Jumeirah Group Makes Ten New Appointments to Bolster Culinary Expansion

Exceptional new talent to join Jumeirah Group and elevate the dining experience across its iconic beachfront properties

United Arab Emirates, Dubai : Jumeirah Group, the global luxury hospitality company and a member of Dubai Holding, has announced a raft of new appointments as the expansion of its world-class culinary portfolio ramps up.

Following the earlier announcement of 13 new and re-imagined concepts set to open over the next two months, the innovative new chefs and mixologists will further strengthen the Jumeirah Restaurants team and support in transforming the Group’s stunning beachfront into a vibrant culinary hotspot.

Mr. Jose Silva, Chief Executive Officer of Jumeirah Group, said: “Exceptional dining is a core focus for Jumeirah Group and central to our expansion. At the heart of this is the recruitment of high calibre and well-known chefs to strengthen the incredible collection of restaurants and bars in our portfolio and enhance the guest experience.We are immensely proud to have a world-class line-up of talent joining our Jumeirah Restaurants team, who will no doubt help make the launch of our enhanced and new restaurant concepts a resounding success.”  

At the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Chef Saverio Sbaragli takes on the role of Head Chef at Al Muntaha, bringing Michelin star expertise in French fine-dining cuisine with Italian influences, to create one of Dubai’s most authentic and exquisite culinary experiences. Chef Tom Koll also joins the world-famous hotel as Executive Pastry Chef, showcasing his in-depth industry knowledge and Michelin starred experience to bring guests new and reimagined offerings. Chef Andrea Migliaccio steps into the role of Executive Chef at Al Mahara, joining from Capri Palace Jumeirah’s Michelin starred restaurants L’Olivo and Il Riccio. He will enhance the menu with his modern re-interpretation of seafood gastronomy as part of its reinvention as a decadent ‘fish club’. Rounding off the new team is acclaimed mixologist Thibault Mequignon as Bar Manager of glittering nightspot Gilt, which will transform into a beverage apothecary. Having worked in some of the world’s best bars across London and Paris, Mequignon will serve up a world-class selection of innovative drinks.

At Jumeirah Al Naseem, Chef Marco Acquaroli joins Rockfish as the Executive Sous Chef, with over 10 years of experience in Michelin starred restaurants across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Remy Marquignon also joins the team as Sous Chef, bringing his invaluable Michelin star experience to the role.  At Rockfish, Acquaroli and Marquignon create exquisite delicacies that are reflective in every dish brought to the table, transporting guests to the coasts of Italy. Stepping into the role of Pastry Chef for the hotel is Chef Julien Jacob, bringing over 16 years of experience in the art of pastry and baking techniques to serve an exceptional selection of desserts across the hotel’s restaurants and lounges.

Heading up the F&B operations at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, Charles-Antoine Chaudron joins as Director of F&B. Having previously worked at luxury hotels across France and England, including the Peninsula Paris, Chaudron will oversee and strengthen the hotel’s existing and upcoming culinary offerings. At Zheng He’s, Chef Wong Lian You takes on the role of Executive Chef where he will bring to life the reimagined Dubai institution, with the best of traditional Chinese flavours and handcrafted Dim Sum.

Taking on the role as Outlet Manager of Pierchic, one of the UAE coastline’s most distinctive dining destinations located at Jumeirah Al Qasr, is Andrea Gerli. Gerli brings over eight years of hospitality experience in the Middle East and Europe to the role where he will oversee the daily operations.    

Lastly, Sebastien Torres joins Jumeirah Beach Hotel as Executive Chef. Torres has had operational oversight of a variety of specialty restaurants ranging from brasserie style to fine dining establishments with two Michelin stars. At Dubai’s family favourite hotel, he is set to elevate the culinary experience across the new and existing outlets.

Big Data, Big City Transformations: Transport and Well-Being

As the world changes, so do our priorities. We are now needing to place human needs before technical needs when designing urban areas for the future. Sustainability is at the heart of these considerations as we look to include green spaces, utilise big data effectively, and introduce efficient travel. Technology is central to these ideas, particularly for the use of big data in smart cities.

In today’s society, governments and leaders are given a plethora of insights and data that improve how we live. Gathering such rich and useful information about built-up areas like cities is not only efficient and relatively quick but can work towards providing the best living conditions for residents as well as the environment and other species that inhabit it.

What are smart cities?

Smart cities are a relatively new concept that use technology to gather data and insights to improve services and solve problems. Cities only account for two per cent of our planet’s total surface area. However, data from the UN reports that cities will house 68 per cent of the global population by 2050. The need for cities that can safely house a high population creates challenges like mobility issues, traffic congestion, and pollution, among many more we already face in our everyday lives.

Smart cities can help solve societal challenges we are facing from an ever-increasing human population. City data provides an in-depth and accurate look into what we need without breaching earth’s ecological boundaries.

Successful smart cities

Amsterdam was one of the first smart cities, using data to ensure the city’s roads, housing, services, and quality of life continue to improve. The city manages all this while becoming more sustainable to avoid air pollution too.

Plus, the city is making use of a unique asset to gather data – its bridges. Amsterdam has more bridges than any other city in the world at 1,800 in total. These bridges can communicate information to other infrastructures in order to optimise travel – the MX3D bridge is equipped with sensors to visualise information about traffic on bridges, the neighbourhood, environment, and its structural integrity. Maintenance will automatically be alerted when it needs work on it. It can even communicate with traffic lights to change timing to reduce congestion when it’s busy.

Efficient transport

Railways have always been key spaces within cities and maintain connectivity between neighbourhoods. Trains are the optimum mode of transport in busy cities and will continue to be in the future – for example, transport in London would be near enough impossible without the intricate underground and overground train system. With a population expected to reach around 10 billion by 2050, smart rail systems will be needed more than ever to evolve with the rapidly growing urbanisation.

In today’s world, smart trains use data for passenger information systems to inform on live news, connecting information, time tables, as well as real-time data to inform engineers of predictive maintenance to keep services running smoothly and regulate trains. Machine-to-machine communication with input from the cloud enables passengers to seek the fastest route and find out which trains are the busiest, keeping footfall smooth and reducing congestion in built-up areas.

Dubai’s new ways of travel

Dubai’s pollution is hitting high levels, risking vulnerable groups like young children, older people, pregnant mothers, and the ill. This is contributed to by the high number of personal vehicles emitting noxious pollution as well as heavy-duty vehicles.

Last year, Dubai engineered an entirely new transport system to the city, named Sky Pods.

These will travel alongside the Dubai Metro, transporting two to five people around set routes to meet their mobility targets.

Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, the director-general and chairman of the RTA, commented: “The signing of the agreement is part of RTA’s efforts to deploy autonomous transit means in line with the Dubai Self-Driving Transport Strategy aimed at diverting 25 per cent of total mobility journeys in Dubai to autonomous transit means by 2030.”

Similarly, the city is looking for ways to cut down rush hour for commuters. The new Virgin Hyperloop took its first travellers in November last year and can travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes, transporting 10,000 passengers each hour both ways.

Integrating green spaces

Recent research suggests that while we should integrate technological features into our cities, a lot of focus needs to be shifted towards environmental sustainability.

Smart cities are also being designed for public health and well-being. Satellites can identify how much greenery exists in a city and areas to improve. This can enhance air quality and support ecosystems as well as offer pedestrians places to wind down and relax in nature. Smart parks can ensure lawns and plants are watered in response to weather changes, making plant maintenance an automated process.

These considerations are becoming increasingly important. For example, in the UK, 54,000 acres of green space were turned into artificial surfaces between 2006 and 2012, which is equivalent to an area twice as large as the city of Liverpool.

The technology involved in smart cities can not only help transportation and efficiency but improve the quality of life and emotional well-being of those who live among it.

Swizz Beatz Launch of Good Intentions – A New Global Creative- Consultancy to Be Headquarted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom has engaged the agency to make Saudi Arabia the new travel, art, and culture destination. The first project will be unveiled in Jeddah during the F1 Saudi Formula Grand Prix.

Grammy® award-winning producer, Kasseem Dean, also known as Swizz Beatz, alongside award-winning strategist Noor Taher, announced Good Intentions’ official launch, their global creative consultancy headquartered in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Swizz Beatz has an extensive track record producing some of the most iconic music in history and creatively directing some of the largest brands in the world, consistently pushing borders and disrupting industries with creations like the global television phenomena, Verzuz, and the world’s largest art fair, No Commissions. With a portfolio that includes top-tier companies like AMEX, Aston Martin, Disney, Reebok, Monster Electronics, and Zenith Watches, Kasseem has successfully innovated the way brands, and stories are perceived worldwide.

A recent Harvard graduate and one of the most prominent art collectors in the world, Kasseem is expanding his expertise cross-culturally to collaborate and amplify the future of art, entertainment, and business. With a long history tied to the Middle East, Swizz has focused his attention on bridging, building, and curating experiences to share with the rest of the world.

Co-founded with long-time friend & collaborator – Saudi native Noor Taher, brings her inherent understanding of the Saudi culture and history of mediating and brokering deals from abroad to the region. Her experience entails working with world-renowned multinational corporations, institutions, and brands like The Louvre, Cash & Rocket, Aston Martin, and Nike in addition to sharing a mutual track record of successful projects & IPs with Swizz. Years in the making, Noor and Swizz have always wanted to build what they like to call a “creative voltron” of the best-in-class creatives working with the philosophy to make history, propel the youth forward, and educate people around the world.

Because of the duo’s rare insight, knowledge, access, and strategic collaborations with top creatives across multiple industries, Good Intentions acts as a cultural gatekeeper to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, helping curate and culturally integrate art, music, film, entertainment, tourism, and technology through the developing and rapidly growing country. Good Intentions’ network, coupled with their on-ground presence in Saudi Arabia, will provide experiential, participatory, and innovative ways to engage key audiences across the country.

Good Intentions acts as a cross-cultural integrator for the future of Saudi Arabia. Together, Good Intentions and critical partners in the Kingdom will induce a purposeful knowledge exchange system to level up and push creative forces ushering in a renaissance to shape a better future for generations to come.

The initial project the agency worked on was designing the art and cultural experience of the highly anticipated Jeddah Art Promenade located in the coastal city of Jeddah. The project will be unveiled during the first-ever Saudi Formula Grand Prix (December 3rd-5th), bringing the world’s fastest street circuit to life. Over a dozen art installations from four world-renowned artists – Studio Drift, Javid Jah, Kwest, and Janet Echelman will be on display. The curatorial strategy aims to reflect imminent symbols of the majestic town of Jeddah. Gorgeous hues from the corals of the red sea, poetic verses from iconic stories of Saudi, and the expansive horizon were all sources of inspiration when selecting the pieces. The visual journey will prove to be an experience like no other, in a venue the world has never seen. Artists will share their personal take on how the city of Jeddah has inspired their creations, making each installation that much more meaningful throughout the promenade.

Working with Beatz and Taher to bring their vision to life are larger than life producers of immersive environments with specialty in gaming, live and virtual concerts & broadcast events, XR, architectural, and beyond – Far Right Productions. The producers have designed the ambitious sets for Kanye West’s 2007 Glow in the Dark Tour as well as his Watch the Throne Tour with Jay-Z. Future, Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Fortnite World Cup, Epic Games and more superstars make up the rest of their clientele. Swizz & Noor engaged them to take this project to the next level, relentlessly executing the production of the cultural and art exhibits on ground and online with an immersive virtual world allowing for visitors from all around the world to experience the entire Jeddah Art Promenade.

Leading on curation for the project is national award-winning Curator and Producer of Public Art for the project, Umbereen Inayet. Inayet has an extensive background with over 15 years of coordinating and commissioning public art pieces and installations that connect multiple generations to interact with. Umbereen has been an Artistic Producer for Nuit Blanche Toronto one of the largest free contemporary art events in North America for over a decade working on projects with multidisciplinary artists, curators and studios including Ai Weiwei, Bill Viola, Creative Time, John Akomfrah, Philip Beesley, Krista Kim, Director X, Drake, Floria Sigismondi, HXOUSE, Sean Brown, Daniel Arsham, eL Seed and JR.

The vision, according to Beatz, “is each of the artworks in the exhibit present a reverence for life forces immersed in natural wonders. Encouraging you to take flight, the works present a place for connection to oneself and this earth, discovering endless possibilities and the potential to find a new inner voice and compass within.”

“Being from here, this project is very close to my heart – Saudi is at the forefront of pioneering a creative evolution through so many different mediums. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented creativity & innovation, we are here to make it happen in the most meaningful way possible” Noor shares.

93% of UAE Businesses Concerned About a Ransomware Attack This Upcoming Holiday Season

Research highlights disconnect between perceived threat and preparedness that results in longer incident response cycles and increased revenue losses

Cybereason, the leader in operation-centric attack protection, today published a global study of 1,200+ security professionals at organizations that have previously suffered a successful ransomware attack on a holiday or weekend. The study highlights the disconnect between organizational risk and preparedness.

The report, titled Organizations at Risk: Ransomware Attackers Don’t Take Holidays, found that the vast majority of security professionals in the UAE (93%) expressed high concern about imminent ransomware attacks. In spite of this concern, there seems to be a disconnect between the risk ransomware poses to organizations during these off-hour periods and their preparedness — in terms of personnel and technology — to respond, moving into the holiday season.

The Human Element

An indicator of the disconnect between the perceived risk and preparedness is that 39% of respondents in the UAE attributed the previous successful holiday ransomware attack to not having the right cybersecurity coverage plan or because the company was only operating a skeleton crew.

This has unfortunately meant that often times cybersecurity professionals have had to put off personal engagements and weekend plans in order to respond to the attacks — 90% of UAE respondents indicated they have missed a holiday or weekend activity because of a ransomware attack.

Technology Issues

On the technology front, 65% of UAE respondents (16% higher than the global average) said a ransomware attack against their organization was successful because they did not have the right security solutions in place. Most concerning was the fact that just 44% reported having an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solution in place. As EDR is a foundational building block of a robust cybersecurity posture, this is particularly alarming.

Organizational Impact

This lack of preparedness for ransomware attacks on weekends and holidays has a significant impact on victim organizations, with 60% of UAE respondents saying it resulted in longer periods to assess the scope of an attack, 58% reporting they required more time to mount an effective response and 46% indicating they required a longer period to fully recover from the attack.

Interestingly, 23% of UAE respondents (twice the global average) reported their organizations suffered revenue losses as a direct result. This research validates the assumption that it takes longer to assess, mitigate, remediate and recover from a ransomware attack over a holiday or weekend.

“Ransomware attackers don’t take time off for holidays. The most disruptive ransomware attacks in 2021 have occurred over weekends and during major holidays when attackers know they have the advantage over targeted organizations,” said Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Cybereason, Lior Div. “This research proves out the fact that organizations are not adequately prepared and need to take additional steps to assure they have the right people, processes and technologies in place so they can effectively respond to ransomware attacks and protect their critical assets.”

Learning from past mistakes

There are some positives to be taken away from the research — findings indicate that UAE organizations have acknowledged the need to enhance their cybersecurity defense and ensure they have the right technology, resources and strategy in place to avoid being hit by an attack during the upcoming holiday season. 77% of respondents stated that their organizations would be adding new technology, 60% are building a more robust contingency plan and 50% planning to increase cybersecurity staff cover over the holidays.

South Africa: Transitioning from Coal Reliance to Gas Power Generation

“Gas should play quite a significant role in a just energy transition in South Africa,” stated Akash Latchman, Senior Vice President for Gas Sourcing and Operations for Sasol, adding that, “To unleash the potential of gas is critical in alleviating energy poverty in South Africa.”

“Every time there is a discussion surrounding the just energy transition, various technologies are considered in its permutations, with clean coal technologies being noticeably excluded,” noted Dr. Tshepo Mokoka, Group COO for the CEF, who acknowledged that, “If you are well-endowed as a country with a resource, there is an opportunity to develop clean technologies in relation to coal. What needs to be looked at are the socioeconomic implications that this conversion has.”

Africa is faced with a two-pronged challenge, the first of which is the continent’s significant energy crisis – in which over 600 million people currently lack access to electricity and over 900 million lack access to clean cooking – and the second, the global climate crisis. While western nations are opting for the immediate end to fossil fuel utilisation, oil and gas is critical for Africa if the continent is to address energy poverty. At the South African panel discussion, participants emphasised how natural gas has emerged as the ideal solution to both of these challenges. Representing the ideal transitionary resource, as well as a readily available resource, gas may be the solution the country, and continent, needs to accelerate its energy transition and meet domestic demand.

Adewale Feyemi, Managing Director for TotalEnergies South Africa, noted that, “In South Africa, there is a need for energy, and what role is gas going to play?” Noting its decarbonizing potential, he added that, “Gas is going to be part of the transition. Being a good ally for renewables, we are committed to making sure that these resources are brought to shore as early as possible, and we need to work closely and collaborate with the [relevant] authorities.”

“Once we have gas in the country, from gas-to-power projects, we can ignite other industries to start using gas,” added Dennis Seemala, HOD of Electricity Licensing, Compliance, and Dispute Resolution for Nersa.

While South Africa struggles with ongoing electricity challenges, the utilization of natural gas as a power generation source offers newfound benefits for both the country and the wider region. The significant resources available in southern African nations – the most notable being Mozambique with over 180 trillion cubic feet of reserves in the Rovuma Basin alone – have established new opportunities for gas-to-power in the region.

Already, there exists cross-border infrastructure whereby South Africa can make use of Mozambique’s resources, which, coupled with recent discoveries made in 2019 offshore South Africa, are positioning the country as a natural gas powerhouse. As the continent makes moves to transition to a green economy, natural gas is undoubtedly the best resource for addressing energy poverty while mitigating climate change. Resources in key areas including Senegal, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, and many more, provide a critical opportunity for the continent to accelerate socio-economic growth and clean energy expansion. With the recent implementation of the African Continent Free Trade Agreement in January 2021, opportunities for enhanced cross border trade have opened up trade, liberalized markets, and incentivized the continental utilization of natural gas.

“There’s a bigger role for gas to play,” noted Vuyelwa Mahanyele, Regional Sales Director for GE Gas and Power, stating that, “In terms of the role gas is going to play around the transition, it is important that we bring everyone along the value chain. There’s an entire value chain downstream where there is the expectation of beneficiation around that chain. As we transition to a lower carbon economy, gas is going to play an incredible role in partnership with renewables.”

How a Hybrid Strategy Promotes Inclusivity and Equity of Experience

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated workplace trends that had been slowly germinating for years. Chief among them as we look to the future is the reality that distributed work is here to stay

This so-called “hybrid strategy” presents organizations with an opportunity to holistically address the needs of a highly diverse workforce with a focus on equity of experience.

By trusting employees to make choices based on their daily tasks and preferences—with support whether they choose to come into the office or work from home—organizations can reshape the office into a sought-after destination for those social and cultural connections that cannot be recreated virtually.

From substantial expense to competitive edge

Reorienting office space around three activities not supported elsewhere

Even before the pandemic, offices were struggling to consistently support people and their work. For many organizations, the physical office didn’t keep pace: It was often generic and too densely planned, while deprioritizing remote work. However, when given a choice, many employees had already begun working from home, coworking spaces, cafés, or elsewhere. As we look to the future, we see an opportunity to reorient the office so that workers feel less anchored to it and more buoyed by it, as facilities focus on hosting experiences that the isolation of the pandemic robbed from us all.

As we look to the future, we see an opportunity to reorient the office so that workers feel less anchored to it and more buoyed by it, as facilities focus on hosting experiences that the isolation of the pandemic robbed from us all.

What can organizations do to make their spaces more desirable as on-demand destinations for employees newly empowered to work anywhere? From data provided by more than 19,000 users of Herman Miller’s WFH Ergonomic Assessment tool 3  and other sources, we have identified three core experiences that the office is uniquely positioned to support. At Herman Miller, we’re focused on helping customers evolve existing environments with products and settings specifically designed with these experiences in mind.

Three core experiences best supported by the office

Community socialization

While most of us have found virtual ways to maintain a sense of connection to our closest friends and family over the past year, our “weak ties” were largely lost. This outer circle of acquaintances—whether that’s the building concierge who is on a first-name basis with everyone, or the coworker from another department with whom you like to make small talk—is vital to an individual’s social health. 4  Building these relationships is also critical for establishing and maintaining culture—and helping people feel a sense of purpose and belonging. By providing areas that encourage people to interact with their extended networks, your office can help reestablish these connections.

Team collaboration

In the prevailing model of workplace design, individual workstations are “owned” or assigned, and group spaces are shared. But organizations looking to seed spontaneous socialization and concerted collaboration need to flip this to more of a neighborhood model. In this model, team space is owned, while individual spaces are shared within it. When workplaces practice neighborhooding in this way, they better accommodate longer-term collaboration while also creating opportunities for those spur-of-the-moment chats that cannot be scheduled via videoconference.

Individual focus

The past year has stressed our homes in many ways, with spare bedrooms called into duty as classrooms, gyms, offices, or all the above. And for those of us without a room to spare, the realities of children, roommates, or extended family have made it difficult to even find a corner to work in—let alone actually finding focus. For these individuals, a return to the physical office can provide a respite for concentration and focused work, given the right spatial setup.

Returning office workers will bring new expectations for user control to the workplace

Technology has been reshaping work for decades, but it took a virus to change the office landscape overnight. In the early months of the pandemic, many organizations focused on adapting their spaces to provide safer work environments and limit the spread of COVID-19. However, organizations are now turning their attention to broader perspectives on employee well-being. Our view is that to be effective, this shift must emphasize adaptability in a deeper sense.

In the past, a workplace setting was considered “flexible” if it could be reconfigured for different uses by a facilities or maintenance team. As organizations plan their return-to-work strategies, however, the power to adapt a space needs to rest with the people working within it.

Change is always expected whenever any workplace moves from construction to post-occupancy. That said, it has never been tougher for organizations to plan for these changes than now, as employees return from this prolonged experience of working from home. We believe that shifting investments toward furnishings and tools that fit into existing floorplates can optimize space to embrace change. These kinds of adaptable solutions will meet rising expectations for autonomy, choice, and user control.

Key Insights

Examine a hybrid approach to workplace strategy

As workers return to the office, many will want to continue to exercise the freedom to work from home at least part-time. Support for that choice should be a key component of every go-forward workplace strategy. Organizations that embrace distributed work in a manner consistent with their culture will ultimately empower their employees with a robust set of choices to create positive, healthy work experiences. Companies can benefit from nurturing a sense of autonomy among their people, as an equitable and inclusive experience is essential for tapping into the productivity of a highly diverse workforce.

Embrace the unique role of the office

The office must prove its value to employees in this new era of autonomy. To do so, office design must focus on those functions that haven’t been successfully supported during this extended work-from-home experiment: establishing and maintaining social culture, supporting longer-duration team activities, and providing spaces for focused work. Ultimately, these changes will make the office more desirable and inclusive.

Empower people with the tools to reshape spaces

To remain a relevant part of the post-pandemic work experience, the office must move beyond flexibility to truly become adaptable. The distinction is subtle but important. When spaces are flexible, they can be reconfigured by a facilities team to support a range of activities. When they are adaptable, they provide a level of individual control, inviting the people who use a space to reshape it around their needs in the moment.

Air Cargo, Up 9.1% in September, Capacity Remains Constrained

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released September 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that demand continued to be well above pre-crisis levels and that capacity constraints persist.  

As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons below are to September 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 9.1% compared to September 2019 (9.4% for international operations).
  • Capacity remains constrained at 8.9% below pre-COVID-19 levels (September 2019) (-12% for international operations).

