will change the human society. Network is the foundation empowering all Industries and is the key in unleash any potential. As more aggressive services come in to cater to the SLA requirements, it’s quite essential that we continue our research in networking technologies such as slicing, intelligence, and programmability along with engineering methodologies and system architecture.”

Kevin Hu, President of Huawei Datacom Product Line, shared Huawei’s vision of building a better connected and intelligent Middle East. During his speech, he emphasized on the significance of digital transformation and how carriers would become a part of it as a key enabler.

The massive roll out of 5G use cases, adoption of cloud and increasing end-user service experience expectations require an intelligent IP network that can provide ubiquitous capacity, seamless experience, and IPv6+ technologies.

Hugh Ujhazy, Vice President of IDC Telecommunications and IoT, introduced the standards of KAI bearer networks for the 5G era.

According to IDC, the combination of DX technologies (5G, cloud, IoT, and AI) would have a significant impact on all industries. Based on IDC research, telecom carriers face four challenges: surge in traffic and connections, flat revenue, and rising OPEX and CAPEX. To achieve the optimal transport network, IDC proposed a comprehensive indicator model that measures the transport network in five dimensions: Congestion Free, Always On, Scalable, Simplified, and Intelligent (CASSI Model).

Tony Hu, Vice President of Huawei Datacom Product Line, introduced the Target IP network towards 2025. Carrier networks are undergoing many changes and need to clearly define the vision for the next 5 or even 10 years. In-depth network convergence integrates mobile and fixed infrastructures to serve end-users and prepare for digital transformation of vertical industries in the future. From the perspective of architecture, Huawei proposes that the target IP network 2025 addresses all challenges and can guarantee a deterministic experience with intelligent operations.

Hacken Li, CTO of Huawei Datacom Product Line, introduced key technologies of next-generation intelligent IP networks. When it comes to autonomous vehicles, autonomous driving networks require 400GE and hardware slicing for a wider road with dedicated lanes, SRv6 as navigation, and iFIT as a sensor to bring massive data to the AI-based brain which ultimately makes the network smarter.

Carrier Pioneers such as STC Kuwait and Zain KSA introduced their network practices in building the next generation intelligent IP network.

As the summit concluded, carriers and industry experts agreed on how to drive the network transformation towards an intelligent era. Huawei reiterated its commitment towards cooperating with carriers and partners in building an intelligent IP network that can achieve a win-win future.

British Businesses Can Showcase a Shared Future in the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022

How can businesses work together to solve global challenges? How will humanity come together to recover from the first global pandemic of the 21st century?  What’s the next British innovation set to change the world? These are just some of the ideas that will be explored as part of an exciting programme of activity set to take place in the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, now opening on 1 October 2021.

With more than 190 participating countries, Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region and the largest event ever to take place in the Arab world. Expo 2020 Dubai offers an unrivalled opportunity for businesses of all sizes to engage with a wide audience, potential investors and new customer base.

Under the theme of ‘Innovating for a Shared Future’, the UK’s presence at Expo 2020 Dubai will explore solutions to global challenges, profile British businesses from the world of travel, food and drink, fashion, education and more. Throughout the six-month event, the UK Pavilion will showcase the UK’s strengths in sectors such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and space to visitors. it will also promote the UK as a world-class destination for trade, investment, education and tourism.

Hosting a business event within the spectacular UK Pavilion will enable organisations to showcase new innovations, drive thought-leadership, network with both new and established business connections, find new customers and collaborate with likeminded people from across the globe.

The UK Pavilion has been designed by Avantgarde, the leading global brand experience agency, working with lead designer and artist Es Devlin OBE, best known for her stage sets co-created with musicians including Beyonce, U2 and Adele.

Laura Faulkner OBE, UK Commissioner for Expo 2020 Dubai, says, “This is the most extensive and prestigious UK presence at a World Expo since we hosted the first ever Great Exhibition in London in 1851. As we embark on a new era of global free trade, this is the perfect opportunity for forward-thinking UK businesses to find new partners, customers and collaborators from around the world.”

After winning a competition to design the UK Pavilion at Astana Expo 2017, award-winning British architect Asif Khan has been commissioned to create 21-metre tall Entry Portals and over 6km of concourses and arrival areas the public realm for Expo 2020 Dubai.

Speaking on his previous collaboration with the UK Government, Asif said:
“It was a privilege to represent the UK on a global stage like Astana Expo 2017 through designing the UK Pavilion. The awards and visitors that it received certainly opened up my work to a broader international audience and helped me and the team to develop new relationships, some of which evolved into future design commissions.”

For more information about UK businesses can get involved, to register your interest in taking part and to take a virtual tour of the UK Pavilion, please visit: https://www.great.gov.uk/expo2020 

Join the conversation on Twitter at @UKPavilion2020 #Expo2020 #UKSoundscape

Africa’s MARA Phones Exports to the UK

Africa’s biggest home-grown smartphone manufacturer, Mara Phones, has notched up an impressive development with its first shipment of devices to the United Kingdom. This first export by an African handset manufacturer to the UK follows the appointment of Livewire as a Mara Phones distributor for the UK.

“Mara Phones offers the UK mobile consumer that appealing mix of quality and affordability at a time when good value really matters. We are pleased to now be able to offer an excellent product much greater global reach,” says Richard Gallant, CEO of Livewire. From its incorporation in the UK in 1999, Livewire Telecom Ltd is today a global leader in the distribution of mobile devices and is recognised as such by all the major manufacturers, which now include Mara Phones.

Rona Kotecha, Executive Director, Mara Phones UK and EU thanked Livewire and UK customers for their confidence in Mara Phones devices.  Mara Phones has strong ethos around business and social impact, which appeals to the more conscious consumer and we are thrilled to be able to establish an official presence here.” The appointment of Livewire as Mara Phones’ official representative in the UK means customers can rest assured on the support element from the smartphone manufacturer’s authorised representatives.

The current shipment of Mara Phones was produced in Rwanda with the firm having also opened a South African smartphone manufacturing facility last year in the city of Durban, which has Africa’s biggest port. According to Eddy Sebera, Managing Director of Mara Phones Rwanda: “The achievement of exporting state-of-the-art devices to the world’s most advanced mobile market belongs to all Africans.” Mara Phones was the first local company to launch high-tech smartphone manufacturing facilities on the African Continent.

Jo Lomas, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda offered her support and congratulated Mara Phones on this accomplishment.  “I was very excited to hear that Mara Phones, made in Rwanda and supported by British investment, are now being exported to the UK. This is a great example of the trade and investment relationship the UK wants to continue growing with Rwanda, creating skilled jobs and valuable exports and demonstrating Rwanda’s role as one of Africa’s innovation and technology leaders.”

The first Mara Phones factory was opened in Rwanda on 07 October 2019 by His Excellency President Paul Kagame and the second one in South Africa on 17 October 2019 by His Exellency President Cyril Ramaphosa. Mara Phones is committed to helping deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by finding innovative solutions to global problems and have aligned its efforts to the SDG’s that mirror their business strategy; namely SDG 5, 8, 9, 10 and 17. The smartphone manufacturer has adopted progressive gender equality and employment equity initiatives in all its operations and both factories in Rwanda and South Africa each employ over 60% women and over 90% youth.

In 2019 at Geneva, Switzerland, Invest Durban & Dube TradePort were selected as one of the winners of the 2019 United Nations Investment Promotion Awards for their submission on Mara Phones as a successful foreign direct investment project within Special Economic Zones in key Sustainable Developmental Goals in South Africa.

Mara Phones is committed to developing affordable, high quality smartphones equipped with the latest technology and now available to UK customers through Mara Phones’ website.

MoHAP showcases its expanded telemedicine and digital health services at GITEX

MoHAP’s upgraded telemedicine service includes all medical consultation services and constant follow-up, based on the audio and visual communication between patients and their attending doctors without the need to leave their homes.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the ministry has been keen to boost its telemedicine system to ensure the safety of community members, reduce health risks, and mitigate the burden of commuting between hospitals and outpatient clinics. MoHAP has developed more than one way to enable patients to communicate with doctors, whether by sending an electronic link to patients’ phones reminding them of the appointment or by directly contacting MoHAP’s hotline number. This has contributed to ensuring the continuity of providing patients with top-notch health services.

At present, telemedicine services include cardiology, pediatrics, internal medicine and nutrition, and remote mental health services, such as psycho-social support, rehabilitation programs for drug-addicted patients, and other psychiatric departments and community psychiatry of different age groups, such as adults, the elderly, children, and adolescents.

The service is also featuring motherhood, childhood, public health, and disease prevention educational programs, with the availability of video calling services to connect patients with abroad consultants to get remote 2nd opinion consultations in critical conditions, as part of the Visiting Doctors Program. At the end of the second quarter, the number of virtual visits has amounted to 44,529, while it jumped to 49,599 visits at the end of the third quarter.

Leveraging digital solutions in treatment services

His Excellency Dr. Youssif Al Serkal, Director-General of the Emirates Health Services Corporation, said: “MoHAP is committed to developing innovative tools and smart services befitting all circumstances, as well as providing high-quality health and treatment advisory services, by leveraging smart technologies in digitizing health services according to the most sophisticated global practices.”

“In line with the directions of the UAE government to improve the quality of life and the sustainability of health care, we provide smart preventive home services to patients, senior citizens and people of determination, using the AI technology and telemedicine devices, virtual and augmented reality, and home care tools and devices,” he added.

In this regard, the Ministry was keen to make the most of the latest technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to meet the needs of patients, support future medical decisions, and cut down health care costs.

Al Serkal went on to say: “Over the years, MoHAP’s telemedicine and health consultation services have constituted a key pillar in supporting the UAE strategy for artificial intelligence to invest in and apply the latest technology tools and in the health sector.”

Concluding his remarks, Al-Serkal affirmed that MoHAP has state-of-the-art technological infrastructure the presence of a highly competent medical and technical staff who are capable of dealing with telemedicine services, at a time when global health facilities are facing formidable challenges to prepare for the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Top-notch health services

Dr. Kalthoum Al Baloushi, Director of MoHAP’s Hospitals Administration, said: “To provide patients with top-notch health services, we have applied the latest technology in our telemedicine services. This has helped us provide 24/7 medical consultations since the Covid-19 outbreak, in addition to increasing our outreach activities via media outlets and SMS, as well as MoHAP’s website and social media platforms.”

“Such efforts have contributed to strengthening MoHAP’s efforts to spread the telemedicine culture and figuring out solutions to tackle the technical challenges faced by the elderly in cooperation with family members to facilitate communication and provide comprehensive and integrated health care to them,” she added.

UAE business reforms are ‘game-changing’ for its intl competitive advantage

Landmark business reforms in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will prompt an “unprecedented explosion” of foreign direct investment in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and will cement their growing status as major international financial centres.
 
The bold prediction is from Nigel Green, the founder and CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.
 
It follows His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announcing on Monday amendments to the law regarding business ownership.
 
Under the new legislation, the UAE will allow 100% ownership of businesses for foreign nationals from December 1, 2020. Previously, all businesses were required to have a UAE citizen sponsor.
 
Mr Green notes: “Dubai and Abu Dhabi are already recognised as two of the most powerful business and financial hubs in the world by international investors who are lured by the incredible possibilities offered in terms of finance, trade and commerce, plus the famous ‘can do’ attitude and the low tax environment in these destinations.
 
“This appeal has just sky-rocketed further due to the reform of the business ownership law, which now permits businesses to be fully owned by foreign nationals.
 
“We can now expect an unprecedented explosion of foreign direct investment in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and they will further cement their growing status as major international financial centres.”
 
He continues: “This is especially the case after the UAE government in September changed legislation so that expatriates are now legally able to remain in the country long after they retire.”
 
Earlier this year, the deVere CEO said that over the next decade, the UAE will  become one of the world’s top ten international financial hubs to rival and more aggressively compete with stalwarts such as London, New York and Hong Kong.”
 
He noted: “Dubai and Abu Dhabi are helped in this regard by having an independent regulator, an independent judicial system, a global financial exchange, a stable, pro-business government, a high proposition of high net worth individuals, a dynamic business community, world-class infrastructure and telecommunications, English as its defacto business language, and their enviable geographical location and time zone.”
 
During the height of the pandemic deVere announced it is to develop a major digital finance and fintech operation from its Dubai base.
 
Mr Green concludes: “This reform has just significantly boosted the UAE’s already substantial competitive advantage.  This is a game-changer.”

Mauritius PM calls for equitable distribution of vaccines internationally at WISH 2020 Summit

Pravind Jugnauth urges global coordinated efforts to contain virus outbreak.

A strong public healthcare infrastructure and the development of a multi-layered response driven by scientific and medical data lie at the core of every successful effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, Hon. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, told participants at the World Innovation Summit for Health.

Speaking at the closing day of the fifth edition of Qatar Foundation’s WISH 2020 summit, Jugnauth shared with attendees how the small but connected island nation of Mauritius succeeded in containing the virus.

Mauritius, which hosts over 1.3 million tourists annually and has a relatively ageing population with a high percentage of diabetes and cardiovascular morbidity, scored a perfect 100 on the Oxford University Stringency Index that tracks government policy and action with regard to COVID-19.

“Considering our circumstances, our response has been heralded as one of the most efficient in the world as we managed to contain, in a matter of six weeks, the virus which reached our shores on the 18th of March,” the prime minister noted.

Mauritius’ success rested on a multi-layered response that featured the implementation of strict protocols with regard to sanitary measures at entry points and a very strict policy of PCR testing, quarantine, isolation, and treatment as part of the government’s containment strategy, the prime minister explained.

Nevertheless, the unprecedented scope and magnitude of pandemic, continued to pose challenges for Mauritius, the prime minister added, referring to the impact of the pandemic on the island’s economy “with the drying up of international visitor numbers, in terms of both business and tourism.”

To mitigate this inevitable slowdown, Mauritius said his government is providing significant economic, income and job support to affected sectors of the economy to ensure that the country weathers these challenging times. 

“As a centrepiece of our own recovery policy, my Government is committed to injecting significant national resources which will total almost 30% of the country’s GDP, to support and build the economic recovery of Mauritius,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also laid bare the inequalities that exist among nations, the prime minister emphasized, urging fair and equal access to safe, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines.

“Such an access is key to change the course of the pandemic and help countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts, move toward a resilient recovery,” he said, calling for global leadership and a coordinated response to ensure that any approved vaccine is distributed equitably. 

“We commend here the World Health Organization for coordinating global efforts, in collaboration with GAVI, to develop a vaccine, through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility,” he said.

Despite its limited resources, Jugnauth said Mauritius has pre-ordered vaccines, under the COVAX initiative, for 20 percent of the population, focused on vulnerable and front-line staff.

The prime minister ended his remarks on a positive note, highlighting a growing interest from young people to continue their education, training and careers in medicine and public health as well as STEM subjects. 

“If one thing positive can come out from 2020 – it is that adversity builds commitment, and hope brings resilience.  This is a war that we, and specially our youth, will not forget and will grow from,” he said.

WISH is Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative. For more information on WISH, visit: wish.org.qa

Formula 1 Grand Prix’s Champion is Both Istanbul and Hamilton

The Istanbul phase of Formula 1, the world’s biggest motorsports event has been completed. Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton has won the season’s 14th race in Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix.  The victory marks Hamilton’s fourth consecutive world championship and his 7th in total. With this win, Hamilton has also equaled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles. The awards were presented by Prof. Dr. Mustafa Sentop, the Speaker of Turkish Parliament.

Last year with more than 15 million visitors, Istanbul became the 8th most attractive destination in the world and after 9 years, the city hosted Formula 1 once again. Over 2 billion people from 200 different countries watched Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix that was co-sponsored by Turkey Tourism Promotion and Development Agency (TGA) and T.R. Ministry of Culture and Tourism. (the two founding partner sponsors)

Noting that he loves and travels to Turkey’s Southern and Aegean coasts frequently in a statement, Lewis Hamilton said that he is impressed by the history of Turkey and the fact that each city in the country has different textures. Hamilton also said that there is no better place than Turkey for championship. On his Twitter account, Hamilton shared his joy with a series of photos taken after he won the title and wrote “A day I’ll never forget”.

2 billion people watched the race on TV

The video featuring Red Bull Racing and Alpha Tauri F1 teams were filmed at various places in Istanbul including July 15 Martyr’s Bridge, Topkapi Palace and Sultanahmet Square. The video was first streamed on Formula 1’s social media accounts on Thursday, November the 12th.

Formula 1 Grand Prix promotional videos were streamed first on F1’s official social media and then on numerous TV and YouTube channels. While the video promoting the collaboration between Formula 1  and GoTurkey got more than 2 million views on Turkey’s official tourism website GoTurkey.com’s YouTube account, the F1 promotional video got more than 5 million views on Formula 1’s official social media accounts.

In addition to Formula 1, Turkey has previously hosted many global sports events, including the 2005 Champions League Final, the 2009 UEFA Cup Final, the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championship, the 2017 Euro League Final Four, the 2019 UEFA Super Cup and most recently the 2020 WRC Rally Championship in September.

SA Company Launches A World First: AI-Based Risk Screening Mobile App – Key for Covid-19

The Instant Vitals app converts a mobile phone into a key vital signs medical device that could save lives when screening for Covid-19 symptoms. The AI screening and risk management app safeguards people through detection of health risks by measuring key vital sign indicators.

South African company, UC-Wireless (Pty) Ltd, has launched Instant Vitals, the world’s first smart mobile-based app that provides advanced healthcare risk wellness and Covid-19 screening for business staff, clients and personal users. The app screens the main recognised symptoms and measures vital signs, which are key early indicators for health risk especially Covid-19, including oxygen saturation, heart rate and respiratory rate, using the mobile phone’s camera and Artificial Intelligence (AI) incorporated into the app, turning mobile devices into an easy-to-use clinical tool exhibiting an acceptable standard of medical device accuracy.

