Private Sector Urged to “Own and Drive” Africa’s Continental Trade Agreement

The private sector is recognized as an indispensable stakeholder in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), especially given its ability to catalyze sustainable economic development and job creation.

“Africa’s private sector accounts for 80 percent of total production, two-thirds of investment, and three-quarters of credit, and employs 90 percent of the working-age population,” said Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration and Trade at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Speaking during the opening of a three-day Africa Prosperity Dialogues on 26 January in Ghana, Mr Karingi called on captains of trade and industry to “own and drive the implementation of the AfCFTA by supporting their governments but also by holding them to account.”

ECA estimates that by 2045 intra-African, trade in agri-food, industry, and services sectors will increase by nearly 35% compared to a situation without the AfCFTA. But governments must implement the Agreement “fully and effectively” for such impressive projections to come true, and the private sector must also seize the opportunities of a large single market created by the AfCFTA.

The role of the private sector was also echoed by the chairperson of the African Prosperity Network, Gabby Otchere-Darko, who stated “we (the private sector) should make the fulfillment of the promises of the AfCTA  “our agenda.”

The event was officially opened by Ghana’s Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, who pointed out that “we have everything we need to transform Africa into a global powerhouse of the future,” adding  “the AfCFTA has set the stage for Africa’s industrialization.”

UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa, said “it is through the AfCTA that we will industrialize” and create rather than “export African jobs” 

“An Africa that produces its people’s needs is not just the Africa we want, it is the Africa we need,” Ms Eziakonwa said.

Mr Karingin noted, however, that the African private sector of which 90 percent are small and medium enterprises face challenges in conducting cross-border trade due to non-tariff barriers such as complex customs procedures, lack of access to finance, high costs of transportation and logistics, and lack of access to information, among others.

He cited inadequate infrastructure connectivity, rudimentary productive capacity, and risky or expensive payment systems as some of the barriers to trade, adding “the cost of doing business across African borders remains high, leading to the regrettable situation where African products are uncompetitive in African markets. “

Africa’s weak productive capacity and consequent excessive reliance on imports for essential products expose the continent to external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

“When Covid struck, African countries were confronted with a lack of access to basic medical supplies because Africa imports over 90 percent of its supplies. When the Russia-Ukraine crisis dawned, several African countries faced a crisis of food security because wheat and corn exports from Russia and Ukraine were suspended,” Mr. Karingi said.

The AfCFTA is expected to integrate and consolidate Africa into a single USD 2.7 trillion market by eliminating many of the barriers to trade present across the Continent. It provides the platform for Africa to diversify its economy and achieve resilience to natural and manmade shocks, including climate change.

Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, posited that the ambition to integrate Africa dates back to the founding of the Organisation for African Unity (now the African Union). But the challenge now, he noted, is to “transform such ambition into action,” citing vaccine manufacturing in some African countries as one of the ways in which the continent is moving from ambition to action under the AfCFTA.

The maiden Africa Prosperity Dialogues is organized by the Africa Prosperity Network in collaboration with the ECA, the AfCFTA Secretariat, and the Government of Ghana

Mr Karingi reassured participants that “ECA has been there from the beginning; ECA will be there to the end. Africa is ready to turn the promises of the AfCFTA to reality, and ECA will be there all the way.”

Relativity Partners with Deloitte and Control Risks to Launch RelativityOne in South Africa

Expansion of RelativityOne helps companies abide by South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act and The Cybercrimes Act

Relativity, a global legal and compliance technology company, announced that its secure, end-to-end SaaS product RelativityOne is now available in South AfricaDeloitte and Control Risks partnered with Relativity on the expansion to the region, which is a legal hub within the African continent, and will help provide scale, reliability and accessibility within the region to current and future customers.

South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) came into effect in 2021, sparking a growth in the country’s maturity around personal data protection, cyber breach response and how cross-border-data is handled. The country’s Cybercrimes Act, which is directly linked to POPIA, mandates organizations to require access to information from their employees and customer devices to contextualize matters under investigation for cybercrimes. As this includes personal information, it is critical for companies to adhere to POPIA to ensure that there are no legal repercussions.

“We are excited to partner with Deloitte and Control Risks on our endeavor to expand accessibility to RelativityOne worldwide. RelativityOne is available in South Africa at the perfect time as the platform can help customers adhere to the latest data policies and laws in the region,” said Steve Couling, Managing Director and Vice President of Sales, EMEA at Relativity. “Now more than ever before, there is more pressure for companies to keep their data within South Africa and to respond quickly to cyber breaches that may involve cross-border disclosures. RelativityOne allows Deloitte and Control Risks the speed and advanced tools to help their clients comply with such matters.”

Many of Deloitte’s and Control Risks’ global clientele already utilize RelativityOne and this expansion to South Africa demonstrates how the evolution and maturation of data privacy laws and data residency requirements generates a demand for greater availability. This move is a facet of a broader strategy to create global, scalable solutions in a secure and extensible cloud platform. With data continuing to grow exponentially, Relativity fills the gap by providing these firms with cutting edge technology like RelativityOne.

“We are excited to extend our global partnership with Relativity to South Africa,” said Dr. Antonio Pooe, Deloitte Africa Forensic Leader. “Through this alliance, Deloitte Africa Forensic now runs a hybrid Relativity environment that addresses myriad technical and legal requirements for our local and global clients.” 

“We are extremely proud to be first among Relativity Gold Partners to launch RelativityOne in South Africa,” said Joyce Nkini-Iwisi, Principal at Control Risks. “Both here and across the world, our clients are grappling with the implications of today’s high data volumes for complex, cross-border matters. Being able to offer world-class technology that supports data collection, processing, hosting and review within our own jurisdiction – without the international price tag – is a game changer. Since 2017, Control Risks South Africa has had on-premise Relativity with client data hosted in country. The launch of RelativityOne in South Africa will help us to serve clients better through cutting-edge technology that helps them manage the review of today’s huge data volumes.”

As RelativityOne Gold Partners, both Deloitte and Control Risks are dedicated to bringing a secure, reliable and extensible cloud platform to their clients around the world. The expansion to South Africa comes on the heels of strong regional demand for a cloud-based e-discovery platform. This expansion also provides more opportunities for Deloitte’s and Control Risks’ well-versed teams to offer an even better experience for their customers in the cloud.

RelativityOne is now available in 17 geographies. Earlier in 2022, RelativityOne expanded to France, India and Japan.

Masdar to Develop 5 GW of Renewable Energy Projects to Advance Africa’s Clean Energy Objectives

  • UAE’s global clean energy powerhouse signs deals for projects with a combined generation capacity of 5 GW across Angola, Uganda, and Zambia
  • Agreements signed under umbrella of Etihad 7 – a global development fund launched by the UAE to provide 100 million people across African continent with clean electricity by 2035

Masdar has demonstrated its commitment to helping African nations in their clean energy transition by signing agreements at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2023 with three countries – Angola, Uganda and Zambia – to develop renewable energy projects with a combined capacity of up to 5 gigawatts (GW).

The agreements were signed under the umbrella of the Etihad 7 initiative, a UAE-led initiative that aims to raise public- and private-sector funds to invest in the development of Africa’s renewable energy sector. Etihad 7 was launched at ADSW 2022 by HE Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State in the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) with the aim of achieving 20 GW capacity to supply 100 million people across the continent with clean electricity by 2035.

HE Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State in the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), said, “The UAE and African nations share a firm belief in the tremendous potential that clean energy offers Africa to unlock economic and climate action progress. That is why the UAE launched Etihad 7 last year at ADSW, a program dedicated to accelerating universal access to clean energy across Africa by supplying clean energy to 100 million people by 2035. The signings made this week at ADSW 2023 demonstrate the great traction that we have gained and the milestones that we have achieved together over the past year.”

HE Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, COP28 President Designate, and Chairman of Masdar, said: “The UAE is committed to advancing sustainable development in the Global South – and especially in our brotherly nations in Africa. These landmark agreements, which aim to deliver up to 5 GW of energy to Angola, Uganda, and Zambia, follow last year’s signing of a 2 GW agreement for renewable energy projects in Tanzania. These further agreements will be transformative to local communities and will help African nations to drive economic growth for their people while still meeting net-zero objectives.”

The agreements signed under the Etihad 7 umbrella at ADSW 2023 are:

  • An agreement with Angola’s Ministry of Energy and Water for the development of renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 2 GW. 
  • An agreement with Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development for the development of greenfield renewable projects with a total installed capacity of 1 GW.
  • An agreement with Zambia’s Ministry of Energy, and Zambian national utility ZESCO Limited for the joint development of develop solar, wind, and hydroelectricity projects with a total capacity of 2 GW.

HE Joao Baptista Borges, Minister of Energy and Water, Republic of Angola, said, “Today with the new up to 2GW agreement between the Government of Angola and Masdar another step towards a clean and affordable energy transition has been achieved. The project will improve production capacity, creation of jobs and the improvement of access to electricity by the Angolan people. We look forward to tightening the ties between our two countries toward development and partnership.

HE Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu, Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Republic of Uganda, said, “The Government of Uganda is delighted about the partnership with Masdar that will enable the addition of 1 GW of renewable energy to Uganda’s generation capacity. This will go a long way to contributing to the attainment of our universal access goals and our energy transition goals. We look forward to developing this project within the agreed timeframe.”

Eng, Victor Benjamin Mapani, ZESCO Managing Director, said: “The historic signing between Masdar and ZESCO is a milestone on an agreement that will see the two parties develop solar energy generation projects to a total capacity of 2 gigawatts in a phased approach over the next 10 years. ZESCO, along with Zambia overall, views the development of clean energy that is complementary to hydropower as a matter of urgency for energy security. We are reassured that we have found the right partner with Masdar and can say we are well positioned to deliver value of mutual benefit through this partnership.”

Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer, Masdar, said, “As part of Masdar’s new shareholding structure launched in December, we have a goal of delivering 100 GW of clean energy around the world by 2030. With Africa’s massive projected development and growth and low current clean energy penetration levels, we see enormous potential for the renewable energy sector across the continent. The agreements we have signed at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week will support these nations’ clean energy goals and help to drive sustainable economic development for all four countries.”

Last August, Masdar also signed an agreement with TANESCO, the sole provider of electricity in Tanzania, to develop renewable energy projects with a total capacity of up to 2 GW, also under the umbrella of the Etihad 7 program. The two parties are in the process of finalizing the establishment of a joint venture company to advance this strategic collaboration.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), less than half of the Sub-Saharan African population has access to electricity. Africa also generates just 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The continent has a theoretical potential capacity of approximately 850 terawatts (TW) of solar and wind, according to a report produced last year produced by Masdar and Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week with analytical support provided by McKinsey & Company.

Masdar has already established a considerable presence in Africa, having formed its Infinity Power Holding joint venture with Egypt’s Infinity to target opportunities on the continent. In November, Masdar, Infinity Power and Hassan Allam Utilities signed an agreement with the Government of Egypt to develop a 10 GW onshore wind project – one of the largest wind farms in the world. The three companies are also cooperating on the development of green hydrogen projects in Egypt, targeting a combined electrolyzer capacity of 4 GW by 2030, and an output of up to 480,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year. Masdar also has projects in Mauritania, Morocco, and the Seychelles.