Several factors impacting global air cargo demand should be noted:

  • Supply chain disruptions and the resulting delivery delays have led to long supplier delivery times. This typically means manufacturers use air transport, which is quicker, to recover time lost during the production process. The September global Supplier Delivery Time Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was at 36, values below 50 are favorable for air cargo.
  • The September new export orders component and manufacturing output component of the PMIs have deteriorated from levels in previous month but remain in favorable territory. Manufacturing activity continued to expand at a global level but, there was contraction in emerging economies.
  • The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak year-end retail events such as Single’s Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is positive for air cargo, however further capacity constraints put this at risk.
  • The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of container shipping remains favorable. Pre-crisis, the average price to move air cargo was 12.5 times more expensive than sea shipping. In September 2021 it was only three times more expensive.

“Air cargo demand grew 9.1% in September compared to pre-COVID levels. There is a benefit from supply chain congestion as manufacturers turn to air transport for speed. But severe capacity constraints continue to limit the ability of air cargo to absorb extra demand. If not addressed, bottlenecks in the supply chain will slow the economic recovery from COVID-19. Governments must act to relieve pressure on global supply chains and improve their overall resilience,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. 

To relieve supply chain disruptions, including those highlighted by the US on supply chain resilience on the sidelines of last weekend’s G20 Summit, IATA is calling on governments to:

  • Ensure that air crew operations are not hindered by COVID-19 restrictions designed for air travelers.
  • Implement the commitments governments made at the ICAO High Level Conference on COVID-19 to restore international connectivity. This will ramp-up vital cargo capacity with “belly” space.
  • Provide innovative policy incentives to address labor shortages where they exist.

September Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their international air cargo volumes increase 4.5% in September 2021 compared to the same month in 2019.This was a slowdown in demand compared to the previous month’s 5.1% expansion. Demand is being affected by slowing manufacturing activity in China. International capacity is significantly constrained in the region, down 18.2% vs. September 2019. Looking forward, the decision by some countries in the region to lift travel restrictions should provide a boost for capacity.

North American carriers posted a 19.3% increase in international cargo volumes in September 2021 compared to September 2019. New export orders and demand for faster shipping times are underpinning the North American performance. International capacity was down 4.0% compared to September 2019, a slight improvement from the previous month.

European carriers saw a 5.3% increase in international cargo volumes in September 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This was on a par with August’s performance (5.6%). Demand was strongest on the large North Atlantic trade lane (up 6.9% vs September 2019). Performance on other routes was weaker. Manufacturing activity, orders and long supplier delivery times remain favorable to air cargo demand. International capacity was down 13.5% on September 2019.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 17.6% rise in international cargo volumes in September 2021 versus September 2019, an improvement compared to the previous month (14.7%). International capacity was down 4% compared to September 2019.

Latin American carriers reported a decline of 17.1% in international cargo volumes in September compared to the 2019 period, which was the weakest performance of all regions. This was also slightly worse than the previous month (a 14.5% fall). Capacity in September was down 20.9% on pre-crisis levels, an improvement from August, which was down 24.2% on the same month in 2019.  

African airlines’ saw international cargo volumes increase by 34.6% in September, the largest increase of all regions for the ninth consecutive month. Seasonally adjusted volumes are now 20% above pre-crisis 2019 levels but have been trending sideways for the past six months. International capacity was 6.9% higher than pre-crisis levels, the only region in positive territory, albeit on small volumes.

New Report Reveals 86% of Middle East IT Leaders Agree Remote Working Compromises Business Networks

Even though 93% of Middle East technology leaders are confident on visibility into IoT devices of remote workers, 91% believe their organisation’s approach to IoT security needs improvement

Palo Alto Networks, the global cybersecurity leader, today released their second annual The Connected Enterprise: Internet of Things (IoT) Security Report 2021, research conducted by global technology market research firm Vanson Bourne, which shows that 86% of Middle East IT leaders (global average: 81%) have agreed that the shift to remote working during the pandemic has led to an increased risk and vulnerability from unsecured IoT devices on their organisation’s business networks.

While 93% of Middle East IT decision makers (global average: 85%) have enough visibility into IoT devices of their remote workers that connect to the corporate network, the report shows that 91% of Middle East IT Leaders believe their organisation’s approach to IoT security requires improvement. Although 100% of the respondents surveyed in the Middle East have a specific IoT security strategy in place, many difficult-to-secure personal IoT devices are increasingly being connected to corporate networks by remote workers, creating new opportunities for hackers to infiltrate organisations to launch ransomware attacks, steal data and launch crypto jacking operations. Security incidents are defined as an event that may indicate an attack on an organisation’s network.

COVID-19 has impacted organisations greatly, and 91% of Middle East IT organisations have seen a rise in the number of connected devices on their organisation’s network in the past year, including devices such as baby monitors, pet feeders and gym equipment leaving organisations vulnerable to attacks. Top devices that Middle East IT leaders have spotted within their networks are connected pet devices (37%), kitchen devices (36%) and sports equipment (35%).

Haider Pasha, Senior Director and Chief Security Officer at Palo Alto Networks, Middle East and Africa (MEA) said: “As work-from-home models are being normalised amongst many organisations in the Middle East, it is important for security teams to have visibility into all of the IoT devices being connected on corporate networks. Organisations in the Middle East have great confidence in their visibility of the IoT devices connecting to their network totaling up to 82%, which is a big jump from last year’s 72%.”

“During the pandemic, organisations were forced to rapidly scale their remote work infrastructure to ensure business continuity. With employees working from home, having the right cybersecurity strategy in place became critical. According to our research, all the Middle East IT leaders who were surveyed have a specific IoT strategy in place, to help them manage their networks more efficiently. Pasha added. “It is crucial for organisations to follow IoT security best practices at all times, these include: having real-time visibility of devices on a network, monitoring them continuously to identify abnormal behaviour and segmenting IT and IoT devices on separate networks. Additionally, enterprises need to ensure that they are promoting cybersecurity awareness and educating their employees on security best practices on an ongoing basis, in order to maximise impact and minimise the chance for cyberattacks to take place, in both professional and/or personal environments”.

Key data of the second annual IoT survey in the Middle East (UAE & Saudi Arabia)

  • 86% of Middle East IT Leaders Agree Remote Working Has Led to an Increased Risk from Unsecured Devices on their Organisation’s Network
  • 93% of Middle East decision makers have enough visibility into IoT devices of their remote workers that connect to the corporate network
  • 91% of Middle East IT Leaders believe their organisation’s approach to IoT security requires improvement
  • 100% of the respondents surveyed in the Middle East have a specific IoT security strategy in place
  • 91% of Middle East IT organisations have seen a rise in the number of connected devices on their organisation’s network in the past year

Best Motivational Event Management Agency 2021 – Middle East

As the UAE becomes regarded as an internationally renowned hub of industry and growth, there is a need for people who can inspire that sense of entrepreneurship that is essential to its continued expansion. The team behind Najahi Events Organizer LLC are world leaders when it comes to personal empowerment, and they have come to the UAE because there is so much potential that hasn’t been tapped yet. We take a look to discover more following their incredible achievement in the UAE Business Awards.

In any economy, the need for continuous growth is essential, both in the world of business and in people’s personal lives too. This sort of growth is not easily taught, as it must come from the heart, and from people who have a lived experience of going through the various stages of development. There are very few industries where authenticity is such a valuable trait. Nonetheless, that is the case here.

The team behind Najahi bring that vital lived authenticity to the UAE, with experienced business leaders who have spent years not only learning how to continually develop, but how to share the knowledge of that growth with others. The vision of the firm has become far more than simply encouraging better business practices, instead championing a holistic perspective that embraces all the aspects of a person and encouraging them to become whoever they were meant to be.

When the team at Najahi first got into the business, they did so with an approach that saw business development and personal development go side-by-side. In this new growing country, it’s vital that the titans of business are not just leaders of a company, but family and civic names as well. This ensures that they are able to give back to their communities too. The UAE has a strong and proud tradition of this behaviour, and it’s one of the things that makes the region exceptional for the team to work in.

Creating a space for these important speakers to share their knowledge has been an invaluable step for many. They have found people who have transformed their own inspirational dreams into startling reality. In many ways, this reflects the impressive growth of the UAE. The team specialise in a specific blend of skills, combining personal empowerment, financial education and leadership skills to provide a stunning performance of edutainment – educating while entertaining. With clear communication, it’s little wonder that so many people from so many different backgrounds have been inspired by their timeless efforts.

The way in which these sessions are done varies, depending on the client and their needs, and the nature of the session. Najahi runs a range of different presentations, such as entertainment, community and personal transformation and youth empowerment events and programmes. These have all been carefully designed over many years to have the maximum possible impact on the audience. It’s this incredible attention to detail that has allowed the team to have such a remarkable impact on the community at large.

The final result for the team is a country that embraces the potential it has always shown – namely the ability to become a dynamic, sustainable and entrepreneurial economy. Of course, being based in the UAE means that the Najahi team are at the very cutting edge of a globalised economy as well. Since first running events in this industry, the team have been able to reach hundreds of people from across the Middle East. Their words of wisdom, built on knowledge gleamed from countries around the world, will empower them to make the real difference that they want to see in the world.

Needless to say, the mission of Najahi has remained constant over the years, with the only real changes coming from adapting to a new technological landscape. It is one thing to bring together such an extraordinary array of different speakers, but quite another to ensure they have access to the latest in interactive and entertaining learning techniques. The need to tell authentic stories is clear, and the basis of success, but constant research is being performed by the firm on the best way to communicate this information to the masses so that they might be able to thrive.

One of the clearest signs of this innovative thought process can be seen in the firm’s latest addition to its impressive line of products. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, slowing down business and limiting the possibilities both of travel and of holding large events, the Najahi team developed something entirely new. After a year of research, the result, iKew, was unveiled. This an online Video-On-Demand platform containing hundreds of hours of motivational speeches, trainings, courses and “edutainment” content from international celebrity motivators and key speakers.

For those who want to reach out to those with knowledge, and discover what they have to say about development and growth, this is an essential resource to have access to. Everyone involved is an expert in their field, and knows precisely what a client needs to do, today, to thrive and succeed in a rapidly changing world. Those who want to grow, both personally and professionally, want to learn too. iKew is a place where people are able to learn anything that they want to.

With courses from numerous different topics, there’s something for everyone on this platform, and there is no limit to where you can look or explore. Instead of having to choose a certain path from the outset, clients have access to every course for a simple monthly membership. This allows members to discover ideas and concepts that they might never have considered before, taught by some of the world’s finest educators. It goes without saying that iKew is the next big step for the Najahi team, pushing the boundaries of motivational speaking further than ever before.

That said, while iKew has the potential to be an impressive addition to the firm’s offerings, it’s in live events where the heart of the company really is. The team has committed themselves to continuing their much-appreciated live events as and when circumstances allow. That said, it’s only through the diversification of their approach that the team is able to achieve such incredible success even during these difficult times. One of the main messages of every Najahi session is to find ways of growth, and explore the opportunities that might arise from them. It’s a message that has been proven to be incredibly true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UAE and Najahi fit together with ease, because both have built their reputations on a desire to grow and a desire to improve. Both have strong visions of the future, and they intertwine beautifully together. It’s little wonder that Najahi has been able to thrive in this environment, with their mission to inspire others to turn their dreams into reality, because, at its heart, that’s the main aim of the UAE too.

For business enquiries, contact Awfa Mustafa from Najahi Events Organizer LLC by email at [email protected].

How to Reduce the Human Toll of Climate Crises in Africa

By Amadou Diallo, Regional Disaster Risk Financing Coordinator, Crisis Anticipation and Risk Financing at Start Network

On the successful expiration of the first insurance policy against drought risk in Senegal, Start Network is announcing its renewal for the 2021 – 2022 season.  

Such policies shift the risk from farmers to financiers. Nearly half of all emergency multilateral food assistance to Africa is to assist with climate related disasters. While taking out insurance on the vagaries of weather is today common practice, it is not so on a national level and certainly not drought coverage – due to cultural barriers sometimes but often to financial and economic constraints at household level. What we are doing is an innovation for the African continent as we allow through a macro -insurance mechanism to protect people beyond certain exposure to the drought risk that ultimately leads to aggravated consequences in food insecurity levels and affects the most vulnerable communities.

Underwriting has answers to drought

The ultimate goal has to be for more and more African Union member states to take out their own insurance policies which would transfer the highest possible risk coverage. In parts of Africa, droughts are chronic and their effects on the population are profound. Having Senegal’s government take the initiative in this respect is an extremely positive signal to the rest of the continent.  

In the case of a disaster, assistance typically only becomes available three months after the event. By then, you are primarily addressing the impact of the disaster, such as malnutrition, livelihood loss, and other negative consequences. The success of interventions are therefore dependent on the timing of when aid can be delivered. Start Network and ODI research, on UN appeals, suggests that at least 55% of funding went to crises that are somewhat predictable, yet less than 1% of funding for these crises was released based on pre-agreed triggers and plans.

The science of underwriting is able to quantify the likelihood of underperforming rainfall based on years of data and its impact on the incomes of local rural communities. Trigger points are set at which payouts would be made.

The ’trigger’ is based on the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index developed by the UN’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation). This, correlated against satellite rainfall data calculates an estimated number of people likely to be impacted by food insecurity.

ARC Replica Senegal is run in a partnership between the Start Network, the Government of Senegal, and African Risk Capacity (ARC), and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German Development Bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW).

NGO lessons learned

Throughout 2020, six Start Network members – Action Against Hunger, Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision – worked alongside the Government of Senegal to deliver assistance to 355,000 Senegalese ahead of a severe large-scale drought. The agencies’ support came in the form of enriched flour and cash transfers. This enabled families to protect livestock and other valuable assets and avoid resorting to skipping meals or sending children to work instead of going to school.  

By acting earlier we can mitigate the impact of crises on communities at risk. For example in Senegal, through a disaster risk finance project which released an insurance pay-out ahead of predicted drought, 98% of children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were able to maintain 2 meals a day over the project period -we know that this is more cost-effective then allowing people’s nutritional status to degrade until they require a nutrition intervention.  

The programme allowed us to have discussions with all partners at an early stage. It makes a big difference to have pre agreed standard operating procedures in place. It compares favourably to the traditional disaster response, wherein time is typically short as one is constantly ‘fighting fires’ on all fronts.  

This is why, this year, Start Network will be launching a scalable infrastructure called the Start Financing Facility to arrange pre-positioned funds using global best practice on risk pooling and layering, to ensure they are used to maximum efficiency. The Start Financing Facility builds upon years of our anticipation experience. It will put local voices at the centre and equip frontline humanitarian responders with the tools needed to be prepared and financially prepared for crises.

Sub-Saharan Africa: One Planet, Two Worlds, Three Stories

Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow by 3.7 percent in 2021 and 3.8 percent in 2022 – a welcome but relatively modest recovery, suggesting that divergence with the rest of the world will persist over the medium term; The crisis has highlighted key disparities in resilience between countries in sub-Saharan Africa and has also exacerbated preexisting vulnerabilities and inequality within each country. Moreover, food price inflation threatens to jeopardize previous gains in food security and exacerbate social and political instability; As the pandemic continues, authorities face an increasingly difficult policy environment, with rising needs, limited resources, and difficult tradeoffs. Saving lives remains the top priority, but there is also an urgent need for spending prioritization, revenue mobilization, enhanced credibility, and an improved business environment; International solidarity and cooperation remain vital, not only on vaccination but also on addressing other critical global issues, such as climate change.

“As sub-Saharan Africa navigates through a persistent pandemic with repeated waves of infection, a return to normal will be far from easy,” stressed Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director of the IMF’s African Department. “In the absence of vaccines, lockdowns and other containment measures have been the only option for containing the virus.

“At 3.7 percent this year, the recovery in sub-Saharan Africa will be the slowest in the world—as advanced markets grow by more than 5 percent, while other emerging markets and developing countries grow by more than 6 percent. This mismatch reflects sub-Saharan Africa’s slow vaccine rollout and stark differences in policy space.

“Real per capita income is expected to remain close to 5½ percent below precrisis trends, with permanent real output losses ranging between -21 percent and -2 percent. The non-resource-intensive countries are growing at a much faster rate than resource-rich countries—a pattern that precedes the crisis and has been amplified by recent events, highlighting fundamental differences in resilience. Non-resource-intensive countries have a more diverse economic structure, which helps them adjust and recover faster. Commodity price increases have also helped some countries, but these windfall gains are often volatile and cannot substitute more enduring sources of growth. Furthermore, differences in fiscal space also help to explain cross-country differences in the current pace of recovery.

“Widening gaps between countries have been accompanied by growing divergence within countries, as the pandemic has had a particularly harsh impact on the region’s most vulnerable. With about 30 million people thrown into extreme poverty, the crisis has worsened inequality not only across income groups, but also across subnational geographic regions, which may add to the risk of social tension and political instability. In this context, rising food price inflation, combined with reduced incomes, is threatening past gains in poverty reduction, health, and food security.

“Furthermore, increasing debt vulnerabilities remain a source of concern, and many governments will have to undertake fiscal consolidation. Overall, public debt is predicted to decline slightly in 2021 to 56.6 percent of GDP but remains high compared to a pre-pandemic level of 50.4 percent of GDP. Half of sub-Saharan Africa’s low-income countries are either in or at high risk of debt distress. And more countries may find themselves under future pressure as debt-service payments account for an increasing share of government resources.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Selassie pointed to a number of policy priorities. “The difficult policy environment that authorities faced before the crisis has been made more demanding by the crisis. Policymakers face three key fiscal challenges: 1) to tackle the region’s pressing development spending needs; 2) to contain public debt; and finally, 3) to mobilize tax revenues in circumstances where additional measures are generally unpopular. Meeting these goals has never been easy and entails a difficult balancing act. For most countries, urgent policy priorities include spending prioritization, revenue mobilization, enhanced credibility, and an improved business climate.

“The recent SDR allocation has boosted the region’s reserves, easing some of the burden of authorities as they guide their countries’ recovery. And rechanneling SDRs from countries with strong external positions to countries with weaker fundamentals could help to bolster the region’s resilience.

“On COVID-19, international cooperation on vaccination is critical to address the threat of repeated waves. This would help prevent the divergent recovery paths of sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world from hardening and becoming permanent fault lines, which would jeopardize decades of hard-won social and economic progress.

“Looking further ahead, the region’s vast potential remains undiminished. But the threat of climate change—and the global process of energy transition—suggest that sub-Saharan Africa may need to adopt a more innovative and greener growth model. This presents both challenges and opportunities, and it underscores the need for bold transformative reforms and continued external funding. Such measures may not be easy, but they are key prerequisites of the long-promised African century.

Wonderful Wallart Secures Success

When people think of print, they want a solution that is not only of the highest quality, but bears the vital considerations of the environment in mind. That’s precisely what the team at Wallart Designs do. In the UAE Business Awards, the team were named Leading Experts in Large Format Printing 2021. We take a closer look at just how they did it.

Wallart Designs was established in 2019, under the careful eye of the team at Printpac ME. Having been a successful printing business since 1975, the large organization wished to give its Large Format Division a brand-new identity. This new identity – Wallart – would focus in on what customers wanted, namely a complete sustainable print solution that guaranteed the same quality to which they had become accustomed.

The team are able to offer printed designs that can make a house into a home, an office into more than just a place of work. With the ability to define yourself through graphics, there’s no end to the potential offered by the Wallart team. Their use of eco-friendly substrates powered by HP’s Latex printing technology allows them to offer something truly exceptional in the industry, pushing forward into a bold new future.

The team has printed and installed wall graphics for homes and various industries and offices as well as customized interior décors with printed wall coverings, canvases, floor graphics, and blinds. Those who have a specific image in mind for their project find willing partners in the team from Wallart. Few in the industry are able to match them when it comes to creating an environment of creativity and comfort.

The benefits of a Wallart Design can be seen across a variety of different circumstances because the team can easily adapt to serve any client at all. In retail spaces, the team’s work can allow clients to highlight their product offerings, marketing campaigns, or enhance consumer experiences while in stores. In the home, their designs can transform a property into somewhere someone can really fall in love with. Their passion is the key to their success and ensures that their product is truly second to none in the region.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the team saw major demand for their work. This was because as people were at home, they were able to evaluate projects that needed undertaking. While in normal times, wallpaper might be considered a luxury, the Wallart team found themselves incredibly busy making sure that people could fulfil their desires. These projects often revolved around the use of wallpapers and canvases, custom designed by the team, to fit into specific spaces.

The team’s incredible work ethic and high-quality products have ensured not only that clients continue to return to them, but that others wish to work with them too. Wallart has a strong partnership with leading designers, including Bishop Design in the United Arab Emirates, Robin Sprong Wallpaper in South Africa and Amy Diener in the USA and Thailand.

These partnerships have inspired the team to push even harder when it comes to delivering a top-quality product. Already, the team are exploring the possibilities of purchasing new printing machines, having implemented MIS software to streamline the production process. The future of the company will see the team continuing to aim ever higher in what they achieve so that more people will come to them for assistance in the specialist world of wallpaper. It’s the secret behind the team’s incredible continuing success.

For business enquiries contact Naveed Ahmad at Wallart Designs LLC via email at [email protected] or online at www.wallart.ae.

Home Furnishings Retailer of the Year 2021 – UAE Best Home Improvement Brand – UAE

Danube Home is a leading home improvement and furnishing retail brand with a strong, vibrant, ever-growing presence in the Middle East, Gulf region, and the Indian sub-continent. It is known for its unwavering commitment to the highest standard of customer service, unmatched quality, strikingly beautiful designs, and innovative retail services. 

 

What started off as a single showroom in Ras Al-Khaimah in 2008, grew into the region’s favourite destination for home interior solutions, having successfully captured and blended the quintessential spirit of craftmanship and design into its bewildering range of products, which include ceramic wall and floor tiles, parquet flooring, elegant curtains, home décor, chandeliers, garden and outdoor furniture, and much more. 

 

Danube Home now offers more than 50,000 products across 16 product-specific categories, along with a free interior design service, and it has 18 showrooms and more than 5 million square feet of logistics and warehousing space. 

 

It is ranked among the top retailers in the Gulf region, which has been growing at an average of 25-45% since 2011, and is a recipient of many prestigious awards, remaining a motivating workplace for the best talent in the region. 

 

The beauty of Danube Home’s one-stop retail solution for home improvement and furnishing needs stands exquisitely manifested in its demonstrated ability to take care of all the facets of home improvement requirements. Its concept of affordable luxury has been redefining boundaries in the home improvement and furnishing industry as it is intensely focused on achieving quality tailored to the taste of consumers, at a price that most can afford. 

 

Its showrooms are purpose built buildings with delightful architectural features, welcoming its vibrant clientele with a sophisticated fusion of modern sensibilities to create a happy space. Each product section in Danube Home showrooms has a story to tell which is expressed in a lucid, colourful lexicon and creates a unique and immersive shopping experience for customers. Danube Home showrooms are strategically present on major thoroughfares and in shopping centres across the Gulf region. The company has expanded its presence beyond the sandy dunes of the Gulf by establishing its first showroom right in the heart of India. In the UAE, Danube Home has showrooms in Al Barsha, Diera, Sheikh Zayed, Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah, Al Ain, and Abu Dhabi. It also has seven showrooms in Oman and one in Bahrain. 

 

Danube Home added another feather to its cap with the launch of its website and app, which are fast and easy to navigate and fully loaded with features that help provide a seamless online shopping experience to customers. The company also offers the ‘Ahlan’ loyalty programme which allows customers to gain points when shopping with Danube Home to be redeemed on future purchases. Customers can download the Ahlan app to be the first to know about exclusive discounts and promotions. 