The presentation of Covid-19 in respect of the various signs and symptoms from several reviews, studies and reports, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), state that temperature measurement alone is ineffective in detecting a possible Covid-19 infection. Asymptomatic patients don’t reveal symptoms and aren’t aware of an infection. There’s proof that the critical early warning signs of Covid-19, include a reduction in oxygen saturation (below 95%), and/or a high resting heart rate (above 100 beats per minute), or an increase in respiratory rate (above 20 breaths per minute) in a resting person.

It has been indicated that temperature checks alone have had their own limitations in screening. In recent weeks, the WHO and medical experts from across the globe, including Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, Jim Seffrin, an expert on infrared devices at the Infraspection Institute in New Jersey, and Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed the ineffectiveness of temperature screening. They report that temperature checks are unreliable for detecting Covid-19 symptoms in people as temperature and fever often do not exhibit, or it is detected late in the disease progression as infected individuals may be in the incubation period, or they may not exhibit symptoms in the course of the disease. 

Fauci describes the adoption of infrared thermometers in safety protocols, as theatrical, while Tam said, “The more you actually understand this virus, the more you begin to know the temperature taking is not effective at all.” 

This can only mean that a lot of cases are being missed at the screening points, especially considering the effects of the external environmental elements that can alter the skin temperature in comparison to real body temperature. Measuring temperature is still important; however, its ineffectiveness highlights the need for the advanced screening that Instant Vitals now presents together with its integrated QR Code mechanism to manage access to businesses and venues.

The Instant Vitals app and its embedded AI were designed in collaboration with medical doctors, engineers, professors, and digital and tech experts. Instant Vitals extracts vital signs with good clinical lab-tested accuracy within approximately 20 – 50 seconds by processing video which the AI detects from skin regions of the face. Instant Vitals supports any age, gender and skin colour. It runs like any other app on a mobile phone or tablet. The app calculates a risk status from the vital signs and the answers to the screening questions, which are encrypted and stored in the Instant Vitals secure cloud service for each person.

Once individual and organisation licenses are purchased and registered on the app, Instant Vitals generates a unique encrypted QR code for each person’s device for screening. When the QR code is scanned, and the symptom questionnaire is completed, the vital signs are measured. It’s a simple step-by-step process. The information captured is kept private; it’s POPIA and EU-GDPR compliant. The only data made available publicly is the person’s risk status at the point of entry when their QR code or mobile number (for visitors) is provided for screening. The organisations using Instant Vitals for their business premises can see risk status reporting on their Instant Vitals dashboard.

The risk status of screened individuals is flagged as green (healthy), amber (caution; vital signs and/or symptoms are not normal but not high risk) or red (one or more vital signs and/or symptoms are indicating a risk which should be referred for medical attention or diagnosis). The app also shows a critical status, which is an extreme red status and means urgent medical treatment should be sought by the individual, based on the vital signs measured and symptoms analysed by the app. Those whose risk results are red or critical status should be referred for Covid-19 testing. The app can save lives by alerting individuals at risk when they screen to get to medical attention in time. The app is not intended to replace medical advice, therefore individuals should consult with qualified health care professionals for diagnosis and advice.

Instant Vitals was developed by UC-Wireless as a health and wellness risk management solution, incorporating its licensed AI technology. UC-Wireless has been registered with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) as a manufacturer incorporating the certified AI and the app Instant VitalsTM. Global adoption for the AI is in place with organisations, including Canada Health and NHS. This licenced technology meets the requirements of global accuracy regulations and applications for approvals from the FDA and CE are in progress. Further global adoption of Instant Vitals in Africa, APAC, Europe and North America is already well underway. 

Quentin Daffarn, managing director of UC-Wireless, says, “There are so many benefits for personal and multi-person entry screening using the Instant Vitals app. Because it detects key vital signs, which indicate risks as early as possible, it can minimise the risk of cross-infection, and consequences such as business downtime, loss of skills and sales. The benefits of business continuity through the general health and wellness monitoring tool for early detection minimizes compromised individuals from putting others at risk of infection when accessing public places. Peace of mind is a significant benefit with the easing of the lockdown restrictions across the world as more people to return back to work.

The app caters for mass QR code scanning by individuals who screened at home. It also enables screening for visitors and staff without phones at corporate offices, restaurants, retail stores, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, public transport facilities, schools, universities, airports, industrial sites and mines, amongst others.”

Dr T L Legodi, professional consultant, clinical advisor and partner involved in the clinical aspects of the development of the app with UC-Wireless, did an extensive literature survey of over 63 recent medical papers and publications, where she states in her conclusion that, “The complications of Covid-19 include acute respiratory distress syndrome which in itself has hypoxia1 as its main feature with most of the deaths resulting due to this complication.” She added, “Instant Vitals can save lives through widespread screening and detect risks before it’s too late.”

Two licence options (a personal app and business screening verifier app, including the dashboard) are available. The app will be accessed from the Apple iStore and Google Play store. The licenses will initially be available via resellers and partners of UC-Wireless across Africa and globally.

For more information, visit https://instant-vitals.com/

MEA Markets Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2020 African Excellence Awards

United Kingdom, 2020– MEA Markets magazine announces the winners of the 2020 African Excellence Business Awards.

This year, more than any other, it has been easy to ignore the everyday successes in favour of the overwhelming uncertainty. Yet, there are stories deserving of celebrating all over the world. Countries, continents and regions who are quietly persevering, and even thriving where others are seeing difficulty. The continent of Africa is one of those places that has – seemingly without fanfare and against expectation- seen extraordinary success. While we have, for the last four years at least, endeavoured to recognise businesses across Africa for their entrepreneurial spirit, this year’s programme hits a little differently. African businesses, so long defined by innovation and adaptation, are using the skills at their disposal to generate growth.

As such, the 2020 programme remains a steadfast reminder of the brilliance of African business.  Here, Awards Coordinator Laura Hunter took a moment to comment on the success of the winners: “This has been a year to remember for a variety of reasons. Yet, all of those recognised in this programme have thrived where so many would have failed. I am very proud of all of you and I wish you the very best of luck for the year ahead.”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit http://www.mea-markets.com/ where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.

ENDS

Notes to editors.

About MEA Markets

Published quarterly, MEA Markets endeavours to provide readers with the latest business and investment news across the Middle East and Africa regions.

Keeping pace with a vast array of ever-changing sectors thanks to regular contributions from some of the region’s top corporate professionals across a variety of industries, MEA Markets is home to the very best news, features and comment from the people and institutions in the know.

75% of HR Executives in Saudi Focus on Wellbeing, Safeguarding Employees

The other top-ranked initiatives are adopting digital technologies to support remote working and collaboration (50%).

Almost 40% of organizations in Saudi Arabia are adapting to the new reality phase to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, as the workforce will change “shape” dramatically over the next two years, according to the response of Saudi-based Human Resources (HR) executives who took part in the KPMG 2020 HR Pulse Survey in July/August.

Almost 75% of HR executives in the Kingdom, compared to 47.1% globally, believed in taking steps to safeguard the experience and wellbeing of employees to deal with the implications of COVID-19 and moving to a new reality in the next two years.

The other top-ranked initiatives are adopting digital technologies to support remote working and collaboration (50%), reducing costs to accommodate organizational financial realities (50%) and helping leaders develop new management and leadership skills to support remote working (25%).

“HR must swiftly transition from putting out the fires of COVID-19 impact and its aftermath and switch to playing the long game of shaping the workforce of the future for their enterprises. This journey will require new mindsets, priorities, methodologies, and skills,” said Nazeeh Abdullah, Head of People & Change Advisory at KPMG in Saudi Arabia.

“As we navigate the current situation and adapt to the new remote virtual way of working, we want to help all employees to be safe and healthy, digitally ready and actively engaged. Sustaining a sense of team and managing this unique experience is critical in today’s changing environment,” he noted.

The top skills required by the HR function are managing performance and productivity in a predominantly remote environment (75%), deploying digital HR service management (75%) and delivering transformational change management (50%).

Almost 50% of the respondents agreed that the HR in the organization is largely considered to be an “administrator” rather than a value drive, compared to 34% globally, while 50% of Saudi respondents (35% globally) strongly agreed that HR in the organization played a vital role in establishing the right culture.

Nearly 63% of local respondents admitted that the HR function needs to completely reinvent and transform itself, to respond more effectively to future disruption such as another pandemic. Meanwhile, 75% of the Saudi HR executives considered the HR function needs to rethink productivity and performance measures in light of the shift to increased remote working.

Almost 63% of respondents from the Kingdom were confident that their organizations can attract, retain and develop the talent it needs to meet growth objectives, as 75% local HR executives agreed that their organization is confident about growth prospects, despite the COVID-19 challenges.

Nearly 25% of HR executives from Saudi Arabia expected 51 to 60% of the total workforce will need to be reskilled or upskilled, covering all areas of reskilling, including new digital capabilities.

“The pandemic has presented the HR function with an opportunity to be a preeminent value driver. It is time to rise to the challenge and shape the workforce of the future to help build successful and innovative companies,” Nazeeh Abdullah concluded.

The HR Pulse 2020 survey covers 1,288 HR executives in 59 countries and territories (with majority representing from the largest economies in the world) and 31 key industry sectors (such as asset management, automotive, banking, consumer and retail, energy, infrastructure, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, technology, and telecommunications).

A third of the companies (33%) surveyed are C-suite, and 29% are HR executives such as senior vice presidents. Approximately 32% of companies surveyed report annual revenue of more than US$1 billion. The survey was conducted from July 21 to August 7.

The Future of Storage Lies in the Hybrid Cloud

By: Claude Schuck, Regional Manager – Middle East, Veeam

Digital transformation, IT modernization and data growth are challenges that IT managers face every day. A sophisticated IT strategy based on modern storage technology can help to solve many problems, but what can be expected from storage solutions in the future?

Before dealing with the trends in the area of storage, it is important to clearly understand the current IT requirements in companies and how data is used. Business data and applications are becoming increasingly important, as their constant availability and uninterrupted use are fundamental to business continuity and success. However, the reality is that organizations still have work to do in this area. According to the Veeam 2020 Data Protection Trends Report, the vast majority (95%) of global organizations suffer unexpected outages each year – problems that last for hours and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars: an hour of downtime from a High Priority application is estimated to cost $67,651, while this number is $61,642 for a Normal application. These costs also clearly prove that “all data matters” and that downtime is intolerable and has a huge impact on today’s digitally-driven business world.

For storage and data management, this means that the exponentially growing data volumes not only have to be constantly maintained, stored and restored as quickly as possible in the event of downtime, but that data losses should be kept to a pre-calculated minimum. Veeam’s research goes on to show that over half (51%) of organizations in the Middle East and Africa region have a “protection gap” between how frequently data is backed-up versus how much data they can afford to lose after an outage. On average, 19% of these regional organizations’ data is not backed up at all, which is higher than the global average of 14% and brings these organization into a vulnerable position not to be able to recover data after any outage which ultimately puts their business operations at risk.

The Drivers

Particularly in the business environment, criteria have developed which have high priority. It is about flexibility, the potential to free up additional capacities in order to focus on the core business and the possibilities to complement existing IT architectures.

These influences have had a decisive impact on the development of hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures, leading storage providers to make corresponding adjustments. Both approaches meet the needs and demands of end-customers for maximum flexibility. From today’s perspective, this trend will continue – this is clearly demonstrated by Hyperscalers, the largest buyers of hard disk drives.

The topic of security also has a significant influence on storage technology. The question is no longer whether one is affected by ransomware, but rather when it happens. This requires an approach that allows an immediate response. This is the origin of the Immutable Object Storage, which prevents data from being accessed or modified. Such solutions will certainly establish themselves as standard.

The rapid data growth must be addressed with an adequate strategy and comprehensive data management. The trend towards ever faster and larger systems will be unstoppable, as they create the prerequisites for keeping data available at all times.

And finally, external conditions such as data protection and compliance requirements also play a major role as companies rethink their IT strategies and consider the implementation of new technologies.

The Potentials

Simplicity, ease of use and cost transparency are currently the most important forces for change in the IT landscape. This is confirmed in the storage area, where the well-known storage silos are slowly disappearing, and synergies are creating new capacities. According to a recent report from Coherent Market Insights, the GCC and Levant’s data storage market is set to reach a record-high of $8.5 billion by 2027, nearly tripling from $2.9 billion in 2019.

Here, software-defined and agnostic solutions are promising and positively anticipated, as the dependencies between end customers and a hardware provider are receding into the background. The already established Software, Platform and Infrastructure-as-a-Service models will continue to be used more and more effectively.

In the end, innovations relating to the cloud will provide further impetus that will define and change the use of classic storage systems in the future.

Mogadishu-Based Amana Bank Signs Comprehensive Software Deal with Path Solutions

Amana Bank, a leading Islamic bank in Somalia has announced that it has selected iMAL, the AAOIFI-certified core banking platform from Path Solutions to replace its legacy IT system and deploy a single, cloud-based digital banking platform to underpin its banking operations.

This is Path Solutions’ third win in Somalia after Premier Bank and MyBank Ltd. The company went through a lengthy competitive bidding to which all international suppliers were invited, before being selected as Amana Bank’s preferred technology partner.  

According to a statement following the signing, Path Solutions will supply and install its flagship Islamic core banking platform iMAL in addition to its comprehensive digital suite at Amana Bank Somalia. The new digital software will provide instant 24/7 service availability with fast, inexpensive, easy and convenient online banking, frictionless payments and transfers, personalization, engagement and retention.

Abdirizak Hussein Malin, Chairman of Amana Bank Somalia commented, “As part of our strategy, Amana Bank has instituted a digital transformation plan that will help us meet the emerging needs of our customers and the increasing demands of innovation. Consequently, we required a partner with open and agile technology that will drive powerful change. We have chosen Path Solutions for its ability to deliver vital digital financial solutions at this critical time with its depth of experience supporting Islamic banks in Africa. The company has differentiated itself from other vendors in its unique ability to combine core Islamic values with modern digital banking solutions, and to fully comply with Sharia and banking regulations. We are confident that the new technology, proven to significantly improve levels of customer fulfilment, will transform our operations by driving incredible efficiency gains while also reducing risk, lowering overall IT costs via higher automation and lower maintenance spending”.

The new iMAL platform leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to help financial institutions get predictive insights for better data-driven decision making. It will also help strengthen customer loyalty through enhanced security transactions.

“We are delighted to partner with a leading Islamic bank in Somalia on a project that will set a new standard in digital banking for the country. Today, every financial institution has an incredible opportunity to apply advances in cloud computing to redefine every aspect of its business”, said Mohammed Kateeb, Path Solutions’ Group Chairman & CEO. “Somalia’s Amana Bank is a good example of this transformation to drive innovation forward and ensure much more secure banking experience, enabling customers to enjoy the nuances of non-stop banking with cloud-based services. The bank will also benefit from the full Islamic coverage which bridges the gap between modern customer requirements and intrinsic Islamic values. Our multi-award winning Islamic core banking platform will support the delivery of innovative digital products that are both Sharia-compliant and specialized for Amana Bank’s retail and corporate customers”.

The new agreement was signed by Amana Bank’s Chairman Abdirizak Hussein Malin and Path Solutions’ Group Chairman & CEO Mohammed Kateeb on Sunday 6 September at Path Solutions’ Dubai office. The implementation will be delivered 100% in the cloud and 100% remotely amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.

LNG Project Could Be Transformational for Mozambique If Environmentalists Don’t Interfere

Two additional LNG projects have been announced since then: the $4.7 billion Coral FLNG Project by ENI and ExxonMobil, and the $30 billion Rovuma LNG Project by ExxonMobil, ENI, and the China National Petroleum Corporation. While these two have been postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the original LNG Mozambique project has been moving forward.

French oil major Total acquired the project and finalized project funding in July, even in the face of recent terror attacks in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, where Total’s LNG plant will be constructed.

That’s why it’s so disheartening to learn that a UK-based environmental group is pursuing actions that could jeopardize the project’s timely progression, all in the name of preventing climate change. Friends of the Earth has said it will initiate a legal challenge against the UK’s decision to provide $1 billion in funding for the Mozambique LNG project.

Never mind the project’s importance to everyday Africans. Never mind its potential to grow and diversify the economy. Never mind that projects like this are just what Mozambique needs to address its energy poverty, or that the Mozambique government has invested considerable time and resources into making this LNG project possible.

This is not the first time that not so well informed radical activist have attempted to interfere with Africa’s energy industry in ways that do not help poor Africans but serve their own interest. International organizations, including the World Bank, and private investors, under pressure by environmental groups, have been dropping support for African fossil fuel production. A lot of poor people are suffering from this and hundreds of millions more will if we to change direction.

I find it stunning that, during a time when much of the world is talking about the need to respect black perspectives, environmental groups seem to have no qualms about dismissing African voices.

As I’ve said in the past, I agree that climate change should be taken seriously. And I understand the risks it poses to Africa. The thing is, why are non-African organizations trying to dictate how African countries address those risks? The message in this case seems to be that “they know best.” That idea is insulting, and interfering with an African country’s efforts to build up its economy – simply because fossil fuels are involved – is completely unacceptable.

A ‘Missed Opportunity?’ Really?

UK Export Finance (UKEF) is one of eight export credit agencies to provide funding for Total’s Mozambique LNG project, which includes the construction of a two-train liquefaction plant with a capacity of 12.9 million tonnes per year.