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Nutrigums Expands Through the Middle East With Seven-Figure Saudi Deal

Worldwide expansion plans for fast-growing UK functional gummy brand Nutrigums have taken yet another step forward, with its products due to go on sale across, three more Middle Eastern markets.

Most notably, the company has announced, a multi million-pound deal in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to take its popular range of gummy vitamins to a new overseas market. In addition, two further deals have been secured in the region with exclusive distributors based in Kuwait and Palestine.

Terjinder Singh Purewal, the firm’s head of international, said: “Nutrigums is going through an exciting period of its growth. As we continue to see an increased demand for our products. Therefore, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a very key market, especially in terms of its population and consumption. There is growing demand for high quality vitamins and supplements and based on our research we are confident that Nutrigums’ products that are tailored for women and children shall prove to be extremely popular.”

The company’s distributor, GulfBird Trading Group based in Riyadh, will launch the products in key pharmacy chains across the Kingdom, which has a population of 36 million. The Kingdom will be the first international market for the firm’s latest product – the Kids Multivitamin gummy.

In Kuwait, the partner is the leading health and wellness retailer – Genoa General Trading Co -and has more than 30 years trading experience and the country. The entire Nutrigums range will be sold across the distributor’s own retail chain, Results Vitamin Shop, as well as Holland & Barrett franchise stores that the company operates throughout Kuwait City. 

Barrak Al Fares, CEO of Genoa General Trading Co, said: “We believe Nutrigums has an excellent range of gummy products, and we are very optimistic for this partnership. We are looking forward to launching the products throughout stores in the coming months.”

Similarly, the gap in Palestine’s market for gummies will also now be filled by Nutrigums. Joining forces with leading wellness retailer ChemiMart Co. The brand will launch with around five key SKUs taking to the shelves across pharmacies.  Launches across both markets are scheduled for the end of Q1 2023.

Yousef Saad, CEO of ChemiMart Co, said: “We are very excited about this opportunity, and we are sure that Nutrigums will be a great success here in Palestine.”

Fabian Whittingham, co-founder of Nutrigums said “These three key partnerships in the Middle East come just after our seven-figure deal in Pakistan, showing just how fast expanding this part of the Nutrigums business has been – we are also aiming to sign exclusive distribution partners in 10 countries over the next six months. We also have several exciting products on the horizon within trending categories such as gut health, stress and anxiety, sleep and skincare. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what 2023 holds for us all.”

Nutrigums has rapidly expanded its popular functional plant-based vitamin gummy ranges having sold hundreds of thousands of units through some of the UK’s largest retailers, including Amazon, Lloyds Pharmacy, Morrisons and Superdrug.    

The global company uses fruit pectin as a gelling agent instead of animal-derived gelatine base, as analysts predict the plant-based food market is set to grow by 11.9% by 2027.

Invest in African Energy: African Energy Chamber to Host New Year Reception in London on 26 January

Exploring new opportunities for financing energy projects in Africa, the African Energy Chamber will host a special New Year reception at the Waldorf Hilton in London, which will support European investment opportunities across the continent and drive economic growth and socioeconomic development

The voice of the African energy sector, the African Energy Chamber (AEC), will host a special New Year reception event at the Waldorf Hilton luxury hotel in London on 26 January where participants will be encouraged to explore new avenues in financing energy projects on the African continent. During the event, investors and African energy leaders will be given a platform to support energy initiatives that drive economic growth and human development across the continent.

Upholding a results-focused business environment for international companies and investors operating in Africa’s dynamic energy industry, the AEC’s Invest in African Energy Reception Event will focus on developing an oil and natural gas market in Africa to serve as the foundation of the continent’s energy industry and transition, facilitating a platform for strong domestic trading and investment while reducing barriers of entry into the sector and thus ushering a wave of opportunities for new players to participate in one of the world’s most burgeoning investment destinations.

“African nations must focus on developing a natural gas market to serve as the foundation of the continent’s energy industry,” states NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the AEC, adding, “Africa will be unable to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals unless we tap into all resources available, which is why we must encourage and facilitate international investment, specifically from Europe, in oil and gas in order to fairly and economically participate in the global energy transition and drive socioeconomic development throughout the continent.”

Advancing a bold agenda for the African energy sector, the AEC strives to unite governments and credible businesses to spur growth under international standard business practices and position Africa to capitalize on energy investment through strategic partnerships and trade.

With the African continent focusing its efforts on lifting 600 million people who currently lack access to reliable and affordable electricity and 900 million who lack access to affordable clean cooking solutions out of energy poverty, the Invest in African Energy Reception will provide an opportunity for investors to explore various initiatives, which include gas-to-power and renewable energy developments, as well as oil and natural gas exploration and production prospects.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, demand for gas in Europe is expected to rapidly increase in the coming years, thus positioning Africa to take advantage of its immense untapped resources and become a major supplier of oil and natural gas and ensure global energy security while tackling the challenges and opportunities across the continent.

Set to serve as the first of many of the AEC’s Energy Receptions globally business leaders, investors, and government representatives will unite in London – a city that boasts many Africa-focused investment firms – in good faith to advance mutually beneficial trade and investment partnerships under the common goal of advancing African governance while improving energy access, human rights, food and water security, and education on the continent.

Additionally, the Reception event comes on the heels of a partnership between pan-African trade finance institution, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) which  officially partnered with the continent’s premier energy event, African Energy Week (AEW) in 2022  in a move expected to reawaken a new era of deal-signing, local content and multi-sector expansion. Under a mandate to make energy poverty history in Africa by 2030, the partnership will see both AEW and Afreximbank uniting the power of investment and value creation, driving stronger energy developments in 2022 and beyond. The partnership also aims to further attract investment from the UK to facilitate capacity building, the advocacy and financing of African companies, and the development of infrastructure in the continent’s energy sector.

The Invest in African Energy Reception Event will serve as the premier platform for international dignitaries, executives, and companies to participate and operate in Africa’s energy sector, where access to affordable and reliable energy will be fundamental towards development, while simultaneously showcasing the pressing need to balance all forms of energy development to ensure a just energy transition and mitigate the global energy crisis.

Taking place on 26 January 2023, the Invest in African Energy Reception Event will be held at the Waldorf Hilton luxury hotel in Aldwych, London. Participation is open to all guests and RSVP is essential. RSVP to [email protected].

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Energy Week (AEW).

Almost 60% of Saudi Arabia Consumers Choose Only Digital Money-transfer Platforms, But Choice Still Matters

  • Consumers expect to send or receive more money in the next 12 months, as senders struggle with cost-of-living dichotomy 
  • Women prioritize why they send cross-border money transfers differently to men

Consumers in Saudi Arabia predominantly view digital money transfers as the preferred way to send money now and in the future, according to research commissioned by Western Union. Yet many still want the power to choose between online and retail (in-person) experiences – depending on their convenience and needs. Exclusive insights show that today almost 60% of consumers who send money abroad prefer digital money-transfer services, compared to 22% who want choice, and 17% who send cash through retail channels only.

The study, which surveyed over 1,500 money-sending and receiving citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia, asked how, when and why they move money internationally. The results bolster Western Union’s recently announced ‘Evolve 2025’ (E25) strategy combining high-value, accessible digital and retail financial services. The research also aligns to Western Union data, which has demonstrated strong customer preferences to move money digitally. In the first three quarters of 2022, the Company experienced double-digit year-on-year growth in the volume of digital transactions from Saudi Arabia.

When asked about how international money transfers should be offered in the future, consumer opinion among senders is mixed. More (47%) still believe that the transfer experience should be digital from end-to-end, while 44% prefer choice and 9% would still opt for cash only. In reverse, 57% of consumers who receive transfers prefer a choice, while 24% favour going completely digital. Nineteen percent would still want to collect their funds in cash only.

 “Since launching their ambitious National Transformation Program – Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in achieving digital transformation,” said Jean Claude Farah, President of Middle East and Asia Pacific at Western Union. “The country’s visionary leaders have been steadfast in developing the necessary infrastructure to support this evolution. As a result, today it ranks seventh for its digital competitiveness among the G20, while internet penetration across the country sits at an impressive 98%. The study outcomes demonstrate that citizens and residents have been very much part of this journey – largely opting for online options over in-person experiences, as they benefit from the country’s increasingly advanced digital framework.”

Receivers hold strong influence over frequency and flow of money

The research also shows that receivers of funds strongly influence how much and how often their senders transfer money. Overall, 34% of senders say their families or loved ones’ financial situation drives decisions on the frequency and flow of money. Sixty eight percent also say their receiver influences the company they choose to send money through, and 74% state their transfer method of choice (digital, retail or a mix) is dependent on how their receiver can collect the money.

Looking at the broader macro-economic climate, a significant number of consumers expect to send (74%) or receive (66%) more money in the next 12 months. However, senders also struggle with a cost-of-living dichotomy: 73% of senders say that because cost-of-living has increased in their receiving country, they now need to send more money; yet 67% state that higher cost-of-living in their current country of residence, means they are not able to transfer as much as they did previously.

“Providing a crucial link between senders and receivers helps consumers build a bridge to financial stability and opportunity,” Farah said. “As we adapt to higher costs-of-living, supporting consumers as they move up the economic ladder becomes even more important. The public and private sectors have a collective role to play here. If we collaborate effectively, we will be able to offer even stronger financial opportunities and experiences that will ultimately help them better manage their financial lives.”

Women prioritize why they send cross-border money transfers differently to men

The study also shows that a greater number of women in Saudi Arabia send money transfers more often than once a month, compared to men. Nearly a quarter of the women surveyed (vs. 21% of men) say they move money multiple times within a month.

Paying for family support is the primary reason why men move money (55%). While this is of utmost importance to many women as well (42%), women also place stronger emphasis on reasons such as paying for financial commitments, future savings and education payments.  

“Globally, women comprise slightly less than half of today’s expatriate workers,” Farah concluded. “They are more empowered than ever before, as they move internationally and shape global economies. In line with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is focused on attracting the finest local and international minds to bolster economic development. Their ambition to increase women’s participation in the workforce to 30% by 2030 means that ensuring greater access to financial services is imperative, particularly with the rise of new technologies.”

Sugarbird®: Innovative Spirits from the Heart of South Africa

Diversity and Richness

A few months after the triumphant launch of Sugarbird® Juniper Unfiltered, South Africa’s largest retailer suggested that Sugarbird® develop a pink gin. The result was the introduction of Pino & Pelargonium gin, which became a kind of dedication to the country’s botanical exports. Its floral and citrus notes of aroma and flavour were derived from three species of pelargonium, (known the world over as geranium) and its wonderful colour, the result of using the skins of the Pinotage grape variety cultivated in South Africa in 1925.