 

Ultimately, Danube Home wants to be the leading name and most preferred choice of customers when it comes to home furnishing and improvement requirements in the Middle East and beyond. Keeping in line with the challenges of our time, the company is focusing on building a robust online presence with its full-fledged Danube Home app, website, and separate app for loyal customers. There are a number of unconventional approaches that Danube home has tapped into in order to target previously untouched segments of the market. This forward looking approach allows it to maintain a competitive edge over its competitors. 

 

For business enquiries, contact Umar Hussain at Danube Home via uae.danubehome.com or email [email protected].

Best EB-5 ResidencyProgramme LawSpecialists – Middle East

The main driver for interconnectedness of the world is free trade and human immigration. People are constantly seeking avenues to migrate to different parts of the world for building a future for their families, better employment opportunities, access to better resources, and various other reasons. This is what makes well-grounded immigration programmes vital for countries that offer them. The United States. EB-immigrant investor programme is an example of a programme that was created for the mutual benefit of the people that need it along with the U.S. government.

The team at The American Legal Center in Dubai have filed the most EB-5 applications within the Middle East and North Africa region. With over one hundred families served, there is a breadth of experience as they maintain their position as the preeminent think tank when it comes to the United States EB-5 program.

The United States EB-5 immigrant investor program was created for the mutual benefit of foreign nationals and the U.S. government. Under the EB-5 immigrant investor program prospective investors must invest in an approved commercial enterprise. Up until 23 June 2021, the required investment amount was $900,000. However, the positive verdict from the groundbreaking Behring Regional Center case against the Department of Homeland Security allowed for the reversal of the $900,000 rule to $500,000 required capital investment.

This monumental change in the required capital investment led to an influx of applications in a noticeably short time. The team had less than two weeks to file as many qualified applications as they could, before the June 30 government deadline. While many were skeptical on whether this enormous task would be possible in such a short period, the team of U.S. licensed lawyers at The American Legal Center were more than capable and prepared. They had been communicating the possibility of a reduction and amendment to the law since February 2021, thus this allowed them to create awareness and ensure that their potential clients were ready to submit their petitions as soon as the announcement was made. This proactive approach clearly shows how the team is always one step ahead.

Since the program’s inception in 1990, it has received great popularity and growth among families that wish to relocate to the U.S., predominantly investors from Asian nations such as China and India. Evidently, due to the state of the U.S. economy and how investing in a reliable and strong economy is beneficial for any investor. On approval of an investors’ petition, an investor will receive a U.S. Green Card and residency for themselves, spouse and children under the age of 21. As Green Card holders they have access to the same U.S. resources available to U.S. citizens such as, free lower primary education, better health facilities, lower tuition costs and better job opportunities.

While some may argue that there is a long waiting period prior to obtaining a green card, in 2020 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced an increase in the number of available visas for applicants. This means that the program has the capacity to take an increased number of applicants. The team at The American Legal Center are excited about how the program has grown. Having filled the most EB-5 applications in the Middle East, they have witnessed the changes that the program has undergone. Their legal staff are well equipped to handle all dynamics of this government program and have been successful in obtaining approvals from our offices in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for nearly a decade.

Shai Zamanian, Managing Director of The American Legal Center, says “In the years working with the EB-5 program I have seen the plethora of opportunities that this program presents to families. It is truly rewarding to see successful applicants start their lives in the United States and benefit from all the resources and opportunities presented to them.” 

As of June 30, 2021, the program reached its sunset date and was not reauthorized by Congress. However, this does not mean that prospective investors cannot start the journey towards obtaining their U.S. Green Cards and residency. The team at The American Legal Center has a way forward for you and your family.

Contact the team to discuss how your family can still capture this opportunity to file under the $500,000 rule.

The Circuit of Success!

The world of technology has transformed the way in which we live but ensuring that this technology is made of the highest quality products falls to top-tier manufacturers. We take a look at the team from RayMing Technology Co Ltd, to see how their work affects people all around the world, and the steps they have taken to ensure their own long-term success.

The role of printed circuit boards (PCBs) within our lives has become an accepted fact, but few actually understand what they do, and why they are vital to maintain the high standards of our modern lifestyle. PCBs have a wealth of potential built into them, able to support and connect various electronic components. These pieces of technology are used in nearly all electronic products, with their design being easily automated for mass manufacture.

RayMing is one of China’s leading PCB assembly manufacturers, offering complete PCB assembly services in Shenzhen. What sets the team apart, however, is the team’s ability to adapt their comprehensive service offering to match the specific needs of individual clients. They can offer a turn-key, or partial turn-key, service that does everything expected of them. For a full turn-key offering, the team takes control of the entire production process, adapting carefully to meet their client’s unique requirements.

This involves the manufacturing of PCBs, procuring the correct components all of which are 100% original, completing stringent PCBA Testing to guarantee they are up to scratch as well as ensuring continuous monitoring of quality and final assembly. This level of attention can be applied to whatever part of the process a client might want for a partial turn-key solution, where the customer can provide the PCBs and certain components, and the remaining parts will be handled by the team at RayMing.

The role of PCBs is now laid into the very fabric of how we live, so industries around the world turn to RayMing for the team’s assurance of high standards and quality. The firm is in high demand from the medical and military sectors as they search for long-lasting and reliable solutions for their own technical developments. The importance of a solution that goes above and beyond is not lost on the team at RayMing, which is why they take such pride in the work they do.

The success of RayMing comes from the team’s incredible commitment to the core values of being uncompromising in integrity, honesty and fairness, inspiring each other in their important work and creating an environment that is as safe as possible for the workforce. This has created a workplace that is incredibly productive, always looking forward and is secure even through the challenges of an international pandemic. Having the ability to trust in a team like this to deliver high quality products has made a real difference to organisations around the world.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the importance of PCBs is not going away, and that the high quality of what is on offer from RayMing really sets the standard by which everyone should be operating. We celebrate the team’s tremendous success in the industry and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

For further information, please visit www.raypcb.com

Most Innovative Anti-Viral Surface Solution 2021: CapaCare Protect

A company priding itself on being ‘intimately Middle Eastern and distinctly global’, Caparol LLC is creating environmentally friendly products that bolster its industry and improve the welfare of end-users.

 

Caparol is committed to operating in a way that betters itself, its sector, and its regions, and this has made it a standout voice that is continually gaining more traction. Caparol is a company developing, producing, and marketing high quality emulsions, enamels, decorative or structural coatings, and insulation technology. In this way, it has developed a reputation amongst its customers for reliable, advanced, and green products that not only stand head and shoulders above the competition, but have clients coming back again and again. This has resulted in significant natural growth for this company as word has spread about it over time, and since its founding it has become the premium brand of DAW in the middle eastern market. Nominally, the products that it offers have been making waves due to the rigour with which they have been created to be the top of the market, with sustainable ranges that allow both it and its clients to retain corporate environmental responsibility, and products that are unfailingly modern. 

 

Headquartered in Ober-Ramstadt, Germany, Caparol has become one of the world’s largest private paint manufacturers. Its presence is one that is now internationally renowned through various brands that have made it their leading choice for Architectural and Decorative paints; indeed, it is this that has allowed it to spearhead a move into the Middle Eastern market. Fundamentally, this company is lead by architectural creativity, and its logo carries with it a number of things for which it has become known. From reliability to technical expertise and outstanding product performance, its stone finishes have been lauded as exemplary by GCC markets, and it is excited to be able to offer these amongst other high-quality goods to the MEA market segment. 

 

Should clients wish to see the brilliance of its work in action, they can do so through its portfolio; this collection of its past work showcases its products used in GEMS International School, Akoya by Damac, Rove Hotels, La Ville Hotel, AL Khuwair, and many more. It looks forward to bringing these solutions to yet more clientele and helping make their projects the best they can be. Recently, its move towards the UAE has been picked up by many leaders of industry in the region, and in this way Caparol has been quick to reach and surpass several of its growth milestones. 

 

Caparol is grateful for this, and excited to ingrain itself further in a corporate crucible where good leadership has formulated bold decision making and ambitious action. It is also prioritising making its name amongst the other sustainably focused voices there, as the eco-friendly market is a significantly large segment in the UAE that dedicates itself to the continuous support of countries reaching for a truly green economy. A lofty goal, for sure, but one that is more in sight by the day. It is achieving this by proving its credentials in green living to its clients, reducing its carbon footprint, and offering eco-friendly solutions – Caparol has taken the time to ensure it can do all of this whilst still perfectly meeting and exceeding customer expectations with regards to quality. 

 

Over time, Caparol has seen Covid-19 only accelerate this market trend, with many of its competitors pivoting to emphasise health and safety in the sale of their products. The adaptation of services to be innovative and safe has allowed Caparol to play a significant role in the pivot, protecting the safety of residents with the launch of CapaCare Protect. This product in particular has proficiencies as an anti-viral and anti-bacterial safety solution. Furthermore, this product is just like all of its other ranges in that it is still sustainably focussed and fuelled by ingenuity, and Caparol has experienced a positive response from the market towards CapaCare Protect because of these factors. 

 

Caparol has thusly stepped up to the plate to serve its clientele during the pandemic, ensuring that its paints respond to the wider challenges of the world, and reflecting on how its paints can be complimentary to helping people handle such a fluctuating environment. Therefore, despite the challenges that were presented to it from a business standpoint, it pulled through the outbreak’s heaviest hitting impacts by responding quickly and with sophistication, bolstered by the effective work of the Government. The UAE’s initiatives directed towards supporting businesses have helped Caparol massively. 

 

It also funnelled significant effort into prioritizing and readjusting raw material and supply sourcing, with productions and inventories being hit across the board, Caparol ensured that its supply lines were being as carefully managed as possible. Consequentially, orders were being met, stock level kept under control, and deadlines hit. Cash flow management was also something that it ensured was carefully controlled during this time, ensuring business continuity and operational viability throughout the crisis. Nowadays, this rigour is continuing to be reflected in its dedication to furthering its environmental responsibility, working with a renewed vigour as it develops paint that decreases the amount of indoor air pollutants. 

 

By making its products as lacking in these substances as possible, it wishes to improve the relationship between air quality and indoor paint. With the Environmental Protection Agency ranking indoor air pollution amongst the top 5 environmental dangers, and market research showing the impact of this on people’s health, Caparol is committed to becoming one of the green partners of choice for encouraging the wellbeing of its customers with non-harmful paints. Fuelling this, at the core of Caparol is its heritage. It has been a family owned business since 1895, and thus its attitude has always been one of care and collaboration; over time, this has grown into extending this out towards the environment in order to create its current business model. It cares deeply about every element of its business and everything it has an impact on, keeping creativity and innovation close to its heart as it moves towards a bright future. 

 

Lastly, as well as the development of its products and reduction of its ecological impacts, it wishes to contribute to the positive development of the UAE and MEA region. In this way, it will be trying its best to encourage the Governments of the countries it operates in to follow through with their transition to green economies, leading by example to take its wider sector down a path that works in perfect tandem. It is confident that the market is indeed reaching that point. Businesses have been provided a real a real opportunity to improve safety, end-user experience, and overall aesthetic results, through innovation and continued work. Therefore, being a green company will be hugely beneficial to its growth moving forwards, and it will keep demonstrating this with the high standard of its VOC free paints and tailored attitude towards market demand. 

 

For business enquires, contact Stefan Chang at Caparol LLC via caparol.ae.

Best UAE Film & Video Production Company 2021

Xperiment Media is an innovation lab and boutique film agency based in Dubai, UAE. It specialises in story-driven films and commercials for brands, with a special focus on teaching creativity and human-centred innovation to individuals.

People love a good story. In fact, science tells us we love storytelling so much that when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night telling itself stories. But great stories require sophisticated storytellers Xperiment Media understands this. Founded by Addy Khan, a Hollywood-trained filmmaker with over 10 years of US and Middle East experience, their mission is the convergence of creativity, business and technology. Xperiment Media’s team of ‘artist technicians’ are available as both local crew or remote teams. This has widened their capacity to serve customers anywhere in the world. While its core customer-base is the Gulf region, Xperiment Media regularly services international brands, agencies and professionals from the US, Europe and APAC. With Dubai Expo 2020 and the participation of 192 countries, they can help create more synergies. 

 

Trust Matters 

A no-nonsense approach has won clients’ trust. Financially disciplined, Xperiment Media knows how to transform ideas into tangible results. Since its inception in 2014, the company has successfully handled big-budget film and video productions for government, businesses and agencies. Concise communication, flexibility, and reliable execution are its strongest assets. Compared to other ‘bloated’ service providers, Xperiment Media’s small footprint makes them nimble—which means more value for its clients. The lean approach is now finding resonance with a new crop of customers: SMEs and start-ups looking to tell their stories during their scale-up phase. 

 

COVID-proof 

When the world changed in March 2020, Xperiment Media was fast to adapt to the pandemic. Its “COVID-proof” production protocols meant filming continued safely in Dubai, whilst post-production became 100% remote via its globally distributed teams in California, South Asia and the UAE. State-of-the-art pipelines for VFX and CGI ensured a seamless blend of photographed reality and the virtual. There was never ever a compromise on Quality, Service and Reliability. As a result, its clients were able to communicate with their own customers, without disruption. The increased online consumption led Xperiment Media-produced films, animation and commercials to clock over 30 million+ views on YouTube and Twitter (Q2 2020 to Q2 2021 period). 

 

Commercials like ‘Movies’ 

If everything looks great in movies, why can’t commercials look like movies? Xperiment Media applies the high-end ‘Hollywood look’ to TVCs, brand films and 2D/3D animated series. Every conversation starts with director Addy Khan, who has shot over 100 films and commercials. His work has been shown at Oscar-qualified international festivals; and he has been invited for residencies by the renowned Reykjavík Film Festival and Art Dubai. Addy personally shepherds each project to the finish line. Leveraging his unique background in film, marketing and entrepreneurship; he can conduct highly effective discussions with marketing departments, agencies or entrepreneurs. Everyone is able to get on the same page—from the first phone call or Zoom meeting. This saves the client’s time, and increases efficiency. 

 

Movies for Movie Lovers 

Besides commercials, Xperiment Media also produces narrative shorts and feature films. Its next release is RETROGRADE, a mind-boggling sci-fi drama filmed in Los Angeles. Produced in partnership with Inner Circle Entertainment headed by Pat Hartonian and Edwin Karapetian, RETROGRADE is currently in consideration at several international film festivals. It will be released to the public in late 2021.

 

Unlocking Creativity & Innovation: 2021 and Beyond 

Human creativity does not improve from working harder or longer. Given the recent spike in sensory overload and deterioration of mental health, the company recently surveyed people across four continents. One unsettling pain-point from an interviewee struck a chord: “It is hard to be creative. It is harder to even get started these days.” The extended pandemic has resulted in many having lost the ability and bandwidth to pause and prioritise what’s important. It can feel impossible to put time aside to plan and be creative. 

Xperiment Media director, Addy says: “We listen to our customers. I am excited to announce that Xperiment Media has set up an Innovation Lab. We are developing practical tools that will help individuals and teams discover, track and boost their personal creativity. Another focus area is training. We want young professionals to become better filmmakers and also creative entrepreneurs. It took me years to figure out how to run a sustainable business that is also aligned with a deep purpose. This was achieved not with ‘hacks’, but systems and mental models. Now I want to help others learn these secret tricks…much faster. And without the blood, sweat or tears!” 

For business enquiries, contact Addy Khan at Xperiment Media via websites xperimentmedia.com by emailing [email protected]. Alternatively, visit addykhan.com for more information about director Addy Khan.

Hundreds of African Financial Professionals Benefit from European Investment Bank Banking and Microfinance Academy

Abidjan hosting the EIB’s first banking best-practice engagement in West and Central Africa; Central Bank governors from West and Central Africa to highlight financial challenges; 2021 SME Banking and Microfinance Academy follows EIB training more than 40,000 finance professionals across Africa over past 7 years; Industry experts share experience and solutions to strengthen gender and agriculture finance, digitalisation and understanding of climate risk.

“The European Investment Bank recognises the importance of ensuring that private sector financing unlocks sustainable economic and social development. This inaugural EIB West and Central Africa SME Banking and Microfinance Academy brings together partners that share the same goal and long term objective of strengthening resilience and unlocking economic and social opportunities for local communities, small holder farmers and entrepreneurs across Africa. Building on a previous best-practice sharing that strengthened specialist skills for more than 40,000 African financial professionals for the benefit of many more entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers, I am convinced of the success of the Academy.” said Ambroise Fayolle, European Investment Bank Vice President.

Opened by Jobst von Kirchmann, European Union Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire and hosted by the European Investment Bank’s Regional Representation for West Africa in Abidjan the Banking and Microfinance Academy will provide an opportunity for African and international financial partners to share experience of supporting economic resilience crucial to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating digitalisation and green finance, and improving access to finance by women, remote communities and vulnerable groups.

Over two days, experts from leading financial institutions, the EIB and partners Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) will share practical insights and technical best-practice that will further strengthen access to finance and facilitate investments in targeted sectors particularly in climate change mitigation and adaptation, social, gender, and the advancement of innovation and digital technology.

Central Bank governors from across West and Central Africa will also participate and discuss current challenges and financial services trends.

Expanding successful exchange of banking best-practice to West and Central Africa

The 2021 SME Banking and Microfinance Academy is the first time that the European Investment Bank has held the event in West and Central Africa. This follows previous banking and microfinance Academies held in East and Southern Africa since 2016.and dedicated best-practice training with more than 40,000 financial services professionals across Africa.

Banking professionals and private sector SME banking and microfinance clients across Africa already benefit from dedicated business management, banking risk management and specialised training provided by the European Investment Bank through technical assistance programmes across Africa.

Over the last decade the EIB has provided dedicated training for financial professionals in 288 banks and microfinance partners and enhanced business skills for entrepreneurs, small holder farmers and refugees across the continent.

Driving transformational change through increased access to finance

The 2021 SME Banking and Microfinance Academy will allow African and international banking and microfinance practitioners from across west and central Africa to share insights into the latest banking best-practices. Experience from previous academies in Nairobi and Pretoria have shown how closer cooperation and knowledge sharing is key to expanding access to finance to targeted market segments, to overcome key challenges and to foster and accelerate high-impact investment.

Participants will exchange experience and expertise on financing climate action, scaling up digitalisation, enabling financing to better reflect the needs of private sector entrepreneurs, smallholders and agriculture, and ensure that female entrepreneurs and women led business can overcome banking barriers.

Speakers will also highlight how to financial institutions are reinforcing digital investment to improve financial services delivery, sustainability reporting as well as to enhance environmental and social ratings.

Building on 58 years of EIB support for private sector growth and transformational investment across Africa

In recent years the European Investment Bank has worked with West and Central African based financial partners including Baobab, ECOBANK, Microcred, Kafo Jiginew, BDEAC, Société Génerale, Commercial Bank of Cameroon and PRO PME to enhance access to specialist and targeted finance.

The EIB promotes the development of the financial sector through technical assistance for both financial intermediaries and private sector final beneficiaries to strengthen managerial and financial skills.

Recent programmes have provided targeted support for African banking institutes. This includes recent partnership between the EIB and International Monetary Fund to support financial sector development across the continent. The joint EIB-IMF online course on financial inclusion and financial development.

By offering specialized technical assistance and fostering closer cooperation with its partners, across the continent the European Investment Bank is contributing to a lasting legacy of building local capacity and even developing stronger technical skills to ensure that increased access to finance overcomes daily challenges faced by small African businesses.

The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank, owned directly by the 27 European Union member states.

The EIB has operated across Africa since 1965 and last year provided EUR 5 billion for private and public investment across Africa.

Vertiv Joins the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance to Help Drive a Climate-neutral Digital Economy

Vertiv, is a global a global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions, today announced that it has become a lead sponsor of the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA).

Established in 2019, the SDIA is a non-profit network of more than 65 organizations across Europe and beyond, working to catalyse the transition to sustainable digital infrastructure. It aligns all stakeholders of the digital ecosystem – from energy supply and data centres, to fibre-optic networks and software – on the mission of fostering a sustainable digital economy and realizing their Roadmap to Sustainable Digital Infrastructure by 2030.

Max Schulze, SDIA executive chairman, welcomed Vertiv to the Alliance. “Vertiv’s experience and expertise in the critical infrastructure sector, including data centres, is well established. Together we will continue to develop new concepts and technologies to make climate-neutral data centres and digital infrastructure a reality.”

Commenting on the partnership with the SDIA, Giordano Albertazzi, president for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Vertiv, said: “Achieving a successful transition to a sustainable and digital future will require the cooperation of a wide variety of stakeholders, including governments as well as organisations from across the energy and technology industries. Vertiv is proud to support a group such as the SDIA which can help bring together these contributors and align them towards the common goal of developing a sustainable digital economy.”

Initially, Vertiv and the SDIA will focus their relationship around Europe – currently at the forefront of sustainability technology development as well as government regulation and investment.

Vertiv’s membership of the SDIA follows similar initiatives with organisations such as the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA), which Vertiv joined in 2018. Vertiv, via its membership of the EUDCA, is also helping to contribute to the development of the recently announced Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact. The pact is a major self-regulatory initiative setting targets that put the cloud and data centre industry on a path to meet the European Commission’s goal for climate-neutral data centres by 2030, and supporting the wider goal of the European Green Deal to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Some of the immediate areas of cooperation between SDIA and Vertiv will include the advancement of grid-interactive technologies. SDIA’s membership, which spans data centre technology suppliers and operators as well as energy companies, is well placed to help with the development and deployment of new solutions which can improve the integration between critical infrastructure and energy grids.

Dubai’s Real Estate Market Set to Bounce Back with the Upcoming Expo 2020

The global pandemic has caused many industries to draw to a screeching halt, including the real estate industry. Despite this, the rest of 2021 and the coming year appears hopeful. As tourism across the Middle East begins to flourish once again and travel restrictions ease, the housing sector is set to make a steady upward recovery, particularly with the Expo 2020 Dubai commencing from October. The high vaccination rate has positioned Dubai as one of the safest places to travel post-pandemic, allowing the emirate to open its doors to not only tourism, but multiple opportunities across all sectors.

To celebrate the resilience displayed by the UAE in overcoming the pandemic and being positioned as one of the safest countries welcoming visitors from across the globe, Prescott Real Estate Development is offering a hotel stay for one week to their overseas buyers who invest in their projects. With investment as low as $100,000 for a property, buyers can also have the leverage of flexible Five-year Payment Plan, averaged at $20,000 per year. Prescott’s latest project ‘Prime Views’ is currently yielding a whooping 7% yield on investment value and an 18% yield on equity. This underlines the company’s commitment to support the buyers at every step of the process. Additionally, given the Expo 2020 being a once in a lifetime event for the global community, the developers will also offer free Dubai Expo 2020 passes to the buyers to give them a glimpse of the making of a new world. 

To add to the flourishing portfolio, Prescott has a stellar new project launching in in one of the city’s most desirable areas in the second fourth quarter of this year. Located just a stone’s throw away from the Expo 2020 grounds, the upcoming project will boast of fully furnished smart homes offering great connectivity to the metro lines as well the airport, and a host of amenities unlike any other development in the area. 

Muhammad Shafi, Chief Executive Officer of Prescott Real Estate Development, says, “In the past few months, Dubai’s real estate sector has shown a steady growth and a notable interest not only from investors within the city but also foreign investors. The support from the government with regards to increase in the loan capping, the various initiatives under smart city plans, and much more have ensured a more positive outlook on the buying pattern within the real estate sector. The onset of the Expo 2020 has only added to the return of foreign investors to Dubai, who have been a major driving force when it comes to the real estate market with the emirate housing one of the highest numbers of expatriate population.”