UKEF’s $1 billion commitment includes awarding $300 million in loans to British companies working on the gas project and guaranteeing loans from commercial banks worth up to $850 million. The UK’s parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for International Trade, Graham Stuart, has pointed out that Total’s LNG project could be transformational for Mozambique and create 2,000 jobs in the UK as well.

But Friends of the Earth has said they will seek a judicial review into the UK government’s decision to help finance a project that, as they put it, will “worsen the climate emergency.” The group’s director, Jamie Peters, also expressed his disappointment in a letter to the UK government. The UKEF’s funding decision, Peters said, represents a “lost opportunity” for the UK to be a world climate leader.

My question to Mr. Peters is, what about Mozambique’s opportunities? To help everyday people improve their lives? To earn a decent living? To have a reliable source of energy? I’m talking about an opportunity to nudge the average life expectancy in Mozambique above 59 years, where it stands now.

The Mozambique LNG project is poised to make those things possible. As far as I’m concerned, losing that opportunity would devastating.

What Mozambique Stands to Gain

I can’t overstate the far-reaching implications and potential that Total’s Mozambique LNG project represents for local businesses, communities, and individuals.

Total estimates that its plant will generate about $50 billion in revenue for Mozambique’s government during its first 25 years in operation. That revenue can be directed toward much-needed infrastructure, educational programs, and economic diversification programs.

Consider direct foreign investment in Mozambique: Total’s US$25 billion investment in the LNG plant is more than twice Mozambique’s current GDP.

How about the plant construction project? Not only will it generate tens of thousands of local jobs, but it also will provide training opportunities for local people. Indigenous companies will be contracted to provide goods and services.

This pattern will continue once the plant is operational. Locals can train for and take a wide range of positions, including professional and leadership roles. Over time, subject matter experts who can share their knowledge in Mozambique, and with other African companies, will be cultivated. And, once again, the plant will be looking to local companies to provide products and services.

LNG Can ‘Em-power’ Mozambique

In addition to these far-reaching economic opportunities, the LNG produced at the plant will provide affordable energy for Mozambique.

The need is urgent. Only about 29% of the population has access to electricity today. Medical care is hindered. Education is impacted. And sustainable economic growth is an uphill climb.

Earlier this year, I praised the government of Mozambique for negotiating for part of the LNG production to be diverted to the domestic market, meaning it can be used for power generation. Since then, the government secured financing for a 400MW gas-fired power plant and transmission line to Maputo, the country’s capital, which will dramatically improve power reliability there.

By the way, when the Mozambique government ensured that some of the plant’s LNG production would be available for domestic use, it also laid the foundation for monetization and economic diversification. In Mozambique, LNG will be available to serve as feedstock for fertilizer and petrochemical plants. It can be exported by pipeline to neighboring companies. And that, in turn, can help Mozambique build even more infrastructure and contribute to even greater widespread prosperity.

Mozambique Has Been Working for This

I’d also like to point out the thought and preparation that the Mozambique government has put into making its natural gas operations beneficial for the country as a whole since approximately 180 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves were discovered there in 2010.

Mozambique’s national oil company, ENH, hired global energy research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie to help it prepare for the responsibility of managing and selling its corresponding portion of the resources. Since then, ENH formed a consortium with international oil and gas trader, Vitol.

The government also has sought the support of more experienced energy producers and international partners. Earlier this year, President Filipe Nyusi met with Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and signed an agreement for support on natural gas resource management.

But even before that, Mozambique laid the foundation for a successful oil and gas industry with the new Petroleum Law of 2014. And with that legislation in place, the country completed a successful bidding round for exploration blocks. These efforts, along with careful negotiations with international oil companies, is what brought Mozambique to where it is today: on the cusp of becoming a major LNG producer. And these efforts are what will make Mozambique’s LNG industry a success, not just in terms of government revenue, but also in improving the lives of everyday people.

 

We Must Put People First

Mozambique is not asking for aid to lift its people out of poverty. It’s attempting to capitalize on its own natural resources. The government isn’t trying to make a quick buck. It’s working to lay a foundation for long-term growth. And efforts like the Exxon and Total Mozambique Projects are more than an opportunity for international oil companies, or even Mozambique’s government. They have the potential to improve the lives of millions of everyday people.

I recognize the need to protect our planet and prevent climate change. But interfering with financing for Africa’s fossil fuel projects is not the right path. We must not dismiss the value of projects like these or their ability to make meaningful changes for the better in Mozambique. And we must not put environmental ideals ahead of the pressing needs that are facing people right now.

Technology is a Game Changer for Financial Institutions in the ‘New Normal’

If you spent any time in your childhood swimming in the sea, there’s a fair chance you remember the feeling of being dumped by a wave. For those brief moments in time, your feet lose the ground and mild panic sets in as you battle to discern up from down. It’s fair to say for many businesses in the financial services industry, that’s exactly how the better part of 2020 has felt.

Most of the major banks in the Middle East – traditionally brick-and-mortar institutions – had their hands full trying to re-imagine their security measures overnight and ensure their thousands of employees could continue working seamlessly from home.

But now that the first wave of disruption has passed and we’re finding our way back to the surface again, it’s time for financial institutions to look beyond the initial panic and start focusing on what’s next. According to McKinsey, companies that want to excel in the ‘next norm’ should be paying attention to evolving customer behaviours and how they are likely to impact customer experience in the near term.

With this in mind, Aruba Networks has developed a ‘Banking for the New Normal’ series underpinned by its LAN, WLAN and SD-WAN networking solutions and enhanced with security, automation and analytics, to help banks reinvent their connectivity and the way in which they work.

Upping the ante on innovative service delivery

When it comes to more innovative service, people are increasingly looking for that always-on experience. COVID-19 has rendered time an even more precious commodity and service providers that don’t value their customers’ time do so at their own peril. If a client has travelled to an ATM, for example, they want to know that service will definitely be available to them. By harnessing the power of integrated analytics, banks can make sure that customers don’t end up travelling kilometers to an ATM, only to find it’s out of service. Instead they can proactively let customers know that ATM is not currently functioning and suggest an alternative. In fact, as part of Aruba’s offering, banks can access AI-powered analytics, allowing them to automatically detect and solve any number of different issues before they can impact the business.

Solutions that speak to social distancing

Research shows COVID-19 has normalised physical distancing and people’s need for constant sanitation. In the financial services space, this has translated into customers avoiding bank branches and ATMs where they have to queue with dozens of other people.

But here again real-time analytics can enable banks to provide their customers with insights as to how many other people are on site. Backed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Aruba provides edge-line platforms that provide real-time analytics, meaning the bank can notify the customer that there are four ATMs within their vicinity and let them know exactly how many people are currently at each ATM.

And there are numerous other ways in which forward-thinking banking institutions can draw on the latest technology to make it safer for consumers to engage their services.

IoT-based technology, for example, will be an important focus for banks moving forward because of the growing demand for thermal cameras. While IoT often comes with security concerns – and even more so for those in the banking space – solution providers like Aruba can assist with the secure onboarding of IoT devices – which is necessary when it comes to the deployment of thermal cameras, security cameras and the like.

Greater convenience key to success

Convenience has always been king where customers are concerned, but in a world where people are juggling more stresses and concerns than ever before, convenience is even more critical to success. Luckily, there are many ways in which a financial service provider can use technology to make their customers’ lives easier. Think of something as simple as alerting a client to the fact that their credit card will soon expire as they walk past an ATM. Again with the right edge-line platforms in place, the bank can access this real-time information and make it easy for the customer to pop into the branch and get a new card.

An added advantage of banks having this technology at their fingertips is that they can provide the same connectivity and infrastructure services to their business banking customers as well. In fact as trusted entities with access to the latest and most secure technology, banks can create entirely new revenue streams for themselves by evolving from financial service providers into tech service providers. 

With some banks expecting profit declines as dramatic as 85%, the ability to draw on technology to source revenue from alternative business models is of paramount importance. And with companies like Aruba packaging these solutions with flexible financing options, the technology is significantly more accessible in the current economic climate.

Now that the initial panic and uncertainty around COVID-19 has dissipated, it’s time for companies in the financial services industry to refocus their attention on what’s next. The pandemic has accelerated the demand for technological innovation from consumers and businesses alike, and service providers must ensure they can keep pace with the evolving needs of their customers.

Pegasus Launches Flights to Karachi, Pakistan

Pegasus Airlines has launched a new route to Karachi, the capital city of the Sindh Province in Pakistan.

Turkey’s digital airline, Pegasus, continues to expand its international network with the launch of its new Karachi route.  Flights to Karachi, the capital city of the Sindh Province in Pakistan commenced from 25 September 2020.

Pegasus Airlines will connect guests from its destinations in Manchester, London, Zurich, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Cologne, Brussels, Kyiv, Bucharest, Kharkiv, Moscow, Stuttgart, Geneva, Barcelona, ​​Marseille, Zaporizhia and Prague, to Karachi via Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen.

Flights will connect guests from both Manchester Airport and London Stansted Airport to Quaid-e-Azam International Airport in Karachi via Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport, with UK departures every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  Flights to Karachi via Istanbul will depart from London Stansted at 10:45 and 13:25, and from Manchester at 13:20. 

Flights from Quaid-e-Azam International Airport will depart every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 04:55 (local times apply).  London Stansted – Karachi flights are now on sale from £229.99 one-way, and Manchester – Karachi flights from £224.99; with all routes available to book now on www.flypgs.com and the Pegasus mobile app.

African and Eastern European Translations Increase as UK Businesses Expand Outside EU

New data suggests a surge in UK business growth in territories such as Africa and Eastern Europe, with business materials being translated into languages such as Zulu, Afrikaans, Serbian and Macedonian at least 2,000 per cent more than three years ago.

In comparison, translations to French (+17%), Italian (+1.9%) and German (+1.8%) have experienced minimal growth, while other languages – such as European Spanish (-5%) – have seen decreases in translation in the same period.

Data from translation and language specialist The Translation People reveals that translations into Macedonian (+3,500%), Afrikaans (+2,400%), Zulu (+2,300%) and Serbian (+2,000%), have the highest reported increases in the last three years.

Figures from The Translation People, which has over 40 years’ experience of delivering high quality translation services in 300 different language combinations, that the 10 fastest growing business languages between 2016 and 2019 were:

  1. Macedonian – +3,500%
  2. Afrikaans – +2,400%
  3. Zulu – +2,300%
  4. Serbian – +2,000%
  5. Burmese – +1,800%
  6. Turkish – +1,200%
  7. Catalan – +870%
  8. Indonesian – +428%
  9. Kazakh – +352%
  10. Tagalog – +329%

In comparison, the fastest decreases in translation have occurred in the following languages:

  1. Punjabi – -75.5%
  2. Galician – -75.2%
  3. Gaelic – -67.5%
  4. Urdu – -48.7%
  5. Swahili – -47.2%
  6. Latin American Spanish – -41.6%
  7. Brazilian Portuguese – -27.3%
  8. Welsh – -20.3%
  9. Malay – -15%
  10. Swedish – -14.4%

Commenting on the insights from The Translation People, Andy Cristin, finance director at Pareto Financial Directive Ltd who specialises in helping UK business expand overseas, said:

“It’s interesting to note these emerging trends in language translation, particularly that there is an increase in translation of UK business material into African languages.

“African and South-Eastern European countries are logical bases for physical supply chain partnerships. They have cheaper labour costs compared to the EU and for the South-Eastern European countries, shorter transport routes than India or China. shorter transport routes than India or China. The workforces are educated, skilled and multi-lingual and the time differences allow for better communications than with the Far East, putting them on a more level playing field with UK employees.

“Overseas expansion to these areas is particularly suited to medium-sized businesses from more traditional industries – manufacturing, automotive and professional services, for example – rather than those with specialist or highly technical operations. For these types of businesses, the sourcing of relevant expertise can work out much more expensive and instead become a drain on a business, rather than an opportunity.

“We expect to see more UK businesses expanding to these areas, too, as the years go by. Brexit is driving businesses to insure themselves with a second source of supply outside of EU territory; those who do so successfully won’t see any need to migrate back to Europe even when trade deals are established, and it will encourage more businesses to consider alternative options to those offered by our closest neighbours.”

Alan White, business development manager at The Translation People, said:

“Language trends such as those identified in our data are indicative of the ways in which UK businesses are changing. Brexit has caused a major shake-up for those that had originally planned to expand into Europe; the uncertain nature of what the future holds in countries such as France, Germany and Spain has seen fewer companies seek a new footprint here and instead they are looking further afield.

“When targeting a new territory, it’s essential to be properly equipped from a linguistic and cultural perspective. Whether a business plans to have a workforce overseas, or to sell to customers there, individuals will more readily buy from and work with brands which are fully localised and are supported by translated websites, videos and user instructions.

“Because we can translate B2B materials into over 300 languages, we are well positioned to help businesses launch their brands or operations into any country of the world, and have supported businesses in sectors as diverse as logistics, car rental services, manufacturing and online learning to do just that. Even in countries where employees and workers are more confident in English, for efficiency, accuracy and inclusivity, it’s always beneficial to have materials translated into the native languages the teams speak.

“This data shows that British companies are feeling more empowered to consider territories they may never have done before, which will continue to put the UK at the centre of global business.”

How Economic Policy is Hurting the Iranian Diaspora

By Mohammad Tajdolati, Correspondent at Iran International TV 

Recently, the Canadian Government introduced a new directive which was issued by the Minister of Finance impacting many members of the Iranian diaspora in Canada. The Ministerial Directive was introduced to curb money laundering and the financing of terror organisations and as such the government will now “treat every financial transaction originating from or bound for Iran, regardless of its amount, as a high risk transaction.”. This means that every Iranian-Canadian must also disclose the purpose of the transaction, the source of the funds in any transaction and the ownership of any entity benefitting from the transaction, raising concerns for the privacy of many Iranian-Canadians who wish to transfer their money. While true that money laundering has taken place in Canada for decades, this does not mean that the Iranians living in Canada are criminals or terrorists, and such legislation has made the lives of the diaspora increasingly difficult. Moreover, what has happened in Canda marks a concerning indication that similar legislation will be introduced elsewhere across the US and Europe. 

While the new directive is intended to curb money laundering and the financing of terror organisations, innocent Iranians in Canada have been detrimentally affected by the new directive. At Iran International TV, I have spoken to one member of the diaspora in Canada who found it difficult to send money to her poverty-stricken family back home in Iran. Additionally, many international students studying in Canadian universities from Iran are now struggling to find financial support for their studies, as every transaction originating from Iran is now treated as ‘high risk’. Consequently, students have gone without money for several months at a time, as they wait for the money from their family to be cleared by Canadian authorities. The majority of middle class Iranians in Canada have also been negatively affected by the new directive, but this directive has impacted every Iranian in Canada from all walks of life, and the banks are equally as guilty of making the lives of the Iranian diaspora more difficult.   

Where many Iranians already face discrimination and prejudice across Europe and the US due to political rhetoric, the new directive has exacerbated the feelings of isolation experienced by many Iranians abroad. I have spoken to many people who claim that the new directive has made them feel guilty despite their contribution to Canadian society. Moreover, the details needed by the authorities has also made many feel that their privacy has been compromised and that they are now vulnerable if ever there was to be a data leak or cyber-attack. The new directive has unfortunately forced many Iranians to transfer their money via unconventional ways and has led many Iranians with no choice but to use illicit routes to transfer money in and out of the country out of desperation.   

Exchange stores have been set up across Canada to help Iranians transfer money in and out of the country, and this is the only choice that many Iranians now have. Yes, there are cases of widespread money laundering in and out of the country, but we are talking about the average Canadian citizen who may send a small amount back home to their family or receive a small amount to support them in their studies. Without the option to transfer money in and out of Iran using these exchange stores, there is a growing risk of poverty and vulnerability for many who benefit from the more moderate financial transactions. The people I have spoken to have told me that this has caused them even more fear and anxiety in Iran, given the uncertainty of not knowing whether their families will receive the money they send and whether they will be targeted by police authorities for transferring money through the only way they know how. It must be noted that there are social implications of this new directive and how it has forced many to use unconventional ways to transfer money, and this is not to be confused with a wider problem of money laundering in Canada.   

The danger of forcing innocent Canadians to transfer money in and out of the country using unconventional ways is that it contributes towards a dangerous narrative and perpetuates the damaging stereotype that the diaspora in Canada are part of a wider network of money launderers and criminals in the country. Of course, there have been notorious cases of Iranian criminals orchestrating money laundering schemes in Canada, but that is not reflective of every Iranian in Canada’s individual case. Volant Media UK has reported on several notorious cases of money laundering in Canada, including the case of Bahram Karimi, who was charged with bank fraud in February this year. While admittedly the regime attempts to exert influence abroad, it must be noted that many came to Canada and around the rest of the world in Europe and the US to flee from the regime that its refugees are now being punished for.   

With the recent news of British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe facing further charges and the reports that Iran is pursuing  Uranium enriched weapons, it is important to question whether the actions of the regime will soon influence European and American economic policy and affect the Iranian diaspora in the US and Europe too. To stop the targeting of innocent Iranians in Canada and the rest of the world, some have suggested that the solution must come from the banks. However, given that for almost ten years there has been no relationship nor communication between the European, American or Canadian banks and the Iranian banks due to sanctions, this seems unlikely.  Another solution could be more control and restriction from Canadian authorities about the financial activities of more than 120 so-called exchange shops, which efficiently bypass Canadian rules and contribute to money laundering in Canada. 

On the one hand the problem is following the Canadian government’s current rules for transferring money in and out of the country, as it takes more than 50 minutes to fill up the forms and it costs about $50 to administer procedures. On the other hand, any exchange shops will transact any amount of money in or out of Canada in 5-10 minutes with much less cost for customers. A reasonable solution seems to be to designate official and experienced exchange offices in Canada, which have shown their loyalty to the Canadian rules, to serve the Iranian diaspora in Canada and make their lives easier, but we must use Canada as a case study for how prejudicial economic policy can negatively affect the Iranian diaspora internationally. 