Sugarbird®‘s spirit of innovation and bold experimentation has always been evident in the company’s extraordinary decisions and strategies. The brand has developed a wide range of gift products distributed to major liquor retailers in South Africa. In an effort to provide customers with choice, Sugarbird® partnered with other gin manufacturers to introduce a series of multi-brand packs of gin mini bottles, “Sugarbird® and Friends.” Seeing competitors from the same industry enter into such cooperation was a world first, and the resultant success among customers showed the high efficiency of such a concept. The launch of “Sugarbird® and Friends” Brandy Box followed and was the vehicle through which Sugarbird® launched Sugarbird XO brandy, and Sugarbird®‘s entry into the brandy category, in which South Africa is a world leader. The “Sugarbird® and Friends” range has just launched a Multi Spirit 24, a gift collection of 24 mini-bottles of spirits that include fynbos gin, potstill brandy, rum, sipping vodka, local agave, and a unique African whisky.

Premium gin and more

True to its innovative roots, Sugarbird® continues to delight connoisseurs with new gin varietals from the Cape Floral Kingdom and fynbos’s seemingly endless flavour palette. Recently the brand added a 4th varietal to the signature gin range, Sugarbird® Honeybush and Moringa. A floral-driven gin, infused with sweet wild cape honeybush and delicately balanced by the tart herbaceous characteristics of African moringa from Namibia.

Having started as a producer of premium yet affordable, authentic South African gin, Sugarbird® demonstrates an uncanny ability to evolve in its offerings, and 2021 saw the brand proudly launch Sugarbird® XO Brandy and Sugarbird® Cape Fynbos Rum.

The former is created using a pure potstill liquid matured in oak barrels for 14 years and then trickle-filtered through honeybush and other fynbos botanicals. Sugarbird® Cape Fynbos Rum is a 4-year-aged Jamaican style dark rum, trickle filtered through fynbos botanicals, including protea flowers for their nectar (sought out by the Sugarbird), – a unique craft rum that proudly captures the true spirit of South Africa.

“We like to believe that our unique products capture for others some of the true spirit of South Africa in all its richness – and specifically showcase the stunning flavour and taste diversity of fynbos and the Cape Floral Kingdom,” says Sugarbird co-founder, Matt Bresler.

RAKEZ Supports Construction Industry Investors Set Up and Expand in the UAE

Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) takes part in the Big 5 to help investors in the construction industry set up and expand their operations in the UAE. The economic zone’s participation underlines its commitment to the industry and reflects a world of opportunities for construction investors in the business haven of Ras Al Khaimah and the wider UAE.

Group CEO of RAKEZ, Ramy Jallad, said, “The construction industry in the UAE is projected to reach a value of more than USD 133 billion by 2027, according to the Global Data Report, which means that the prospects for companies and investors in the country’s construction supply chain are simply vast. And we aim to be at the forefront of this plan, helping stakeholders grow and expand into global markets.”

“RAKEZ has an ideal business ecosystem for investors in the diverse sectors of the construction industry. With us, an investor’s journey doesn’t end with company formation. Our support is available every step of the way, from liaising with government entities for securing relevant approvals at the initial stage to helping them connect with financial solution providers and the right suppliers within the industry on their onward journey,” he added.

The economic zone is already a fertile ground for hundreds of construction companies that chose RAKEZ as their base for growth. Steel fabrication and construction expert Fabcon Industrial Services is a prime example of a company that has benefitted from the RAKEZ business ecosystem. The firm’s General Manager, Binu Jacob, said, “We have consistently grown over the past 15 years, adding facilities and bringing projects from across the globe, thanks to RAKEZ for providing excellent support in terms of infrastructure and government interfaces, leaving us free to focus on the business.”

Along with Fabcon, many other companies are eager to benefit from the current and predicted growth in the industry. Ahmed Al Ghalayini, Project Manager, Rad Asphalt (a branch of Rad International Road Construction), said, “The UAE construction market is projected to grow more than 3% between 2023 and 2026, providing the contractors in the field the opportunity to thrive. The good news for companies who wish to utilise ecosystem business models, but otherwise lack the structures and maturity, is that there is RAKEZ, a growing body of leading companies, and an increasingly large workforce that understands the practical elements of building and operating an effective ecosystem function.”

Similarly, Fala Group Vice Chairman, Hani Ihsan Kurbaj added, “We set up Fala Asphalt Industry with RAKEZ in 2012 and our organisation has undergone a great deal of change since then. We got governmental infrastructural projects, hired more employees, welcomed diversity and gender balance in the workplace, and diversified our investments in the UAE and overseas. In all this, RAKEZ has been our supportive strategic partner understanding our needs and always working hand-in-hand with us. We are optimistic that if we continue like this, we can double our efforts to expand in the years to come.”

RAKEZ is one of the leaders spearheading growth in the construction sector actively supporting investors in their journeys. At the Big 5 International Building & Construction Show this year, the economic zone is extending its expertise and services for new as well as established companies that wish to expand their reach globally.

Africa Must Industrialize: 10 Key Points That African Leaders Committed to at the Just Concluded Summit On Industrialization and Economic Diversification

With increasingly growing concern over the slow progress in the implementation of the Industrial Development Decades for Africa (IDDA) I, II and III; the Strategy for the Implementation of the Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial development of Africa (AIDA); and other continental strategies and programmes relevant to industrialization, structural transformation and development towards the achievement of the African Union Agenda 2063, African leaders have committed to far-reaching and firm decisions to accelerate industrialization, economic diversification and trade on the continent, with full ownership by the citizens.

The leaders reaffirmed their determination to ensure that Africa’s industrialization and economic diversification is financed in a predictable manner and with the urgency of identifying and addressing the impediments to productivity and growth through infrastructural development, energy, access to finance, digitalization, innovation, and skills development to achieving economic diversification.

Here is a highlight of the key points of commitment at the just concluded African Union Extraordinary Summit on Industrialization and Economic Diversification, and the Extraordinary session on the African Continental Free Trade Area convened in Niamey, Niger on the 25th of November 2022.

  1. To accelerate a commodity-based industrialization as an engine of growth, productive jobs and economic diversification through a regional value chains on the continent’s natural resources endowments, with priorities on health and pharmaceutical, automotive, minerals beneficiation, food and nutrition and apparels of cotton industries in order to reduce the continent’s external dependency. In this regard, the African Union Commission will now draft a report with clear recommendations on strengthening regional value chains.
  2. To increase investments in infrastructure and energy with the support of financial institutions and partners to reduce production costs, and boost the competitiveness of the African economies.
  3. To enhance domestic resource mobilization to ensure sustainable financing on Africa’s industrialization, and allocate a minimum of 5 – 10% of the national budget dedicated to the industrial development.
  4. To develop sustainable Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks as well as work with and support existing ones in member states as a means to overcoming existing industrial infrastructure constraints, and become hubs for regional value chain integration.
  5. To ensure inclusive and sustainable industrialization, the Heads of State and Government and other stakeholders will have regular dialogue with the private sector in order to scale up high level engagement on industrialization. The African Union Commission in collaboration with other institutions will strengthen support to Member States in creating an enabling business environment for private sector to thrive.
  6. The leaders endorsed the African Union Small and Medium Strategy. Relatedly, the African Union Commission is tasked with establishing and operationalising the Africa Enterprise Network. The African Union Commission will also work with the African Regional Standards Organization (ARSO) and the Pan-African Quality Infrastructure (PAQI) to expedite the finalization of the Made in Africa Standards and Guidelines.
  7. The leaders have committed to reserve a minimum of 10% of public procurement to local enterprises, to strengthen the private sector development and industrialization;
  8. At the Summit, the leaders agreed to establish, at the national levels, programmes for industrial linkages between the educational system and the labour market, aimed at promoting competitiveness of the private sector through development of soft and hard skills necessary for industrialization in particular in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); technical and vocational education and Ttaining (TVET), and robotics and artificial Intelligence. Relatedly, the African Union Commission and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) will prepare a feasibility study on the establishment of an African Manufacturing Institute to support Member States and the private sector in the development of modern manufacturing skills and fostering innovation in the manufacturing sector that will accompany the ongoing structural economic transformation in Africa.
  9. H.E Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic of Niger, was appointed the African Union Champion on Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization and Productive Transformation, to provide political leadership and awareness, and ensure a follow-up on the progress regarding the industrial development on the continent in order to achieve Africa’s transformation under Agenda 2063. The African Union Commission will set-up an Inter-Institutional Coordination Mechanism to provide technical assistance to the AU Champion.
  10. With prevailing exceptional circumstances that justify the extension of the TRIPS Agreement to cover therapeutics and diagnostics for a comprehensive response for COVID-19, and to diversify production, the Heads of State called on all WTO Members to support the extension of the TRIPS waiver to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics no later than 17 December 2022. Africa accounts for less than 5% of global production of all medical products, exposing the continent to vulnerabilities and fragility during pandemics.

Working with development partners, the African Union will also produce and disseminate amongst Member States, an annual Africa’s Industrial Development Report base on an African Industrial Development Index, and fast-track the establishment of the African Industrial Observatory.

The leaders called on the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat to support the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) under the Guided Trade Initiative in collaboration with the African Civil Aviation Commission, African airlines and other relevant stakeholders. Further, the Secretariat is expected to fast-track the implementation of a work programme related to the Annexes for Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) specifically in the areas of standards harmonization.

Global Tourism Leaders Told of Saudi Arabia’s Unparalleled Ambition to Become One of the Top 5 Tourism Destinations in the World

  • Kingdom’s growth strategy wins ringing endorsement from WTTC Chiefs on Day 1 of 22nd Annual Summit
  • Tourism from nature generates $600 bn, WTTC CEO Julia Simpson tells delegates
  • Saudi Ministry of Tourism signed MoUs with Oman, Indonesia and Barbados

The leaders of the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) have described Saudi Arabia’s ambition to become one of the top 5 destinations in the world in the next decade as “unparalleled” in the history of tourism and travel. 

Opening the 22nd edition of the Summit, Arnold Donald, Chair, WTTC & Vice Chair of the Board, Carnival Corporation, welcomed the nearly 3000 participants to what will be the biggest ever meeting of global tourism and travel industry leaders.

Praising the goals set by the Kingdom to welcome 100 million international and domestic travelers a year by 2030, Mr. Arnold said: “These are ambitions that are unparalleled in the history of our sector. Over the past three years it has been a great privilege to see the progress made here with our own eyes.”

Summit host, Saudi Arabia Minister of Tourism, HE Ahmed Al-Khateeb welcomed the leaders of the tourism world to Riyadh said: “We have the power to shape the sector, bridge cultures, and transform communities. We are fortunate to be in the position to effect change. We must not let this opportunity pass by us. Let us ensure that here in Riyadh, we really do deliver a better future for travel.”

WTTC CEO Julia Simpson focused on the vital importance of nature to the long-term prosperity and sustainability of the sector. She said: “The WTTC Positive Travel and Tourism Report shows tourism from nature generates over $600 bn which provides opportunities for some of the world’s poorest countries to protect biodiversity and their communities.”

In a day packed full of debate, dialogue and the sharing of innovative ideas from around the world, leaders of the global tourism industry participated in panel discussions and keynote speakers.

The Summit has attracted the leaders of the world’s biggest hotel groups and Christopher J Nassetta President & CEO, Hilton Worldwide, told the audience:  “We are in a new golden age of travel. Travel and Tourism is an unstoppable force for good. People want to see places they want to interact with people. My advice to everybody is to believe in the power of travel.” 