He adds, “Prescott has always expanded their portfolio with an aim to enable the buyers secure a property that seamlessly blends luxury with affordability. With real estate industry picking up pace in the region with the onset of the Expo 2020, the existing prime properties along with the upcoming ones, built on our pillars of quality, location and privileges are all well equipped to manage the foreseeable demand of buyers seeking luxurious and well-equipped properties at affordable prices.”

Prescott Real Estate Development, a name synonymous with luxury, has been at the forefront of the real estate segment in Dubai for over a decade. With a stunning track record showcasing consistency in delivering the highest standard of affordable luxury properties and guaranteeing absolute attention-to-detail through every step of the development process, Prescott has catered to clients who seek a quality home at an affordable price without compromising on quality. With Prescott and their legacy built on trust, every buyer’s peace of mind is prioritized throughout the investment journey, right from location, finance, purchase and home ownership. Additionally, the team’s track record of success and longevity in the UAE market. Prescott has delivered a host of exciting projects across Dubai, including the Prime Villas, Prime Residency 1 and 2, Prime Business Centre and their latest Prime Views Meydan Avenue.   

WFP and Takeda Deepen Partnership in West Africa to Strengthen Health Emergency Response

A new JPY 1.3 billion (approximately USD 10.8 million) contribution from Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited (Takeda) Global CSR Program to the World Food Programme (WFP) builds on previous successes and brings forward a 5-year initiative to help strengthen regional health supply chain capacities in West Africa.

Takeda and WFP’s existing partnership has focused on strengthening in-country public health supply chains and supporting long-term pandemic preparedness, combining Takeda’s financial support with WFP’s supply chain knowledge and experience, built over nearly six decades of working in some of the most logistically challenging environments in the world.  

In West Africa, fragile supply chains can lead to delays and damage in the transport and storage of medicines and other vital health items, leaving vulnerable communities without the help they need. This new initiative, which will run from 2022 to 2026, will build on existing activities as part of the current Takeda-WFP partnership, helping to address supply chain gaps and challenges at a regional level, ensuring better accessibility and availability of health products in fragile environments through the WFP-managed United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Accra, Ghana.  

The United Nations Humanitarian Response Depots (UNHRD) are a network of six strategically located hubs around the world that provide supply chain services to the humanitarian community. UNHRD Ghana, in Accra, supports humanitarian organizations working across 17 West African countries. This initiative will enhance the capacity of UNHRD Accra to store and deliver temperature-sensitive health products on behalf of the humanitarian community, and will create a Regional Logistics Knowledge Centre, where supply chain professionals and representatives from national governments in the region can receive training on best-in-class supply chain practices, ensuring that they are better equipped to face and manage health emergencies.   

“WFP has been working with Takeda since 2020 and we value this partnership enormously,” said WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley. “This new generous donation from Takeda reflects the success and sustainability of our collaboration and will help public and private actors in West Africa prepare for, and respond to, health emergencies – so that vital supplies can reach those most in need.”  

“Takeda is proud to continue working with the World Food Programme to transform supply chains and ensure access to critical health products in West Africa,” said Takako Ohyabu, Chief Global Corporate Affairs Officer at Takeda. “Our Global CSR Program partners are selected annually by our employees around the world. Through this program, we are focused on strengthening health systems and our work with WFP continues to be meaningful to employees. As we continue this partnership, we hope to empower communities in West Africa to be ready for the health challenges of the future.” 

Young Saudi Arabia Consumers Bring Spending Back, 88% Ready to Embrace Pre-pandemic

Sitecore®, the global leader in digital experience management software, today released its Holiday Shopping Trends 2021 report exploring how consumers in Saudi Arabia intend to celebrate, indulge, and recuperate this holiday season.

Saudi Arabia’s residents are eager to resume their normal lives and make up for last year’s COVID-controlled holiday, with 88% of those age 25-34 saying they are ready to embrace pre-pandemic shopping, travel, and holiday experiences.

About four-fifths (79%) of Saudi Arabia consumers surveyed plan to make bigger and more mindful holiday purchases this year, fueled in part by the fact that 76% of Saudi Arabia consumers say they have more savings set aside for the holidays this year compared to last year.

Sitecore’s Holiday Shopping Trends 2021 report surfaces insights from consumers around holiday shopping, gift giving, spending, and sentiment. The data arms marketers in categories like retail, travel, automotive, and others with the intelligence they need to deliver winning experiences that satisfy the evolving tastes and demands of consumers.

“As 88 percent of consumers in Saudi Arabia are very clearly ready to move on from the pandemic, they are looking at Holiday 2021 as the beginning of the rest of their lives,” said Mohammed Alkhotani, Area Vice President – Middle East and Africa, Sitecore. “Our research shows pent-up demand and more savings than usual will result in younger consumers splurging on self-care and big-ticket items at the register, which is great news for those in retail, travel, and hospitality. It’s also heartening to see that 69 percent of Saudi Arabia consumers want to support their local community, including locally-owned businesses. The industry will need to respond with more offerings from these businesses.”

  • Saudi Arabia’s Shift in Perspective:
    • 73% of consumers would prefer experience gifts to “more stuff”
    • 85% of consumers are now planning “the trip of a lifetime”
    • 73% of consumers under the age of 44 said they are now more spontaneous, more social, and enjoying life more
  • Young Saudi Arabia consumers bringing spending back:
    • 87% of those under the age of 44 stated that following their experiences during the pandemic they now “value travel and appreciate other cultures more” 
  • Saudi retailers could support more locally-owned businesses:
    • 95% of consumers believe it is essential that retailers offer more products from locally-owned businesses, but only 66% report seeing more locally-owned products when shopping 
  • Buying local and being mindful with purchases is a priority for Saudi Arabia:
    • 69% of consumers are willing to pay more for locally made gifts
    • 59% of consumers are annoyed when they find a purchase was made in China, when they thought it was a local purchase
    • 93% of consumers stated that the pandemic has made them think more carefully about how they spend their money
  • In Saudi Arabia, self-care now includes self-gifting:
    • 46% of those buying a gift for themselves cite “therapy” as the main reason

Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference 2021 at a Glance

The Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) returns to Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai live in person from 20-22 September 2021, bringing together four powerful, active investment communities from across the region.

For the first time, AHIC 2021, organised by Bench and MEED, will house the four close-knit investment communities of the Arabian Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC), Saudi Arabia Hospitality Investment Conference (SHIC), Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) under one roof.

United by the theme Rise Together, investors, owners, private equity firms, financiers, franchise owners, innovators, developers, and government entities will meet to network, share insights and do business, with the potential for partnerships greater than ever.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench and founder of AHIC, says: “To be able to bring together these four major hospitality investment communities for the first time, at our first live, in person event for this sector in the Middle East and Africa post-pandemic, is truly special. We have created a robust buyer and seller platform teaming with opportunity and developed a unique programme inspired by the key themes of ‘innovation, sustainability and the future’. With less than a month until we kick-off AHIC 2021, we are now working closely with our moderators, speakers and sponsors to ensure we spark conversations that will help this resilient and innovative industry rise from this pandemic towards a bright, successful future,” says Worsley.

The AHIC 2021 programme combines on-stage one-to-one interviews, roundtables, discussions and workshops with innovation pitches, off-stage individual meetings and networking experiences.

AHIC Intelligence

Many of these sessions will be underpinned by AHIC Intelligence, with industry data, insights and predictions for the region’s pipeline, performance and profitability expected to be key. On day one on 20 September, Robin Rossman, managing director, STR, will present some of the key learnings from the past 18 months.

Speaking ahead of AHIC, STR’s Rossmann says: “The pace and shape of hotel performance recovery continues to vary significantly around the world, dependant on vaccination rates as well as the spread of the Delta strain. In the Middle East and Africa, performance has also varied significantly based on some markets’ greater reliance on international travel and corporate demand. The markets able to generate more demand from domestic leisure sources are further ahead in the recovery process”.

He adds: “Looking ahead, the balance between domestic and international travel is set to change fundamentally as the industry transitions to the ‘new normal’ post-pandemic. Data shows the reality of current travel hesitancy contrasted by the significant pent-up demand that will emerge once Covid travel restrictions are eased”.

Meanwhile, Dr. Martin Berlin, partner & global deals real estate leader, PwC, will unveil exclusive research on the impact of Covid as a never-before-seen catalyst for innovation.

Berlin reveals that the pandemic has caused a loss of US$1.3 trillion in tourist receipts.

In a sneak preview of the data, he says: “International tourist arrivals declined by 74% due to Covid in 2020, compared to only a decrease of 4% after the financial crisis, while the global airline industry declined by more than 50% during Covid. This means that currently, 100-120 million jobs in the global tourism sector are at risk due to the pandemic”.

AHIC 2021 will explore how and when the industry can return to the status quo.

Day two will follow with insights on ‘how covid-19 has changed the hotel operating model’ from Michael Grove, chief operating officer, HotStats; analysis of UAE and KSA consumer data from Muhammad Ali Syed, chief executive officer, Mingora; and learnings from 22,000 restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from Alexis Marcoux-Varvatsoulis, Foodservice consulting lead, Middle East and Africa, JLL – one of several sessions set to inspire the GRIF community.

Grove says his session will explore “the cost cull”, as operators look at large scale changes to both fixed and variable costs, as well as how the luxury hotel operating model is being redefined.

He adds: “We will also discuss the importance of ancillary revenues in the Middle East and Africa. With more than 40% non-rooms revenue, how important are other revenues when considering ramp up?”.

AHIC Exclusive

Meanwhile, Hala Matar Choufany, president – Middle East, Africa and South Asia for HVS, will launch the company’s latest Valuation Index for the Middle East & Africa on day two.

In an exclusive preview of the report, Choufany says: “Hotel ownership and investment are considered as a long-term investment as the value is based on the future income that the asset is likely to generate, with valuers adopting the discounted cashflow method of valuation. As such, one year of minimal income does not mean the value of the asset has disappeared completely. The key will be the length of time it will take for the hotels/markets to recover and whether the recovery will surpass the previous levels of operation.

She reveals: “Although there was a limited number of hotel transactions that took place in the MEA region during the last 18 months, the trading performance of hotels that remained opened or re-opened suggests that leisure and resort hotels have performed better than the corporate and commercial hotels. Specifically, cities that have better managed the pandemic and gradually re-opened their borders have registered lower decline in hotel values when compared to other cities.

“In value terms there has been a significant immediate impact, registering between 20% and 25% decline in regional values in 2020, but most markets in the MEA are forecasted to recover at 10-15% per annum for the next three to four years. The MEA average is likely to achieve a CAGR of 1.3% between 2019 and 2025 and a CAGR of 8% between 2021 and 2025,” asserts Choufany.

She adds: “What the Covid-19 pandemic has shown is the importance of sensible development costs, the need to appoint an experienced operator and brand that delivers as well as the importance of decreasing operational costs and increasing efficiencies. With the continued uncertainty, it is more important than ever that owners take the opportunity to regularly review the performance of their hotels as the cashflows will impact the financial risk associated with their investment perhaps now more than ever.”

Saudi Focus

AHIC has already released its exclusive fourth annual AHIC Hotel Investment Forecast in partnership with MEED Projects.

According to this research, more than US $3.5bn worth of new hotel projects in the GCC have been awarded over the past 18 months during the height of the pandemic, indicating that investors expect the market to return to normality in the next two to three years when the new projects are due to open.

Ed James, director of content and analysis at MEED Projects, says: “Longer-term, the industry is even more bullish, with US $27bn worth of hotel investments in the pipeline.The majority of these are comprised of the ‘giga project’ tourism investments in Saudi Arabia led by the Red Sea Project, NEOM, AMAALA, Diriyah Gate and Al-Ula, to name but a few”.

These giga projects will have a major presence at AHIC 2021, with Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO, Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), kicking off the Saudi Day on day three, 22 September, with a live-on-stage morning talk with Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special advisor, Ministry of Tourism – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s far reaching Vision 2030 strategy, Diryah is an iconic lifestyle and hospitality destination projected to add SAR 27 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP.

In a teaser to his session, Inzerillo says: “After the most tumultuous period the global hospitality and tourism industry has seen, it’s apt that the leading sector stakeholders and the investment community from the region will congregate under the banner of ‘Rise Together’.

“Whilst there is no doubt that globally the pandemic has been challenging for our industry, as a community of leaders, owners and investors, we are well-placed to steer the next phase of growth and development in the region to the wider benefits of our nations and societies.

“In Saudi Arabia we are witnessing great transformation, of which hospitality and tourism will play a crucial role in defining the nation of the future. As some of the world’s foremost hotel brands are on the cusp of entering the Kingdom and Middle East for the first time, DGDA’s goal is to attract 27 million visitors by 2030,” he continues.

“DGDA alone will provide 55,000 jobs offering diverse employment creation for its highly dynamic Saudi youth population and will see talent retained in the country for the Kingdom to benefit from in years and generations to come,” says Inzerillo.

“Adapting to the changing dynamics and the new future will best place our region to maximise the opportunities we have before us to ensure the AHIC nations stand at the front of the post-Covid hospitality world,” he adds.

AHIC 2021 will also feature speakers from another of Saudi Arabia’s giga projects, NEOM, with Andrew McEvoy, head of tourism sector, NEOM, set to discuss the foundations of developing a future destination with sustainability at the core of investment.

In a teaser to the session, McEvoy says: “Over-tourism has stripped travel of its core themes of individual self-discovery and authenticity. The future of tourism will have sustainability at its heart. Those who embrace it will win.”

On a similar topic, John Pagano, chief executive officer, The Red Sea Development Company and AMAALA, will deliver a keynote entitled: ‘Regenerative tourism and partnerships which enable it to be a reality’.

Into Africa

AHIC 2021 will also feature several sessions focused on the African investment community, with an interactive debate moderated by Philippe Doizelet, director, hotels and real estate, Voltere by Egis, designed to analyse the concepts most ripe for investment based on the changing behaviour of consumers.

While Africa welcomed some 70 million tourists in 2019 according to UNWTO, following an average growth of about 6% over the last five years, Doizelet says there are still barriers to entry, from visa policies to health requirements.

Therefore, sub regional tourism will stimulate the creation of tourism complexes and urban and peri-urban business and leisure centres that can become real destinations. Doizelet predicts that over the next two decades, the following countries will emerge as the most credible regional players: Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal to the west; Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda in the East; and South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the south.

He says: “Finally, central Africa should rely rather on local demand and create opportunities for exclusive tourism clusters, particularly in Cameroon and Angola. From the above, it is clear that talking about African tourism in a global way makes little sense. National or sub-regional realities continue to prevail, thus reflecting the geographic, human, economic and political diversity of the continent”.

It is these realities that will be discussed in depth at AHIC, with leaders from this unique continent present to review the numbers and delve into the opportunity.

Panel debates

In addition to the focuses on the different investment communities present at this year’s AHIC – those from Saudi Arabia, Africa and the global restaurant sector in addition to the Middle East at large – there will also be numerous plenary sessions that tap into the high level issues impacting hospitality investment across the board.

Topics to be covered include: conversions and M&A; third party operators; implementing ESG into investment strategies; FDI investment funds; development bright spots in the Middle East and Africa; the regional tourism outlook; and the ‘new normal’ for profitability. In this session, Alison Grinnell, chief executive officer, RAK Hospitality Holdings, will moderate a conversation between Hassan Ahdab, president of hotel operations, Dur Hospitality; Marcus Bernhardt, chief executive officer, Steigenberger Hotels AG/Deutsche Hospitality; and Hamid Sidine, chief operating officer MEA, Millennium Hotels & Resorts, on the shifting of operating models and whether this impacts operators’ expectations on profitability.

Sidine says: “I will highlight the continuous efforts of Millennium Hotels & Resorts MEA, adapted to meet the new hospitality normal and to continue staging our guest experience while maintaining profitability.”

As always, the on-stage debate is expected to be lively and intriguing, with numerous opportunities to continue the discussion off-stage.

AHIC’s Worsley concludes: “AHIC 2021 has been in the planning for a long time now. Over the course of this year, in all our conversations with our Advisory Board, speakers, sponsors and delegates, one thing has been crystal clear: people are ready to meet, eager to share, and excited to do business”.

Sustainability Hospitality Challenge

AHIC 2021 will present the finals of the Sustainability Hospitality Challenge (SHC), in partnership with Hotelschool The Hague, NEOM, Bench and the Sustainability Hospitality Alliance.

SHC addresses the urgency of the climate crisis as it relates to travel and tourism by challenging international hotel school students to develop sustainable innovations for the ‘future of hospitality in the context of 2050’, along one of three pillars – future real estate, future brand, and future community.

Whittled down from 60 students from 30 of the world’s best hotel schools, three sets of finalists will present their solutions to a jury of 11 top hoteliers from global brands on the morning of day one of AHIC 2021.

The winning team will be revealed on day two, with the presentation given by Sébastien Bazin, chairman and chief executive of Accor.

Paul Griep, director of industry relations at Hotelschool The Hague and the driving force behind the challenge, says: “We look forward to an exciting final of the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge and are excitedly anticipating the presentations of students from the top hotel schools of the world. They will present the innovative solutions they’ve worked on during the past year, which have already made quite an impression on the jury and which may have a permanent impact for our industry when it comes to sustainability”.

Exclusive new launches

AHIC is well known as an event where deals are done and headlines are made, from the announcement of new owner-operator partnerships and hotel brands through to entrepreneurial set-ups and innovative company launches.

This year, Michael Levie, co-founder of citizenM and David Keen, founder of QUO, have come together in a dynamic new partnership to create KUBE Ventures, an investment incubator focused on global hospitality start-ups, which will be unveiled for the first time at AHIC.

Levie says: “We want to give back to the hospitality industry. All of our shareholders have united with a crystal clear purpose. We want to be a catalyst for transformation: be it in technology, operations or human resources”.

“We will look back at the post-pandemic era as one of extraordinary opportunity. Our purpose is to realise our industry’s potential and to bring it to par with the world’s most dynamic industries and organisations,” adds Keen.

Marloes Knippenberg, chief executive officer of Kerten Hospitality, and a change merchant in her own right, will interview Michael and David in a session on 20 September 2021 at 16:00 entitled ‘How do we foster transformation and change in hospitality’.

Intra-Continental Trade Expansion to Take Centre Stage in New Focus Report on Africa

African Economic Zones Organisation and Oxford Business Group to team up for latest project on region’s growth story

A new focus report, produced by Oxford Business Group (OBG) in partnership with the Africa Economic Zones Organisation (AEZO), will explore the potential that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) holds as a driver of intra-regional trade by linking local markets.

Titled “Special Economic Zones in Africa”, the report will provide in-depth analysis of the continent’s potential for enhanced regional integration in an easy-to-navigate and accessible format, focusing on key data and infographics relating to Africa’s socio-economic landscape.

The report will shine a spotlight on Africa’s special economic zones (SEZs), examining in detail the part they are expected to play in galvanising industrialisation and trade facilitation across borders.

It will track the developments under way in individual AEZO member countries, analysing key data across a wide range of metrics, such as such as trade volumes, business models, regulatory frameworks and access to finance.

Other topical issues analysed will include the impact of Covid-19 on intra-African trade and how these are being addressed.

In the report Ahmed Bennis, Secretary-General, AEZO, will share his thoughts on a wide range of issues, including how SEZs can leverage rising demand across the continent for industrialisation, with the AfCFTA now active.

“Special economic zones have a key role to play in enhancing the attractiveness of the African markets, while contributing to the expansion of local economies,” he said. “I look forward to tracking their development with Oxford Business Group and exploring what SEZs can do to boost investment in this important and timely report.”

Commenting ahead of the report publication, Karine Loehman, OBG’s Managing Director for Africa, said SEZs were taking centre stage in Africa’s efforts to attract FDI, with more than 200 now established across the continent.

“Challenges to their development remain, such as access to land and provision of power,” Loehman said. “However, the opportunities to play a part in Africa’s growth story by developing the essential industrial, logistic and service activities that companies need are huge.”

The focus report on Africa will form part of a series of tailored reports that OBG is currently producing with its partners, alongside other highly relevant, go-to research tools, including a range of country-specific Growth and Recovery Outlook articles and interviews.

Cloud and Microsoft Ecosystem Will Create 13,100 Jobs in Kuwait by 2024

  • The country’s spending on public cloud services is expected to reach $112.3 million by 2024

Kuwait is accelerating its adoption of technology with large-scale investments that will create 13,100 new jobs in the economy, enabled through cloud and Microsoft’s ecosystem, according to new research by the International Data Corporation (IDC). This expansion results from an expected 3.5 times rise in public cloud services in the country, from approximately $32.0 million in 2019 to $112.3 million in 2024.

This IDC White Paper discusses the impact that IT, cloud services, and the Microsoft ecosystem will have on Kuwait’s economy during the 2019–2024 period. It builds on more than a decade of analysis around the economic impact of IT on local economies. The study finds that together with investments in public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions, the Kuwaiti economy will enable businesses to generate nearly $1.3 billion in net new revenues over the next five years. The report further stated that Microsoft ecosystem is projected to add 8,200 net new jobs to the Kuwaiti economy.

“Cloud computing is a crucial pivot to successfully transitioning through the digital transformation. And we have dedicated ourselves to spreading the culture of the cloud and other impactful technologies such as AI, and data analytics, within the public and private sectors through the many tech-influenced initiatives,” said Dr. Ammar Alhusaini, Deputy Director General at Central Agency for Information Technology. “The current workforce requires the best in training and skilling, as we equip them with the right tools, knowledge, and know-how to enrich their journey in growth and building a brighter future for the country.”

The implementation of today’s smart tech will provide more job opportunities, improve customer experiences, and support the country’s goals and vision for boosting the stability and strengthening of the economy as a whole. And we can achieve these heights with our knowledge, creativity, and innovation in practice,” Alhusaini added.

“The government of Kuwait has embarked on a path toward becoming a fully digitized nation by 2035. The journey to the cloud is considered an integral element of its 2035 digital strategy, with the aim of improving the government’s performance and efficiency,” said Alaeddine Karim, Country Manager, Kuwait. “Microsoft’s efforts and investments in Cloud and AI are at the heart of Kuwait’s journey to achieve Kuwait Vision 2035 – this is why Microsoft has collaborated with the Central agency of information technology (CAIT) and the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA), in the form of various MoUs and partnership agreements, as we empower the government of Kuwait to achieve more.

The IDC report finds that continued investments across Kuwaiti industries in digital services and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), analytics, automation, and mobility are accelerating cloud adoption in the country. Consideration is also given to the ongoing focus on public, private partnerships, as well as investments into small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and increasing interest in hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud strategies.

“The country has a very ambitious national development plans outlined as “New Kuwait” in Vision 2035 that strives to diversify its economy through various transformations and modernization initiatives. And the use of cloud and AI is considered an integral element of its 2035 digital strategy,” said Manish Ranjan, Program Manager for Software & Cloud at IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META).

“Government authorities such as the Communications and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) and the Central Agency for Information Technology (CAIT) have been phenomenal in driving ICT modernization initiatives and collaborating with technology solution providers to develop the ICT skill sets that will be required in the future. The need for innovation and the rising use of public and private cloud services will drive Kuwait’s economic diversification, which will result in additional jobs,” continued Manish.

Cloud and AI services have already given birth to new professions. As COVID-19 shifts the world into a “new normal,” there is a strong need for workforce with digital skills, as companies are increasingly operating in a more digital and connected environment. This will, in turn, further drive rapid digital upskilling programs among non-technical workforce,” concluded Ranjan.