Smart Cities Study Sheds Light on Expectations of Citizens and Businesses in World’s Major Urban Centres

Nutanix, a leader in enterprise cloud computing, has announced a new report sponsored by Nutanix and compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit entitled ‘Accelerating urban intelligence: People, business and the cities of tomorrow’, which explores expectations of citizens and businesses for smart-city development in some of the world’s major urban centres. While globally smart cities have the common goal of improving urban living, what this looks like in action varies from place to place.

The study analyzes survey data from over 7,700 residents and business executives in 19 large cities around the world, including Dubai, UAE to reveal how their priorities differ and align.

Responses differ from city to city, but overall the study finds that citizens want smart city initiatives to make public services more affordable while businesses want them to be more efficient and reliable. Nearly as important for both groups, however, is that smart initiatives produce greener, cleaner environments in which to live and work. Many individual demands of respondents—such as more renewable energy options, cleaner air and water, more efficient waste recovery and smarter energy tariffing—all contribute to more liveable environments for citizens and workers alike.

 

The key findings of the study are:

  • Priorities differ between developed and emerging-world cities. Developing smart-city solutions to ease the blights of unemployment, crime, poor sanitation and rubbish accumulation are especially high priorities in Johannesburg, Mumbai and São Paulo. Respondents from developed-world cities place stronger emphasis on improving transport efficiency, reducing road congestion and making services more affordable.
  • Big dreams for big tech. Wariness of large technology firms may be on the rise due to negative media coverage about privacy scandals, disruptions to jobs and other factors, but most respondents want their cities to be involved in smartcity initiatives. Citizens expect they will create job opportunities, and executives hope they will spur innovation and create new market opportunities.
  • Inevitable trade-offs to urban intelligence—particularly involving data—should not deter its development. Over two-thirds (70%) of business respondents say the ability to access open government data is vital to their business. Nearly as many executives (69%) say they are willing to share more data to secure the benefits of smart cities. Most citizens, too, are ready to share data with their governments if it means smarter public services. Some seem ready to compromise on privacy as well: two-thirds (66%) believe facial recognition technology will do more good than harm when used to fight crime.
  • Some smart-city expectations will be tough to meet. Citizens’ hopes for job creation and those of executives for new business opportunities will be difficult for smart-city programmes to fulfil, according to experts interviewed for the study. Transport and other services may be more efficient and cleaner, but not always cheaper. City officials must try to manage expectations for what smart initiatives can deliver.

It is interesting to note the Dubai findings of the study below:

  • Top ways cities can improve their development of smart initiatives – Citizens of Dubai emphasise keeping smart-city initiatives within budget while businesses want public authorities to plan for the long term and also ensure new smart city services are easy to use
  • Improving Affordability – Improving the ability of energy and water utilities to vary pricing according to usage is the top expectation of citizens when it comes to smart city programmes
  • The Green Imperative – One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for all people to have “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy”. This need is felt especially keenly in emerging-world cities such as Dubai
  • Most-desired benefits – When probed on the most-desired benefits from smart-city initiatives, residents of Dubai emphasize creation of employment opportunities.
  • Fighting crime – Asked how smart-city initiatives should create a healthier and safer environment, residents of Dubai are more accepting of facial recognition technology as a means of fighting crime than those in, say, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Copenhagen.
  • Attitudes towards big tech – Whether it’s smart-city projects that create employment opportunities, improve the innovation environment or create business opportunities for local firms, citizens and business executives in Dubai are more likely than those in more developed cities (especially San Francisco) to view the involvement of large technology companies as a high priority.

While the technologies that underpin many existing or planned urban projects are hardly exotic territory for most people, they need to address the fundamental problems of everyday urban life. When asked to choose from a menu of technologies most integral to their town’s smart-city initiatives, the vast majority select 5G mobile, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT. The same is true of business respondents, many of whom also point to data analytics and cloud computing.

Aaron White, Regional Sales Director, Middle East at Nutanix says, “Adoption of technologies such as IoT and AI play a critical role in creating a ‘Smart City’. IoT based solutions enable innovative use cases to enlighten smart cities and seamlessly integrate various city management systems. We are proud to be at the technological forefront of making smart cities smarter through Nutanix Xi IoT – a software-based solution that delivers AI-driven processing at the edge, simplifies operations and powers real time business insights. Nutanix is committed to helping cities modernize their datacentres and edge infrastructure, so IT can shift its focus from maintenance and operations to driving innovation.”

Four Steps to Ensure Business Continuity When Employees are Working Remotely

As businesses are still instructing employees to work from home, Claude Schuck, regional manager, Middle East at Veeam® Software, the leader in Backup solutions that enable Cloud Data Management™, has identified four key areas all businesses must address to ensure business continuity.

To help businesses remain productive, support remote workers and protect against cyber-attacks, IT departments are focused on making sure that data remains available and protected 24/7/365.

To ensure all systems stay running and accessible to employees working from home, without interruption and with the guarantee that sensitive business information remains protected, businesses must:

Make data available

To keep loss of productivity to a minimum during extended periods of home-working, employees need to have access to all the files, tools, apps, and information they are used to when working in the office. With the majority of organisations are using hybrid cloud infrastructure, IT teams must embrace Cloud Data Management to ensure all data remains fully available and accessible to employees across all storage environments.

 

Secure virtual offices

It is essential that data is secure as more employees are working remotely. This not only puts data at risk from a security standpoint, but also increases the attack vector for any malicious activity. IT teams must educate employees on cybersecurity best practices to reduce the risk of cybercriminals gaining access to a network via phishing links. They must also make sure all remote workstations are backed up to secure endpoints and installed with protective, up-to-date anti-virus software.

 

Back up data regularly

Conducting regular backups is vital to ensuring the data employees create is stored and managed in the usual resilient way, regardless of where they’re working. This starts with a backup and disaster recovery business continuity plan that’s regularly tested and implemented. CIOs need to plan for the potential effects of entire departments accessing through a particular VPN, for instance.

 

Embrace automation

Particularly when IT teams are overstretched with providing desk-side support, monitoring network capacity and tightening up cybersecurity to support increased working from home, automating crucial business continuity procedures should be in any progressive CIO’s thinking. Whether it’s running backups or monitoring the network for potential vulnerabilities and threats, automation should be the IT team’s best friend when faced with new, unprecedented challenges.

Kuwait Equities Attractively Priced as The Country Embarks on Structural Changes and Awaits the MSCI Reclassification to Emerging Market Status

  • Delay in MSCI’s upgrade to emerging market status was a blessing in disguise as it allowed Kuwaiti companies to make changes prior to the inclusion of new investor inflows
  • Budget reform, a growing focus on anti-corruption measures, and a stimulus plan should also benefit Kuwait stocks

The decision by MSCI to postpone the reclassification of Kuwait indices from frontier market status to emerging market, and developments in the country since the Coronavirus crisis started, means Kuwaiti equities are attractively priced (please see the release below).   This is the view of the KMEFIC FTSE Kuwait Equity UCITS ETF (KUW8), a UCITS compliant Exchange Traded Fund domiciled in Ireland which tracks the FTSE Kuwait All Cap 15% Capped Index, an index of large, mid and small cap securities trading on the premier or main market of Kuwait Stock Exchange.

As for the broader economic outlook, in addition to the country’s efforts to boost its non-oil economy through its vision 2035 plan, the KUW8 Kuwait ETF spokesperson says several other factors support a more positive outlook for Kuwait.  These include:

Budget Reform

While budget reform has been a constant talking point in Kuwait for several years, it has never been spoken about with urgency, and limited action has been taken. However, there have now been some budget cuts across the board to several government institutions, as well as a growing effort to reduce the workforce, which accounts for a large part of government spending because over 70% of it is employed in the public sector. These cuts will force many institutions to run more efficiently. In addition, there has been an active effort to finally implement a government taxation plan in the form of VAT on specific goods. Finally, parliamentary debate regarding the public debt law which would allow the Kuwait Government to borrow up to 65 billion USD from local and international sources over the next 30 years has reached critical phases with the finance minister pushing hard for parliament to approve and pass the law.

Anti-Corruption

In light of two large recent corruption scandals in the country, the government seems to have re-doubled its efforts to fight corruption, an effort which has been gaining a lot of momentum in the past two to three years with several high-profile cases identified and investigated. Anti-money laundering efforts have also been gaining momentum as well.

Stimulus Plan

There has been talk of a stimulus plan, the first of which saw government support for the private sector to prevent the collapse of the non-oil sector due to COVID-19.

Kodak Alaris to Host Webinar ‘COVID 19: Impact, Trends, and The Way Forward’

Kodak Alaris has announced that it will host a series of dynamic webinars from August through to October 2020 for organizations in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa and Russia (METAR) region.

The first of the five free webinars, entitled ‘Covid 19: Impact, Trends, and The Way Forward’ will take place on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 at 3:00pm Gulf Standard Time (GST). Experts from the company will discuss the effects of the pandemic in the business sector and educate regional organizations on how to leverage everything from Work from Home (WFH) technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to Cloud Computing in order to drive business continuity in these uncertain times.

Speaking about the webinars, Naji Kazak, General Manager, METAR at Kodak Alaris says, “2020 has highlighted the importance of business continuity and resilience. Now more than ever, it’s vital for businesses to focus on digital transformation. Imagine being able to utilise key technologies to improve efficiency, minimise costs, transform business processes, and streamline remote team collaboration, all whilst improving customer engagement. As a leading provider of information capture solutions that simplify business processes, Kodak Alaris through its webinars aims to show organizations just how to do that.”

In the first 1-hour webinar Kodak Alaris will break down:

• How COVID-19 has changed the business landscape

• Predicted work trends post-pandemic · Digital transformation strategies to streamline business continuity and collaboration whilst working remotely

• How to leverage RPA and AI and Cloud Computing for optimal results

• Ways to maximise efficiency, simplify collaboration, and cut costs simultaneously

There will be a Q&A at the end of the webinar. The schedule of the webinars is as follows:

COVID-19: Impact, Trends, and The Way Forward- Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 03:00 PM GST

Delivering a Better Patient Experience at Lower Cost- Wednesday, September 09, 2020, 03:00 PM GST

Helping Government Agencies Serve Citizens- Wednesday, September 23, 2020, 03:00 PM GST

BFSI – Automate Business Processes to Improve Customer Experience and Enhance Compliance- Wednesday, October 07, 2020, 03:00 PM GST

Coping with the Diversity of Data in the Retail and Logistics Markets- Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 03:00 PM GST

To register for the webinars, please click on the following link.

African Union and APO Group in Partnership to Save Lives and Prevent Unnecessary Harm to African Economies

African Union and APO Group in partnership to reach more African news media, as the Union works to prevent deaths, save lives and prevent unnecessary harm to African economies. This support by the APO Group will complement the weekly press briefings that the Africa CDC has been holding every Thursday since March 2020.

The African Union’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) (www.AfricaCDC.org) is joining forces with the APO Group (www.APO-opa.com), the leading pan-African communications and business consultancy, to organise regular online press conferences once every month, to provide Africans with vital information on the continental preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as per the mandate given to the Africa CDC by all 55 African Heads of State and Government. This support by the APO Group will complement the weekly press briefings that the Africa CDC has been holding every Thursday since March 2020.

The online press conferences will be hosted by Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC. They will deliver, among others, overviews of the epidemiologic situation at a continental level, progress updates on the African Union’s Partnership for COVID19 Testing (PACT), capacity building being undertaken with and for AU members states, updates on vaccinations and supplies of COVID19 materials to member states, and other updates including initiatives being rolled out by African Heads of State and Government. As with the weekly AfricaCDC briefings, audiences will also get the chance to hear from a representative of one of the 55 AU member states, under the AfricaCDC initiative to provide country specific information and data and to share experiences across the continent.

“Africa has over 1.3 billion people, and reaching them all with COVID19 information is a major priority of the African Union, as we work to prevent deaths, save lives and prevent unnecessary harm to economies. These online press conferences with APO Group will provide us with a unique way of connecting with many more people all over Africa than we reach through our regular Thursday morning briefings,” said Dr Nkengasong. “This is a practical and commendable example of the African private sector supporting African led efforts to fight COVID19. The APO Group’s vast online network gives us the confidence that we will be reaching not only the largest possible media audience, but also members of the public all over the continent.”

APO Group is already running similar briefings for the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, meaning the company is now playing a critical role in the media outreach programmes of the two most prominent Pan-African health organizations. When APO Group began facilitating the fortnightly WHO Africa COVID-19 online press briefings in June 2020, they were the first to be translated and live-streamed on more than 300 Africa-related news websites, and on Google News. The partnership to jointly organise one of the AfricaCDC’s weekly online press conferences will follow the same format, with APO Group’s unparalleled reach meaning they will be accessible not only to journalists, but to regular people in every corner of the African continent, in English and French.

“Our work with the WHO Africa online press conferences has demonstrated the value of live streaming important press briefings, providing vital news and updates in real time,” said Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and Chairman of APO Group. “We are proud to now be working, once every month, with the African Union through the Africa CDC, as they have the continental mandate from Heads of State and Government to lead the continental response to COVID-19.”

In April, APO Group launched their Coronavirus Initiative for Africa (https://bit.ly/2DxYcvL) initiative, donating resources and expertise to support African governments, institutions and official organizations in the fight against COVID-19.

To date, APO Group has distributed more than 5000 press releases free of charge for governments and health authorities in more than 40 African countries.

How Should Firms Tackle CSR in the Middle East and North Africa

The dominance of petroleum-centric capitalism and its huge contribution to the climate emergency have raised questions about how companies in the Middle East and North Africa can shape sustainable development agendas. New research from Trinity Business School has uncovered how CSR practices are affected by unique environments in this misunderstood part of the world, and that firms need to understand these intricacies while strategizing their CSR practices.

The researchers reviewed over 154 CSR studies of the region, focusing on 20 countries, uncovering different institutional patterns in the region and their impact on CSR.

According to Doctor Tanusree Jain, Assistant Professor of Ethical Business:

“The Middle East and North Africa is a complex, fascinating, and diversified region – where countries have different experiences of political systems, financial markets, and ownership and management traditions. They are faced with an environment of political, economic and social flux on one hand, and popularized western standards of best practices on the other.”

Based on the different societies, the researchers discovered that the region can be divided into five distinct clusters; Fragmented with Fragile State, Family Led, Centralised Kinship, Hierarchically Coordinated, and Conflict-affected. These clusters provide a deep understanding of countries’ different colonization histories, state forms, traditions, and norms that can significantly shape how CSR practices are perceived and legitimized by society.

According to the research, Egypt and Sudan comprise the Fragmented with Fragile State cluster, where the role of the state is developmental. The Egyptian government for example intervenes in and controls some industries by enforcing the Islamic notion of community-centred responsibility through philanthropy, but low levels of general trust in this cluster causes scepticism about CSR — especially when practices are decoupled from religion. Yet the workforce hired by multinationals values CSR to gain international legitimacy competitive advantage. This is an interesting conundrum with firms struggling to choose philanthropy entrenched in religion on one hand and western forms of CSR on the other.

The Family Led cluster is comprised of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Here, state intervention takes both direct and indirect forms. In Morocco, the state primarily promotes CSR policies that improve the competitiveness of local businesses. Although recent political upheavals have weakened law enforcement, in Tunisia the state intervenes directly by acquiring ownership in private firms to shape CSR activities. Wealthy families in this cluster exert substantial influence. The prioritization of their financial interests can have a negative impact as CSR is seen as a cost rather than an investment or obligation. Multinationals therefore largely drive the CSR agenda in line with international benchmarks and reporting frameworks.

Comprised of Oman, Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Centralised Kinship cluster is dominated by Middle Eastern countries. With the dominance of oil based economy, there is increasing scrutiny from international organizations on firms’ sustainability outcomes. The family is at the centre of all social, economic, and political activity. The state — where powerful family elites hold power — intervenes in business affairs directly through ownership and control of firms and indirectly through legislation. Firms gain legitimacy and societal acceptance in highly religious societies, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, by complying with Islamic prescriptions on CSR.

The Hierarchically Coordinated cluster is comprised of Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. In Lebanon, the developmental role of the state is diluted due to weaknesses in law enforcement, thus creating gaps in firms’ CSR compliance. Within Jordan, research reveals direct state intervention in business through public ownership in companies as well as by laws that demand CSR disclosure. In Turkey, the state has a developmental yet predatory character. While it drives firms to adopt western CSR practices to align and compete in European markets, smaller firms embark on limited philanthropy.

The Conflict-affected cluster includes Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. These countries have experienced ongoing political and societal unrest causing massive disruption to companies. The state’s capacity to contribute to the welfare of its citizens is limited. In Palestine, firms’ contribution to social work is perceived as a national obligation. In Libya, religion is the primary driver for CSR. The interconnectedness of wealthy extended families with economic power increase CSR contributions toward the communities in which their businesses are embedded.

Given the global climate emergency, we need to understand how existing motivations for CSR and sustainability are shaped in this region if we want to encourage desirable firm behaviours in this context.

The research paper was published in the Journal of World Business.

Africa is Undergoing a Revolution in New Cloud and Data Centre Capacity

Datacentrepricing (DCP), the specialists in Data Centres, has launched ‘The Cloud and Data Centre Revolution in Africa’ report covering 26 countries across the continent’s DC activities.

DCP has identified that half of the countries in Africa have now launched third-party Data Centre facilities with total African Data Centre space and power being equivalent to markets in Spain or Switzerland.