Former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon was in discussion about the sustainable future of travel. He declared: “Tourism has made a substantial contribution to humanity’s social and economic progress. Whether you belong to Saudi Arabia, China, United States or South Korea – there are no boundaries.

“We need to become global citizens. We have so many problems – health issues, political issues, environmental issues – but with global citizenship we can solve them. Let’s work as global citizens to make this world more sustainable, to transform this world and pass it on to the next generations in a better way than we found it.”

Speaker after speaker focused on a number of key developmental areas to ensure the successful future of tourism. Stephen Scherr, CEO, The Hertz Corporation explained:  “You need infrastructure in the various markets and countries. Whether it’s an airport that can handle the kind of traffic that you will have or in our business, you need to build infrastructure that is accommodating and inviting for the people you want to be traveling around.”

Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Indonesia H.E. Sandiaga says that when you consider Indonesia and Bali that means sustainable tourism and it means a change in mindset.  He said: “The new trend of tourism is more personalized, localized and customized, and smaller in size also means better revenue. This year we are creating three times more revenue from tourism than we had expected with only a quarter of previous numbers of foreign tourists arriving.”

Creating a truly local and unique welcome for visitors was also a powerful topic of debate as international destinations work to ensure they offer visitors a unique taste of local culture, customs and heritage.

Bahrain Minister of Tourism H.E. Fatima Al Sairafi, Minister of Tourism, said: “We have noticed in Bahrain that whenever we get tourists visiting our country, one of the main things that they leave with is the authenticity of the experience they have enjoyed. We have successfully incorporated that in our tourism experiences that we offer in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Those authentic experiences are delivered by Bahrainis.”

Hashil Al Mahrouqi, Chief Executive Officer, OMRAN added: “Today, everyone is talking about sustainability. Everyone is saying protect nature, everyone is saying protect this planet. But I think in Oman we have been prepared for it.  What we need to do now in Oman is capitalize on what we already have there and I think we are on the right track doing it.”

The Summit has also seen a number of major announcements and signing of MOUs on the sidelines of the main Summit debates.  These have seen Saudi Arabia sign MOUs with Oman, Indonesia and Barbados and Wizz Air appoint Arjaa Travel and Tourism Company as the exclusive agent for Wizz Air in Saudi Arabia. 

The Summit is the largest ever staged to date and has nearly 3000 participants taking part from 140 countries.  The enormous global interest in the Summit was shown by one million livestreams of sessions on the metaverse on the first day.

‘Sharjah Outlook Forum’ Inaugural Edition Kicks Off February 1

  • Forum brings together representatives of government and semi-governmental bodies and international experts
  • People’s quality of life is at the core of all policies
  • Event to explore key global experiences in changing work week system
  • Forum’s output and recommendations will be provided to decision- and policy-makers

The Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB) and the Department of Statistics and Community Development (DSCD) have announced the launching of the region’s first-of-its-kind ‘Sharjah Outlook Forum’.  The annual event will analyse, deliberate and evaluate specific developmental milestones, experiences, initiatives introduced in the emirate as well as the best practices adopted by its entities.

Each year, a specific central initiative will be discussed by a host of representatives of local and federal government entities, in addition to experts from different developmental sectors with international experiences to meet the needs of the emirate’s residents and the community at large.

The inaugural edition will kick-off on February 1, 2023, under the theme, ‘4X3 Indicators and Prospects’, and will discuss Sharjah’s pioneering 4-day work week mandate with a 3-day weekend, the world’s first-of-its-kind system in terms of its scope and impact. The new work week system offers public sector employees, including education and healthcare institutions as well as all government entities, a three day weekend. The four-day work week system had only been previously adopted on an experimental or trial basis in specific sectors and was not approved and adopted officially.

The announcement was made during meeting held today (Wednesday) at the Department of Statistics and Community Development headquarters in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Humaid Al Qasimi, Chairman of DSCD; Sheikh Sultan bin Abdullah bin Salem Al Qasimi, Director, DSCD; HE Tariq Saeed Allay, SGMB Director General, HE Alya Al Suwaidi, SGMB Director, to address the impact of the new work week system on the quality of life of residents and the productivity of human resources, in addition to reinforcing the emirate’s appeal for living, working and investment.

HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Humaid Al Qasimi, Chairman of the SCTDA, underscored that the forum translates the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, on the relationship between development and the human being who is described by His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah as the essence, purpose and maker of development. At the same time, the forum exemplifies the emirate’s keenness to engage all community members in ensuring the success of its developmental project, HE added, pointing out that people’s quality of life, social stability, creative and innovative abilities, and self-development capability are evaluation and assessment  tools for all policies and experiences.

“The Sharjah Outlook Forum will provide significant data to public and private entities dedicated to tracing the emirate’s development journey, particularly in light of the world’s first of its kind inclusive adoption of the four work week, given that it had a direct impact on local communities, business community, productivity, and continuation of offering services to the public. Although this experience is promising, it is essential to discuss it subjectively, transparently, and scientifically, in order for us to develop and build on our experiences and progress forward,” said HE.

Annual evaluation and assessment platform

For his part, HE Tariq saeed Allay, Director General of SGMB, said: “The form will be an important annual evaluation and assessment platform that convenes a host of decision-makers and high-ranking officials in public and semi-government sectors to discuss and deliberate a specific experience through exploring its results and impact as well as its development and amendment mechanism. The forum will also enable us to compare our experiences with those of other societies to maintain Sharjah’s position as an incubator of society, families and individuals alike, along with being a champion of culture and inclusive development.”

“Countries that experimented with the four work week system trials in some sectors were looking for mechanisms that strike a balance between the quality of life on the one hand, and improving productivity, reducing costs and resource consumption, and stimulating creative economy on the other hand. Since each experience has positive and negative aspects, the forum will host a number of experts and representatives of key global experiences to share the means through which they successfully bridged the gap and shortcoming of their experiences, particularly in terms of the projected impact on some sectors,” HE added.

Increase in productivity and prosperity

On the forum’s projected output and results, the Director General of SGMB remarked that the milestone developments the world has been seeing over the past two decades, including AI, digitisation, transformation into modern work and life styles, are time-effective and can increase production without compromising people’s daily lives and needs. He added that the expected output of the Sharjah Outlook Forum will comprise how to harness technology in ensuring successful experiences and supporting communities’ quest for more prosperity. It will assess the experiences of Sharjah and other cities utilising scientific methods and data to enable policy-makers take evidence-based decisions.

Hilton Looks Ahead and Identifies Key Travel Trends for 2023, As a Record Year of Travel Draws to a Close

New research shows that UAE travellers seek personalised experiences, health and wellness, and deeper connections to local communities and cultures in 2023

 If 2022 was the year of the changed traveler, 2023 is the year of the evolved traveller. Today, Hilton released its 2023 trends report, The 2023 Traveler: Emerging Trends that are Innovating the Travel Experience, A Report from Hilton, which reveals the latest consumer expectations following a year when travellers showed up in record numbers.

Based on a survey of 500 UAE residents commissioned by Hilton, the new report reveals the aspirations and needs of people taking trips next year. Overall, the survey shows that a large number of UAE respondents (74%) wish to travel more in 2023 than they did in 2022. Additionally, (32%) of people said their wish list of travel destinations has increased for next year.

The research uncovered four consistent themes for 2023 travel:

People will turn to travel for deeper, more engaging, human experiences and connections

Travel is a gateway to discovering different perspectives and rich traditions. The research found that UAE travellers will focus on travel in 2023 to create deeper, more engaging connections with family, friends, colleagues, customers, cultures and the planet. Nearly half (46%) of survey respondents want to learn about local culture while traveling, while 39% want access to locally-sourced products. In addition, strengthening connections with friends and/or family through travel was highlighted by 40% of those questioned.

From destination-focused culinary travel packages to impactful programs like Hilton’s Travel with Purpose, which helps guests positively impact the communities they visit, travellers are looking to create meaningful change through more immersive travel experiences. In fact, Hilton is witnessing signs of this growth through its reimagined Hilton Honors Experiences, which saw a 77% year-over-year increase in Hilton Honors Point redemption during the first nine months of 2022, allowing members to connect with their passions through new, exclusive artist and celebrity events.

People will recognize travel as an essential part of their wellness routine

Health and fitness emerges from the survey as a significant priority for UAE travellers in 2023 with 36% of people saying travel will be an important part of their wellness routine. Having access to unique spa treatments (33%) came out strongly, as did having access to fitness activities outside of the fitness centre of their hotel (34%). Regarding food and drink, almost half (48%) of people want healthier options while travelling.

Travelers will want to be taken care of more than ever

Next year, Hilton anticipates UAE travellers will have a renewed appreciation for experiencing moments where they feel special. 49% care about friendly and reliable service while travelling and 28% will expect travel and hospitality companies to accommodate their personal needs next year. Specifically, more than half (56%) are looking for personalized food and beverage options and 51% are looking for personalized experiences and activities.

Travellers from the UAE know the importance of wanting to feel valued for their loyalty. In fact, 35% of survey respondents indicate that loyalty perks—such as earning/redeeming points and loyalty benefits—will matter to them when traveling in 2023.

Travelers want frictionless travel innovations that are both technology- and human-led

Hilton’s research found that almost half (46%) of travelers will seek an easier overall travel experience in 2023 and 37% of respondents anticipate hotel technologies will be important to them for a seamless stay.

For a frictionless travel experience, Hilton’s Digital Key allows travelers to bypass the front desk and go straight to their rooms. Additionally, enhanced booking options like Confirmed Connecting Rooms by Hilton allows families and friends to reserve adjoining rooms when booking online.

The New Blueprint for Open Finance? – A Look Inside the New Saudi Open Banking Framework

Chris Michael, Co-Founder & CEO, Ozone API

It has been a genuine privilege for all of us at Ozone API to work with the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) to lead the development of its open banking standard over the last few months. We are also providing the enabling technology behind SAMA’s Open Banking Lab – the model bank and conformance suite – as well as working with a number of banks in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help them deliver their own open banking solutions.

This is much more than a compliance exercise. We are right at the forefront of helping banks in the Kingdom to unlock new business models and deliver innovative financial services. But much of this is only possible because of the ambitious approach taken by SAMA.

Starting with a BIG vision

Open banking and open finance are now happening all around the world. Implementation looks a bit different in each market, but where it’s being driven by central banks and regulators, it is usually with a defined outcome in mind. This can be to create more competition or to drive consumer data rights. But increasingly, it is being seen as a foundation to drive economic transformation.

There aren’t many (possibly any) countries with a more ambitious vision for transformation than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi 2030 vision is huge, from transforming society to the creation of uber-modern megacities. A big part of this vision is the creation of world-leading industry sectors, with financial services being a key focus. And at the heart of that agenda, you’ve guessed it: open finance, starting with open banking.

The Saudi ambition is growth, fuelled by a thriving financial services sector. With this in mind, SAMA’s whole approach has been designed to drive adoption and usage by ensuring there are clear incentives for all participants: end users, third parties building on top of open finance access and the banks and financial institutions themselves.

In other markets, we’ve seen initiatives done to the banks, not with the banks or even for the banks. This may sound nuanced, but it is huge and important.