Africa Data Centres Reveals Continent’s Largest-ever Data Centre Expansion Plan

Africa’s leading carrier-neutral co-location data centre provider, Africa Data Centres, has announced plans to build large hyperscale data centres throughout Africa, including the North African countries of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

The project will involve building 10 hyperscale data centres, in 10 countries, over the next two years – at a cost of more than US$500m. It is being funded through new equity and facilities from leading development finance institutions and multilateral organisations. Africa Data Centres CEO, Mr Stephane Duproz, explains that the finance for the roll-out has been provided by equity and loans to Africa Data Centres’ parent company, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, to fully fund the expansion. 

Explaining the ambitious initiative, Duproz says, “We have already begun to acquire land in these countries and plan to roll-out very quickly to meet the needs of our existing and new customers. This is just the beginning for us.” The expansion will more than double Africa Data Centres’ already significant footprint on the continent.  

“Examining Africa’s growth trajectory has allowed us to make investment decisions on new locations and confidently commit to expanding selected existing locations, resulting in the largest investment of its kind in history,” explains Duproz.

Growth

“This commitment to Africa, through the continuous deployment of capital-intensive infrastructure projects, has pivotal knock-on effects for the communities and economies we serve,” says Duproz. “All our data centres are world-class – built to the same, global market-leading standard and offer a reliable, resilient, secure and interconnected base. 

This allows multinational organisations to confidently enter the market, knowing their future growth is assured and they have access to open carrier systems to the rest of the continent. Additionally, without access to always-on, high-speed data centre facilities, the private sector cannot compete globally and will see slowed growth locally; equally important is the impact IT services have on the public sector – from healthcare to transport infrastructure.” 

Africa Data Centres’ investment is a reflection of, as well as a catalyst for the continued direct foreign investment into the continent and the positive growth of local organisations.

Duproz says industries especially likely to be buoyed by Africa Data Centres’ expansion are the banking and growing fintech sectors, insurance and medical organisations, the public sector, hyperscale cloud providers and content providers. These industries, he says, are highly sensitive to data speed, security, guaranteed uptime and are exacting when it comes to reliability and trust in their providers. The SME market too, he says, has found a significant opportunity for growth by plugging into the digital ecosystems that data centres provide.

“Our experience from across the continent is that the strategic value of data centres has both immediate and long-term effects on the economy and the communities they serve. Job creation is something we are passionate about at Africa Data Centres and the equation is a simple one: digitisation boosts economies, and successful digitisation requires data centres. Data centres are digital ecosystems, acting as magnets to organisations – and as the digital ecosystem grows within the data centre, so the local economy grows in the real world. The impact of a data centre is long-lasting, with immediate job creation stemming from the physical build and enduring economic growth once operational.”

Sustainable, pan-African, neutral, interconnected

“We are Africa’s largest network of data centres – and we are growing perpetually. All of our facilities across the continent will remain interconnected, allowing our tenants to take advantage of our vast footprint. Furthermore, we guarantee carrier-neutrality – meaning our tenants benefit from competition, redundancy and reliability. And, perhaps most importantly, is our commitment to sustainable, clean builds. We invest heavily in innovative grey-water systems, waste disposal and renewable energy sources, ensuring our carbon footprint is drastically reduced, our reliability is uncontested and while building economies, we’re aiding the environment”, says Duproz.

2021 East Africa Trade and Industrialization Week Positions AfCFTA at the Heart of the East African Community Integration Process

The 2021 East Africa Trade and Industrialization Week, which opened on August 31st in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, centered the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as an impetus to the region’s integration process.

Dr. Mathuki, who gave credit to EAC’s leadership in integration on the continent, added that strengthening the role and mandate of the private sector in driving the regional integration agenda is of paramount importance.

The Secretary-General said it was an opportune time for the bloc to develop the region’s own capacity in energy, roads, as well as smart infrastructure which, he said, were critical for the region to reap the benefits of AfCFTA.   

Held under the theme “Promoting Eastern African Region as a Preferred Gateway for Trade, Investment and Industrialization”, the five-day gathering brought together over 200 participants including business operators, policy makers, civil society leaders, international and UN organization leaders, academia from all avenues who will deliberate on how EAC member states will integrate the AfCFTA agenda, through network of Chambers, and business associations, and advance the EAC development agenda.

On his part, Hon. Prof Kitila Mkumbo, Minister for Industry and Trade of the United Republic of Tanzania stated that the theme resonated well with the East African Community’s vision and mission as it is consolidating its external trade policy by undertaking trade negotiations as a bloc with partners, a key feature of the implementation of AfCFTA. Therefore, he challenged the private sector to get involved in the integration process.

Kenya’s Chief Administrative Secretary for the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, Hon. David Osiany emphasized the need for the AfCFTA to be accompanied by a massive scaling up of private and public cooperation to boost cross-border infrastructure on the continent.

“As the negotiations of the AfCFTA move forward”, Hon. Osiany stressed, “integrity and trust should be the main currencies that will drive trade and investment in the region.”

Also delivering opening remarks, Mr. Paul Faraj Koyi, the President of the Tanzanian Chamber of Commerce, Industry&Agriculture (TCCIA), while expressing his gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Tanzania, ¹urged all key stakeholders in the region to work towards the dream of an integrated region, under the auspices of AfCFTA.

Mr. Richard Ngatia, President of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) underlined that “the AfCFTA is a gift from Africa to Africa for Africa”.

Mr. Ngatia stressed that delegates should discuss and agree on their roles while deliberating on the main theme of the event.

This year’s East Africa Trade and Industrialization Week, organized by the European Union (EU), the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry&Agriculture (EACCIA), the East African Business Council and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), features different sessions within the overall theme of regional trade to promote economic growth in the sub-region and the continent, at large. The five-day gathering also featured a Business Exhibition, which will further allow for EAC, African regional business and economic networks, to become increasingly active in trade and development affairs and work together to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

This event is part of a more extensive project aimed at deepening Africa’s trade integration through the effective implementation of the AfCFTA. Financially supported by the European Union, ECA has been working with its partners including the African Union Commission (AUC), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and a selection of independent trade experts to ensure effective AfCFTA implementation strategies.

Dubai to Develop as International Polyurethane Innovation Hub says Pearl

Pearl Polyurethane, the leading system house covering the Middle East and North Africa, has appointed a new CEO as part of an ambitious growth plan to double the size of the Dubai-headquartered company and expand internationally over the coming five years.

Former Bayer executive, Martin Kruczinna, who took up the CEO’s role in February 2021 recently oversaw a buyout deal which saw Dubai-based parent entity, Pearl Overseas Industries Ltd, sign an agreement to acquire the remaining 51 per cent shareholding in the company, taking ownership control to 100 per cent, acquiring the additional shareholding from its former German joint-venture partner, Covestro AG. the deal was completed on July 26, 2021 with Pearl putting a long-term supply and technical service agreement in place with manufacturer Covestro to ensure consistency of supply to existing and new clients.

The newly independent company, now known as Pearl Polyurethane Systems LLC, is poised to leverage its past successes under the growth plan detailed by Kruczinna. Operating for over 25 years, the company has supplied polyurethane insulation foam systems for several trailblazing projects in the Gulf region, including Palm Jumeirah, Downtown Dubai and Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates.

Detailing the five-year growth plan, labelled PearlX2, Kruczinna outlined the structured strategy which relies on five main pillars:

  • Geographic expansion: Successfully moving beyond Pearl’s established region and gaining significant share of new markets outside the MENA-region, supported by further investment into Pearl’s international footprint to accompany this growth.
  • Diversification:Entering and growing new business fields to complement the current core business catering to insulation applications.
  • Strategic partnerships: Forge partnerships with stakeholders at all stages in the value chain to leverage strategic value through international cooperation.

Other aspects of the new growth plan focus heavily on people together with a significant investment in R&D:

  • R&D initiatives, sustainability & new product development: Focusing on R&D and sustainability as evidenced by the company’s recent R&D Initiative launched in May 2021 aimed at improving sandwich panel insulation performance by 20 per cent. The company also plans to launch a new range ofPearl branded PU products and in doing so increase its market share in existing industries served.
  • Talent acquisition and corporate culture: Recruiting and developing talent through ongoing mentoring and training initiatives to further build on the company’s reputation for providing industry-leading technical advice and personalised customer service, while further entrenching the entrepreneurial spirit and solutions driven ethos that Pearl has become known for.

“Key drivers positioning Pearl as market leader in its field has been the company’s ability to combine the best of both worlds: the thoroughness of a global player paired with an unwavering commitment to personalised customer service and the agility of a dynamic, entrepreneurial business to maximise value for our customers. Instead of changing this highly effective formula, we want to roll out our unique and successful business model into new markets, both geographically and also in terms of the scope of activities into new industry sectors,” commented Kruczinna.

“The newly structured entity of Pearl Polyurethane, combined with the reconfirmed long-term relationship with Covestro, enables us to create win-win solutions for our existing and new customers, suppliers.”

He added: “Our new growth plan is aimed at doubling the size of our company over five years. While we plan to further increase our market share in selected MENA countries, the real leverage will come from moving beyond those borders and launching innovative new products. Our advantageous location in Dubai as a regional trading hub puts several attractive markets within easy reach. We expect our unique value proposition of being able to reliably deliver high quality service and products at competitive prices should be valued in new international markets. We intend to capitalise on these growth opportunities and position Pearl as the preferred polyurethane solutions partner for customers in a growing number of industries, not only in the Middle East but also internationally,” concluded Kruczinna.

Tetra Pak Pursue Sustainability Solutions for a Better Future

This facet of the company’s DNA manifests itself in clear goals for a sustainable future that include 100% renewable packages by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050

Tetra Pak, the world leading food processing and packaging solutions company, has traditionally been ahead of it’s time within and outside the industry, in pursuing sustainable solutions for both customers and consumers. This facet of the company’s DNA manifests itself in clear goals for a sustainable future that include 100% renewable packages by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

With a value chain approach, sustainability includes responsible sourcing, lower carbon footprint, renewable materials, recyclability and recycling itself, all while ensuring efficiency, cost effectiveness, food safety, food preservation and reduction of food waste and availability across the plant.

On this journey towards a more sustainable planet, Tetra Pak Arabia Area launched the “Go nature. Go Carton.” campaign to draw attention towards the climate challenge and inspire people to learn more about the environmental impact of food packaging, and Tetra Pak’s efforts to address these issues.  For its work so far, Tetra Pak has recently been recognized as one of the Top 50 Sustainability and Climate leaders.

By 2050 the world’s population is predicted to reach 9.1 billion, which will require an increase of 70% in food availability. Packaging helps keep food safe, nutritious, and available. And, with 33% of food lost or wasted each year, high-performance packaging plays a critical role in today’s global food delivery system. Tetra Pak believes that sustainable food processing and packaging solutions can make a difference, feeding a growing population while helping mitigate climate change and address other environmental concerns.

Tetra Pak cooperates with many key players across the value chain, alongside more than 170 recycling operations around the world, to advance the entire recycling value chain. By strengthening global carton recycling infrastructure, the company can ensure cartons are transformed into new raw material and products, keeping valuable resources in use to help build a circular economy.

“High-performance food packaging plays a critical role in feeding the world, but it must do so sustainably, so that food availability does not come at the cost of the planet. This lies behind Tetra Pak’s commitment to making food safe and available, everywhere, in a way that protects what’s good – protecting food, protecting people as well as protecting the planet. To minimise climate impact while helping to ensure food security for the future, we are taking a full life cycle view of our solutions”, said Niels Hougaard, the Managing Director of Tetra Pak Arabia Area and Cluster Leader Sales Management for Greater Middle East & Africa.

“We are seeking opportunities across the entire recycling value chain to improve how cartons get recycled. We see it as our fundamental obligation to support collection, sorting and recycling of packaging. That’s why, in synergy with food manufacturers, municipalities, recyclers and other stakeholders across the industry, we are on a journey to develop and scale the recycling of paper-based cartons, helping to make them the world’s most sustainable food package. We are also driving consumer engagement around recycling in cooperation with our customers and partners . It is also worth mentioning that in Saudi Arabia, we have formed the first-of-its-kind recycling partnership in the region with OPI “Obeikan Paper Industries” to recycle paper of collected post-consumer cartons . OPI  have their own company-wide waste management and is ready to start working on programmes that increase collection and contribute to a sustainable recycling value chain. In addition to that, a new recycling partnership with STP “Saudi Top Plastics Factory”, the leading plastic recycling plant in the region, was formed to recycle the remaining plastic and aluminium compound residue resulting from cartons recycling at OPI. STP brings 15 years of experience in its scope, carrying a capacity to recycle about 50 thousand tons of plastics annually. All these developments come together to ensure that our packages can be fully recycled”, he added.

Tetra Pak cartons contain about 70% paperboard produced from wood fibers, that are responsibly sourced. Tetra Pak operates in accordance with the FSC™ voluntary sustainability standards and 100% of the paperboard it uses is FSC™-certified. This means that all the forests, which are a primary source of the raw materials for paperboard production, are managed in a way that protects biodiversity and ensures regeneration. The company has been working to increase the percentage of cardboard in its packages and keeps incfeasing its efforts to ensure that raw materials for manufacturing come from responsible and sustainable sources.

Africa Gears Up: How a Continent Is Working to Become the Global Powerhouse of the Future

The African Union (AU) is behind much of this growth; its Agenda 2063 includes plans to transform Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.

 A specialised agency of the AU, the African Energy Commission (AFREC), has been mandated to co-ordinate energy policy in Africa, and is working with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries to address energy poverty, climate change and other energy challenges.

Energy transition

“As partners, we should start looking at opportunities that will diversify the available energy resources, take advantage of renewable resources, and reduce dependence on oil as part of the continent’s energy transition, while simultaneously augmenting our approaches,” says Rashid Ali Abdallah, AFREC’s Executive Director.

Other initiatives to increase access to energy include the launch of the African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM), the world’s largest continent-wide energy trading programme.

AfSEM promises to be the most cost-efficient response to the growing demand for electricity in Africa. It aims to connect all 55 AU member states through an efficient, affordable and sustainable electricity market that will serve the needs of over 1.3 billion Africans.

Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), has called on AU member states to integrate AfSEM into their national development plans.

“It is important that AU member states take ownership for the development and implementation of these continental initiatives,” she says.

“This is necessary to ensure access to reliable energy services, as well as to provide the necessary policy and financial instruments for one continental electricity market and one continental interconnection grid at all levels.”

The AUC’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Her Excellency, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, has confirmed her attendance at AOW 2021.

EU, China support

The partners and investors behind these developments include the likes of the European Union (EU) and China.

While the EU supported the preparation of the AfSEM policy paper, roadmap and governing structure, China is continuing to invest in and provide loans for various energy infrastructure projects, including extractive activities, power generation facilities, traditional and renewable energy sources, and transmission and distribution networks.

In 2020, Chinese-owned companies and banks spent billions of dollars financing African energy infrastructure projects, including a gas pipeline in Nigeria, and other smaller projects in Lesotho, the Ivory Coast and Rwanda.

These activities combined are set to transform energy in Africa, and will have a beneficial ripple effect beyond this sector and into a host of socio-economic areas. As the continent continues this journey, further strategic, technical and financial support will be critical.

MEA Markets Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2021 African Business Excellence Awards

United Kingdom, 2021– MEA Markets magazine announces the winners of the 2021 African Excellence Business Awards.

It is easy to see how Africa looks set to prove itself a vital business hub in the future. Defined today by innovation and adaptation, the continent has already established a strong foundation for excellence, impressing in a plethora of fields and industries. Perhaps nothing speaks to the region’s ethos than the last twelve months; at a time when countries all over the world struggled for normalcy, many businesses in Africa capitalised and took the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Now in its fifth year, the African Excellence programme continues to highlight the companies and leaders who are spearheading and driving industry across the continent. Here, Awards Coordinator Kaven Cooper took a moment to comment on the success of the winners: “As always, it has been a delight to reach out to all of the winners of this year’s programme. I offer my sincere congratulations, and I am very proud of all of you. I wish you the very best of luck for the year ahead, and for the remainder of 2021.”

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 by AI Global Media, 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.

Industrial and infrastructure development in Africa

Henri-Claude Oyima, CEO, BGFIBank Group. On banks’ role in supporting industrial and infrastructure development in Africa.

How was the Gabonese banking sector affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
 
HENRI-CLAUDE OYIMA:
 The pandemic definitely forced banks to show agility, responsiveness, efficiency, speed and flexibility in their organisations and strategies for the future, aiming both to ensure the continuity of services and meet the needs of clients. There were two main risks with this pandemic: liquidity risk due to non-performing loans, and insolvency risk.

 
However, the sector quickly showed signs of resilience, especially in terms of liquidity, and the central bank was essential in supporting the economy on that issue. As the world recovers from the crisis, there have been positive signs of economic recovery, and it will be necessary to use this momentum to sustain growth. Moving forwards, banks will need to work with the government and support strategic projects that can boost job creation and add value to the economy.

 
What can be done to increase banking penetration in CEMAC?
 
OYIMA:
 Banking penetration is relatively low in Gabon and the wider CEMAC. As such, there is room for improvement, especially in terms of the digitalisation of payments and processes. If the right technology is combined with products and mechanisms that meet the needs of the region’s population – such as microfinance – penetration will rise. This in turn will boost financial inclusion, supported by a growing suite of banking products and financial services that cater to populations that have historically been excluded from the traditional banking system.

For these efforts to be successful, it will be necessary to change people’s mindsets and introduce an integrated digital strategy. This includes the government, which should further implement e-government initiatives and support digital payments across its agencies and institutions. Banks have been advocating for non-cash solutions for years, especially when it comes to the operations of small and medium-sized enterprises. Legislation needs to evolve and anticipate society’s changes to meet those needs.

 
In what ways can African banks support infrastructure development?
 
OYIMA:
 Infrastructure in Africa should be financed through local and pan-African financial groups, instead of always looking for external financing. There are more risks associated with foreign exchange and less favourable conditions when projects are financed abroad. Today the African banking sector is solid enough to support development projects on the continent. Both governments and the private sector can trust African banks, which have proven to be strong and resilient.

 
Regional central banks need to evolve and implement monetary policies that allow the financial sector to support local economies. The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is an opportunity for economic integration. As a unified market, Africa has massive potential – especially in terms of population and economic expansion – but there are many non-tariff barriers that need to be addressed for AfCFTA to be successful. In addition to these barriers, there are political constraints impeding full integration and intra-African trade.

 
By what means can African countries create greater value from their raw materials and export more processed products?
 
OYIMA:
 There is a clear will and consensus today that African countries cannot have economies that are solely based on the export of raw materials, especially as these are usually exported by foreign companies. African countries need to start generating added value through the local processing of raw products. This is particularly the case with commodities such as cotton and cocoa. Local banks are committed to supporting the industrialisation of the region, but this should be done in coordination with governments. 

Which measures could further encourage the adoption of environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in Africa?
 
OYIMA:
 Africa is a unique market, so ESG needs to be approached in a way that is applicable to the region. There are clear priorities such as creating jobs, building schools and developing motorways, and this is the way forwards: taking action to address the immediate needs of the population. 

 
It is also important to increase transparency measures within African companies to guarantee a level of good governance that can help economies thrive. To this end, our subsidiary in the Republic of the Congo became the first African bank and one of the first companies in sub-Saharan Africa to obtain the Anti-Money Laundering 30000 certification, an international standard on combatting money laundering and terrorist financing. In 2021 BGFIBank Group will have been operational for 50 years, and we will continue to pursue certifications in order to adhere to good governance and compliance requirements on the continent.

Al Ain Finance Selects HID Global to Offer a Secure and Seamless Mobile and Online Banking Experience to Customers

As customers increasingly gravitated to digital channels, it became essential to secure customer access and all transactions using multi-factor authentication

HID Global, a worldwide leader in trusted identity solutions, today announced that Al Ain Finance has selected its cloud-based HID Authentication Service and HID Approve mobile-based authentication application to offer its customers a secure and seamless online banking experience.

Al Ain Finance built its UAE operation from the ground up on a foundation of cloud-native banking software that optimized both its agility and resilience, especially during the global pandemic. As customers increasingly gravitated to digital channels, it became essential to secure customer access and all transactions using multi-factor authentication.

As the company took its next step with the addition of digital front-office omnichannel banking, it turned to HID Global for the vital consumer authentication portion of the solution. Pre-integrated with Al Ain Finance’s existing banking software, HID Global’s consumer authentication offering was easy to deploy under a tight deadline.

It has enabled Al Ain Finance to protect its customer’s data and transactions with maximum flexibility while delivering a seamless online and mobile app-based customer experience. The intuitive HID Approve app combines the security of public key-based cryptography and out-of-band transaction signatures that offer the convenience of push notifications.

“We can now offer a growing set of banking services through efficient and seamless digital channels with the highest levels of identity assurance,” said Ajith Nayak, Operations Manager with Al Ain Finance. “The HID interface makes enrollment and use easy, secure and effective across many different types of devices, and because the solution was already integrated with our existing banking software, no customized development was required.”

The HID solution has reduced the time and cost of delivering intelligence-based authentication and transaction signing on Al Ain Finance’s existing core banking platform. Customers particularly enjoy how HID’s authentication solution enables them to securely use Al Ain Finance’s quick account login and powerful self- service capabilities. HID Approve also gives them a simple and secure way to authenticate and validate each transaction.

“In order to offer customers secure access without invasive identity checks, organizations need to deploy seamless identity verification, intelligent threat detection and adaptive authentication,” said Paul Jones, Senior Director of Strategy and Product Delivery for IAM Consumer Authentication HID Global. “The HID Approve and HID Authentication Services helps Al Ain Finance to deliver a new, secure way for their customers to authenticate mobile access requests and verify transactions.”

Mercedes-Benz Prepares to Go All-Electric

To facilitate this shift, Mercedes-Benz is unveiling a comprehensive plan which includes significantly accelerating R&D. In total, investments into battery electric vehicles between 2022 and 2030 will amount to over €40 billion. Accelerating and advancing the EV portfolio plan will bring forward the tipping point for EV adoption.

Technology Plan

Architectures: In 2025 Mercedes-Benz will launch three electric-only architectures:

  • EA will cover all medium to large size passenger cars, establishing a scalable modular system as the electric backbone for the future EV portfolio.
  • EA will be a dedicated performance electric vehicle platform addressing technology and performance oriented Mercedes-AMG customers.
  • EA ushers in a new era for purpose made electric vans and Light Commercial Vehicles, which will contribute to emission free transportation and cities in the future.

Vertical integration: After reorganising its powertrain activities to put planning, development, purchasing and production under one roof, Mercedes-Benz will deepen the level of vertical integration in manufacturing and development, and insource electric drive technology. This step includes the acquisition of UK based electric motor company YASA. With this deal, Mercedes-Benz gains access to unique axial flux motor technology and expertise to develop next generation ultra-high performance motors. In-house electric motors, such as the eATS 2.0, are a key part of the strategy with a clear focus on efficiency and the overall cost of the entire system, including inverters and software. China, the world’s largest new energy vehicle (NEV) market, which is home to hundreds of companies and suppliers specialized in EV components and software technologies, is expected to play a key role in accelerating the Mercedes-Benz electrification strategy.

Batteries: Mercedes-Benz will need a battery capacity of more than 200 Gigawatt hours and plans to set up eight Gigafactories for producing cells, together with its partners around the world. This is in addition to the already planned network of nine plants dedicated to building battery systems. Next generation batteries will be highly standardized and suitable for use in more than 90% of all Mercedes-Benz cars and vans while being flexible enough to offer individual solutions to all customers. With regard to cell manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz intends to team up with new European partners to develop and efficiently produce future cells and modules, a step which ensures that Europe remains at the heart of the auto industry even in an electric era. Cell production will give Mercedes-Benz the opportunity to transform its established powertrain production network. By continuously integrating the most advanced battery cell technology in cars and vans, Mercedes-Benz aims to increase range during the production lifecycle of a model. With the next battery generation, Mercedes-Benz will work with partners like SilaNano to further increase energy density by using silicon-carbon composite in the anode. This will allow for unprecedented range and even shorter charging times. When it comes to solid-state technology, Mercedes-Benz is in talks with partners to develop batteries with even higher energy density and safety.