The report forecasts that the Southern Africa Region accounts for 54 per cent of total third-party African Data Centre raised floor space followed by North Africa being the next largest region. In total DCP forecasts that the overall market for African Data Centre raised floor space will over 140,000 m2 as of the beginning of 2021 with 49 per cent of growth overall to the beginning of 2025.

The largest third-party Data Centre facility in Africa is under 10,000 of Data Centre raised floor space, much smaller than their Data Centre counterparts in Asia, North America and Europe.

There is significant investment in new Data Centre facilities, as a number of companies aim to build a Pan African Data Centre network of facilities from 2021. Until recently Africa has lacked Data Centre Providers with a presence in multiple countries – the scene is changing with a number of new private equity investors aiming to build Data Centre networks in Africa.
Carrier Based Data Centre facilities – owned by a Telecoms Provider – account for almost half of all raised floor space in Africa, but the Carrier Neutral Data Centre segment is increasing and accounts for just under 30 per cent of space.

” Data Centres are entering new markets including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia. A trend includes facilities being created as PFMs, ” as smaller self-contained Data Centres to be used for network, cloud, wholesale and colocation, suitable for local environments.

The African market is being transformed by the introduction of Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) including AWS, Microsoft Azure Cloud, Oracle Cloud and HUAWEI CLOUD introducing availability zones located in South Africa – with telecom providers Safaricom and Vodacom now reselling AWS cloud to small businesses.

DCP forecasts that African cloud revenues will accelerate by 80 per cent over the four-year period to the beginning of 2025.

Data Centre developers face a series of challenges in Africa, including raising finance for facility investment, overcoming legal land ownership issues, securing power, ensuring fibre connectivity and ensuring that the facility is resilient in the face of weather conditions, heat and humidity. Additionally, due to intermittent power supply issues, many Data Centre facilities use diesel-generated power for much of the day in developing markets.

Lower priced rack space is now available in South Africa benefitting from multiple Data Centre providers and facilities offering different tiers of service and power which can be adapted to specific customer needs.

Landmark Music Copyright Infringement Case Against Qatar Airways To Be Heard In English Courts

The High Court has ruled in favour of the Performing Right Society in a question over whether a landmark copyright infringement case against Qatar Airways should be heard by the English courts.

The Performing Right Society is seeking damages from Qatar Airways for using its members’ repertoire without a music licence in place. The airline, which operates over 200,000 flights per year, and offers music as an integral part of its in-flight service with up to 4,000 entertainment options, has never remunerated PRS members, songwriters, composers, and music publishers, for the use of their intellectual property.

With no equivalent representative collective management organisation situated in Qatar, Qatar Airways has for decades evaded licensing the performing right in copyrights used in its in-flight services. After having sought to license Qatar Airways through customary business channels without response, PRS for Music started legal proceedings against Qatar Airways in December 2019. The jurisdictional judgment, which is the first milestone in an important case for PRS members, was handed down by Mr Justice Birss of the High Court of Justice in London on 17 July 2020.

In his 25-page decision Mr Justice Birss noted the case is “really a global copyright dispute between a UK holder of those global rights and a Qatari user of the protected content who is using it all over the world” but agreed with PRS’ position that jurisdiction of the English court had been properly established. The decision was based on the application of well-established principles known as the ‘Spiliada-test’, as set out by the House of Lords in 1987. Subject to any appeal, the case will now proceed to a trial on liability unless Qatar Airways takes the necessary licence to cover the use of PRS repertoire, both retrospectively and moving forwards.

Sami Valkonen, Chief International and Legal Officer, PRS for Music, said: “Over the years, Gulf-based airlines have spent more than a billion Pounds on various sports endorsements, yet refuse to remunerate our members for the use of their music on the airlines’ award-winning in-flight services. Today’s ruling is an important first step in our unyielding quest to correct this long-standing injustice and ensure fair compensation for our members from these airlines. We hope to resolve this matter as efficiently as possible on behalf of our members.”

One of PRS for Music’s key missions is to ensure its members’ music is licensed by users, and it has sought to license the various Gulf-based airlines for years. The organisation started these legal proceedings against Qatar Airways prior to the Covid-19 pandemic with a focus on the long-standing past infringement of its members’ rights by the airline, and it now seeks to ensure that Qatar Airways and other unlicensed airlines will be set up with necessary licences once air travel resumes after the pandemic.

Networks, AI, Analytics and Security will Accelerate Digital Transformation Roadmaps in Middle East Healthcare Industry

With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe over the past few months, prominent stakeholders in various industries have had to adjust their strategy with the rapidly evolving situation. The healthcare industry in the Middle East will have to undergo crucial reforms once the crisis takes a back seat. Technological advancements, cost control, and greater access will be indispensable part of these reforms.

In health systems all over the world, there is what’s known as a rapid response team. When a patient’s clinical status deteriorates, the best practice is to assemble a multi-disciplinary team of medical experts to rapidly solve the problem. As the world continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, health organizations are quickly initiating Rapid Response plans.

Jacob Chacko Regional Business Head – Middle East, Saudi & South Africa (MESA) at HPE Aruba, a leading provider of secure, intelligent networks, says, “Aruba sees itself as being an integral part of this multi-disciplinary team to help address the critical challenges facing Healthcare IT during this time. The company is responding to this crisis with the same ‘Customer First, Customer Last’ approach that has long endeared it to healthcare customers all over the world.”

Digital Transformation Technologies in Healthcare

While the use of technology in healthcare has risen to prominence in the last few years, it is likely to take bigger strides during and post COVID-19. Aruba provides an insight into how technology in healthcare will evolve and how the company’s solutions are driving this transformation:

Remote Working and Connectivity
Healthcare has traditionally been a worksite dependent industry, but with the need to follow social distancing and self-quarantine guidelines, enabling workers to be productive at home is now essential. Aruba Remote Access Points (RAPs) extend the same network services and security policies to an employee’s home, just as if they were in a hospital, clinic or office.

Expanded Network Coverage
Many hospitals are building drive-through testing stations and rapid triage areas outside of their facilities. These environments can be challenging, but through the use of Aruba’s Zero-Touch Provisioning, a network can be installed and configured without IT being physically involved. Aruba Access Points (APs) can easily be made to work over cellular connections if needed.

Aruba technology helps organizations leverage the power of the cloud. One key facet of cloud service delivery is the ability to grow capacity as needed. This current pandemic is a great example of how this capability proves valuable. Aruba Central for cloud-managed networking allows healthcare institutions manage new (and existing) networks simply and without on-site presence. When the need for these temporary installations passes, they can simply scale back to normal delivery.

Easily Monitor the User and Mission Critical Application Experience

Traditional methods of performance monitoring need to adapt to the current deployment and application needs. One way to ensure those who are working on the front lines and treating patients receive a quality network experience is by using Aruba User Experience Insight (UXI) to report on connectivity and application performance throughout the day. UXI also provides a simple way identify issues before they can cause problems – even if on-site support is not possible.

Telemedicine to Deliver Primary Care

While the focus is on COVID-19, the regular healthcare needs of communities remain and many healthcare services cannot be electively rescheduled. Where possible, the Aruba solutions described above will allow providers (MD/DO, PA-C, ARNP, etc.) to see patients via traditional telemedicine apps from the security of their own homes. By securely extending the hospital’s network to a provider’s home, a semblance of normal patient-provider interaction can be preserved.

The goal of a rapid response is to quickly identify and solve the most critical issues facing a patient and stabilize the treatment plan going forward. This is the response healthcare is seeing, as care-providing organizations have begun adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. This proves yet again how powerful and essential those that provide care for our communities truly are. Aruba is honoured to be a part of the Rapid Response Team for many of its healthcare partners around the world.

Countering Cybersecurity Risks

Most health systems have managed to stay ahead of cybersecurity attacks so far during the pandemic. However, it is a matter of time before cybercriminals swoop in to take advantage of heightened vulnerabilities. Health systems that have seen a doubling of their remote workforce have had to enable staff with remote connectivity devices to connect to enterprise IT systems seamlessly, with minimal data flow between devices in and outside firewalls. 

The right technology, used at the right time, can be transformational for healthcare. Integrated correctly within the patient journey, it becomes a vital tool that supports clinicians, not hinders them, and contributes to a much-improved experience for patients.

The right technology, used at the right time, facilitates long-term change and creates an eco-system of integrated solutions that work as one to manage patient flow; think everything from a patient checking-in for their appointment on their smartphone, to clinicians booking follow-up appointments using electronic outcome forms.

“While the world’s leading researchers race to uncover a vaccine, governments realize that the key to recovery is an increase in COVID-19 testing. The ability to test, track contacts, and quarantine those infected hinges on the ability to test large numbers of the population. As the healthcare community in the Middle East continues to shift with these changing priorities, we will continue to support them with Rapid Response healthcare solutions that allow secure connectivity. Whether they are planning for pop-up testing, a triage tent, or a makeshift hospital in a stadium to prepare for a surge in patients, Aruba will be there to help,” concludes Jacob.

To learn more, visit Aruba at http://www.arubanetworks.com

Keeping Data Protected as Businesses in the Middle East Embark on Remote Working Journey

Over the last few months, we’ve seen many organizations in the Middle East have arranged for employees to work from home. Living in the golden age of Digital Transformation means that we are connected at all times. Consequently, the workplace today has evolved significantly to allow individuals to communicate seamlessly and connect from anywhere through mobile devices, digital tools, cloud services and many more. But what does this mean for organizations and the protection of its data?

With many employees working from home, businesses can expect a huge spike of personal file storing coming in from external sources. This is the perfect opportunity for malicious malware to make their way into servers, potentially corrupting a network of data.

According to a recent news report in The National newspaper, the UAE has been revealed as the leading target of cybercriminals in the region, accounting for more than half of the examples of malicious online and theme-driven behavior detected in the Gulf. Trend Micro, an international cybersecurity and defense firm, said it had detected 1,541 attacks in the UAE in the past months, including 775 malware threats, 621 email spam attacks and 145 URL attacks during March. Across the GCC countries, the figure was 3,067 over the same period.

Here are some of the necessary steps businesses should be taking to protect their data and IT architecture:

3 layers in the circle of defense

Businesses need to be aware of how they manage data between cloud and consider tools that will give them an advantage. Today, businesses are continuously backing up and replicating applications and we can only expect this to increase over the next few years as others learn the significance of data that are easily recoverable.

They need to understand the different roles that are needed for consideration when optimizing their systems for backup and replication. This can be easily summed up into the 3 layers of defense in data protection.

Seychelles: African Development Bank extends $10 million loan to support COVID-19 responses as economy reopens

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank on Monday approved a $10 million loan to the Republic of Seychelles to support the government’s COVID-19 response program. The loan will be channeled toward macroeconomic stabilization, strengthening national health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and safeguarding livelihoods and social safety nets.

Against a backdrop of declining revenues, the Seychelles government recently amended its budget to respond more effectively to COVID-19, taking on an immense financial burden as it works to enhance the country’s health systems, mitigate job losses, and redress lost business and household incomes.

The amended budget provides for an additional $ 3.6 million to the health sector, which will help put in place robust early-detection surveillance systems and enhanced testing capability at points of entry. The government is also readying isolation and quarantine facilities ahead of the resumption of international flight arrivals.

The Government has committed to safeguard 37,409 private-sector jobs through provision of a six-month wage grant while also increasing allocations to the national Social Protection Agency to widen safety nets for informal workers and other vulnerable groups.

“The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been more devastating than the disease itself in Seychelles. Tourism is one of the worst hit-industries globally, yet it is the main source of income for Seychelles, accounting for 25 percent of its GDP. The Bank’s support will augment the government’s efforts aimed at cushioning the country against the impacts of the pandemic,” said Nnenna Nwabufo, Ag. Director General for the Bank’s East Africa Regional Office.

The crisis response program is aligned with the Bank Group Ten-Year Strategy-TYS (2013-2022) and the High 5s priorities, specifically “improve the quality of life of the people of Africa”.  The operation is also aligned with the Bank’s Seychelles’ Country Strategy Paper (2016-2020), which aims at stimulating private sector activity in support of economic diversification though policy reforms. 

Insufficient economic diversification, a small domestic market and vulnerability to external economic and environmental shocks are among the main development challenges the Seychelles economy faces. The pandemic has seriously exacerbated these challenges and wiped out some of the country’s development gains. The Bank has revised the 2020 and 2021 GDP growth rate projections for the country downwards, from 3.3% and 4.2 % to -10.5% and -7.7%, respectively.

The country recorded its first case of COVID-19 on 14 March and had 11 confirmed imported cases by 6 April. All 11 cases are fully recovered with no new cases or deaths.Contact: 

Emirates Islamic lends supports to ‘cash-free’ with new Business Banking Debit Card for SME clients

As part of its ongoing efforts to support UAE businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Emirates Islamic, one of the leading Islamic financial institutions in the UAE, is offering Business Banking debit cards free of charge to eligible SME clients.

Emirates Islamic’s Business Banking debit card offers an alternative channel to customers seeking access to cash and supports their ongoing cash flow requirements. SME clients will have access to their accounts through the network of Emirates Islamic’s ATMs and CDMs. The debit cards will be issued free of charge to eligible business banking customers, and in partnership with Visa, accepted at millions of locations worldwide for retail and online purchases.

To enable secure payments on the go, the card can be added to mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. To protect clients further, Emirates Islamic’s Business Banking debit card also offers warranty and purchase protection for lost, damaged and stolen goods.

“We remain committed to supporting UAE SME businesses and the economy during this difficult time by developing innovative products and services that address their challenges while ensuring that customer excellence remains at the heart of our proposition,” said Wasim Saifi, Deputy CEO at Emirates Islamic.

“Our Business Banking debit card offers SME clients, including LLCs, a convenient way to manage their business expenses efficiently, providing them a seamless, digital alternative to withdraw cash,” added Syed Ghazanfar Naqvi, Head of Business Banking at Emirates Islamic.

In 2019, Emirates Islamic was named ‘Best SME Bank’ at the Enterprise Agility Awards, presented by du, in recognition of its innovative and business-friendly proposition for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and its status as a preferred bank for UAE national entrepreneurs seeking Shari’a-compliant products and services for their businesses. Emirates Islamic currently supports the banking needs of more than 46,000 UAE-based SMEs, and its Business Banking segment saw double-digit growth in 2019.

Jordan Kuwait Bank Adapts to New Normal with Citrix

COVID-19
continues to change the way companies do business in the Middle East. And one
of the largest banks in Jordan is using solutions from Citrix
Systems, Inc.
 (NASDAQ: CTXS) to adapt. Jordan Kuwait Bank (JKB)
has implemented Citrix® Virtual Apps and Desktops across
its 64 branches throughout Jordan and Cyprus, which has allowed it to remain
operational and offer financial services to its SME and corporate customers to
manage critical imports and continue trading seamlessly while the country is in
lockdown.

Seeing
global events unfold, and recognizing that a majority of its employees would
need to work from home, JKB moved quickly to implement Citrix Virtual Apps and
Desktops alongside its Citrix Application Delivery Controller (ADC) infrastructure
to ensure they could do so in a secure and reliable manner and continue to
support the bank’s retail, private and corporate customers.

With the help of Citrix Gold Partner PRO TECHnology, the implementation of
Citrix Virtual Apps and desktops was completed across all staff members
responsible for getting critical functions to work remotely.

Every organization needs to
develop a business continuity plan to ensure its business operations can
continue, no matter the disruption and that users remain productive while
maintaining the necessary level of security,” said
Khalid Al Rashdan, CEO, PRO TECHnology. “With Citrix solutions, we have
empowered IT to deliver on-demand apps and desktops to any device and enable
remote work as a long-term solution for a radically different future.”

Jordan
Kuwait Bank now plans to extend Citrix remote working solutions to all HQ
departments staff, as it is fully aware that remote working is a new kind of
normal that will likely persist beyond the pandemic.

“Our
call centre employees need to be able to provide customers with real time,
uninterrupted updates on the latest news from Jordan’s Central Bank,” Ala’a
Qaddoumi, Information Security and Business Continuity Manager, Jordan Kuwait
Bank said. “And even in these most challenging times with employees working
remotely, all customer calls were answered. That was a major differentiator for
the Citrix solution.”

Ibraheem
Jaser, IT Infrastructure Manager, Jordan Kuwait Bank added, “We knew we needed
to make remote working a priority, and for that reason we adopted Citrix solutions.
We have worked with Citrix since 2017 and, now more than ever, we believe that
their solution can transform how we serve our customers during these
unprecedented times.”

Citrix
provides a complete range of digital workspace solutions that empower employees
to do their very best work in a safe and secure manner anywhere, anytime, using
any device. Click here to learn more
about these solutions and how your organization can use them to gain the
agility, speed and efficiency required to manage resources in the dynamic way
that unpredictable environments demand and position your business for future
success.  

Nexia International adds a new member firm Innovative Business Solutions (IBS) LLC in Oman

Nexia International (Nexia), the ninth largest global network of independent accounting and consulting firms, has added a new member firm Innovative Business Solutions (IBS) LLC in Oman. 

With its main office in Muscat, Innovative Business Solutions LLC has three partners and five members of staff. 

The firm provides advisory services, strategy consultancy, business process improvement, change and program management, technology solution design, technology assessment and selection, continuous monitoring and improvement, enterprise resource planning and government eServices. It specialises in providing services to many sectors including the government and public sector, security and defence, utility, real estate, oil and gas, family businesses and the financial services sector.

Partners, Mohamad Nsouli and Ranjith Elayadom say: “As part of its growth strategy, IBS is looking to associate its name with a global brand. With Nexia being among the top ten professional networks, it was clearly a favourable choice. Coming from a Big 4 background, IBS partners believe in the strength of global networks, in terms of providing business opportunities; a professional working environment, networking, collaboration and above all, the right enablers to serve clients in the best possible way, anywhere in the world. ”

Kevin Arnold, CEO of Nexia International, says: “We are pleased to welcome Innovative Business Solutions LLC to the network. We look forward to working with a firm offering a wide range of services and who have the expertise and capabilities to further support our members and their clients around the world’’.