BIG Ambitions demand different approaches

With a big vision defined, SAMA’s approach to delivering its Open Banking Framework had to be different from other initiatives around the world.

The founding team at Ozone API were privileged to have led the development of the UK open banking standard during their time at OBIE. So being chosen to lead the development of the open banking standard in the Kingdom was a huge honour and a great opportunity to continue the journey and create a new blueprint.

With a big vision, SAMA has taken a very progressive approach, building on learnings from other markets and going way beyond.

The starting point was to define key use cases that would drive the greatest demand and drive value for the different participants. That’s the end users, the third parties and, yep, the often overlooked banks.

Use cases are the right starting point, since this creates clear consensus, allowing everyone to understand what they’re building and why. The intention is not to limit the implementation to a few use cases, but to enable these key use cases so that the foundations are there for many more which can be enabled now or added in future phases.

Then, and only then, did work start on defining the standard, the business rules to enable these use cases.

Whilst it sounds simple, elsewhere we’ve seen regulations, rules and standards defined ahead of such user-centric thinking, creating artificial and unnecessary limitations to the detriment of uptake and usage. And often the incentives across the ecosystem have been an afterthought, significantly impacting the motivations of banks to see it as anything more than a compliance project.

The Standard itself, what’s different?

On November 2nd 2022, SAMA published the first release of its Open Banking Framework to industry participants. This first phase includes business rules and the technical standard needed to meet a number of defined account information use cases, with future phases coming next year to include payments. But already, there are some significant improvements versus other standards.

Whilst there are many detailed enhancements and improvements, the game-changing differences can be summarised as follows:

The standard has been designed to be more efficient for banks and third parties to interpret and implement, ultimately creating a more effective ecosystem. Key to this is the inclusion of “event streaming” or webhooks. Historically, open banking APIs have been designed to replicate the behaviours seen with screen scraping, i.e. the third party goes and ‘pulls’ data from the bank at regular intervals to see what has changed. In the new KSA standard, event streaming informs third parties when things change in real time.

The standard has also been hugely simplified to ensure clear separation between business rules (i.e. detailed regulations) and the technical specifications themselves. This has led to a dramatic simplification of the documentation with a much clearer articulation of detailed implementation requirements.

Arguably the most exciting change is the creation of a new (to open banking) concept called “service requests”. This will be truly game-changing for banks and financial institutions.

The concept is simple: expose an API that allows almost any service to be initiated. In this first phase, we have enabled the creation of ‘letters of guarantee’, allowing banks to embed the setup of such products in a third party experience. This enables banks to ensure their products are in front of customers at the right time, in the right place and in the right context. Crucially, it provides the tools to have a direct impact on the metrics that matter, such as the number of customers, number of products sold, revenue per customer and so on.

What happens next?

Now that the framework and standard for phase 1 have been published, the market moves to focus on implementation.

Then, next year, Phase 2 will see the inclusion of payment initiation.

The implications of our work go much further than the Kingdom. We’ve seen a new blueprint emerge and other markets should take note and build on this approach.

We’re also excited to be working with banks around the world to help them unlock true value from open APIs, bringing a full suite of information, payment and service request capabilities to reinvent the role that open APIs will play in the new open banking business model. This means APIs that deliver real revenues, new customers and increasing product holding per customer – more to come in a future blog.

The Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) Ltd Aims to Help Africa Transition Towards Low-carbon

Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) Ltd, the banking arm of MCB Group, ambitions to become a more prominent player in the African energy landscape, by financing and supporting electrification projects that encourage the use of renewable energy. In this respect, MCB has recently participated in three landmark projects in Ghana, Rwanda and Nigeria. These projects are crucial milestones in the electrification goals of these respective countries and in their transition from fossil energy to more renewable, low-carbon energy sources. Prior to joining those three projects, MCB applied the Equator Principles to proactively identify and mitigate environmental and social risks.

Zaahir Sulliman, Head of Specialised Finance, MCB: “We are proud to contribute to these important electrification goals and the transition to more renewable energy sources”


Make a difference in Ghana

In July, Genser Energy announced it successfully closed an 8-year USD 425m funding package, which will be used to refinance existing debt and finance crucial electrification projects in Ghana. The funds will allow for a 100km natural gas pipeline to Kumasi, Ghana’s largest city, a 200mmscfd gas conditioning plant at Prestea and a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) storage terminal at Takoradi port. Genser Energy ambitions to achieve net zero carbon by 2035.

As per Genser Energy, the construction of the natural gas pipeline to Kumasi and the gas processing plant in Prestea will have significant economic and environmental benefits not only for Genser but also for Ghana and the West African sub-region. The transaction will support Genser’s diversification from power to the gas midstream sector and mark a significant milestone in its decarbonization strategy to achieve net zero carbon by 2035 whilst contributing significantly to Ghana’s national climate change targets on emission reduction.

The availability of cheaper and readily accessible piped natural gas in Kumasi and the central belt of Ghana via the new pipeline will encourage industries to switch from imported trucked diesel and heavy fuel oil (HFO) to indigenous natural gas as a low-carbon intensive fuel. The pipeline will also support relocation of power plants from coastal regions to reduce line losses and improve efficiency on the national grid. Moreover, the gas conditioning plant will produce cleaner fuels and establish Ghana as a significant producer and exporter of LNGs. Moreover, the gas conditioning plant will produce cleaner fuels and establish Ghana as a significant producer and exporter of natural gas liquids. This demonstrates the potential of natural gas to act as a transition fuel that can help Africa achieve its development agenda.

Supporting Nigeria’s gas-to-power programme

MCB, as co-Mandated Lead Arranger, assisted in structuring and raising USD260MM in debt to fund the completion of the ANOH Gas Processing Plant.

Despite significant untapped reserves, domestic utilisation of gas remains low due to lack of infrastructure. Gas development and infrastructure projects will address this imbalance and result in significantly higher rates of gas utilisation for domestic use.

Assa North-Ohaji South (“ANOH”) is a conventional gas development located onshore Nigeria which will supply AGPC with the feedstock gas and is operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. The gas infrastructure development project is one of seven critical gas development projects earmarked by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (“NNPC”) and the Ministry of Petroleum to bridge the demand-supply gap in the Nigerian domestic gas market.

The 300MMscfd capacity ANOH plant, located in OML53 in Imo State, is being built by ANOH Gas Processing Company Ltd (“AGPC”) which is equally owned by the Nigerian Gas Company Limited (“NGCL”) and Seplat Energy Plc. Seplat is already a leading provider of natural gas to Nigeria’s power sector, supplying up to 30% of Nigeria’s domestic grid in 2021.

A prominent player in Rwanda’s Omnihydro project

Last June, the Omnihydro hydroelectric powerplant was inaugurated in the district of Nyamagabe, Rwanda. This project, implemented by Omnicane, a Mauritian company, and financed by MCB, the leading bank in Mauritius, , came to fruition under a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) incorporated in Rwanda and operating under the name of Omnihydro Ltd. The facility has one common powerhouse with two different intakes, one on Mushishito river and the other one on Rukarara river. This power plant intends to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 14,500 tons per year. The hydropower plant is expected to power on average an equivalent of 175,000 homes with clean energy. The small dams constructed on the Mushishito and Rukarara rivers protect communities against floods and droughts, whilst providing more than new 600 jobs during the implementation of the project.

How MCB can help

To limit global warming and mitigate climate change’s worst impacts, MCB recognises the need for countries around the world to transition to low-carbon economies. This is particularly important for Africa, as existing development challenges such as poverty, food insecurity and instability make it the continent most vulnerable to climate change. However, MCB also recognises Africa’s complicated energy requirements and the challenge in balancing economic and social progress and access to energy with climate goals.

Africa has the lowest rate of energy access globally – it is estimated that 600 million people lack access to electricity and more than 930 million lack access to clean cooking fuels. While there has been increased investment in the continent’s vast renewable energy potential, this is insufficient to meet growing energy demands. To achieve the continent’s growing electricity needs and help reach its renewable energy goals, MCB can be a financial partner and arranger of choice.

Commenting on MCB’s strong involvement in these projects and its ambition to accompany African countries’ transition to more renewable energy sources, Zaahir Sulliman, Head of Specialised Finance, MCB, said: “We are proud to be contributing towards Ghana, Rwanda and Nigeria’s universal electrification and their respective objective to drive sustainable development goals of meeting universal energy demand, whilst optimising production, minimising costs, and reducing emissions”.

Mr. Sulliman added: “MCB is aware of its responsibility in the face of the climatic emergency and has already committed to stop financing new coal power-plants and discontinue the trade financing of both thermal and metallurgical coal. We believe that the financing of LPG and natural gas will form part of MCB’s gradual energy transition strategy, which builds on our previous commitment to stop all new financing of coal infrastructure and trade worldwide. Financing more sustainable energy projects is a first step in the right direction and we look forward to continuing to support client projects that drive energy transition through responsible consumption and production in an endeavour to improve living standards”.

Imo State – Nigeria Goes Green; Official Flag-Off Holds In Owerri – November 1, 2022

Partners Numerix Development For A Greener, New Imo State

Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has approved Holistic Green Strategies for a Greener and New Imo State, as the state officially goes green in November 2022.

The Government of Imo State had appointed and signed a Joint Venture Partnership Agreement for Carbon Credits, Carbon Finance, Carbon Revenues and Carbon Emissions Reduction with NUMERIX DEVELOPMENT LIMITED and SUMMIT INNOVATIVE & SYNERGY LIMITED in Nigeria; under a Strategic Green Partnership Initiative.

In a statement from GREENPLINTH AFRICA LIMITED, Strategic Partners to NUMERIX DEVELOPMENT LIMITED, the Managing Partner of the Joint Venture; the Green Initiative covers all MDAs and the Private Sector in Imo State, thus reducing the Carbon Footprint, Ecological Footprint and Technological Footprint of all stakeholders in the south-eastern state of Nigeria.

Under the Strategic Partnership Agreement, Numerix Development Limited is expected to develop the Carbon Finance Component of all existing and future projects in Imo State and also midwife the HOPE GREEN REVOLUTION for a Greener and New Imo State.

According to Engr. Babatunde Aina, Managing Director/CEO of Numerix Development Limited, the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma will officially flag-off the Hope Green Revolution and also declare Imo State as a Green State in November, 2022.

Speaking further, he revealed that the Imo State Government will also officially announce that 2% of the state’s annual budget will henceforth be committed to Holistic Green Initiatives, Emissions Reduction and Race towards Zero Carbon in Imo State. Aina further disclosed that Nigeria is fully committed to the Global Green Transition Agenda as demonstrated by President Muhammadu Buhari, and that Imo State, being the very first Subnational to wholly go green in Africa, is a pride to the nation.

The official flag-off of the Hope Green Revolution is scheduled to hold in the state capital, Owerri on Tuesday, 1st of November 2022 by 10.00 am (WAT) in the Government House.

The event with the theme “GREEN TRANSITION AND SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH IN AFRICA” will highlight the strategic and key Importance of Accelerated Green Financing to Sustainable Green Growth in the continent.

The flag-off ceremony is expected to bring together, Strategic Stakeholders in Climate Finance, Investment, Environment, Sustainability, Energy, Green Growth and other relevant sectors in Nigeria and Africa.