Charging: Mercedes-Benz is also working on setting new standards in charging: “Plug & Charge” will allow customers to plug-in, charge and unplug without extra steps needed for authentication and payment processing. Plug & Charge will go live with the market launch of the EQS later this year. Mercedes me Charge is already one of the world’s largest charging networks and currently comprises more than 530,000 AC and DC charging points worldwide. Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz is working with Shell on expanding the charging network. Customers will get enhanced access to Shell’s Recharge network consisting of over 30.000 charge points by 2025 in Europe, China, and North America – including over 10.000 high-power chargers globally. Mercedes-Benz is also planning to launch several premium-charging sites in Europe, which will offer a bespoke charging experience with top-notch facilities.

VISION EQXX: Mercedes-Benz is currently developing the Vision EQXX, an electric car with a real world range of more than 1,000 kilometres, targeting a single-digit figure for Kwh per 100 kilometres (over 6 miles per Kwh) at normal highway driving speeds. A multi-disciplinary team including experts from Mercedes-Benz’s F1 High Performance Powertrain division (HPP) is making rapid progress towards the project’s ambitious goals. The world premiere will be in 2022. Technological advances made with Vision EQXX will be adapted and applied for potential use in new electric architectures.

Production Plan

Mercedes-Benz is currently preparing its global production network for electric-only output with the pace of the ramp-up designed to follow market demand. Thanks to early investments into flexible manufacturing, and the state-of-the art MO360 production system, Mercedes-Benz can mass produce BEVs already today. As soon as next year, eight Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles will be produced at seven locations on three continents. Furthermore all passenger car and battery assembly sites run by Mercedes-Benz AG will switch to carbon neutral production by 2022. To enhance manufacturing efficiency, Mercedes-Benz is joining forces with GROB, a German global leader in highly innovative battery production and automation systems, strengthening its battery production capacity and know-how. The cooperation focuses on battery module assembly as well as pack assembly. Mercedes-Benz also plans to install a new battery recycling factory in Kuppenheim, Germany, to develop and secure recycling capacity and know-how. Start of operations will be in 2023, depending on the outcome of promising discussions with public authorities.

People Plan

The transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles is feasible and already underway at Mercedes-Benz. Working together with employee representatives, Mercedes-Benz will continue the transformation of its workforce, making use of extensive re-skilling schemes, early retirement as well as buyouts. TechAcademies will be offering colleagues training for future-oriented qualifications. In 2020 alone, about 20,000 employees in Germany were trained in aspects of e-mobility. To deliver on plans for developing the MB.OS operating system, 3,000 new software engineering jobs will be created worldwide. 

Financial Plan

Mercedes-Benz remains committed to the margin targets outlined in fall 2020. Last year’s targets were based on the assumption of selling 25% hybrid and electric vehicles by 2025. Today’s reiteration is based on an assumed xEV share of up to 50% by 2025 and a market scenario for new car sales which in essence has switched to fully electric by the end of the decade. An important lever is to increase net revenue per unit by raising the proportion of high-end electric vehicles such as Mercedes-Maybach and Mercedes-AMG models, while at the same time taking more direct control over pricing and sales. Rising revenue from digital services will further support results. Mercedes is also working on further reducing variable and fixed costs and cutting the capex share of investments. Common battery platforms and scalable electric architectures combined with advances in battery technology, will bring higher degrees of standardization and lower costs. The proportion of battery costs within the vehicle is expected to fall significantly. Capital allocation is moving from EV-first to EV-only. Investments into combustion engines and plug-in hybrid technologies will drop by 80% between 2019 and 2026. On this basis, Mercedes-Benz projects company margins in a BEV world which are similar to those in the ICE era.

“Our main duty in this transformation is to convince customers to make the switch with compelling products. For Mercedes-Benz, the trailblazing EQS flagship is only the beginning of this new era,” Källenius said.

African Continental Free Trade Area Strongly supports bid of Made in Africa to buy Vlisco

It has been brought to the attention of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat that our strategic partner, a leading African financial institution supported a $200 million bid by Made in Africa to purchase Vlisco, a textile company that sells almost exclusively in Africa. Whilst we respect the rights of parties in a private transaction, as a matter of public interest for Africa’s market integration, regional and global competitiveness, we do find it curious that the bid of Made in Africa was rejected by the seller. We totally support the bid by Made in Africa, which is financially backed by one of the leading trade finance banks in Africa.

The objective of the AfCFTA is to accelerate industrialisation in Africa, consolidate an integrated market of over 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of US$3.4 trillion and to place Africa on a sustained path to regional and global competitiveness. At the heart of Africa’s global and regional competitiveness is the textiles and clothing sector. This sector employs thousands of Africans, mainly women and contributes to Africa’s industrialisation.

Whilst we respect the rights of parties in a private business transaction to structure their business transactions as they see fit, we do believe that the sale of Vlisco to Made in Africa, is in the broader economic and trade interests of Africa, hence as the AfCFTA Secretariat we are following this matter closely. We therefore urge the successful conclusion of this transaction in favour of Made in Africa, which is backed by the leading financial institution, and led by Mr. Kojo Annan, the entrepreneurial son of the late Mr. Kofi Annan, along with other African fashion and business luminaries.

“We cannot express a value judgement as to the reasons for the bid of Made in Africa – which was the higher bid – being rejected. We do however firmly believe that where an African company puts forward a formidable bid for a foreign company that appears to profit exclusively from sales to Africa, supported by a leading African trade finance bank, the African company has a reasonable expectation to successfully conclude the transaction in favour of Africa” says Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of AfCFTA.

We strongly urge reconsideration of this matter, the entire African continent and business community of Africa is following this matter very closely, African entrepreneurship and global competitiveness must be treated fairly.

Ecobank Group and Microsoft Upskill Africa’s Small and Medium Enterprises to Succeed in a Digital Economy

The leading pan-African banking group, Ecobank Group (www.Ecobank.com), in partnership with Microsoft, LinkedIn, GitHub and Ecobank Academy is set to provide training to equip Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across sub-Saharan Africa. This training will provide SMEs digital skills and knowledge to succeed in today’s digital world.

SMEs have been significantly impacted by the COVID19 pandemic with its attendant lockdowns and disruptions to supply chains, plummeting sales, lost revenue and operational challenges. In response to feedback from our customers, Ecobank through its Commercial Banking Segment is helping business owners close the digital skills gap within their chosen fields and improve the digital capabilities of their employees.  

Josephine Anan-Ankomah, Group Executive, Commercial Banking for the Ecobank Group said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has turbocharged the shift towards digital. It is essential that businesses adapt so that they are able to compete effectively in today’s rapidly changing landscape. Ecobank’s Commercial Banking is committed to supporting SMEs across our pan-African footprint. Through this partnership with Microsoft, LinkedIn, GitHub and Ecobank Academy we are offering training to equip business owners and their employees with the digital skills that they need to stay connected to their customers. We are intent on ensuring that our SME customers remain relevant, grow and succeed in the post COVID-19 era.”

SMEs have been invited to register here (https://bit.ly/3iEspdc)for the upcoming webinar taking place on July 26. The Global Skilling initiative program is available on an online portal where SMEs can register, and start their learning journey for any of the 10 in-demand skill sets (Customer Services; Digital Marketing; Financial Analysis; Graphic Design; IT Support/Help Desk; Project Management; Sales; Data Analysis; IT Administration; And Software Development). They can complete the virtual programme at their own pace and at times that work best for them. The programme runs until 31st of December 2021.

Ibrahim Youssry, Regional General Manager, Middle East and Africa – Multi market region at Microsoft said, “we are committed to building digital talent pipelines to support the workforce of the future, and our Global Skilling Initiative is an important part of this process. But beyond the future workforce, digital talent will also support more local innovation, as developers and entrepreneurs are empowered to create locally relevant solutions that best address the challenges and needs of African countries. Startups and SMEs play a critical role in innovation, economic growth and job creation, and expanded access to digital skills is one of the key steps needed to foster a successful economic recovery.

The Global Skilling Initiative is just another example of how Ecobank wants to help SMEs reach their full potential and play a vital role in driving Africa’s economic resurgence. Other support initiatives for SMEs include:

  • The Ecobank Marketplace eCommerce solution for businesses to grow their sales on digital marketplaces
  • And the Ellevate programme to provide women-led/owned/focused businesses with loans, cash management solutions, training and mentoring opportunities.

With Only 2% of Governments’ Recovery Spending Going to Clean Energy Transitions, Global Emissions are Set to Surge to An All-time High

Governments worldwide are deploying an unprecedented amount of fiscal support aimed at stabilising and rebuilding their economies, but only about 2% of this spending has been allocated to clean energy measures, according to new analysis from the International Energy Agency.

The sums of money, both public and private, being mobilised worldwide by recovery plans fall well short of what is needed to reach international climate goals. These shortfalls are particularly pronounced in emerging and developing economies, many of which face particular financing challenges.

Under governments’ current recovery spending plans, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to climb to record levels in 2023 and continue rising in the following years. This would leave the world far from the pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 that the IEA set out in its recent Global Roadmap to Net Zero.

These findings come from the new Sustainable Recovery Tracker that the IEA launched today to help policy makers assess how far recovery plans are moving the needle on climate. The new online tool is a contribution to the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Environment, Climate and Energy in Naples, which takes place on 22 and 23 July under the Presidency of Italy.

The Tracker monitors government spending allocated to sustainable recoveries and then estimates how much this spending boosts overall clean energy investment and to what degree this affects the trajectory of global CO2 emissions. The Tracker considers over 800 national sustainable recovery policies in its analysis, which are publicly available on the IEA website.

“Since the Covid-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is. Despite increased climate ambitions, the amount of economic recovery funds being spent on clean energy is just a small sliver of the total,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.

Governments have mobilised USD 16 trillion in fiscal support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, most of it focused on emergency financial relief for households and firms. Only 2% of the total is earmarked for clean energy transitions.

In the early phases of the pandemic, the IEA released the Sustainable Recovery Plan, which recommended USD 1 trillion of spending globally on clean energy measures that could feature prominently in recovery plans. According to the Plan – developed in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund – this spending would boost global economic growth, create millions of jobs and put the world on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

According to the Tracker, all the key sectors highlighted in the IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan are receiving inadequate attention from policy makers. Current government plans would only increase total public and private spending on clean energy to around USD 350 billion a year by 2023 – only 35% of what is envisaged in the Plan.

The Tracker shows the stark geographic disparities that are emerging in clean energy investment. The majority of funds are being mobilised in advanced economies, which are nearing 60% of the investment levels envisaged in the Sustainable Recovery Plan. Emerging and developing economies, many of which have limited fiscal leeway, have so far mobilised only about 20% of the recommended spending levels.

“Not only is clean energy investment still far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, it’s not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record. Many countries – especially those where the needs are greatest – are also missing the benefits that well planned clean energy investment brings, such as stronger economic growth, new jobs and the development of the energy industries of the future,” Dr Birol said.

“Governments need to increase spending and policy action rapidly to meet the commitments they made in Paris in 2015 – including the vital provision of financing by advanced economies to the developing world,” Dr Birol added. “But they must then go even further by leading clean energy investment and deployment to much greater heights beyond the recovery period in order to shift the world onto a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050, which is narrow but still achievable – if we act now.”

Dubai Customs and the Emirates Intellectual Property Association Discuss More Cooperation in Combating Counterfeits

Future cooperation and arrangements for the 10th Regional IP Crime Conference for the Middle East and North Africa’s law enforcement agencies in December 2021 were also discussed

Dubai Customs continues to support efforts for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights by strengthening cooperation and coordination with the Emirates Intellectual Property Association (EIPA). HE Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, Director General of Dubai Customs, welcomed Major General Dr. Abdul Quddus Al Obaidli, Chairman of the EIPA. Present at the meeting from Dubai Customs were Mansour Al Malik, Executive Director for Customs Policies and Legislation, Yousef Ozair Mubarak, Director of IPR Department, Kholoud Al Hosani, IP awareness and education officer, while the visiting delegation included Colonel Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Muaini, EIPA’s Secretary General, and Fatima Khalaf Al-Hosani, member of the EIPA’s Board of Directors.

During the meeting, a visual presentation was delivered on the joint participations and cooperation between Dubai Customs and the Emirates Intellectual Property Association. Future cooperation and arrangements for the 10th Regional IP Crime Conference for the Middle East and North Africa’s law enforcement agencies in December 2021 were also discussed.

Ahmed Mahboub Musabih said: “We are committed to boosting cooperation with the Emirates Intellectual Property Association to achieve the best results in terms of combating counterfeit goods and ensuring the rights of trademark owners, creators and innovators. We are organize joint events and activities with the EIPA to raise the public awareness of the importance of protecting intellectual property rights and its role in safeguarding people’s health and safety of individuals, as well as its economic significance in providing a safe, fair business environment that protects the interests of rights holders and those of consumers.”

He added: “Our IP protection efforts have gained momentum in light of the ongoing economic recovery from the repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic. For the first quarter of 2021 we have resolved 81 intellectual property dispute cases for counterfeit goods worth approximately Dh11.3 million, while 255 cases of intellectual property disputes were resolved in the entire 2020, with an estimated value of Dh62.2 million.”

Major General Dr. Abdul Quddus Al Obaidli praised Dubai Customs’ positive support for the Emirates Intellectual Property Association and its active participation and engagement in conferences and events organized by the association over the past years. He reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing cooperation and coordination to serve the national economy and protect society from the dangers of piracy and counterfeiting.

Dubai Customs joins hands with the EIPA in an integrated effort to address the major challenge of illicit trade in fake goods through involving all segments of society and business community in protecting intellectual property, and promoting awareness of the perils of counterfeit products for health and economy, said Yousuf Ozair Mubarak.

SAUDIA Airlines Partners with GE Digital for Digital Transformation

  • Cloud-based solution digitizes, indexes, and archives maintenance records, connects records and data of internal and external operations, facilitates documentation between airlines and lessors, and matches maintenance records to relevant Maintenance & Engineering systems


GE Digital today announced that SAUDIA Airlines company has contracted with the leading industrial software company to implement its Aviation Software Asset Records solution. The contract extends the partnership between SAUDIA and GE for creating further operational efficiencies and cost optimization.

The GE Digital Asset Records system makes it easy for operators to streamline records management with a single, cloud-based solution. Airlines can digitize, index, and archive all maintenance records and match those records to the relevant M&E (Maintenance & Engineering) system. In addition, they can connect the records and data of internal and external operations and easily facilitate documentation between airlines and lessors.

By implementing Asset Records, SAUDIA anticipates benefits such as a reduction in records management overhead, time savings for engineering, easier data retrieval, optimization of the transfer of assets between the airline and other entities, and more. The airline will be utilizing GE Digital’s Asset Transfer System to streamline and simplify the way leased-asset documentation is managed with lessors, as well as MRO Connect, Workflow Management, and M&E Systems Integration. In addition, the solution includes expert professional services for the digitization of all historical backlog and help the Saudia team with day-to-day management of tech records processes and asset transfer packages.

  • MRO Connect allows extension into additional cloud-based systems
  • Workflow Management allows users to manage error correction and paperwork remediation between the carrier and its outsourced maintenance providers
  • M&E Systems integration enables query of production databases of M&E systems to support higher accuracy web indexing and post document links back to these database

Eng. Ahmed Al Wassiah, Chief Operations Officer at SAUDIA said, “SAUDIA places innovation among its top priorities when it comes to aircraft fleet and operations, and with this latest partnership with GE, it enables SAUDIA to transition to a seamless, all-digital solution for aircraft asset records management. With the expansion of the fleet and the airline’s aircraft modernization roadmap, an essential part of the 360 approach is to have an all-digital interface, providing real-time access to archived aircraft records, facilitating swift access to multiple features, records, and data.”

With Asset Records, airlines can streamline records management from capturing and correcting data, to searching and integrating with suppliers, connecting to existing processes and systems, and easily integrating into the workflow without worrying about compliance. Airlines can leverage highly accurate data and enable downstream analytics to improve operations.

“This contract represents a great digital partnership with one of the region’s biggest airlines,” said Andrew Coleman, General Manager for GE Digital’s Aviation Software business. “It is a great example of companies embracing the future of flight through sustainable operations, applying proven aviation practices to emerging technologies, and adapting to an increasingly digital world.”

6 in 10 Saudi Consumers Expect to Return to Pre-COVID Normality in the Next 6 Months

Alternative shopping options like Click & Collect, curb-side pickup (46%) and contactless In-Store experience like self-checkouts(27%) will be key to rebuilding Saudi consumers’ confidence to visit public places (stores and supermarkets) moving forward. This is according to a study commissioned by Kearney; the third in a series of surveys exploring consumer shopping habits since the onset of the pandemic.

The results reveal that as spending habits continue to evolve, consumers in the Kingdom stay cautious, with 57% expecting the effects of the pandemic to last for the next 6 months. It also highlights that expenditure on essential items (which constitutes of food and grocery (F&B) as well as non-F&B items like health and wellness products) has shown a sustained increase with 45% of consumers moving to higher priced, better quality products, while spending on non-essentials (clothes, bags and accessories) continues to decline.

When looking more closely into how habits have changed, 18% have reduced expenditure on essential items by up to 50% compared to pre-pandemic, however, over 60% of respondents have increased spending by over 25%. Conversely, spending on non-essentials has decreased by 26%, with 45% of respondents increasing spend in this area.

Within the essential items’ category, 45% of respondents have upgraded to higher priced, better quality items, with the highest increase shown for meats and dairy (61%), as well as, fruits and vegetables (59%).

31% of respondents have highlighted that they expect to spend more on non-essentials in the coming months, particularly on casualwear (48%) followed by workwear (41%), evening wear (39%), activewear (36%), footwear (34%), and bags and accessories (27%).

“The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way consumers view health and safety measures and efforts. As residents adopt to the new normal, hygiene and hygiene transparency have become vital. Spending is being driven by the easing of restrictions, higher awareness of health and wellbeing, and expectations to return to the office,” commented Adel Belcaid, Partner at Kearney Middle East

As spending habits evolve, e-commerce continues to penetrate all categories. The survey highlights that consumers in the Kingdom are now more comfortable purchasing essentials online compared to last year. When questioned about the motivations behind this, COVID-19 prevention measures (39%) was the main driver, followed by convenience (36%), price (17%) and finally, assortments of products (8%).

COVID-19 prevention measures ranked third for online shopping for non-essential items (18%), preceded by convenience (34%) and price and assortment of products ranking equally at 24% each.

Interestingly, consumers are looking for more omnichannel journeys and innovative in-store models withalternative shopping options and continued protective and Contactless In-Store experience like self-checkouts being the key drivers of restoring consumer confidence in visiting public places and increased vaccination (15%) and social distancing (12%) being a lesser concernwith (16%) in increasing their confidence.

Saying this, 44% respondents highlighted an offline-shopping preference for essential items, and 35% for non-essential items, particularly for those products that require inspection for quality, freshness and fit.

“For Saudi consumers, convenience is driving online purchases with COVID-19 concerns becoming a secondary factor, indicating the sustenance of the online shift. However, the physical store still plays a strong role across all categories which require the customer to touch, feel and try the product. Retailers will need to adopt a differentiated strategy to make consumers feel safe in stores; consumers are heavily indexed towards alternative shopping options like Click & Collect, curb-side pickup and contactless in-store experience like self-checkouts; however, this will vary across markets and its essential for stakeholders, mall property owners and retailers to monitor the evolving face of retail to ensure they stay relevant,” concluded Belcaid.

Emirates Business Rewards Programme Celebrates Small and Medium Sized Businesses with Limited Time Incentive

New members can get to the skies faster with 10,000 Business Rewards points bonus

Airline recognises vital role SMEs play in global economic recovery and gives back to help businesses connect to growth opportunities

Emirates is empowering small and medium sized enterprises to get back into the skies and turn their travel budgets into rewards by debuting a Business Rewards incentive for new members who sign up for the programme. Small and medium sized businesses who sign up for an account to Emirates’ Business Rewards corporate loyalty programme from 27 June to 27 July 2021 will receive a bonus of 10,000 Business Reward Points, the equivalent of one Economy Class return ticket to selected destinations in Europe.

Emirates currently has over 20,000 small and medium sized businesses enrolled in its Business Rewards programme, and is providing a gamut of benefits including simplified enrolment, easier earning and redemptions, greater flexibility on retaining and using points as well as upgrade opportunities, even on last minute bookings.

With countries easing their entry restrictions, business travel has begun accelerating, and small and medium size enterprises have become key drivers of demand with the flexibility to make travel plans quickly as new opportunities emerge.

Emirates has been supporting small and medium sized business hit by the pandemic. Emirates Business Rewards programme members are taking advantage of the airline’s flexible booking policies, which are among the most generous in the industry for stress-free travel planning, in addition to its multi-risk insurance cover. Since the outset of the pandemic, Business Rewards programme members were provided additional reassurance with extensions on their points validity if travel plans needed to be adjusted.

Knowing their travel plans are protected, top destinations for Business Rewards programme members have been frequenting during the pandemic include London, Manila, Paris, Cairo, Milan and Beirut. Dubai also continues to be a key destination regularly visited by Business Rewards members, mainly due to its open business environment throughout the pandemic, world-class infrastructure and thriving start-up ecosystem.

The airline continues to work hard to restore its network and schedules to enable small and medium sized businesses to visit clients and ramp up their business development activities as cities around the world gradually ease travel restrictions.

Businesses of all sizes can also ensure their health and safety expectations are taken care of throughout their journey. Emirates has lead the industry with clear, consistent and properly implemented safety measures at every touchpoint, including a contactless travel journey and digital verification solutions such as the IATA Travel Pass to ensure it remains the preferred airline for business travellers.

Emirates has a long track record of supporting small and medium sized businesses, not only through its Business Rewards programme, but also through its procurement of products and services across the business. Hundreds of small and medium sized businesses in a range of industries from around the world have benefitted from showcasing their products to a global travel audience, providing a boost to their growth plans.

In the UK, Emirates works with and supports a huge number of SMEs providing a wide range of services such as cleaning, ground transportation, engineering, maintenance and local food supply. The airline is committed to supporting the long-term growth of small and medium sized businesses around the world and has worked with many of its UK suppliers for several years. For example, Emirates has a 15-year relationship with West Coast Motors, a contracted crew transport provider in Glasgow, and this long association has supported this business in establishing its reputation in the local area. Similarly, Emirates has worked with headset provider GO2 Telecom since 2014, and is pleased to have enabled business continuity over the last year despite the pandemic.

* Customers only have to pay surcharge and airport taxes and Bonus Points for enrolment will only be for new accounts created between 27 June-27 July 2021

Digitalisation and Sustainability Are Top Priorities For Consumers in the Middle East, PwC Report Says

The PwC Middle East report charts the shift in consumer attitudes after a period of upheaval

PwC Middle East launched the Middle East findings of the 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey titled “More digital and sustainable: post pandemic priorities for Middle East consumers”  which takes a look at how consumer behaviour has changed as a result of COVID-19.

Undoubtedly, confidence is rising across the region, with 58% of Middle East consumers confirming that they have become more optimistic about the economy. Despite this confidence, our results indicate that the economic and social consequences of COVID-19 have impacted consumer behaviour and that those changes are here to stay. 