For more information, visit www.nexia.com

Starkey MEA expands hearing telehealth solution on Google Cloud in response to COVID-19 crisis

Action provides stronger telehealth technology to benefit
hearing providers and their patients

As the world continues to address the challenges presented
by the COVID-19 pandemic, one trend emerging across industries is the rapid
acceleration and adoption of services enabled by cloud technologies. The hearing
industry is among those increasingly using telehealth technologies to respond
to the changing needs of our consumers. Recently, Starkey worked with Google
Cloud to launch the expansion of Hearing Care Anywhere. This cloud-based
approach allows hearing healthcare providers to now meet the needs of all
patients across all technology tiers of Starkey’s groundbreaking Livio hearing
aids without the need for an in-office visit.

Giscard Bechara, Director, Starkey MEA FZCO, Dubai, UAE
stated that, “Close to 16 million people in the Middle East suffer from
disabling hearing loss. The newest generation of this remote programming
capability for hearing healthcare practitioners means that more patients
worldwide who use Starkey’s Thrive mobile app will be able to receive care from
their homes. This gives hearing professionals the ability to continue their
care with patients who remain at home during the current public health crisis,”

Starkey connects hearing providers and their patients using
a number of Google Cloud products. When a patient makes a remote programming
request from the Thrive Hearing Control App on their smartphone, the request,
along with a snapshot of the settings from their hearing aids, are uploaded to
Google Cloud Storage and Firestore. From the Hearing Care Anywhere dashboard,
the hearing provider can then manage and service the patient’s request,
uploading the modifications through Google Cloud Functions. The uploaded
modifications are then run through algorithms hosted on App Engine to prepare
them for the patient’s review in Thrive.

“In a public health emergency, hearing is critical,” said
Archelle Georgiou, M.D., Starkey’s Chief Health Officer. “Consider how much
important information is being shared in the news and in public service messages.
It can be difficult for any of us to keep up. Imagine how vulnerable those with
hearing loss are feeling.”

“The safety of providers and patients is of the utmost
importance,” said Starkey’s Chief Innovation Officer Dave Fabry, Ph.D. “Hearing
during this time is critical, but so is practicing social distancing. We
believe patients should not have to choose.”

“We are proud of our work with Google Cloud and our ongoing
dedication to staying on the cutting-edge of hearing technology,” said
Starkey’s Chief Technology Officer Achin Bhowmik, Ph.D. “While the immediate
benefits of this partnership pertain to Hearing Care Anywhere and telehealth
during the COVID-19 crisis, the long-term significance of providing secure and
robust cloud solutions will revolutionize hearing aid outcomes by leveraging
the combined benefits of artificial intelligence and human professional expertise.”

“Our focus at Google Cloud right now is helping healthcare providers, medical device makers, and other companies navigate through the impact of COVID-19, while at the same time providing a technology foundation for the future,” said Philip Moyer, Vice President of Industry Sales at Google Cloud. “We’re excited to partner with Starkey to bring game-changing benefits to hearing healthcare providers and their patients around the world.”

website: https://www.starkeymea.com/

UAE takes the lead in innovation for global food production

The UAE leads the scene of innovation in food production especially during these times where the world is witnessing health transformations, where the country continues its efforts to enhance its position and supports its important role in producing and exporting foods and equipment related to this vital sector.

An emerging product has been recently awarded the Product of
the Year 2020 in the GCC, an award that highlights and honors innovation in the
fast-paced consumer goods sector. The product, Kabrita, which specializes in
infant milk formula is owned by Hyproca Nutrition Middle East, with its
headquarters in Dubai, and affiliated to the Dutch group Ausnutria Nutrition B.
V.

The product secured this award after getting evaluated by an
independent arbitration panel, which reviews the consumers’ buying decisions,
manages the whole process in a safe and transparent framework. The panel
includes representatives from Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Chambers
of Commerce in the GCC, Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting,
International Media Association, International Business Women Group, French
Business Council, American University of Sharjah, American University in Dubai
and Saudi Association for Information and Communication and the Institute of
Administrative Techniques, who study all survey submissions and fill out a
multiple-choice questionnaire in order to finalize a list of products that meet
the high standards set by the POY awards.

Dr. Mohamed Hussein, Managing Director and General Manager
of Hyproca Nutrition Middle East, stated that the company is writing a
distinctive success story in the United Arab Emirates – originating from the
Netherlands its business grown to become one of the leading companies in the
Gulf region. He also indicated that winning the POY 2020 award for the infant
formula category confirms their continuous commitment to providing premium
quality and adhering to the standards of premium products.

He also stated that the Emirati community is one of the most
diverse in the region, which offers global food production companies a
multitude of opportunities for investment and growth, and having headquarters
there serves in promoting their product across the whole region, especially
with the advanced infrastructure and logistics it provides.

He indicated that the company worked on developing a wide
range of baby food products based on mild goat’s milk that provides complete
nutritional benefits and supports the child’s mental and physical development,
therefore distinguishing Kabrita product with its natural taste and an
easy-to-digest soft texture suitable for feeding infants who face breastfeeding
complications.

Dr. Hussein added that the company, that runs its operations
from its headquarters in Dubai, has witnessed a remarkable growth in sales over
the past three years due to several factors, the most important of which is the
increase in confidence in Kabrita milk formula which the company has been
supplying to the Gulf region for 7 years in addition to pediatricians’
confidence in recommending this product to mothers for their children while we
endorse that breastfeeding is the best feeding for babies, Kabrita infant
formula has been one of the best breastfeeding substitutes due to its natural
components that are close to the natural breast milk.

Dr. Hussein also stated that: “Winning means a lot to us as
it was based on consumers’ confidence and their incline for buying the product
in the United Arab Emirates, KSA, and Kuwait, based on special characteristics
that are unique to Kabrita. We plan to provide Kabrita milk to the rest of the
Arab countries soon,  in addition to
different sizes, as well as products exclusive to certain health conditions for
children of different age groups.

-Ends-

About Kabrita

Kabrita is a global trademark owned by Hyproca Nutrition
Middle East, which is part of the Dutch group Ausnutria Nutrition B.V. having a
100-year experience in developing and producing premium quality dairy products
and infant nutrition products. The group operates five advanced factories in
the Netherlands and five other factories in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand,
which allow Ausnutria Nutrition B.V. to produce a wide array of exclusive dairy
products, ranging from fresh to powder milk and from general milk by-products
and butter to specific infant products.

Kabrita believes it has a responsibility to facilitate
access to the natural benefits of goat-milk products for all consumers around
the world. It also seeks to provide consumers with a wide range of high-quality
nutritional products made from premium goat milk, as well empowering consumers
by providing them with all the needed information and support to undertake
important nutritional choices for them and their families.

The 2020 UAE Business Awards Press Release

MEA Markets Magazine Announces Winners of the 2020 UAE Business Awards.

United Kingdom, 2019– MEA Markets magazine announces the winners of the 2020 UAE Business Awards.
Now in its fourth year, the UAE Business Awards were launched to recognise the extraordinary achievements of those working and operating in the United Arab Emirates. Long considered a bastion of good business practices, creativity and innovation, there’s certainly much to celebrate in the region.
Indeed, despite what is shaping up to be a challenging year on the global business landscape, the UAE is striving to remain – in all ways- best in class. Regardless of size, businesses and establishments throughout the UAE are meeting this difficulty head on and finding opportunities for growth despite it all. This entrepreneurial spirit is one of the reasons we launched this programme, and why we endeavour to always recognise the hard work and achievements of the Middle East.
Awards Coordinator Jessie Wilson comments: “Every year it is a pleasure to reach out to the winners of this programme. Congratulations to you all, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the year – and beyond- ahead.”
To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit http://www.mea-markets.com/ where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.
ENDS
Notes to editors.
About MEA Markets
Published quarterly, MEA Markets endeavours to provide readers with the latest business and investment news across the Middle East and Africa regions.
Keeping pace with a vast array of ever-changing sectors thanks to regular contributions from some of the region’s top corporate professionals across a variety of industries, MEA Markets is home to the very best news, features and comment from the people and institutions in the know.

Sky News Arabia Helps People Get Responses To COVID-19 Queries On New Interactive Facebook Live News Show ‘Corona Question And Answer’

Sky News Arabia has announced the launch of a new daily interactive Live news show, dedicated to examining the facts surrounding the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The new interactive show is the result of a partnership between Sky News Arabia and Facebook, which enables audiences to submit questions on Sky News Arabia’s Facebook and Instagram Live streams so that expert guests can address the questions with credible and accurate information in real-time.

‘Corona Question and Answer’ aired its first episode yesterday and is scheduled daily at 7 p.m. UAE Time and 3 pm GMT.

Youssef Tsouri, Head of News at Sky News Arabia, said, “With the wealth of misleading rumors and fake news that continues to circulate, Sky News Arabia felt compelled to bring its audiences a transparent, fact checked program that centers on today’s most important topic, the Coronavirus. We have partnered with Facebook to use the social media giant’s technology to live stream the hour-long evening show and answer viewers’ daily questions and concerns.”

‘Corona Question and Answer’ is Sky News Arabia’s second program to be live streamed on Facebook and demonstrates the strong partnership and synergy between the two brands. Sky News Arabia has always ensured that audiences have access to the latest facts and news from around the world, and Facebook helps connect people and provides a platform for users to express their thoughts.

Mohamed Omar, News Partnerships Manager, Middle East and North Africa at Facebook, said: “As the COVID-19 outbreak escalates, we’re focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information through our platforms. We’re working closely with news partners across the Middle East region, as part of our global efforts, to ensure they’re using the power of our platforms to connect with people, understand their biggest concerns, and share timely, relevant and accurate information to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

During the one-hour live episodes, there will be a CrowdTangle Live Display, with real-time streams of COVID-19-related posts from public Pages and accounts. Earlier this week, Facebook launched a CrowdTangle Live Display Hub that consists of over 100 COVID-19 Live Displays; each Live Display features post streams sorted by relevant keywords and public accounts to each region. This includes content from local media organizations, regional World Health Organization Pages, government agencies, local politicians, in more than 50 countries. These Live Displays will also track 10 countries in the MENA region including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE, Lebanon and Iraq. Built within the Live Displays and unique to the MENA region is The Hope Feed – a dedicated Live Display, customised to showcase real-time streams of positive COVID-19-related posts from public pages and accounts on Facebook.

To ensure that SNA addresses as many questions as possible, the show’s followers can post their questions on the Instagram and Facebook group called ‘Facebook COVID-19 Group’, as well as Sky News Arabia’s dedicated Coronavirus Facebook group (SNACovid19).

The Evolution of Mobile Networks in the Era of 5G

Fifth generation networks, just like the preceding 4G LTE and WiMAX networks, are expected to greatly increase available bandwidth, with improved end-to-end performance providing a better end-user experience. In the most basic of terms, 4G LTE was the long-term evolution of Radio Access Networks (RAN); 5G is the next iteration.

Wireless carriers have invested billions into their networks to support the ongoing demand for faster network speeds. They must look for ways to increase revenue while delivering more value to the end user. This continues to drive new devices into the hands of the consumer. The demand for increased efficiencies, bandwidth, and coverage has pushed carriers towards a decentralised deployment model.

Network Virtualisation Remains in The Early Stages

Service providers monitor and review technology for advancements that will help deliver faster and less expensive networks. Recently, they have looked into areas of Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and automation to support their advancements. Mobile network operators are investing heavily in reducing delays and errors through repetitive processes as they build and add capacity to existing 4G networks.

Virtualisation and Software Defined Networks (SDN) improvements are driving a shift from hardware to software. SDN is promising, but it’s not an instant solution, as purpose-built hardware still remains the preferred choice. NFV and SDN have offered service providers an alternative to existing methods, including dedicated appliances sitting idle. However, it’s safe to say that the age of virtualisation remains in the early stages.

Hardware manufacturers and service providers are now betting on the acceptance and success of virtualised functions. Software development continues at breakneck speed to meet timelines and demands for more integrated solutions, which easily scale and reduce operational overheads at the same time.

The 5G Revenue Opportunity

5G’s impact is expected to extend beyond the typical mobile network carriers/operators. It promises to enable increased connectivity and flexibility, that will drive additional functions throughout all supportive components of a mobile carrier’s network.

RAN access providers face the question of how to support the ever-increasing appetite for cutting the cord. How can we use our mobile devices in more ways than previously thought, as the end user goes about their daily tasks? This mobility, whether it’s tied to a carrier’s technology or even a simple Wi-Fi home network, reaches all corners of our day-to-day life.

This reach extends from the cloud to the data centre environments and continues to drive capacity needs, supported by both legacy appliances and the ever-increasing virtual environments. This continued appetite for consumption has opened up opportunities for all facets of technology and associated vendors.

5G Mobile Network Evolution

The continued expansion of 5G networks will have a revolutionary impact upon every mobile subscriber and business in the world.

The fundamental market forces of network evolution are not based on wired or wireless infrastructure. Companies are currently focused on upgrading existing mobile networks. Whereas at the exact same time, NFV, SDN and the global IoT industry are all preparing to utilise the next generation of mobile networks.

Software solutions are easier to move from concept to production and frequently offer a lower up-front investment cost. This all adds up to help drive increased functionality for all service providers, including the wired infrastructure.

5G and IoT will be demand-driven. As a result, the more the infrastructure expands to meet that demand, the more opportunities will be uncovered. It’s a positive feedback loop that will revolutionise how we think of the internet.

Get ready for a world that will be changed forever with the next generation mobile networks on the horizon.

With Security and Flexibility Top of Mind, Financial Companies Embrace Hybrid Cloud

Nutanix, a leader in enterprise cloud computing, today announced the financial services industry findings of its second Enterprise Cloud Index Report, measuring financial firms’ plans for adopting private, public and hybrid clouds. The report found the financial sector outpaces all other industries in hybrid cloud deployments – hosting workloads in both private and public cloud – but trail others in their use of multiple public cloud services.

Most financial services companies must adhere to strict regulatory requirements and government mandates. Not surprisingly, 60% of respondents called out security as the single biggest influence on future cloud strategies. Additionally, because so many organizations struggle to migrate workloads between environments, financial services companies have the highest percentage of traditional data centers (59%) delivering key applications. Yet, in the face of digital transformation, the sector faces mounting pressure to modernize IT and to make services more convenient for end-users. Together, this explains why nearly 18% of financial companies have deployed hybrid cloud today, while 51% plan to shift investment to hybrid cloud in just three to five years.

Additional findings of this year’s report include:

  • Flexibility to move applications as needed is critical. Nearly three-quarters of financial companies surveyed (71%) shared their plans to move one or more applications running in a public cloud back on-premises. In the financial services industry, regulatory requirements are constantly evolving, meaning companies must keep pace with changing regulations that govern where these companies can store and manage their data. Respondents also ranked hybrid cloud as the most secure IT operating model (27% of the time) signaling the importance of flexibility, alongside security, in this ever changing environment.
  • The future of work and digital transformation plays a role in the financial sectors’ infrastructure decisions. Financial services selected “support for remote/branch office users” as a motivator for cloud decisions nearly 30% of the time, a significantly higher percentage than cross-industry averages, pointing to the increasingly remote workplace landscape and the role of digital transformation in customer experience. In the short term, respondents listed lack of adoption stemming from concerns around nascent tools for managing hybrid environments (66%), a lack of hybrid cloud skills (30%) and a lack of cloud-native development skills (23%).
  • Security is paramount for compliance and regulation. Data showed that financial companies are running the highest percentage of data centers today, with just over 59% of financial companies. Accounting in part for this trend is dissatisfaction with public cloud, with only 39% of financial services companies reporting public cloud services were completely meeting their expectations.

“The financial sector’s digital transformation is aggressively driving datacenter modernization and cloud adoption,” said Greg Smith, VP of Product Marketing at Nutanix. “Ambitious, but necessary, plans to shift investment to hybrid clouds clearly demonstrate that financial companies recognize the obvious benefits. With hybrid cloud infrastructure, financial companies can enjoy application mobility across clouds and gain greater control of their IT spend, while remaining confident in the security of their data.”

The 2019 respondent base spanned multiple industries, business sizes, and the following geographies: the Americas; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and the Asia-Pacific (APJ) region.

To learn more about the global report and findings, please download the “Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index 2019 or register to access the financial services industry findings.”

Kodak Alaris Partners with ibml to Offer World’s Fastest, Ultra-High-Volume, Intelligent Scanner

Kodak Alaris is partnering with Imaging Business Machines, LLC (ibml) to deliver the next generation of ultra-high-volume scanners to the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) market. With the recent launch of ibml FUSiON Scanners, and as ibml’s lead distribution partner in the region, Kodak Alaris is uniquely positioned to serve a market demanding smart solutions that deliver business process automation at higher speeds than ever before.

Gerry Kelliher, EMEA Managing Director, Kodak Alaris said, “Our partnership with ibml goes back nearly a decade and a half. The company’s world class solutions perfectly complement Kodak Alaris’ portfolio, allowing us to provide ultra-high-speed intelligent capture solutions to our customers. Our team has had great success delivering ibml solutions, where we are able to offer a range of maintenance options and professional services as part of an implementation. We are excited about the launch of the ibml Fusion series scanners, which will be a game-changer that speeds up digital transformation for enterprises in the region.”