Some of the immediate take-off projects under the Strategic Green Partnership Initiative are Clean Cooking Technologies Deployment, All-encompassing Retrofitting, Innovative Economic Tree Planting & Nurturing, Training and Capacity Building for Green Jobs Creation and Imo State Carbon Credit Train for improved Economic Prosperity – leaving no one behind.

Visa Reveals More Transit Users Are On Board with Contactless Payments in Egypt

  • Survey finds 95% of consumers in Egypt either strongly or somewhat expect transit to offer contactless payment options

Visa today announced the results of its second annual Future of Urban Mobility Survey, which uncovered a desire for change among transit users in Egypt.

The survey was conducted in May 2022 among 1000 adults in Egypt and aims to better understand what matters to transit users today – and what they want the future of transit to look like. The survey included questions about how often they use public transit, why they use it, and what they expect in terms of new payment methods.

“In cities across the globe, people are venturing out again after a more than two-year hiatus,” Essam El Daly, Head of Merchant Sales and Acquiring Sector for North Africa, Levant and Pakistan at Visa, says .  “Public transit has always been a vital part of how people get to work or school, run errands, and travel to leisure activities. Now the pandemic has pushed many riders to challenge the status quo when it comes to how they pay their fares.”

Shifting preferences

The speed, security, and ease of digital payments have helped shift global transit user’s payment preferences. In Egypt, the Future of Urban Mobility Survey found that 95% of those surveyed either strongly or somewhat expect contactless payment options to be available on public transit.

Further, 52% of respondents in Egypt said they are most likely to pay their transit fare through contactless payments.

Contactless payments continue to help riders navigate the future of transit.

Respondents in Egypt said the top benefits of contactless payments were the time saved due to faster transactions (37%), reduced contact with surfaces and other people (37%), less worry over carrying enough cash (31%), and convenience (30%). 

The survey found that (31%) of public transit riders in Egypt cited contactless payments as the top feature that would entice them to use public transit.

Among employed riders in Egypt, 39% of riders said they take public transit at least three times a week, and 32% ride five times a week or more. Additionally, 55% of those surveyed in Egypt plan to use transit more often over the next 12 months.  As ridership continues to ramp up, it will be important that paying to ride is secure and seamless.

Fare-capping attracts riders

Payment options such as fare-capping represent an important opportunity for transit operators to serve as many riders as possible. Fare-capping limits how much a rider pays for their total rides in a day, week, or month, eliminating the need to tie up funds on a monthly pass or transit-dedicated card. Among survey respondents in Egypt, 37% said that capped fares would encourage them to take public transit more often than a non-fare capped system.

In the same survey, 40% of riders in Egypt ranked faster journey times as a top motivator that would encourage them to use transit more often. Fare capping can help speed up the boarding process by alleviating confusion over how to pay for newer riders. 

Sustainability is driving ridership

Why do riders prefer public transit? Of those surveyed in Egypt, 93% said that sustainability and the environment were a factor in how often they decide to travel by transit, and it was the top reason for 47%.

Contactless rollouts increasing

Open transit systems help city residents sustain their livelihoods, connect to services and pursue activities that create a vibrant city life. Visa supports global transit operators to deliver digital tools to draw in more passengers and improve the overall experience. In Q2 of this year Visa and our transit partners rolled out 50 new projects worldwide, from Thailand to Japan to Mexico and beyond, to enable riders to simply tap their contactless credit, debit, prepaid card, or payment-enabled device, without needing to purchase or load a separate transit card or handle cash while boarding.

For example, a pilot project in Izmir, Turkey, this year enabled passengers to pay with contactless domestic and foreign credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards.

An economic lifeline for millions

The Future of Urban Mobility Survey also shows how public transit is an economic lifeline for millions of people around the world In Egypt, 36% of respondents said public transit is their primary form of transportation. For 48% in Egypt public transit is how they commute to and from work.

Africa-Europe Roundtable Tackles Energy Transition, Global Trade at African Energy Week (AEW) 2022

As the European Union (EU) restructures its plans for energy security in light of shifting geopolitical realities, the Africa-Europe Roundtable – organized on the first day of African Energy Week 2022 in Cape Town – addressed the role of the African continent in advancing the global energy revolution and supplying Europe with energy security.

Roundtable speakers included Hon. Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of South Africa; Eng. Fuad Mosa, General Supervisor of Local Content, Risks and Crises Management, Ministry of Energy of Saudi Arabia; Rebecca Enonchong, Founder and CEO of AppsTech; Nangula Uaandja, CEO of the Namibian Investment Promotion Development Board; Mary Burce Warlick, Deputy Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA); and Anja Casper-Berretta, Head of Energy Security and Climate Change in sub-Saharan Africa, Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The panel was moderated by Eleni Giokos, CNN Anchor and Correspondent.

“We are heavily dependent on coal generation. Renewables now supply only about 10% of energy in South Africa. But the first problem we have is the polarized energy debate, which doesn’t achieve solutions. We must transition, but we must be very practical in our transition,” began Hon. Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, on the current state of the energy mix.

“We believe that the new energy mix will have everything – coal, oil, gas, renewables. All types of energy creation will continue,” added Eng. Fuad Mosa, General Supervisor of Local Content, Risks and Crises Management for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy. “The world has been blessed with resources and our ultimate goal is securing the right volumes of energy at the right price. In Saudi Arabia, we will continue accelerating oil and its role in the global energy mix, while natural gas and renewable energies also need to be expanded.”

To date, African oil producers have largely exported crude oil to China, with a few exceptions of North African producers who export to Europe. However, current sanctions against Russian gas and the ongoing war in Ukraine has reignited interest in African hydrocarbon and renewable energy projects alike, which could result in billions of new investments into emerging energy markets like Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania.

“In Namibia, there have been recent discoveries of oil and gas,” noted Nangula Uaandja, CEO of the Namibian Investment Promotion Development Board. “At the same time, we are one of the few countries where renewables can be produced at relatively low prices. How can we produce energy at lower rates so that we can export to Europe? It is definitely possible to use countries like Namibia, where our carbon emissions are already some of the lowest in the region.”

“From the European perspective, for a long time, the acute need for access to energy was not so dominant,” said Anja Casper-Berretta, Head of Energy Security and Climate Change in sub-Saharan Africa, Konrad Adenauer Foundation. “Yet in Africa, you can’t have an energy transition discussion in countries where more than half of the population doesn’t have access to electricity. So energy security comes from a very different angle. How do we assure energy security? Diversification is a key component. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been a more practical approach to finding pragmatic solutions to the current crisis.”

Making an Africa-Europe energy trade a reality – even later down the line – will be contingent on ensuring the availability of financing solutions for energy infrastructure development. Prior to the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a growing number of multilateral financial institutions had reduced or eliminated their support of fossil fuels altogether, in accord with the Paris Agreement and climate concerns. Now, the African continent will need to strengthen ties with the West and its associated financial institutions to forge global energy partnerships and guarantee energy security and project stability.

“Unlocking financing for investment is crucial for addressing not only the clean energy transition, but also the energy access issue,” stated Mary Burce Warlick, Deputy Executive Director of the IEA. “Our estimates show that in order to achieve universal access to electricity 2030, 90 million would need to gain access on average every day from now until 2030. This will require $25 billion in investment. It’s not impossible, but it will require clear policy and commitment and a more flexible approach to financing.”

“In the issue of funding, we also have to think about risk capital,” added Rebecca Enonchong, Founder and CEO of AppsTech. “A lot of the risk capital that goes into energy projects does not go to local entrepreneurs. A few years ago, a famous start-up in Nairobi raised about $260 milion for pay-as-you-go solar panels – and failed – because no one knew how to fix and maintain them. We need to look at where the capital is going. Is it going to local founders who understand the local ecosystem and needs of the people and build wealth?”

“In South Africa, we have not run across the problem of a lack of funding,” contrasted H.E. Minister Mantashe. “There is a lot of money going into renewables. The issue is that the money that goes into renewables does not compensate us for what we lose by moving out of the existing sectors. When funding for coal stops and flows to renewables, the capacity to help the same number of people is not comparable. It’s not apples and apples. You get less energy from more megawatts from renewables.”

For Africa, new investments could be critical to capitalizing on untapped hydrocarbon reserves left behind in the midst of the energy transition and green lending behavior. According to Rystad Energy, renewed European interest for African gas could boost African production from 260 billion cubic meters per day in 2022, to nearly 500 billion cubic meters by the late 2030s.

Expert Tips for E-Commerce Marketing 2022

Due to its convenience and low cost, online shopping has become the preferred option for consumers worldwide. Since there are more than 24 million e-commerce sites globally, eCommerce has grown significantly, and more companies are opening online stores. As a result, keeping up with sales in such a competitive market is difficult.

By using cost-effective channels like search, email, and social media, eCommerce marketing has grown crucial for business expansion and revenue growth. The most important recommendation to improve eCommerce marketing efforts is provided in this article.

eCommerce marketing tips for growing sales 

Step up email marketing

Most visitors don’t buy on the first visit and need multiple visits to the eCommerce website to purchase. Therefore, building a relationship and trust is needed to get them back and buy. Email marketing is the most effective way to do so and increase revenue. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Sending welcome emails will help establish a relationship between the visitors and the brand and facilitate future targeting
  2. Tips and relevant info will build trust and put the brand in visitors’ minds
  3. Use email to collect valuable data to improve the business by asking for feedback through emails
  4. Increase the revenue by sending coupons and discount emails; people love good deals
  5. Collect emails effectively via pot-in forms, pop-ups, checkout, etc.

Reduce shopping cart abandonment

Abundant carts are the most frustrating challenge for every eCommerce business. More than 88% of carts were abandoned worldwide in 2020, which is a lot of money. Customers change their minds at the last second for many reasons. Here are some tips to reduce cat abandonment:

  1. Use a simple checkout form
  2. Send an email reminder for the abandonment cart
  3. Provide a guest checkout option
  4. Offer free shipping option
  5. Use a pop-up when exiting an incomplete purchase

Leverage real-time personalisation

Customers anticipate a unique experience that satisfies their needs when they visit a website. Most customers will become irritated and may leave the website if they encounter irrelevant content.

Therefore, modifying and personalizing the website for the intended users is crucial. The first step is to gather customer information from previous visits, surveys, behavior, demographics, etc., and then modify the content as necessary, for example:

  1. Recommend products based on customer interests, previous visits data, etc.
  2. Offering the customers some gifts or special offers such as on their birthday.

Advertise on social media channels

In recent years, social media has transformed marketing by directly connecting to a large audience base. Therefore, social media marketing must be implemented for the e-commerce website to generate traffic and increase sales.

Sharing informative content will entice followers to visit the website and make purchases. Content includes product images, special offers, articles, etc. Thanks to online tools like Instagram Post Maker, which allows users to create stunning designs, creating such attention-grabbing content has never been simpler.

Make your website mobile friendly

Due to their accessibility to the Internet and ease of use, smartphones have surpassed PCs globally. The majority of customers now browse and buy products on mobile devices, so any eCommerce business must have a responsive, mobile-friendly design. Furthermore, Google uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor; websites with great mobile experiences will rank higher.