Key consumer trends accelerated by the pandemic: 

An accelerated shift to online and mobile shopping

  • 67% of regional consumers believe they have become more digital during the pandemic, compared to 51% of global consumers, particularly in Egypt where 72% of consumers confirmed that.
  • Mobile is now the main online channel for shopping, with 47% of regional respondents saying they use their smartphones most frequently for purchases, compared with 39% of global respondents.
  • A major consideration for Middle East consumers shopping online continues to be fast and reliable delivery with 38% of respondents ranking this as important.

In-store shopping is still important as part of multi-channel retail strategies

  • Despite the pandemic, 56% of the Middle East consumers, compared with 45% globally, prefer visiting physical stores.
  • 40% of consumers who shop in-store consider increased health and safety as one of the most important attributes for a physical store. Key safety measures that regional consumers highlighted include mandatory face masks (44%), social distancing (43%) and hand sanitisation stations (32%).

Price-sensitivity is increasing in the Middle East

  • 57% of Middle East consumers indicated that they have been more price oriented during the pandemic and 66% said they have been focused on saving.

Middle East consumers are more health conscious

  • 71% of Middle East consumers indicated that they have become more healthy during the pandemic. When shopping for groceries, 41% of respondents also said that they are willing to pay more for healthier options.

Socially aware consumers are on the rise

  • COVID-19 has reinforced the growing awareness of social and environmental sustainability with 65% of regional consumers reporting that they have become more eco-friendly during the pandemic.
  • 75% of Middle consumers say they buy from companies that are environmentally conscious, compared with 54% globally; and 72%, versus 55% globally, say they choose products with a traceable and transparent origin.

Older consumers are more likely to be focused on sustainability

Norma Taki, Consumer Markets Leader and Transaction Services Partner, PwC Middle East commented: “Digitalisation and sustainability are firmly at the top of consumers’ agendas. To prepare for the future, retailers across the region will need to be fast and agile to capture business from a rising generation of youthful, socially aware consumers who are digitally savvy.” 

She added: “The speed of the shift in consumer sentiment reflected by our findings is a reminder that retailers cannot afford to adopt a wait-and-see strategy as the region’s shoppers emerge from the pandemic and the related economic uncertainty and emotional stress. A new, digitised market is taking shape, which already looks increasingly different from the region’s pre-pandemic consumer landscape.” 

PwC adopted a ‘pulse’ approach for its 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey in order to remain attuned to changes in the worldwide landscape and connected to the behaviours of the global consumer. The pulse surveys were put into the field in November 2020 and March 2021 and included respondents from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

DEWA’s Redesigned Building Facilities & Services for People of Determination Support Dubai’s Urban Environment

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) supports the design of the urban environment, and the people of Dubai, and the empowerment of People of Determination to become more productive and effective. This is done by providing its Customers and Employees of Determination with easy access to its services, buildings, and facilities, including its Customer Happiness Centres. DEWA upgraded all its buildings to be 100% compliant with the Dubai Universal Design Code in 2019. DEWA redesigned its Customer Happiness Centres to become easily accessible by People of Determination according to international standards, such as BSI8300, to provide a seamless and inclusive experience for them.

HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA, said that DEWA’s pioneering experience in including and empowering People of Determination aligns with the National Policy to empower People of Determination, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to create an inclusive society that ensures empowerment and a decent life for People of Determination and their families. It also supports the ‘My Community… a City for Everyone’ initiative, launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, to transform Dubai into a city that is accessible for People of Determination. DEWA currently has 6,137 employees trained to deal with People of Determination and 22 employees have earned sign language diplomas. DEWA currently has 29 Employees of Determination with various disabilities. Their happiness score was 99% and their families’ happiness was 96% in 2020. Customers of Determination scored their happiness with DEWA’s inclusive services at 95% and society happiness towards DEWA’s support for People of Determination was 94% in 2020.

DEWA provides Customers and Employees of Determination with smart systems and supporting services to enable them to access information and different facilities inside DEWA’s buildings. These include:

Braille Maps

DEWA provides interactive maps with an audio notification to provide People of Determination with information and directions to reach their destinations inside DEWA’s buildings. The maps include Braille writing and embossed letters to make them easier to read. These maps are located in all DEWA’s building entrances.

Hearing Loops

DEWA uses hearing loop technology, which is an advanced hearing aid technology design to assist people with hearing disabilities. The hearing loops transmit sounds through electro-magnetic waves so sounds reach the user clearly and are noise-free. Those loops are available at all Customer Happiness Centres, training halls and meeting rooms at DEWA’s buildings.

Interactive online learning

DEWA provides its technical and design employees with an electronic automated training for Dubai Universal Design Code application and technical supervision which increases their technical and field experience. Also, DEWA launched an awareness and training programme on the Dubai Universal Design Code and its requirements to become a key component of DEWA’s new joiners’ agenda. This introduces them to the Code’s applications, the reason for adopting it at DEWA’s buildings, and the importance of abiding by its regulations in all facilities and buildings.

People of Determination friendly Customer Happiness Centres

DEWA redesigned all of its facilities and buildings to be People of Determination friendly in all emergencies by placing audio and visual alarms, alarms in toilets, and evacuation wheelchairs on all floors. DEWA also provides for People of Determination a helpline for them in parking areas, wheelchair service, directional tactile paving for the visually-impaired, staff trained in sign language, service priority, screens for remote video chat, booklets in Braille, and other services to streamline transactions by People of Determination.

DEWA has developed an innovative solution for Customers of Determination who use hearing aids or cochlear implants. They can use the telepresence system on video chat screens equipped with hearing loops that improve sound quality and filter out background noise. This enables easier access for them with Customer Happiness Employees. The new system improves the quality of sound to ensure seamless transactions by People of Determination with hearing impairments.

Smart Channels for People of Determination

DEWA is committed to providing seamless access to information for Customers of Determination through its website, smart app, and customer care centre, according to Smart Dubai Government standards.

DEWA also launched several innovative and smart initiatives that support and empower People of Determination and make it easier to access information. DEWA has a dedicated section on its website to include and empower People of Determination. DEWA provides a wide range of comprehensive services and facilities at its self-service Customer Happiness Centres; Future Customer Happiness Centres; Customer Care Centre; and its website and smart app.

CBUAE Governor and Bank CEOs Discuss Continued Support to the UAE Economy

His Excellency Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE), today held a meeting with the CEOs of all banks operating in the UAE to discuss the macroeconomic environment, provide the CBUAE’s assessment of financial stability, and inform about the CBUAE’s ongoing regulatory and supervisory initiatives. A particular focus of the meeting was on the role of banks in supporting the UAE’s economic recovery by ensuring the continued flow of credit to the economy.

The Governor informed bank CEOs of the CBUAE’s assessment of financial stability in the UAE. The CBUAE assesses the financial system of the UAE as stable. Liquidity and capital buffers of banks remain adequate, supported by stable deposit volumes and growth in capital market funding. Meeting participants also discussed areas subject to close monitoring by the CBUAE, which included asset quality and credit conditions.

The CBUAE emphasised the role of the banking sector in the continued flow of credit to the private sector, supported by different components of the CBUAE’s Targeted Economic Support Scheme (TESS). His Excellency emphasised that the TESS was extended until 30 June 2022, in the expectation that banks will continue to support the UAE’s recovery by continuing to lend to creditworthy customers. 

Against the background of gradual economic recovery, continued government support and healthy funding growth, bank lending remains flat, reflecting subdued demand and the conservative risk appetite of banks. Meeting participants discussed the pre-requisites and critical enablers for the banking sector to increase their support of the UAE economy, especially during the early stages of recovery.

Meeting participants also discussed the trends in the real estate market and the CBUAE’s proposed framework for surveillance and supervision of real estate exposures, with a view of addressing the risks associated with lending to this sector.

H.E. Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, said: “Our assessment and recent economic data point to a post-pandemic rebound of the UAE economy. The UAE banking system remains resilient, and our support measures in the form of the CBUAE’s Targeted Economic Support Scheme and other measures will remain in place until the middle of next year. Against this background, we expect banks to support the economy and ensure a continued flow of funds to creditworthy retail and corporate clients.”

Zambia: African Development Bank Approves $1.4 Million Grant to Improve Household Food Security in the Wake of Covid-19

The Mitigating Impacts of Covid-19 on Household Food Security Project will create about 150 permanent skilled or semi-skilled positions and 40 part-time unskilled jobs in crop, livestock and fisheries value chains. The project will supply inputs for crops, livestock and aquaculture enterprises to promote good agricultural practices and increase food production. There will also be a capacity building component.

“The agriculture sector is an important source of livelihoods, employment and GDP in Zambia. Increased food supply resulting from additional grant funds will lead to more jobs, improved quality of life, and reduction of malnutrition in many impacted communities,” said Martin Fregene, African Development Bank Director of Agriculture and Agro-industry.

The project provides supplementary funds to the ongoing Agriculture Productivity and Market Enhancement Project, a $32 million grant-funded initiative also from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, which has been managed by the Bank in the Sinazongwe, Gwembe, Chongwe, Rufunsa, Serenje and Chitambo districts of Zambia over the past five years.

Global Agriculture and Food Security Program administrators said the six districts were selected based on poverty levels, food insecurity and malnutrition prevalence. However, with this funding and program, these districts have the potential for economic growth, and to promote crop diversification. Some 5,000 people, including 3,750 women and 1,000 youth, will benefit. Some 5,000 people will also benefit indirectly along the commodity value chains.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Zambia has implemented bold measures to protect the health and economic well-being of its citizens. These steps included a nationwide program to scale up agricultural diversification. The Bank’s Covid-19 Response Facility launched in 2020 has been a lifeline to member governments by providing resources to tackle the pandemic.

“The facility will consolidate the Bank’s support for Zambia’s economic diversification and impact mitigation against Covid-19,” said Mary Monyau, the Bank’s Country Manager in Zambia.

The Zambian project is in line with the Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities, specifically, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa. Similar Bank projects have been successfully undertaken in Malawi, Niger, Liberia, Senegal and the Gambia.

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program was established as a response to the 2008/09 world food price crisis, following a commitment by the Group of 8 nations (G8) in September 2009 to mobilize up to $20 billion for agricultural development and food security. The World Bank supervises about half of the project portfolio of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. The African Development Bank managed about a quarter in December 2019, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, 11%.

MEA Markets Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2021 UAE Business Awards

United Kingdom, 2021– MEA Markets magazine announces the winners of the 2021 UAE Business Awards.

Now in its fifth 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 Gabrielle Ellis took a moment to comment on announcement: “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 fantastic rest of the year ahead.”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit https://www.mea-markets.com/awards/uae-business-awards/ 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.

Africa Energy Week 2021, Taking Place in Cape Town; Will Focus on Investment, Oil and Gas, Renewables and Energy Transition

The African Energy Chamber is set to host the first-ever African Energy Week (AEW) in Cape Town on 9th – 12th November 2021.

Replacing Africa Oil Week, the four-day interactive conference seeks to unite industry stakeholders, international speakers and movers and shakers from the African oil and gas sector.

The conference comprises high-class networking events, innovative exhibitions, and one-on-one private meetings, with a golf tournament on the final day, providing a one-of-a-kind experience for stakeholders interested in the growth and success of the African energy sector.


The African Energy Chamber (AEC) is excited to announce the official launch of African Energy Week (AEW) 2021, taking place in Cape Town on 9th – 12th November 2021. AEW 2021 will showcase the first-ever African Energy Village, an interactive exhibition and networking event that seeks to unite African energy stakeholders, drive industry growth and development, and promote Africa as the destination for African-focused events.

Commencing with a three-day conference and ending with a golf tournament on 12th November, the event’s primary focus is to define and promote the African energy agenda through development, deal-making, and private sector participation. Key topics include making energy poverty history before 2030 and the future of the African oil and gas industry; African upstream, midstream and downstream opportunities; African oil, gas and finance in the face of the energy transition – highlighting African financing institutions such as the African Development Bank, the African Export-Import Bank, the African Financing Corporation, Africa50, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Central African States; local content; women in energy and making African energy competitive for investment into a decarbonized Africa.

Additionally, the conference will address the role of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), the International Energy Agency (IEC), the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO), the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC), and the American Petroleum Institute (API) and Africa. By opening the dialogue on Africa’s gas miracle and its potential in markets including Senegal, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Algeria, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville, and Angola – as well as small-scale Liquified Natural Gas, intra-African trade and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement – the conference represents the ideal networking and deal-making platform for all African energy stakeholders.

The AEC’s commitment to hosting this Africa-focused event in Africa comes at a crucial time for the oil and gas industry. In light of recent developments that seek to suggest that Africa is not capable of hosting events of global standards, the Chamber feels responsible to voice against this and lead by example by showcasing the continent and all its profound beauty.

With this in mind, the only African-focused, in-person energy event aims to capture the essence and cultural hub that exists in Cape Town. The AEC will not abandon the continent for international venues. AEW 2021 is an energy event like no other and the AEC is fully focused on promoting African development and growth through African-held events.

“We are happy with the tremendous support from so many in-and-outside Africa. Our Oil and Gas producers have been a force for good and we must be proud of this industry. We must also welcome energy transition and engage Africa with the most forceful conversation and solutions for the future. AEW 2021 offers a unique and interactive networking experience in which global energy stakeholders can unite and participate in the continent’s transformation. The time is now,” says NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman, African Energy Chamber.

“Africa Energy Week will have a bold message that encourages energy solutions that cut out entitlements, handouts and foreign aid. No one owes us anything and in order for so many Africans who want to make energy poverty history to triumph, we must embrace all forms of energy in our energy mix. We must attract investors and push our leadership so that each country wins when we create and encourage an enabling environment,” adds Ayuk.

AEW 2021 is taking place with the full support of prominent African and global industry leaders and oil and gas organizations and is focused on expanding opportunities in Africa. Additionally, AEW 2021 will present innovative exhibition spaces at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront that aim to promote African heritage and culture, while showcasing the exciting technological advancements the industry has to offer.

“African energy producers can only grow and meet energy demand when we all do our best to mobilize our resources and advocate for important principles of personal responsibility, smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, personal liberty, and the rule of law. This will kick start investment and make a transition that works for Africa. Let’s do this in Africa, for Africa and for the energy sector,” concludes Ayuk.

Of equal importance, the event will take place under strict COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of all attendees. In line with current government regulations, AEW 2021 will host a series of networking events across a variety of locations at the V&A Waterfront, thereby ensuring social gathering limits are in place at all times. Additionally, through mandatory testing and the availability of personal protective equipment and facilities, AEW 2021 aims to protect attendees while ensuring a successful and productive event.

The Women that Run Big Business in Africa

Nayan Gala, co-founder of JPIN VCATS, a UK-India investment specialist, comments on the importance of agreement as both countries aim to secure a beneficial deal

Africa.com undertook a rigorous research project to identify not just high profile personalities, but the women who actually run the largest, most complex businesses on the African continent. The result is called The Africa.com Definitive List of Women CEOs.

On August 18, Harvard Business School Professor Tony Mayo, will present his research findings on what it takes for African-American women to reach the top spot in American corporations. A panel of women CEOs from the Africa.com list will react to that research, noting similarities and differences for corporate women in Africa. The names of those who made the List will be revealed that day, as well.

The Africa.com Definitive List of Women CEOs is the product of a data-driven research project that began by identifying all publicly listed companies on all of the twenty-one stock exchanges in Africa – , a list of over 1400 companies. From there, the researchers screened the companies to focus on the largest companies – those with a market capitalization of $150 million USD or larger, resulting in a list of 355 corporations. Once the researchers had identified these 355 companies, the largest in Africa, they then searched the public information available on the management teams of these companies. In order to qualify for the List, women had to have a CEO or managing director title at the head of one of these companies. The titles were then vetted further by examining where the women fit within the company’s overall organizational structure to ensure that the women truly hold authority that is consistent with their title. Based on this effort, a handful of women were eliminated – while they had an impressive sounding title, the company’s organizational chart demonstrated that someone else actually holds bottom line profit and loss responsibility for the company.

In addition to the women selected through the process above, the analysis went on to identify two additional groups of women running Corporate Africa. One additional group of women are those who run divisions of very large African corporate entities, such that their division, if it were a standalone company, would qualify for the list with its own divisional market cap of $150 million USD or more.  The roles of the women running these divisions were vetted within the context of the company’s organizational structure – the title alone was not sufficient to make the list. The women in this group have profit and loss responsibility for a revenue generating division that would be valued at $150 million or more, on its own.

Lastly, women who run the entire African region, a region within Africa, or an African country for global corporations listed on international exchanges were then identified. To qualify for this group, only international companies with a market cap of $50 billion or more are included. The women running these businesses range from those who run a country, such as Kenya or Nigeria, to those who run all of sub-Saharan Africa for these global behemoths.

On August 18, 2021, in addition to revealing the 50 names on The Africa.com Definitive List of Women CEOs, Africa.com will provide observations and trends that emerged from the research project, including which regions and which sectors lead in appointing women to the number one spot in Corporate Africa.

“We think it is important to dig beyond the media hype, and reveal those women who have bottom line authority for Africa’s biggest corporations – many of whom have gone unnoticed. We look forward to presenting this information on August 18 alongside Harvard Business School Professor to elevate the conversation about women in Corporate Africa.”

Mastercard Foundation to Deploy $1.3 Billion in Partnership with Africa CDC to Save Lives and Livelihoods

The Mastercard Foundation has announced that it will deploy $1.3 billion over the next three years in partnership with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Africa and hasten the economic recovery of the continent.

The Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative will acquire vaccines for at least 50 million people, support the delivery of vaccinations to millions more across the continent, lay the groundwork for vaccine manufacturing in Africa through a focus on human capital development, and strengthen the Africa CDC.

“Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent. This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. “In the process, this initiative will catalyze work opportunities in the health sector and beyond as part of our Young Africa Works strategy,” she added.

The African Union’s goal as set out in the African COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Strategy is to vaccinate at least 60 percent of its population – approximately 750 million people or the entire adult population of the continent – by the end of 2022. To date, less than two percent of Africans have received at least one vaccine dose.

The new partnership builds on the efforts of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access facility (COVAX), the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), and the global community to expand access to vaccines across Africa. The number of vaccines available to Africa represents a small portion of the global supply and the financial costs to purchase, deliver, and administer vaccines remain significant. The Africa CDC is calling on governments, global funders, the private sector, and others to help meet this goal.

“Ensuring inclusivity in vaccine access, and building Africa’s capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, is not just good for the continent, it’s the only sustainable path out of the pandemic and into a health-secure future,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC. “This partnership with the Mastercard Foundation is a bold step towards establishing a New Public Health Order for Africa, and we welcome other actors to join this historic journey.”

In 2020, Africa faced its first economic recession in 25 years due to the pandemic. The African Development Bank has warned that COVID-19 could reverse hard-won gains in poverty reduction over the past two decades and drive 39 million people into extreme poverty in 2021. Widespread vaccination is recognized as being critical to the economic recovery of African countries.

The initiative builds on an earlier collaboration between the Mastercard Foundation and the Africa CDC to expand access to testing kits and enhance surveillance capacity in Africa. Through the Foundation’s support, the Africa CDC’s Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT) deployed nearly two million COVID-19 tests and more than 12,000 trained health care workers and rapid responders across Africa. In total, the PACT has enabled over 47 million COVID-19 tests across the continent.

Ghana: African Development Bank Group Supports Risk-based Supervision for Capital Markets

The African Development Bank Group and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Ghana today launched a $400,000 project to strengthen the development of Ghanaian capital markets. This follows the signing of a grant agreement to develop a risk-based supervisory solution for the local capital market.

The grant, from the African Development Bank’s Capital Markets Development Trust Fund, will finance the provision of technical assistance and capacity building for the SEC, the markets regulator, and the Ghana Stock Exchange.

The project will enhance the SEC’s institutional capacity and readiness to transition from a compliance-based to a risk-based supervision approach for the securities market. It will also enable the development and streamlining of policy and regulatory frameworks for pooled funds, and support the broadening of market instruments through the introduction of products such as asset-backed securities.

At the launch event, Daniel Ogbarmey Tetteh, Director-General of the SEC, commended the African Development Bank for supporting the development of a risk-based solution, which is expected to bolster the Commission’s capacity to fulfill its mandate.

The objectives of the project align with the priorities of the Bank’s Country Strategy for Ghana, which envisages measures to stimulate capital market development and unlock financial resources that will advance Ghana’s industrialization, the private sector and infrastructure development.

“The collaboration with the Securities and Exchange Commission to promote an enabling regulatory and supervisory environment with diversified financial market products and instruments is timely. This support demonstrates the Bank’s desire for a deepened and broadened financial system – a driver of investment and economic growth in Ghana,” said Ahmed Attout, Manager of the Bank’s Capital Markets Development Division.

The project will benefit capital market participants in Ghana, including securities issuers and investors. It will also help broaden available products and structures for savings and investment.

Mr. Ekow Afedzie, Managing Director of the Ghana Stock Exchange, expressed his appreciation to the Bank and noted that this project has come at an opportune time when the stock market is introducing new products to deepen the market and improve liquidity. “Thus, the introduction of the new products will boost investor confidence and achieve the ultimate goal of making the Ghana Stock Exchange a preferred investment destination in the sub-region,” Mr Afedzie said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission will cooperate closely with the Ghana Stock Exchange and other market stakeholders to implement the project.

Path Solutions Successfully Completes System Upgrade at KFH

The bank proud to announce taking advantage of iMAL R14.1 new features and benefits

Path Solutions, the global Islamic banking software company, today announced that Kuwait Finance House (“KFH”), Kuwait’s Islamic banking pioneer has successfully completed the upgrade of its fully automated STP Islamic Treasury solution to the new Path Solutions’ Java-based platform iMAL R14.1, as of 21st February.

KFH is considered a pioneer in the banking phenomenon known as Islamic finance or Sharia-compliant banking. It was established in the State of Kuwait in 1977 as the first bank operating in accordance with the Islamic Sharia, and today it is one of the foremost Islamic financial institutions in the world.

The successful Go Live signifies a pivotal point in KFH’s development. Built on an open architecture and developed in Java, the iMAL R14.1 allows the bank to take advantage of the digitalization, flexibility, reliability, scalability and portability that this new Islamic Treasury platform offers.

“KFH constantly invests to enhance its systems by implementing latest technology and innovative solutions to ensure we offer world-class products and services to our customers”, said KFH Acting Group CEO, Abdulwahab Al-Roshood.

Al-Roshood added, “We are happy to have completed the successful upgrade of our Islamic Treasury solution to iMAL R14.1 in a smooth and timely manner. With the new Sharia-compliant fully STP automated Islamic Treasury platform, our customers will benefit from the best practices and enhanced features that Path Solutions has invested in the software since our last implementation. Moreover, we will be able to continue to scale in line with our growth strategy and stay ahead of industry trends as we continue to expand into new segments”.

Mohammed Kateeb, Group Chairman & CEO, Path Solutions, commented, “Collaboration is vital in order to stay ahead of in an ever-changing financial landscape. By collaborating with our clients to help them identify key customer expectations that will enhance their daily processes and interactions, and investing around 30% in R&D, we ensure that we remain the industry leader in Islamic software solutions. iMAL R14.1 will empower KFH to be future-ready, given the rapid digital disruption that the segment is facing. The result is a dynamic ecosystem of innovation that will only drive incremental growth and customer satisfaction. We look forward to continuing to work with our long-standing partner KFH and our clients all over the world to modernize their platform and bring real-time and fully digital banking services to their customers”.

Meanwhile, Treasury GM – KFH Group, Ahmad Eissa Al-Sumait mentioned that the successful implementation and Go Live of the new Islamic Treasury solution that is fully automated with Reuters, Bloomberg and 360T at KFH Group will improve the performance of all treasury functions at the bank. “KFH can now offer a wider range of Islamic Treasury products and services based on specific requirements to its customers all over the world”.