The new ibml FUSiON Series ignites the fusion of disparate capture processes into one streamlined solution, using in-line intelligence at blazing fast throughput speeds up to 730 A4 pages per minute and 938 checks per minute. As the world’s fastest, intelligent, scalable document capture platform, ibml FUSiON accelerates customers’ mission-critical applications by extracting information from documents to digital processes, thus enabling digital transformation. 

In a survey by the Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM), 62 percent of organizations said they, “are committed to digital transformation.” Paper documents remain a large source of business input for organizations. Ever-increasing data volumes demand exponentially faster processing and ways to eliminate tedious and unnecessary pre-scan and post-scan labor, which eats 76 percent of total capture costs and majorly drains operational efficiency[1]. ibml’s FUSiON brings previously uncontrolled information under control.

“For nearly three decades, the world’s largest organizations in the most data-rich environments such as banking, government and BPOs have trusted ibml to overcome their core information management challenges,” said ibml President and CEO Martin Birch. “Using industry-leading intelligence and accelerated speeds, we extract actionable data, capture insights and expedite critical decision-making for our customers located in over 48 countries. With the ibml FUSiON, shifting to one infrastructure for all capture needs allows organizations to radically reduce real estate, labor and maintenance costs while pushing productivity forward. ibml FUSiON is poised to truly transform those industries with the most demanding document capture needs of today and tomorrow, empowering their digital transformation, while reducing costs.” 

ibml FUSiON Series sets new benchmarks for high-volume intelligent capture. Every part of the capture process is done smarter – from feeding to exception handling to automated sorting. With all this added intellect, employees are free to focus on other important tasks. The product has the fastest throughput in its class. It is 67 percent faster than its predecessor and allows customers to do mission-critical jobs in tight timelines and handle greater volume, driving better productivity and lowering costs. It features optimized usability and improved service accessibility with a sleek, ergonomic body design that’s engineered to last decades. Intuitive controls deliver a better operator experience—reducing training and increasing overall productivity.

“ibml FUSiON was developed with our customers, based on a deep understanding of their pain points with different devices they use for high-volume document capture,” said ibml Vice President of Engineering Pete Rudak. “We then applied the right technology and innovation to solve those problems, and the result is ibml FUSiON, a comprehensive solution that combines a sleek modern design with the fastest speed, the highest image quality and the intelligence everyone expects from ibml.”

For more information, please visit the Kodak Alaris website.

[1] The Total Cost of Scanning: A Framework for Analysis and Improvement, ECM Connection.

Mindware Signs Distribution Agreement with ESET in Saudi Arabia

Mindware, one of the leading Value Added Distributors (VADs) in the Middle East and Africa, has announced that it has signed a distribution agreement with ESET, a global leader in information security software.

As per the agreement, Mindware will offer the entire suite of ESET business products, including two-factor authentication, endpoint protection, endpoint encryption, endpoint detection and response among others. The distributor will target enterprise customers, small and medium businesses (SMBs) and government organizations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through its expansive channel network.

Speaking about the partnership, Fadi Matta, General Manager at Mindware Saudi Arabia said, “Saudi Vision 2030 outlines that ‘a sophisticated digital infrastructure is integral to today’s advanced industrial activities’. In line with this vision, the government is looking to develop the ICT infrastructure in the Kingdom in conjunction with the private sector. As many digital transformation projects get underway, there is increasing awareness of the criticality in protecting digital infrastructure. A cyber risk is a business risk. Today cyber-attacks have evolved to unprecedented forms, putting businesses at unprecedented risks.”

“Against this scenario, Mindware is building out its security practice and portfolio. The intention is to help organizations in Saudi develop robust security postures as they undergo digital transformation. ESET is an award-winning security vendor that develops industry-leading IT security software and services. We believe that the vendor will add considerable value to our portfolio, and we see great potential for uptake of the company’s solutions, particularly its data loss prevention (DLP) and endpoint protection products.”  

For three decades, ESET has been helping organizations protect their digital infrastructures. Today the company has a user base of over 110 million in 202 countries. ESET products unobtrusively protect and monitor 24/7, updating defenses in real time to keep businesses safe and running without interruption. Backed by R&D centres worldwide, ESET is the first IT security company to earn 100 Virus Bulletin VB100 awards, identifying every single “in-the-wild” malware without interruption since 2003.

As part of the ramping up process, ESET will conduct sales and pre-sales workshops and provide training and certification to Mindware’s designated engineers. Mindware on the other hand will focus on driving ESET’s business by reaching out to existing partners as well as onboarding new partners. The distributor will provide knowledge transfer to partners through regular technical enablement sessions. It will also assist partners with potential business leads by helping them conduct proof-of-concepts (POCs).

Mindware and ESET will jointly conduct marketing activities that include events, promotions, traditional and digital advertising campaigns and much more.

“We are extremely excited about our partnership with Mindware in Saudi Arabia. The distributor with its extensive channel network of over 2000 partners will provide us additional depth to expand our market share in the Kingdom. A highly competent technical team from Mindware will be a great value to our offerings and enable us to jointly deliver ESET’s next-generation security solutions to businesses in the country,” concluded Husni Hammoud, Managing Director at ESET Middle East.

Featured image: Fadi Matta, General Manager at Mindware Saudi Arabia

Over Half Of Dubai Businesses Are Looking Forward To An Increase In Commercial Activity In 2020

According to the Dubai Economy, more companies expect better business conditions and an increase in commercial activity due to the Dubai Expo 2020.

60% of companies in Dubai, UAE, are optimistic about better business conditions during 2020, in comparison to the 58% last quarter.

Business owners were less optimistic in 2019, particularly towards the end, with 19% of businesses rating their performance as below standards due to a lag in consumer spending and activity which deteriorated for the first time in ten years.

As a result of this, job numbers significantly fell, with the decline noted by economist David Owens as “one of the quickest recorded.”  

Additionally, ambiguity surrounding the US-China trade war also had an effect on entrepreneur sentiments.

However, despite this decline in business activity and optimism, companies in Dubai are now looking forward to the Expo 2020. Opening in October 2020, businesses are counting on the event to unlock future commercial opportunities.

Of the businesses surveyed by the Dubai economy, 56% said they expect a rise in commercial activity as a result of the Expo, 20% expect improvement in business or market conditions and 14% expect “visitor activity” to increase.

In relation to this, a spokesperson for the Dubai economy has stated that: “Improving domestic market conditions and strong prospects for international reach has seen businesses in Dubai welcoming 2020 with optimism.”

Mindware Partners with Mist Systems to Distribute Industry’s First AI-Driven Wireless in Middle East and North Africa

Mindware, one of the leading Value Added Distributors (VADs) in the Middle East and Africa, today announced that it has signed a distribution agreement with Mist Systems, a Juniper company that is a pioneer in cloud-managed wireless networks powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). As per the agreement, Mindware will offer Mist’s entire portfolio of solutions to enterprises across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) including the GCC countries, Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia and Yemen. Mindware will extend and enable the vendor’s regional channel, while also providing value-added services for support, implementation, training and business development.

The agreement marks a significant extension of Mindware’s long-standing partnership with Juniper Networks which spans over a decade. Having established proven expertise as a value-added distributor for Juniper Networks’ best-in-class wired LAN, SD-WAN and security solutions, Mindware is now ready to round out its portfolio by extending this competency into the wireless domain.

“Wi-Fi is the platform on which innovations in IoT, collaboration, workforce enablement, customer experience and a host of services essential to today’s customers and employees are dependent. Through our partnership with Mist, we are improving the reliability, predictability and measurability of Wi-Fi, while introducing unmatched convenience and simplicity through the intuitive and scalable cloud-management layer,” said Mr. Nicholas Argyrides, General Manager – Gulf at Mindware.

Mist has been first to market with an AI-driven wireless platform that includes the world’s first virtual IT assistant. In addition, Mist is the first vendor to bring enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, BLE and IoT together to deliver personalized, location-based wireless services without requiring battery-powered beacons. All operations are managed via Mist’s modern cloud architecture for maximum scalability, agility and performance. As a result, Mist is quickly becoming the WLAN standard for enterprise customers across numerous industries and Mindware intends to first capitalize on the growing demand for intelligent Wi-Fi solutions in the retail, education and healthcare sectors.

“We have built up the expertise and manpower to fully support this innovative vendor and are excited to introduce their exciting solutions to our wide base of regional businesses and the channel,” Mr. Argyrides added. As Mist’s value added distributor, Mindware will provide technical support, warehousing and logistics and financial services. The value-added distributor is set to partner with Mist in co-hosting a series of channel enablement roadshows, as well as trainings and certifications in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and broader GCC region through 2020. Mindware is also ramping up its service capabilities as it prepares to offer Professional Services on behalf of the vendor in the course of the year.

Commenting on the partnership, Yarob Sakhnini, Vice President, Emerging Markets, EMEA at Juniper Networks said, “The combination of our advanced WLAN platform with Mindware’s proven expertise and well-established channel community will act as a force multiplier to accelerate the adoption of AI-driven wireless in the region. We are confident that with the full support of Mindware’s team, the value and quality of the Mist portfolio will be maintained and enhanced through every stage and phase of delivery, so end-customers can realise the full potential of our industry leading solutions.”

The Wait Is Over; HUAWEI MateBook D Series Pre-Booking in Saudi Arabia Is ready to kick off

With The Smart Connectivity, Fingerprint Login, and Huawei Share; Every Ground-Breaking Innovation Was Conceived to Bring You Better Experience.

 Huawei Tech Investment Saudi Arabia Company announced the kick-off the pre-booking phase for their innovative HUAWEI MateBook D Series which is now open. 

The new Huawei laptop series introduces a revolutionary cross-platform experience that allows users to seamlessly work with multiple devices through a single pane of glass.

 

Huawei Share

The latest HUAWEI MateBook D Series comes with a range of new features including support for Huawei Share Equipped with a full array of smart capabilities, the HUAWEI MateBook D Series stands as a powerful companion to today’s tech-savvy youth. The new Huawei Share feature allow users to project their smartphone display to a PC and control both devices simultaneously. Once the connection is established, users may drag and drop files across the systems to seamlessly transfer files and operate mobile apps directly on the PC – including editing documents.

 

Slim and Portable

The HUAWEI MateBook D Series is designed for young consumers. Its aesthetics reflect the characteristics of its target audience, the curvy, streamlined design endows it with a stylish and unique aesthetic identity. Compared to the rounded design of its predecessors, the new HUAWEI MateBook D Series has a bolder and sleeker design. The enhancements made to the small details – such as the thinner bezels and recessed camera – allow Huawei to further shrink the form factor of the laptops, further improving their portability.

Packing a FullView Display into an Ultra-slim laptop is difficult. Starting from the development of the first generation of HUAWEI MateBook, Huawei’s R&D team has been trying to solve the dilemma between size and weight. With size comes a better viewing experience, but often it comes at an expense of portability. 

 

Fingerprint Power Button

HUAWEI MateBook is the first Windows PC to feature a fingerprint sensor for user login. It is equipped with the fingerprint scanner. It is integrated into the power button, so users can power on their device while simultaneously having their identity authenticated. This means users don’t have to scan their fingerprint or input their password at the login screen to unlock their device. Using this scanner, users can get to Desktop immediately. The fingerprint scanner in HUAWEI MateBook D supports sensitivity much greater than the average. The scanner improves recognition consistency with use – the more it is used, the more consistent it becomes.

 

Availability and price:

The HUAWEI Matebook D Series is available for pre-order starting from February 6th till the 13th  of February 2020 at the price of 2,499 SAR  for the HUAWEI MateBook D 14 and 2,699 SAR for HUAWEI MateBook D 15 with valuable gifts (limited quantity) including HUAWEI WATCH GT,  12000mAh 40W SuperCharge Power Bank, HUAWEI Bluetooth Mouse and HUAWEI Backpack (during the pre-order period only) at the Huawei Flagship Store in Riyadh Park, Huawei E-shop, and several authorized retailers in Saudi Arabia.

Weak December Performance Caps Dreary Year for MENA Hotels

Profit was hampered by a weak top line that saw RevPAR down 7.4% YOY, pulled down by a 9.9% YOY decrease in average rate, even amid a 1.9-percentage-point uptick in occupancy.

A tough year for Middle East & North Africa hoteliers mercifully came to an end in December, a month that didn’t help their overall yearly results. Profit per available room was down 5.4% year-over-year, negatively contributing to an overall 9.3% YOY GOPPAR drop for the year, according to data from HotStats.

Profit was hampered by a weak top line that saw RevPAR down 7.4% YOY, pulled down by a 9.9% YOY decrease in average rate, even amid a 1.9-percentage-point uptick in occupancy. Decreases that also occurred in the F&B department brought total revenue down 6.5% compared to the same time the year prior.

 

The month’s drop in profit was almost entirely a result of weakened revenue, as expenses were kept in check and, in some cases, came down. Total costs among the undistributed departments decreased, among them, Sales & Marketing (-6.5%), Information & Technology (-19.3%) and Property & Maintenance (-8.7%), which included an 11.0% YOY drop in utilities. Total expenses on a per-occupied-room basis were down 9.7% YOY for the month, while total payroll on a per-available-room basis was down 7.3% YOY.

Still, hoteliers couldn’t overcome the difficult revenue predicament, which not even expense containment could help, ultimately leading to a profit drop.

Hoteliers can take some solace in profit margin, which was up 0.5 percentage points to 41.0%.

 

Profit & Loss Performance Indicators – Total MENA (in USD)

KPI

December 2019 v. December2018

RevPAR

-7.4% to $126.70

TRevPAR

-6.5% to $221.99

Payroll

-7.3% to $53.30

GOPPAR

-5.4% to $91.07

Bahrain stood witness to a year of violent swings on both the revenue and expense side of the coin. While RevPAR for the month was down 1.4% YOY, and TRevPAR was actually up 0.2%, GOPPAR was down a staggering 20.6% YOY. For the year, GOPPAR was down 3.2% YOY.

The story in December was expense. Costs were up across the undistributed departments, including Property & Maintenance (up 27.5%) and a 23.2% jump in utility expenses. Total overhead costs were up 18.5% YOY. Meanwhile, total labour costs were actually down 3.3% YOY on a per-available-room basis.

Profit margin for the month was down 4.9 percentage points to just 19%.

 

Profit & Loss Performance Indicators – Bahrain (in USD)

KPI

December 2019 v. December 2018

RevPAR

-1.4% to $89.67

TRevPAR

+0.2% to $177.87

Payroll

-3.3% to $59.48

GOPPAR

-20.6% to $33.75

Hotel performance in December in Dubai mimicked the greater MENA region. The emirate took a hit on both the top line and bottom line, evidenced by an 8.9% YOY decline in RevPAR, which was heavily impacted by a 9.8% YOY drop in average rate, despite a 0.7-percentage-point increase in occupancy.

Total revenue was down 8.5% YOY and 13.6% for the year.

The precipitous drop in revenue carried through to profit. GOPPAR was down 9.4% YOY (18.6% for the year), dragged down further by an 8.0% YOY decrease in total expenses on a per-occupied-room basis.

The drop was even more striking considering that expenses on a whole were also down in December. Total expenses on a per-occupied-room basis were down 8% YOY, while payroll on a per-available-room basis was down 8.3%. Total utilities were also down to the tune of 14.7% YOY.

Profit margin was down 0.4 percentage points to 47.3%.

 

Profit & Loss Performance Indicators – Dubai (in USD)

KPI

December 2019 v. December 2018

RevPAR

-8.9% to $189.42

TRevPAR

-8.5% to $318.65

Payroll

-8.3% to $64.43

GOPPAR

-9.4% to $150.61

Saudi-Based Startups Draw Record Number Of Deals In 2019

Proving an outstanding year for entrepreneurship, 2019 saw Saudi Arabia’s startups attract $67 million worth of investments, a new report shows. This is an increase of 35 percent from 2018.

Last year also saw 71 investment deals, which is a staggering rise of 92 percent since 2018, and a record number in comparison to any other year, according to startup platform MAGNITT.

Additionally, there was an increase of 58 percent in institutional investors in startups based in the kingdom to a total of 41 institutions. Around one-third of these institutions were based outside Saudi, mainly in the UAE.

MAGNiTT’s Founder and CEO, Philip Bahoshy said: “There are several factors that contribute to the growth of the Saudi startup ecosystem in general: the size of its economy and population, as well as a high income per capita and internet penetration.

“This, combined with the increased government focus on the entrepreneurship sector through Funds of Funds, capital matching programs, accelerator programs, licensing schemes and other initiatives, contribute to the growth of the startup sector as a whole.”

This increase in business deals and capital funding in Saudi Arabia has placed it at the third highest spot for both categories in the MENA region, following UAE and Egypt.

The kingdom accounted for 12 percent of the total deals in the region, and 9 percent of the total funding.

MEA Markets Magazine Announces Winners of the 2019 MEA Business Awards

MEA markets

United Kingdom, 2020– MEA Markets magazine has announced the winners of the 2019 MEA Business Awards.

Now in its fourth year, the MEA Business Awards endeavour to celebrate the extraordinary talent behind one of the largest and most influential business regions in the world. A colossal hub of innovation and creativity, the Middle East and Africa represent two sides of an ever-evolving coin. One has long been defined business excellence, and the other is growing and adapting rapidly to become a future global leader. As such, it is important to note those businesses that are working right now to set the pace for others to follow.

Commenting on the success of these deserving winners, Chloe Smart, Awards Coordinator said: “Sincere congratulations to all of those recognised in the 2019 edition of this programme. I wish you all a successful and prosperous year ahead.”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit http://www.mea-markets.com/ where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.

ENDS

Notes to editors.

About MEA Markets

Published quarterly, MEA Markets endeavours to provide readers with the latest business and investment news from across the Middle East and African regions.