Add live chat and Chatbot

Customers will have questions and concerns before making a purchase, just like in a physical store; offering a live chat will help alleviate those worries and speed up the purchasing process. Additionally, live chat support will enhance customer satisfaction and help them quickly and successfully find what they’re looking for, improving conversion rates.

Additionally, a chatbot can function as a live chat, offering assistance to customers around-the-clock and enabling businesses to bring in new clients whenever necessary, even when the live support is unavailable.

Offer Fast And Flexible Shipping Options

Customers’ top priority after making an online purchase is streamlined delivery. Conversion rates will rise, and cart abandonment rates will decline if customers can access quick, flexible shipping options that satisfy their needs. Additionally, free shipping is a risky way to boost sales because people will perceive it as a big discount.

Use Discount Sales

Discount sales are popular with consumers, and eCommerce companies can use them creatively to boost sales. Discounts can be seasonal, buy one get one free, etc., and they work by establishing a sense of urgency through the psychology of scarcity. Therefore, including a countdown clock with the offer will encourage people to take advantage of it quickly, increasing sales volume.

Promote customer reviews and build trust

Reviews from customers are crucial for fostering trust. Most customers read customer reviews of websites or products to decide what to buy. New customers will be inspired to buy after reading reviews from previous clients, giving them a good idea of what to anticipate.


The secret to increasing sales is e-commerce marketing, but picking the best approach would be difficult. There are general guidelines to follow, such as email marketing, providing discounts, using social media, etc., even though it depends on the type of business and niche.

Why and How Should You Invest in Mutual Funds in Dubai?

If you’re looking for a way to grow your money, you may wonder how and where to invest. Mutual funds can be an excellent option for investors in Dubai, as they offer opportunities for growth and diversification. In this article, we’ll discuss why you should consider investing in mutual funds and explore some of the factors you need to consider when making your decision. So read on to find out more.

What are mutual funds, and why should you invest in them?

A mutual fund is a type of investment vehicle that pools money from many investors and invests it in a portfolio of securities, such as stocks, bonds, or cash. Investing in a mutual fund achieves a specific financial goal, such as capital growth or income generation.

There are many reasons why you should consider investing in mutual funds. Firstly, they offer the potential for capital growth. When you invest in a mutual fund, your money is used to purchase a basket of assets. These assets may increase in value over time, which can lead to capital gains for the investor. Mutual funds can provide you with diversification. Investing in a range of assets can spread your risk and potentially reduce the volatility of your investment portfolio.

Mutual funds can offer you professional management. When you invest in a mutual fund, your money is managed by a team of professionals with expertise in the securities market. It means that you can benefit from their knowledge and experience, which can help to grow your investment over time. Finally, mutual funds are a flexible investment option. You can invest lump sums of money or make regular contributions to your fund. It makes them an excellent option for investors with different needs and goals.

How do mutual funds work, and what are their benefits for investors in Dubai and beyond?

Mutual funds work by pooling money from many investors and investing it in a portfolio of securities. The value of the fund’s assets will rise and fall in line with the performance of the underlying securities. It means that when you invest in a mutual fund, you are exposed to the same risks as if you had invested directly in the underlying assets. However, because mutual funds are diversified investments, they can offer some protection against market volatility.

The main benefits of mutual funds for investors are capital growth potential, diversification, professional management, and flexibility. Mutual funds offer Dubai-based investors the opportunity to grow their money while spreading their risk across various assets. When selecting a mutual fund, it is crucial to consider your investment goals and risk tolerance, which will help you choose a fund that is right for you.

What to look for when choosing a mutual fund to invest in

When choosing a mutual fund to invest in, there are many factors you need to take into account. Firstly, you need to consider your investment goals. What are you looking to achieve by investing in a mutual fund? Are you looking for capital growth or income generation? It would help if you considered your risk tolerance. How much risk are you willing to take on?

You need to consider the fees charged by the fund manager. Mutual funds typically charge an annual management fee and other fees. These fees can eat into your investment returns, so comparing the fees charged by different fund managers before making your decision is essential.

Finally, you need to research the performance of the fund. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, but it can give you an idea of how the fund has performed in the past.

How to get started investing in mutual funds

If you are interested in investing in mutual funds, there are a few things you need to do before you get started. Firstly, you need to open a brokerage account with a licensed broker. Once you have done this, you can start researching the different funds available.

Once you have selected a fund, you need to decide how much money you want to invest. You can invest lump sums of money or make regular contributions to your fund. Finally, you need to monitor your investment over time. It will help you track your progress and ensure that your investment is on track to achieve your financial goals.

Risks and rewards of investing in mutual funds

Mutual funds are a popular investment option for many investors. However, it is essential to remember that all investments come with risks. When you invest in a mutual fund, you are exposed to the same risks as if you had invested directly in the underlying assets. It means that your investment can go up or down in value, and you could lose money.

However, mutual funds also offer the potential for capital growth over the long term. If you choose a fund with a track record of solid performance, you could see your investment grow over time, making it an excellent option for investors looking to build their wealth over the long term.

World Food Programme (WFP) Calls for Action On World Food Day to Avoid Another Year of Record Hunger

The world is at risk of yet another year of record hunger as the global food crisis continues to drive yet more people into worsening levels of acute food insecurity, warns the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in a call for urgent action to address the root causes of today’s crisis ahead of World Food Day, on 16 October.

The global food crisis is a confluence of competing crises – caused by climate shocks, conflict, and economic pressures – that has pushed the number of hungry people around the world from 282 million to 345 million in just the first months of 2022. WFP scaled up food assistance targets to reach a record 153 million people in 2022, and by mid-year we had already delivered assistance to 111.2 million people.

“We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst. For the last three years hunger numbers have repeatedly hit new peaks. Let me be clear: things can and will get worse unless there is a large scale and coordinated effort to address the root causes of this crisis. We cannot have another year of record hunger,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

WFP and humanitarian partners are holding back famine in five countries – Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Too often it is conflict that drives the most vulnerable into catastrophic hunger, with communications disrupted, humanitarian access restricted, and communities displaced. The conflict in Ukraine has also disrupted global trade pushing up transport costs and lead times while leaving farmers lacking access to the agricultural inputs they need. The knock-on effect on upcoming harvests will reverberate around the world.

Climate shocks are increasing in frequency and intensity, leaving those affected no time to recover between disasters. An unprecedented drought in the Horn of Africa is pushing more people into alarming levels of food insecurity, with famine now projected in Somalia. Floods have devastated homes and farmland in several countries, most strikingly in Pakistan.  Anticipatory action must be at the core of the humanitarian response to protect the most vulnerable from these shocks – and a core part of the agenda at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) next month in Egypt.

Meanwhile, governments’ ability to respond is constrained by their own economic woes – currency depreciation, inflation, debt distress – as the threat of global recession also mounts. This will see an increasing number of people unable to afford food and needing humanitarian support to meet their basic needs.

WFP’s operational plan for 2022 is the agency’s most ambitious ever. It prioritises action to prevent millions of people from dying of hunger while working to stabilise – and where possible build – resilient national food systems and supply chains.

So far this year, WFP has increased assistance six-fold in Sri Lanka in response to the economic crisis, launched an emergency flood response in Pakistan, and expanded operations to records levels in Somalia as famine looms. In Afghanistan, two out of every five Afghans have been supported by WFP assistance. WFP also launched an emergency operation in Ukraine and opened a new office Moldova to support families fleeing the conflict.

With the cost of delivering assistance rising and lead times increasing, WFP continues to diversify its supplier base, including boosting local and regional procurement: so far in 2022 47 percent of the food WFP has purchased is from countries where we operate – a value of US$ 1.2 billion. WFP has also expanded the use of cash-based transfers to deliver food assistance in the most efficient and cost-effective way in the face of these rising costs. Cash transfers now represent 35 percent of our emergency food assistance.

WFP has secured US$655 million in contributions and service provision agreements from international financial institutions to support national social protection systems. Similar efforts are underway to expand innovative climate financing partnerships. WFP continues to support governments with supply chain services, such as the procurement and transport of food commodities to replenish national grain reserves to support national safety net programmes. 

While these efforts provide succour to some of the severely vulnerable, it is against a challenging global backdrop in which the number of acutely hungry people continues to increase requiring a concerted global action for peace, economic stability and continued humanitarian support to ensure food security around the world.

The Fundraising Market in Africa Is Growing, but It’s Hard Out There for Startups, Says Dai Magister

Analysis of the current African market by boutique investment bank DAI Magister, reveals that investors have so far bucked macrotrends by exhibiting confidence in investing into African businesses, particularly in first and second round raising. However, nascent start-ups are facing difficulty, with just half the number of accelerator deals taking place in Q2 2022 compared with Q2 2021.

DAI Magister has analysed the African market over the past four to six weeks in anticipation of the upcoming fundraising season, to assess the challenges and requirements for key finance functions through the lens of fundraising.

The global investment market overall has declined, with many investors treading cautiously. However Africa’s ecosystem has experienced two very strong quarters in the first half of 2022. June 2022 was the market’s strongest June yet, while Q2 and H1 2022 were also the strongest performing Q2 and H1 on record. The ‘big four’ venture capital markets in particular have seen capital flow into their regions, particularly Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria while South Africa has remained neutral.

According to DAI Magister, in the past few weeks African raises have definitely slowed, with the general pace of activity more moderate than this time last year. However, capital is continuing to flow into deals where companies can demonstrate a clear path to profitability and an open market to continue to scale. Also, Africa continues to have high structural growth rates, which are much higher than the rest of the world, and an ecosystem of startups that are geared towards solving primary ‘must have’ needs.

Risana Zitha, Head of Africa at DAI Magister said: “We’re building an interesting picture of the mindset of an investor looking to pool their resources into African businesses. There is an increased emphasis on compliance and capital efficiency, and many companies are exploring dual track mergers and acquisitions (M&A). In fact, all African M&A deals we’ve been a part of recently have been dual tracks.”

Growing businesses in the African market are in a constant state of raising capital, and it is essential that businesses have repeat, successful rounds to stay competitive. However, it’s no longer the seller’s market that many African investors and startups saw in 2021. Now it’s a more balanced picture, with many investors taking more time and being more choosy than this time last year.

Risana continued: “We’re seeing that the rules have changed since last year. Restructuring to cut costs was not on the agenda in 2021, but now, businesses are being open about layoffs – and it’s being encouraged.

“Investors have formed strong views on what they ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’, which is very different to even just a year ago. In response to this, African businesses need to debate whether they take a radical approach to rethinking their business model and how they make their money, or whether they need to make minor adjustments in order to attract investment during a period of balance. Also, it’s important to remember that successfully raising even a smaller amount than originally anticipated has far more value in the current environment. Basically, a $ raised now is worth far more than a $ raised 12 months ago, because many competitors are seeing fundraisings delayed, and capital is always far more valuable when others do not have it..

“Flexibility is crucial to ensure that businesses are responding to the market so get that all-important ‘yes’ from investors.”

While the fundraising market overall is growing steadily, nascent start-ups are having a harder time raising capital. Just 16% of deals in Q2 2022 were accelerator, compared with 32% in Q2 2021.