He further expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Path Solutions and KFH teams for their dedication and great efforts in implementing the new system remotely due to COVID-19 lockdowns while ensuring a high quality and stable production environment. All channels and surround systems were verified and got satisfactory results.

Over the past 28 years, Path Solutions has earned a stellar reputation in the fiercely competitive marketplace by providing clients with state-of-the-art AAOIFI-certified software solutions and services, thus dominating the Islamic banking software arena.

Can West Africa Lead the Way in Creating a More Sustainable Textiles Industry

– Textile and fashion is the world’s second-largest industrial polluter, behind oil and gas

– Concerted efforts are being made to create more sustainable business models

– Two solar-powered, sustainable textile plants under construction in Togo and Benin

– Increased cotton processing could mean value-added textile earnings stay in West Africa

With textiles and fashion expected to constitute an important post-Covid-19 growth driver for West Africa, stakeholders and key players in the industry are exploring ways to implement sustainable practices and make the sector more environmentally friendly.

While one might not instinctively include it among the world’s heaviest polluters, the textile and fashion industry is a key contributor to climate change, accounting for around 10% of global carbon emissions.

Indeed, with pre-pandemic annual emissions of 1.2bn tonnes, the industry is the second-largest industrial polluter behind the oil and gas industry, surpassing emissions from all international flights and maritime shipping put together.

A major factor behind the industry’s carbon footprint is the water needed for cotton production. For example, it can take an estimated 20,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of cotton, or one t-shirt and a pair of jeans.

In addition, with up to 8000 chemicals used to turn raw materials into clothes, the World Bank estimates that 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from dyeing and finishing fabrics.

Another major factor behind the environmental footprint of the industry is the sheer mass of clothes produced to meet the needs of modern “fast fashion”. An estimated $500bn in value is lost every year from clothes that are worn for a short period of time and not recycled, with much of it ending up incinerated or in landfill.

Pushing for environmental sustainability

To combat the environmental impact of the textiles and fashion industry, a number of industry players are turning towards more sustainable means of operation.

For example, Jendaya, a UK-based, Africa-focused online fashion retailer avoids plastic and ships goods in recyclable cardboard packaging.

The company is also one of a growing number supportinggin cott designers who produce clothes in smaller capacities on a made-to-order basis, reducing waste and the amount of clothing that is consigned to landfill.

Other examples of African companies promoting local production using natural materials under made-to-order models include Nehanda & Co in Zimbabwe, Naked Ape in South Africa, Nkwo in Nigeria and Awa Meité in Mali.

There are also efforts to support this approach on an institutional level. Fashionomics Africa, an initiative developed by the African Development Bank, aims to develop a sustainable textile value chain and help create business models that will keep garments in use, make use of renewable materials and recycle old clothes into new products.

Another company driving sustainable solutions across the entire value chain in West Africa’s textiles industry is the India-headquartered Arise.

On top of existing industrial projects in Gabon, Mauritania and Côte d’Ivoire, the company is in the process of constructing two textiles parks in Togo and Benin. The sites, which source raw materials, gin cotton, and process and manufacture final products, will emphasise environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors across all aspects of the operation.

For example, some of the sustainability credentials of the textile park in Togo include processing 100% sustainably sourced cotton, under Cotton Made in Africa standards, and using 100% renewable electricity, offsetting 20 tonnes of carbon emissions per day. The site will also reuse 90-95% of the water used during processing and comply with independent international certifications when it comes to dyeing and finishing fabrics.

“The private sector needs to implement socially conscientious governance models across the textile value chain, enfranchising local communities through fair and equitable labour practices while also managing ecological resources sustainably,” Bhavin Vyas, chief ESG officer at Arise, told OBG.

Economic benefits

The benefits of such an approach are not just environmental. Increasing textile production on the continent will also provide an economic boon to the region as countries continue their recoveries from Covid-19.

Indeed, in April the African Circular Economy Alliance, a government-led coalition that promotes environmentally and socially sustainable solutions for economic development, identified the textiles and fashion industry as one of the “Five Big Bets” – alongside food systems, the built environment, electronics and packaging – that could drive the continent’s sustainable development in the future.

The issue is particularly pertinent to West Africa. Around three-quarters of the continent’s cotton is produced in the region; however, most of this is shipped to South and East Asia for processing, meaning that West African countries miss out on much of the value-added economic benefits traditionally associated with the textile industry.

Every year leading West African cotton-producing nations Benin, Burkina-Faso and Mali export 1.8m tonnes of unprocessed cotton worth $922m, but then import $2.4bn in finished cotton textiles and apparels.

In an effort to address the situation, Arise’s textile park in Togo aims to convert 56,000 tonnes of cotton fibres valued at $73m into apparel worth $1.5bn. The company says the construction and running of the site will create 20,000 direct and 80,000 indirect jobs, ensuring that much of the profit will filter into local communities.

Meanwhile, in Benin, where the cotton industry accounts for 12% of GDP and 60% of industrial earnings, the government is playing an active role in promoting domestic production, implementing a ban on 30% of cotton lint exports by the end of 2021, with this figure rising to 70% by 2022 and 100% by 2023.

New Growth and Recovery Video on Africa Puts Rising Demand for Power Infrastructure in the Spotlight

The opportunities for investors to play a part in Africa’s social and economic development by providing more of its rapidly growing population with clean, reliable power are highlighted in a new Growth & Recovery video produced by Oxford Business Group in partnership with technical solutions provider JESA.

OBG’s Growth & Recovery videos are among the latest additions to the company’s suite of research tools, providing essential information on developments across key economic segments and their prospects for future growth, as the global economy moves towards recovery.

In the video, OBG’s narrator noted that Africa’s fast pace of growth had heightened the need to bridge the significant gaps in power provision across the continent.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with a population projected to more than double, from 1.1bn in 2019 to around 2.5bn by 2050. Today, more than half of the region’s population has no access to power,” he commented.

He also said that Africa was well placed to make renewables a key part of its future energy mix, boasting considerable potential across the solar, wind, hydro and geothermal segments. Focusing on sustainability, he added, would help the continent capitalise on its sources of renewable energy.

Hicham Kabbaj, JESA’s Managing Director, said rapid population growth and the ongoing urbanisation under way across much of Africa had heightened the need to make new power infrastructure there a priority.

“The potential for developing green sources of power generation in the region is huge, as the solar and wind projects already established in both cities and rural communities show,” he said. “Moves to boost the role of renewables in the energy mix will also help with broader efforts to make new growth both sustainable and equitable at a time when investors are keen to seek out projects that have given weight to ESG principles.”

Commenting ahead of the launch, Marc-André de Blois, OBG’s Director of PR and Video Content, agreed that while Africa faced several challenges in its efforts to develop the region’s power infrastructure, the potential rewards were considerable, as the Group’s Growth & Recovery video showed.

“Our broadcast highlights the positive developments under way in Morocco, which has already built major industry expertise following the country’s pledge to make more than half of its capacity renewable by 2030,” he said. “As well as highlighting the hurdles Africa faces in terms of infrastructures, we’ve been able to shine a spotlight on a renewable energy ecosystem that has succeeded in gaining the confidence of a wide range of stakeholders.”

Ras Al Khaimah Confirms Over £96 million Investment Across More Than 20 Sustainable Tourism Development Initiatives

  • Ras Al Khaimah’s multi-million-pound investment (half a billion in AED) supports a mix of retail, hospitality and cultural projects widening the safe and expansive travel offerings for UK travellers for when the UAE is marked as ‘green’ on the UK travel list.
  • Ras Al Khaimah, which aims to attract 1.5 million visitors by the end of 2021 and 3 million by 2025, provides world-class facilities in a wide, unspoiled landscape of vast desert, 64 kilometres of perfect beach and numerous majestic mountains.
  • Ras Al Khaimah, currently the Gulf Tourism Capital for 2021, has been at the forefront of introducing stringent safety measures – it was the first destination in the world to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Safe Travels certification, and since October has been offering free Covid PCR tests to inbound travellers, the first in the world to do this.
  • Added destination attractions will include paragliding and a fixed hot-air balloon viewing platform at Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak; a scallop-ranch and mega-development on the beach and the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, teaching the skills necessary to enjoy the mountains and desert in safety.​

Ras Al Khaimah, the United Arab Emirates’ fourth largest Emirate, has announced a total investment of over £96 million in its tourism sector, resulting in over 20 exciting sustainable tourism development initiatives as part of its aim to attract 1.5 million visitors by the end of 2021 and 3 million by 2025.

The latest announcement comes on the back of the Emirate’s previous efforts as the region to introduce a Tourism Incentive & Stimulus Package in April 2020 followed by an Emirate wide certification as the first safe destination worldwide from Bureau Veritas and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Further underlining its credentials as a destination of distinction, in the new normal of post-pandemic travel, the new developments include a pop-up hotel concept offering cliffside accommodation on the UAE’s highest peak, Jebel Jais; a luxury mountain lodge opening in 2022 and the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, teaching the skills necessary to enjoy the mountains and desert in safety. The projects centre on Ras Al Khaimah’s new destination strategy that focuses on nature, leisure, adventure, sustainability, accessibility and authenticity in the post-pandemic age.

With the desire for social distance, tourists are no longer attracted to bustling cities and crowded beaches, seeking instead personal space and a closer connection to nature. This change in direction will allow the spotlight to shine on Ras Al Khaimah, enabling it to step out from the shadow of its well-known neighbours, offering world-class hotels and infrastructure in a wild and unspoiled landscape of desert, beach and mountains.

Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), said: “It’s been an incredibly busy and proactive time at RAKTDA as the Emirate evolves into a global destination of distinction. This multi-million investment plan further demonstrates our resolve and commitment to tourism, despite the global challenges faced this past year that continue to shake our industry today. These projects also align with our vision and strategy moving forward with our new brand identity, based on the destination’s natural topography – the sea, desert and of course, our spectacular mountains – as well as our desire to progress, grow and evolve in tune with tourism aspirations and needs.”

The Emirate, currently the Gulf Tourism Capital for 2021, is the first destination in the world to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Safe Travels certification, and since October has been offering free Covid PCR tests to inbound travellers, the first in the world to do this. Efforts such as these, with costs absorbed by the tourism board rather than passed on to visitors, has resulted in Ras Al Khaimah being classed as Covid-safe, including all 46 of its hotels and the world’s longest zipline on Jebel Jais mountain peak.

As part of the destination’s objective to boost sustainable tourism, Ras As Al Khaimah has also been working with EarthCheck , the global environmental experts, to co -create  genuine sustainable practices  including reduced food wastage, increase recycling, decrease in energy and water consumption across all hotels, tourist sites area clean -ups, green procurement and more. Additionally, looking at hotel inventory across the Emirate, an addition of 4,718 rooms is in the pipeline: a marked 70% increase to existing inventory of 6,726.

Alison Grinnell, CEO of RAK Hospitality Holding shared: “As we navigate through the new normal, we are witnessing a reimagined travel and hospitality sector.  Our ability to build sustainably, especially on Jebel Jais with a number of hospitality offerings including Earth Hotels and Mantis Collection with eco-principled luxury lodges as well as accessible attractions will only enhance Ras Al Khaimah as a leading tourism destination moving forward. Moreover, our large-scale hotel developments, in particular on Marjan Island with the Movenpick brand is a genuine step towards renewed confidence in our industry.”

Upcoming projects in Ras Al Khaimah

The new initiatives include over 20 projects across the destination, including Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak and an attraction that draws visitors from around the world.

Mountain:

  • Earth Hotels Altitude, an eco-based pop-up hotel concept set to feature 15 fully fitted accommodation units, an activation center and swimming pool.
  • Saij, A Mantis Collection Mountain Lodge, comprising of 35 luxury lodges, will provide a pure mountain retreat that focuses on nature as well as mind, body and soul with guided treks, mindful pursuits and creative experiences.
  • Cloud7 Camp Jebel Jais – the ultimate glamping experience with 30 accommodation units built out of sustainable material.
  • The new Basecamp Jais will offer affordable accommodation for outdoor enthusiasts, thrill seekers and nature lovers as well as a range of activities such as yoga, Emirati live cooking and will serve as a leisure hub at the base of the rugged mountains.
  • Jais Yard – an F&B Village with food trailers, kiosks, retail containers, vintage truck restaurants, open air cinema and children’s play areas which will drive further visitation to Jebel Jais.
  • Jais Wings – adventure seekers can take off on a paragliding experience from the top of Jebel Jais with landing pads near Saraya Islands and Al Rams. It will be the region’s first dedicated paragliding site in the GCC.
  • Balloon Base with fixed hot air balloons that visitors can take in the infinite beauty of Jebel Jais.
  • Jais Swing – an Instagramable swing made of twin ropes that provide amazing views and a unique content opportunity.
  • Wadi Track at Wadi Showka will feature a new bicycle pump track that will be the perfect spot for bike enthusiasts of all ages.
  • Building on its rich portfolio of internationally recognised outdoor events, Ras Al Khaimah is set to host the first ‘HIGHLANDER’ hiking experience in the GCC in November 2021. HIGHLANDER, the only certified international hiking association in the world, is widely renowned for its one-of-a-kind curated hiking experiences.

Beachfront:

  • A mega-beachfront development by Marjan with a marine district, inflatable aqua park, leisure trampoline, swimming pool, outdoor gym and extensive food and beverage offering.
  • Scallop Ranch at Al Hamra Marine will offer oyster/scallop diving, live cooking, family and kids’ experiences, and cultural activations. As a first of its kind attraction in the UAE, it will support and enhance understanding of the marine ecosystem with seagrass and sea cucumber species within the farm.

Desert & Land:

  • Cloud7 Camp AlSawan – a luxury glamping experience with 60 units where guests can learn what it takes to become an agriculturalist.
  • Flying Arch @Manar Mall will welcome the region’s first 130-metre aerial structure composed of over 1.5 million knots and around 300 km of twine that will cause the wind to create a choreography of constantly changing shape and color.
  • Luminaze at Manar Mall will also welcome an aesthetic and playful art installation based on a light maze, ideal for family and team activities.
  • Ras Al Khaimah is also strengthening its hospitality infrastructure through new hotels, such as the all-new Mövenpick Resort Al Marjan Island with 418 hotel keys and direct sea views. Guests can choose from large-sized family rooms, suites or 28 beachfront chalets with private pools and gardens. The upcoming Hampton by Hilton Al Marjan Island, comprising 515 rooms, will be the largest Hampton by Hilton globally and the first to offer an all-inclusive resort concept. Other new openings include Radisson Al Marjan Island with 388 rooms InterContinental Mina Al Arab with 351 rooms.

Significant progress on current projects

In addition to announcing new projects, significant progress has been made in the development of several tourism attractions: 

  • Sky Room, the UAE’s highest meeting room that can host up to 10 people.
  • Wingsuit Diving Platform – the first base jump platform in the UAE for professional base jumpers and home to Khalifa Al Ghafri, also known as the ‘UAE Batman’.
  • The Jais Sledder, a toboggan ride that runs a length of 1,840 meters, will be the region’s longest and is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of this year.
  • Jais Eco-Golf – a mini putt-putt 9-hole golf course with two to three hitting bays
  • The world’s first Bear Grylls Explorers Camp that opened at Jebel Jais last year will provide additional accommodation following the launch of nine units in February 2021 bringing its total to 30 cabins.
  • The UAE’s highest restaurant, 1484 By Puro on Jebel Jais, will be enhanced and enlarged to create an even more memorable dining experience.
  • Work on several hiking health and safety improvements on Jebel Jais is also underway, including the installation of markers and reflectors, implementation of Hikers Safety & Registration gates, lower trail restoration, a new trail development, safety & information boards as well as a hiker’s shower room and shaded picnic benches at vantage hiking spots.

Is Working From Home Sustainable in the Long Run?

By Jiselle Rose

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every sector and industry. To avoid going under, many organizations and businesses had to innovate their operations and the way their employees worked. Working remotely has now become the new normal, as most offices and headquarters remain closed due to the virus. This working arrangement has also brought unprecedented and dramatic changes to the operations of many businesses and organizations across the Middle East and Africa.

In the region, many startups have already been employing remote teams for their technical and backend operations. Indeed, a Scene Arabia report notes that startups and SMEs have been the main driver for job creation in the GCC region, as they continue to accept remote workers from countries like Jordan, India, and Egypt. In these places, there’s an abundance of accessible talent that makes them appealing to up and coming companies.

Well-established organizations had no choice but to quickly adapt to the pandemic, too. In a previous post, we’ve talked about how the pandemic has triggered an e-commerce boom in sub-Saharan Africa as digital solutions were quickly deployed to keep companies afloat. Thankfully, bigger companies are already familiar with the work from home structures, so all they needed to do was utilize remote working programs and apps to let their employees continue working safely.

At the start of the pandemic, many workers were enthusiastic at the chance of being able to work from home and were ready to say goodbye to their office cubicles. In fact, a survey by research firm Davies Hickman Partners reports that people from the UAE were particularly happy with the remote working arrangement, and at least 64% said that the option to work from home has brought them happiness.

Managers in the Middle East are more likely to favor traditional working settings and tend to be more office-centric. However, a Bayt.com survey points out that 30% of remote workers across the MENA region have seen an increase in their productivity, so business owners and managers shouldn’t have that much of a problem with this non-traditional working arrangement.

Of course, working from home still has many pitfalls that both employers and employees need to address. For one, working from home allows for flexible working hours, which can easily blur the lines between work and home life. Because of this, writer James Gonzales advises that remote workers should still create a structure for their workday in order to avoid burnout and stress. In addition, people who work from home should carve out a space in their home that’s conducive for working, so they won’t be easily distracted by their roommates, partner, children, or pets. Lastly, managers of remote teams also need to expertly use popular remote working tools such as Zoom and Slack, as well as constantly communicate with teams to keep everyone in line.

Without a doubt, remote working structures have helped organizations across all industries withstand the dire economic consequences of the pandemic. However, many experts still think that this working arrangement is not going to become the new normal. There’s a lot that goes into making remote working arrangements effective for businesses and companies, and it needs managers to step up and create clear guidelines, clearly define KPIs, and be more proactive in handling their team members. If done right, working from home can be sustainable for an extended period of time, but companies still need to constantly find ways to optimize this working arrangement if they want to take better care of their workers and recover from pandemic losses.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa: Key to the Coronavirus Recovery?

– Prior to the pandemic, 4IR technologies had begun to take root in the region

– Significant challenges still exist, among them ICT infrastructure and education

– 4IR uptake could hold the key to Africa’s Covid-19 recovery

– International bodies, governments and businesses must work together to implement 4IR

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly accelerated the global spread of technologies associated with the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), among them artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), big data and blockchain. In sub-Saharan Africa, many now see 4IR as key to the region’s recovery.

Progress towards the 4IR – characterised by the fusion of technologies in the physical, digital and biological spheres – was already under way in sub-Saharan Africa prior to Covid-19. In Kenya and parts of West Africa, for instance, blockchain was used to verify property records, while Ghana-based companies Farmerline and Agrocenta used mobile and web technology to support farmers.

Elsewhere, in 2016 Rwanda became the first country to incorporate drones into its health care system, using them to deliver blood to remote regions.

South Africa is another regional leader. October 2019 saw the inauguration of the South African affiliate of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the 4IR Network, while in January last year President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the creation of a Presidential Commission on the 4IR, bringing together start-ups, researchers, trade unionists and cybersecurity specialists, among others.

In an article published by US research group the Brookings Institution at the same time, Ramaphosa argued that Africa had to leverage the 4IR in order to industrialise, pursue inclusive growth and attract investment.

He also expressed his ambition that, thanks to 4IR, by 2030 South Africa would be “an economy that uses technological innovation to revolutionise manufacturing and industrial processes and energy provision and distribution.”

“We want to demonstrate how science, technology and innovation have been used to enhance our food and water security and to build smart human settlements,” he added, highlighting some of the benefits that the 4IR could bring to the continent.

Strengths and weaknesses

Various factors stand the sub-Saharan region in good stead to take advantage of 4IR technologies.

For example, in recent times the region has seen a massive expansion of mobile technology, with consumers leapfrogging traditional development channels straight to digital services, particularly with regard to banking.

Africa also boasts disproportionately high numbers of young people, a demographic dividend which is already bearing fruit in terms of the 4IR.

More than 400 tech hubs have sprung up across the continent, largely thanks to the efforts of young people, with three key centres – Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; and Cape Town, South Africa – achieving global recognition.

Further to this, a report published at the end of 2019 by the African Development Bank (AfDB) noted that IoT had expanded considerably in Africa, while there had been strong investment growth in technology-led areas. The report found this unsurprising, given the transformative impacts that such technologies can have in sectors as varied as agriculture, manufacturing, health care and governance.

But the report also highlighted a range of challenges, among them ICT infrastructure gaps and the fact that the start-up ecosystem was under-capitalised.

Education is also widely identified as a key hurdle, both in the sense that education systems in the region are often inadequate, with limited numbers of people attending higher education, and in the sense that there is a mismatch of skills, with many people not given the right training to take advantage of 4IR.

While progress has been made, many challenges remain. Released earlier this year, UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021 found that Africa as a whole was the world’s least prepared region to take advantage of 4IR technologies.

South Africa is the continent’s most prepared country, but it ranks far below fellow BRICS nations Brazil, Russia, India and China. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Gambia and Sudan number among the continent’s least prepared.

4IR and Covid-19 recovery

While the onset of the coronavirus pandemic stalled progress in many industries across the sub-Saharan region, it also provided a major fillip to a range of technologies, as OBG has extensively detailed.

For example, Covid-19 triggered an e-commerce boom in sub-Saharan Africa, and it is anticipated that growth in this field will be sustained moving forward: according to a report launched by Google and the International Finance Corporation at the end of last year, 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.

Meanwhile, international bodies have prompted African countries to develop 4IR technologies.

For example, in June last year it was announced that the continent was set to receive a total of $50bn in support from the World Bank. The bank encouraged Africa to invest in digital technology through the introduction of new digital platforms, the installation of digital infrastructure, the development of digital skills and the establishment of an enabling regulatory environment.

A belief in the importance of the 4IR remains prominent among global organisations.

Cristina Duarte, special advisor on Africa to the UN secretary-general, wrote in March this year that, “to address the myriad challenges facing Africa in the areas of food security, education, health and energy, as well as bridge the digital divide, it is essential for African policy makers to harness innovation and the potential brought by digital technologies. This will be crucial for the continent’s recovery from the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

Ongoing 4IR initiatives

With the benefits of such developments abundantly clear, the question is: what is being done to ensure that 4IR technologies are used to help sub-Saharan Africa overcome its Covid-19 economic slump?

Various types of international bodies are playing a part. For example, the World Economic Forum’s Africa Growth Platform – launched in Cape Town at the end of 2019 – brings together governments, investors and entrepreneurs to create new employment opportunities and support Africa’s digital transformation.

Development banks are also key players. The AfDB, for example, runs the “Coding for Employment” scheme as part of its Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy. The programme provides equipment and training to give young people the soft and interpersonal skills required in many 4IR sectors.

In addition, the AfDB’s investments in agriculture are expected to quadruple to about $2.4bn by 2024. Much of the funds will go towards the transformation of food systems, with 4IR technologies to play a major part in this.

Elsewhere, the recently ratified African Continental Free Trade Area is an example of national governments taking proactive steps to push forward development across the continent.

Indeed, increased collaboration between the private and public sectors, as well as between national and international bodies, will be key to the growth and successful management of 4IR going forward. In short, if Africa can begin to close infrastructure and education gaps, it will be able to continue leveraging 4IR, both as a driver for recovery and as the foundation for a successful and inclusive future.

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.