Keeping pace with a vast array of ever-changing sectors thanks to regular contributions from some of the region’s top corporate professionals across a variety of industries, MEA Markets is home to the very best news, features and comment from the people and institutions in the know.

Access confirmed for over 132,000 Nigerian bankers to CISI’s global professional development program

The significance of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment’s (CISI) global professional development programme in Nigeria has been officially recognised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria’s (CIBN) accreditation of CISI as an Educational Service Training Provider (ESTP).

The important accreditation means that CISI’s exemplary Continuing Professional Development (CPD) online learning programme can count towards CIBN members’ annual CPD requirements. The deal also means that CIBN members can study for CISI’s suite of global qualifications in the knowledge that they have CIBN’s endorsement. Some of the qualifications promoted under the partnership with CIBN include:

– International Certificate in Wealth Management (ICWIM)
– Risk in Financial Services
– Global Financial Compliance

With a history dating back to 1963, the CIBN’s vision is to be a global reference point for professionalism and ethics in the banking and finance profession in Nigeria.

With over 45,000 members in 100 countries, CISI’s 40,000 qualifications and exams are recognised by 60 global financial services regulators. The CISI’s global qualifications programme encompasses the professional financial services sectors of wealth management, financial planning and capital markets, offering an accessible study pathway for those looking to get into or develop their careers in the dynamic global financial services profession.

The CISI’s CPD digital platform contains over 180 e-learning modules, or “Professional Refreshers”, 500 videos on the CISI TV channel and 1,300 articles in the exclusive CISI member magazine The Review.

Praneet Shivaprasad, CISI Senior International Manager said: “We are honoured and excited to achieve this important accreditation from the CIBN, which has a critical role in capacity building and the promotion of ethics and professionalism in the Nigerian financial services sector. Our global qualifications and CPD e-learning programme will provide CIBN members with an opportunity to complement their excellent CIBN training and qualifications with our own CPD programme to help ensure their learning is relevant and up to date to meet the needs of our fast-moving, competitive, global capital markets.”

The CISI has been working in Nigeria for over four years and has agreements with a number of prestigious Nigerian institutions, in addition to the CIBN, including the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS). Its agreement with the African Securities Exchange Association (ASEAN) has allowed it to develop a close relationship with the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), who’s Chief Executive Oscar Onyema is a CISI member.

For further information on the CISI CPD programme contact [email protected]

Dubai Real Estate Deals Hit 11-Year High In 2019

Dubai registered a total of 41,988 real estate transactions in 2019, marking the highest number of sales transactions registered annually in Dubai since 2008, said Property Finder, a leading property portal in Mena.

The number of property deals during 2019 also marks a growth of 20 per cent in the volume of registered property sales transactions compared to 34,961 transactions in 2018, according to Data Finder, the real estate insights and data platform under the Property Finder Group.

There were 11,662 property sales transactions registered in Dubai in 2008. The Dubai real estate market has, therefore, grown by 260 per cent in the past 11 years in terms of the volume of transactions. The second highest number of property sales transactions registered in Dubai since 2008 was in 2017 (40,649).
This news comes on the heels of recent reports about the Dubai property market regaining momentum, especially after the announcement of the formation of the Higher Real Estate Committee to rebalance supply and demand, back in September 2019. The committee helped inspire market confidence, with both October and November 2019 seeing record number of transactions – 4,774 and 5,037, respectively.

December 2019 clocked in 2,989 registered property sales transactions. Other good months for property sales in Dubai last year were July (4,234), September (4,007) and May (3,512).

“Going into 2020 and leading up to the Expo, we should continue to see transaction levels increase and prices start to stabilise in certain areas. We have already started to see certain market dynamics shift as a direct effect from Expo and these trends will most likely continue throughout the year,” said Lynnette Abad, director of Data and Research, Property Finder.

Off-plan vs secondary transactions

There continues to be a preference for off-plan properties, with this asset class accounting for an overall 23,643 transactions in 2019. This could be because of attractive prices and incentives offered by developers such as a waiver of service fees, a wide range of post-handover payment plans, discount on registration charges and commissions, guaranteed rental returns, among others. However, new off-plan launches were considerably down from their 2017 and 2018 levels.

With several potential buyers still unable to afford the down payment stipulated by the UAE Central Bank to qualify for a mortgage, purchasers are increasingly opting for developer-sponsored payment plans to fund their off-plan properties. This has resulted in several first-time homebuyers getting on the property ladder.

Dubai registered 18,345 transactions in the secondary market last year. With new homes becoming completed thick and fast, developers are forced to come up with rent-to-own schemes and other initiatives to make sure that they are not left with unsold, ready units. This makes it a perfect buyer’s market, with attractive prices, good deals and plenty of options to choose from. However, in such schemes, the price of a property is typically higher than a comparable property currently on the market.

As per Data Finder project and supply data, there were over 45,000 units completed in 2019 which was the highest amount of units completed in one year over the last five years.

Meanwhile, the top 5 areas which witnessed the highest overall property sales transactions in 2019 were Business Bay (3,146), Downtown Burj Khalifa (2,816), Dubai Creek Harbour (2,492), Dubai Hills Estate (2,373) and Dubai South (2,048).

For off-plan sales, the top 5 performing areas in Dubai were Dubai Creek Harbour (2,423 transactions), Downtown (2,088), Dubai Hills Estate (1,949), Dubai South (1,942) and Business Bay (1,811).

On the secondary market, areas that witnessed the most sales were International City (1,342), Business Bay (1,335), Dubai Marina (1,280), Jumeirah Village Circle (1,108) and Jumeirah Lakes Towers (851).

Saudi Arabia Launches Third Round Of National Renewable Energy Program

Saudi Arabia has launched the third round of its national program to build up solar power generation capacity in the Kingdom.

The Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) of the Ministry of Energy has issued the request for qualifications (RFQ) for Round Three of the Kingdom’s National Renewable Energy Program (NREP), the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Thursday.

The new phase comprises of four solar photovoltaic (PV) projects with a combined generation capacity of 1,200 megawatts (MW). The RFQ window for round three closes on February 6, 2020.

The statement said the third round would be divided into two categories – Category A targets smaller companies, and includes the 80 MW Layla and the 120 MW Wadi Al Dawaser solar PV projects while Category B includes the 300 MW Saad and 700 MW Ar Rass solar PV projects.

Projects within round three will carry a minimum requirement of 17 percent local content in order to increase the value-added contribution of products and services in the national economy, the statement quoted REPDO head Faisal Alyemni as saying.

In 2017, REPDO had tendered the first round which included the 300 MW Sakaka solar PV and the 400 MW Dumat Al Jandal wind power projects.

In July 2019, REPDO launched Round Two of the NREP which comprised of six solar PV projects totaling 1,470 MW. The deadline for receiving proposals is 20 January for Round Two projects and 3 February for Categories B and A.

UAE Marching Towards Becoming A $500bln Economy

Rapid economic diversification underpinned by a string of bold reforms and a series of government stimulus measures are set to drive UAE growth at a steady pace as its gross domestic product (GDP) remains on track to surpass the $500 billion mark over the next few years.

The latest projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that the UAE’s non-oil sector, pivotal to this all-round growth, will surge from 1.3 per cent in 2018 to 1.6 per cent in 2019 and 3 per cent in 2020.

With a GDP of $414 billion in 2018, the UAE has been successfully diversifying away from oil, which accounted for more than 85 per cent of the economy in 2009.

As a result, oil GDP growth is forecast to slow down from 2.8 per cent in 2018 to 1.5 per cent this year and 1.4 per cent next year when non-oil sectors such as tourism, aviation, retail, hospitality, real estate and construction will spur the expansion as the World Expo gives an added momentum to the pace of growth.

According to economists, the expansion in non-oil activity is slowly beginning to translate into stronger job creation, although at a modest rate. A massive construction boom, an expanding manufacturing base and a thriving services sector are helping the UAE diversify its economy while tourism continues to be a key non-oil source of revenue with some of the world’s most luxurious hotels being based in the UAE. Nationwide, there is currently $350 billion worth of active construction projects underway.

Another growth driver of the UAE economy is the aviation market that is poised to grow 170 per cent by 2037 while supporting 1.4 million jobs and contribute $128 billion to the nation’s economy, according to the International Air Transport Association, or Iata, said on Tuesday.

In its latest study on the importance of air transport to the UAE, the International Air Transport Association said the domestic aviation industry at present supports nearly 800,000 jobs and contributes $47.4 billion to the economy, accounting for 13.3 per cent of the UAE’s GDP.

However, given the ongoing prioritisation of aviation by the UAE government as a key strategic asset, the sector could generate an additional 620,000 jobs and an extra $80 billion in GDP for the nation’s economy by 2037, the trade body of 290 airlines across the world said.

The outlook for the industrial sector in the UAE is very bright indeed, especially considering the success of some of its national industrial companies in establishing themselves as major contributors to global value chains in a variety of advanced industrial sectors, such as aviation and defence, aluminium and other leading industries.

Over the next 10 years, UAE’s specialised industrial zones are on track to play an important role in attracting local and international capital to invest in the industrial sector. The UAE also seeks to attract international companies to launch pioneering projects in this country and to develop strong partnerships with industrial companies at both the local and international level.

Adding to this, the UAE is giving strong emphasis to the SME sector, expecting them to enter the advanced industrial sector and contribute to global value chains. The government also expects homegrown companies to eventually play a major role in driving innovation and employing new technologies within the national industrial sector.

The federal government has stressed that education will remain a priority and the nation’s path to the future. The new year’s federal budget has allocated a large proportion to funding federal schools and development projects. The Cabinet has approved a national fund to support and train Emirati jobseekers and made legal amendments to ensure Emiratis in the private sector receive a pension as they would in the public sector.

Therefore, it is likely that this string of recent reforms and new liberal rules will see that the UAE sustain its growth momentum to become a $500 billion economy in the not too distant future.

FRV To Develop Energy Storage Projects Globally

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), part of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy and a leading global developer of renewable energy projects, has announced its first battery project as a part of  its long-term investment plan to develop energy storage projects globally.

The plan includes long-term investments in battery energy storage projects that play a central role in the market, supporting the increasing penetration of renewables in the global energy mix.

FRV’s first battery energy storage project is located at Holes Bay, in Dorset, United Kingdom, in collaboration with the British developer Harmony Energy, which builds, owns and operates renewable energy assets across the UK.

The Holes Bay project will be comprised of lithium-ion batteries with a combined capacity of 15 MWh, connected to the Southern Electric Power distribution network, with the capability to store energy and provide flexibility to the grid.

Holes Bay will be a first-of-a-kind development in the UK and Europe, utilising cutting-edge control and storage technologies. Construction will start in January 2020, with commissioning expected within three months, for what will be one of the largest battery energy storage systems in the South of England.

Harmony Energy, with the backing of FRV, has also conditionally pre-qualified 300 MW of new battery energy storage systems in the UK Capacity Market, with this pre-qualified capacity making up 16% of the total 1.8 GW battery energy capacity. The UK has been a pioneer in deploying these systems in a competitive and open market, creating perfect conditions for integrators, developers and investors to embrace the benefits of incorporating these clean technologies into the energy mix. FRV believes investing in low-carbon initiatives in the United Kingdom is essential to support the Country´s ambitious 2030/50 decarbonisation targets and believes battery energy storage will provide the capacity and flexibility National Grid needs.

Felipe Hernandez, Managing Director Engineering and Asset Management of FRV, notes: “FRV is already collaborating with governments, regulators, and partners around the world to lay the foundations for a new energy model. Energy storage plays a central and critical role to fully realise the power of renewable energy, and FRV acknowledges the value of this technology as a key element to achieve a decarbonised society.”

“The Holes Bay project will be the first in a strategic energy storage pipeline to be launched both globally and within the UK. We are pleased to join efforts together with Harmony Energy, demonstrating the economic and technical feasibility of the battery energy storage system.”

Peter Kavanagh, CEO of Harmony Energy, said “This is a hugely significant project for Harmony, because it is the first in a large pipeline of utility-scale battery storage plants in the UK, and we’re looking forward to working with FRV to bring Holes Bay forward in the new year”.

“Wind and solar projects remain key but battery storage is the missing link in the UK’s renewable energy strategy, both in terms of controlling grid frequency and providing backup during periods of peak demand and supply. We have over 500 MW of battery energy storage assets construction-ready and with the backing of FRV, we have also pre-qualified 300 MW of new battery energy storage systems into the UK’s Capacity Market. It’s a critical time for battery energy storage in the UK and we are pleased to be at the forefront of development.”

Fady Jameel, Deputy President and Vice Chairman, Abdul Latif Jameel International, further commented: “Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, through our pioneering renewables operation FRV, continues to advance a sustainable energy future through innovation and strategic partnerships, progressing the economic viability of renewables and eventually arresting the impacts of climate change. We are proud to partner with Harmony Energy and be part of the ground-breaking development of the UK’s strategic sustainable energy programme.”

New Report Reveals How The UAE Economy Will End 2019

The UAE will end 2019 on a better note than in previous years, with the economy forecast to hit a 2 per cent real growth, according to a new report by the Ministry of Economy.

The improved economic performance is due to an increase in output and export capacity in the oil sector, which is expected to hit 3.1 million barrels per day in 2019, as well as the growth in non-oil industries.

The economic narrative for the UAE looks more promising compared to the last few years, when the economy weakened significantly, posting only a 0.5 per cent growth in 2017 and 1.7 per cent in 2018, the report said.  

Compared to its global peers, which have been impacted by trade fears, tightening bank credit policies in China and narrowing financial conditions, among other factors, the landscape looks better for the UAE as well. Estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showed that global economic growth will continue to slide from 3.6 per cent in 2018 to 3.2 per cent in 2019, after hitting a 3.8 per cent peak in 2017.

The UAE prides itself on being one of the most diversified economies in the world, with the non-oil sector, constituting 70 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), “accelerating” its growth pace.

Top officials had acknowledged that despite its diversification efforts, the UAE is not completely immune to external shocks but that the country has managed to cushion the impact of a global slowdown.

Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori UAE Minister of Economy said: “Global economic activity has been weak in 2019, as a result of numerous updates that have affected the entire economic landscape,”

He noted that with the UAE’s economic model, and by “deepening the role of innovation, technology, knowledge and research,” as well as by “supporting national entrepreneurship,” the country succeeded in limiting the “impact of these global economic variables.”

The Ministry of Economy’s annual economic report was released at the ongoing UAE Economic Forum, to provide an explanation and an overview of the economic conditions, variables and indicators in the UAE during 2018.

As for the overall cost of living, it looks like the numbers have eased, with the UAE Ministry of Economy predicting the inflation rate to drop to -1.2 per cent by the end of the year. This is partly due to the decline in housing rent and oil prices.

As for merchandise exports, there will be an increase of 4.2 per cent, and the total value of which is expected to reach about $33.02 billion, up from $316.9 billion in 2018. The volume of imported merchandise will likewise grow by 4.3 per cent to hit $245.4 billion, compared to $235.4 billion in 2018.

As for the other indicators, there is no forecast for the end of the year, although the UAE Ministry of Economy highlighted the achievements of some industries over the last several years.

Speaking at the conference on Wednesday, Nada Al Hashimi, director for economic research at the Ministry of Economy, noted that the UAE has made significant progress in certain sectors over the past five years, with the information and communications sector growing at an annual rate of 5.4 per cent; the education and professional, scientific and technical activities sectors posting a yearly growth of 5.6 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively.

The two-day forum is being held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president prime minister and ruler of Dubai.

GreenPack Empowers Innovative Mobility Projects In Kenya

• GreenPack delivers 50 battery packs to Kenya
• GreenPack battery provides offroad e-cargobike with energy
• E-bikes are used, among other things, for transporting clean drinking water

Providing green energy for everyone as needed – this GreenPack leitmotif is currently being implemented not only at more and more sites in Germany, but also at Lake Victoria in Kenya. This is where the high-performance standardised rechargeable battery of the Berlin-based GreenTech company is used as part of the Siemens Foundation’s WeTu project.

In addition to the “WeWater” and “WePower” business units, which stand for clean drinking water and sustainable energy solutions, the “WeMobility” division has set itself the goal of introducing innovative electromobility solutions in the region. With solar energy, sharing economy approaches and local production, the infrastructure will be expanded and will enable added value to be created locally.

The GreenPack battery supplies all-terrain cargobikes in the WeMobility project area. The oversized e-cargobikes of the Berlin start-up Anywhere.berlin have electric motors and extra-wide tires to reliably transport loads of up to 160 kilograms, even beyond paved roads. The e-cargobikes are used, for example, for the transport of drinking water, which is obtained as part of the WeTu project area WeWater using modern filter systems in Mbita and other locations on the shores of Lake Victoria – an important contribution, because in the region, only 35 percent of people have access to clean drinking water.

Kenya

Electric vehicles and electromobile applications are very well suited for use in rural areas of East Africa and represent an environmentally friendly alternative to existing means of transport – especially against the background that due to the favourable climatic conditions, an energy-autonomous charging infrastructure can be built and operated.

The standardised, exchangeable GreenPack battery in conjunction with a solar charging infrastructure enables efficient and sustainable use. In total, the Berlin start-up has sent 50 batteries to the WeTu locations on Lake Victoria.

“We are proud to support this Siemens Foundation project with our replaceable batteries, thereby helping to promote environmentally friendly mobility, affordable transportation and local production, as well as creating sustainable jobs at Lake Victoria,” said Tobias Breyer, CMO of GreenPack.

“Electromobility makes sense not only in Europe, but especially in rural regions in Africa. We chose the GreenPack battery as part of the WeMobility project because of its high performance, ease of use and easy changeability, enabling it to build an efficient mobility system based on rental batteries,” explains Marah Köberle, Project Manager of E Mobility at the Siemens Foundation.