Risana added: “There has been a significant decrease in accelerator deals when comparing Q2 2022 and Q2 2021. This is in part due to decrease in first time investors from the US and Europe, increase in financing in later rounds and an increased level of sophisticated questions from investors.

“Startups are likely to have less experience raising investment, so it’s essential that they’re able to take advantage of the growing market. This can only be done with the right guidance and resources to ensure they can make a success of their business and reap the benefits of the increased funding we’re seeing in later rounds.

“The same goes for businesses in Africa of all sizes. It’s a volatile time no matter what round you’re raising, and we’re seeing the need for leaders to begin to think differently about their business and approach to fundraising.”

Abu Dhabi Is Becoming a ‘Must Visit’ Superyacht Destination, Say Experts

With 5,325 registered superyachts currently on the world’s waterways, divided between 4,492 motor yachts and 833 sailing yachts, Abu Dhabi is on a journey to becoming a major destination for the global superyachting industry.

According to a report entitled ‘New Winter Oasis for Maritime Luxury Experience – Abu Dhabi’s Quest to Become a Global Superyacht Destination’, published by Abu Dhabi Maritime (AD Maritime), custodian of the Emirate’s waterways and part of AD Ports Group, the Emirate has achieved a number of important milestones that superyacht owners consider when selecting their destinations. The whitepaper was launched at Monaco Yacht Show, the annual international trade show dedicated to the world of superyachts held from 28 September to 1st October 2022.

After extensive consultation with industry experts, the report identified four key criteria that give Abu Dhabi significant comparative advantages, including: favourable seasonal weather and sea conditions; advanced maritime infrastructure and related services; established legal and regulatory environment; and world-class attractions incorporating social, cultural, and entertainment elements.

Superyachts, which represent the pinnacle of maritime leisure craft design and luxury lifestyle, are vessels of more than 30 metres in length predominantly residing in fewer than a dozen countries around the world. While designs may vary in terms of size and flare, superyachts all tend to have similar traits: wealthy owners, charter companies, maintenance-intensive operational requirements, and a strong demand for picturesque cruising opportunities.

With more than 150 new superyachts set to finish construction in 2022, representing a total fleet value of more €4 billion, Abu Dhabi’s entry into this exclusive industry sector could deliver significant economic benefits for the Emirate and the nation.

Captain Ammar Al Shaiba, Acting CEO of Maritime Cluster, AD Ports Group, said“We developed this whitepaper to showcase the significant progress that Abu Dhabi has made in recent years in developing its unique offering to superyacht owners, and to identify areas where more work is still needed in order to achieve our vision. The findings demonstrate that the Emirate is becoming a destination of choice among the superyacht elite, with a wide range of services, attractions, and climate benefits. Multiple agencies and organisations are working together under the guidance of our wise leadership to achieve this goal.”

Capt. Saif Al Mheiri, Managing Director, Abu Dhabi Maritime, AD Ports Group, said: “The superyachting sector is a growing cornerstone of the UAE’s wider maritime leisure economy that leverages our nation’s strategic location, attractive coastline, favourable seasonal weather, advanced infrastructure and a friendly regulatory environment to welcome leading industry players and visitors from around the world to our shores.

“As our latest study indicates, our team at AD Maritime is working closely with our broader maritime community to grow Abu Dhabi’s value proposition, and we look forward to welcoming the global yachting community to our shores and unlocking the full potential of what our Emirate has to offer.”

Developed from a range of qualitative interviews with international experts conducted in 2021 and 2022, the report examines the factors that attract owners to venture beyond traditional destinations such as Mediterranean Sea ports like Marbella, Capri, Saint-Tropez, Antibes and Monaco, and Caribbean Sea ports such as Antigua, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas.

Experts interviewed suggested that the rise in superyacht ownership over the last decade, underpinned by the changing nationality profiles of owners, especially those based in Asia and the Middle East, has encouraged individuals and companies to look beyond these typical destinations. Furthermore, the geostrategic location of Abu Dhabi coupled with its natural abundance of pristine waterways and islands has helped to raise its profile among these new owners.

Sea conditions in the Arabian Gulf, with their low winds and calm waters year-round, along with moderate low season temperatures, mean that vessels do not need to be lifted from the water and stored at great expense, thereby increasing Abu Dhabi’s attractiveness.

The report also highlighted Abu Dhabi’s extensive leisure and entertainment offerings to the global superyachting community, including untouched coastal desert beauty featuring marine protected areas and a collection of scenic islands, beaches and anchorage destinations. The Emirate is also home to a number of world-class annual sporting events including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Formula One Race, Mubadala Tennis Championship, and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Golf Tournament, alongside renown cultural destinations including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim, among many others.

One of the areas where the Emirate has made significant progress, according to the whitepaper, is in the development of the legal and regulatory framework in support of superyacht owners and their crews, many of whom are not full-time residents in the country. The recent launch of comprehensive and fully-digitised Safety Maps of all waterways within the Emirate, identifying anchorage areas, zones for motorised and non-motorised craft, and speed limits, was cited as one key improvement. The maps, developed by the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) and AD Maritime, are available on the latter’s digital portal,, and via a dedicated interactive navigational app, Al Nalia, available on App Store and Google Play.

Furthermore, Abu Dhabi has made significant progress in the development of advanced maritime infrastructure and related services for superyachts. There are currently approximately 100 superyacht refit yards around the world, and Abu Dhabi offers a number of market-leading facilities in this area. In addition, the emirate is home to two full-service superyacht marinas that can host yachts of all sizes and are backed by a full suite of premiere accommodations, services and amenities.

One superyacht owner interviewed for the report, who chose to remain anonymous, concluded: “Abu Dhabi is quickly becoming a must-visit superyacht destination; it is a place where we want to spend more time. It ticks many of the boxes already, and the authorities are always making things faster, easier, and better for owners and our captains to choose to spend time there.”

How Companies Can Best Leverage The Cloud For Business Growth

67% of business infrastructure is hosted in the cloud. Since the pandemic forced businesses to explore remote working options, the cloud became necessary to support communication and collaboration for remote employees.

Since then, businesses have improved efficiency and productivity using cloud-based technologies. If you want to learn how to leverage the cloud for business growth, keep reading. This guide will cover how you can leverage the cloud for security, collaboration, and improving daily operational efficiency.

Invest In Cloud-Based Security Systems

Cloud-based security systems are increasingly popular in the security sphere. They help to create efficiency and flexibility. With an on-premise security system, you must connect your security installations and devices with wiring, which is challenging to scale. Cloud-based solutions offer scalability.

Cloud-based security systems require less management than their on-premise counterparts. On-premise systems have on-site servers that require a lot of storage space. Additionally, on-premise system servers need management and maintenance over time, which can be inconvenient and costly.

Cloud-based systems are the most streamlined option for security – they do not occupy a lot of space, require very little maintenance, and permit remote operation. Since all security data is hosted in the cloud, system administrators can access security information on their mobile devices and operate security tools remotely.

Here are some examples of the top cloud-based security installations for businesses:

Cloud-based surveillance – when surveillance is cloud-based, system administrators and security staff can view the camera feed from anywhere to gain more insight into security operations and quickly investigate potential security threats. Businesses can also integrate cloud-based surveillance and access control for identity verification

.Access control – cloud-based access control for businesses allows you to lock and unlock doors remotely and also permits users to enter without keycards or fobs. Instead, they can enter with a mobile device using Bluetooth communication. They need only wave their hand over the reader to trigger remote communication and gain access.

Software – businesses can take advantage of the open API integrations of cloud-based security. They can integrate software solutions that help to expand the function of their existing security investments, such as visitor management software, time tracking software, and wellness verification software.

Utilize SaaS Services

SaaS services are cloud-based platforms that allow businesses to improve daily operations. Most SaaS services create more user-friendly ways for your employees to perform their daily tasks – which makes the onboarding process far more straightforward.

A great example of SaaS services is a work management platform. Work management platforms allow businesses to create workflows for employees that you can access from anywhere – which is ideal for hybrid companies. Businesses can gain more insight into their project management goals and view reports to see how well their teams perform. Some other examples of SaaS services for businesses include:

Call center software – call center software allows businesses to host their call center information online, making call queuing and customer relationship management more simple and streamlined.

Accounting software – accounting software allows businesses to coordinate their teams and give them access to real-time accounting data at all times. It also helps to digitize receipts and other accounting documents to free up office storage space.

Password management software – if your business wants to create a culture of password health, then password management software would be beneficial. It is a digital vault for passwords while monitoring their strength and alerts for compromised passwords.

Leveraging Collaboration Tools

Businesses with flex spaces and hybrid work models need more access to collaboration. By implementing cloud-based collaboration tools, companies can enable their teams to collaborate on documents from anywhere. Cloud-based office tools are integral to a hybrid or remote work strategy.


The pandemic stirred a shift in how businesses perform daily operations – forcing them to explore cloud-based options. Cloud-based technology can improve efficiency, collaboration, and accessibility for security and business operations. Consider switching to cloud-based solutions to streamline processes and create a more accessible system.

Janngo Capital Startup Fund, Africa’s Largest Gender Equal Tech VC Fund, Reaches the First Close of its €60 Million New Fund

At the eve of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Janngo Capital Startup Fund (JCSF) has announced its first close at EUR34 million (approximately US$36 million) in capital commitments. Launched in Davos in 2020, Janngo Capital’s latest fund will invest 50% of its proceeds in companies founded, co-founded, or benefiting women. Backed by global financial institutions as well as leading private corporations, the fund management company plans to invest EUR60 million (approximately US$63 million) in startups leveraging technology to leapfrog development and achieve SDGs in Africa.

100% tech, 100% Africa, 100% equal

Janngo Capital Startup Fund, second investment vehicle of the management company, will provide up to EUR5 million seed and growth investments to early-stage tech and tech-enabled startups that (1) enable Africans to improve their access to essential goods and services such as healthcare, education or financial services, (2) enable African SMEs to improve their access to market & capital, or (3) create sustainable jobs at scale, with a focus on women & youth.

Women in Africa are the most entrepreneurial in the entire world with a total entrepreneurship activity rate of 26%. Yet, they face a $42 billion funding gap and have very limited access to growth capital. As one of the very few female-founded, female-owned, and female-led fund management companies in Africa, Janngo Capital has made a strong commitment to gender equality as it will invest 50% of its proceeds in companies founded, co-founded, or benefiting women.

“We are proud to lead Africa’s largest gender equal tech VC fund and see major global investors rally around our vision to back entrepreneurs building digital champions across Africa. We have built a strong track record in the region through our first fund with investments in 11 tech & tech-enabled startups, including the soonicorn Sabi, Expensya or Jexport,” said Fatoumata Bâ, Founder & Executive Chair of Janngo Capital.

“Our current portfolio companies are 56% women-led, 54% francophone and provide strong evidence of how these technology champions can positively contribute in solving key market failures and creating jobs in healthcare, logistics, financial services, retail, food & agri, mobility or the creative industry. Janngo Capital Startup Fund will play a critical role in improving access to early-stage capital for tech entrepreneurs in a more equal way, on a continent still attracting less than 2% of the global VC fund’, adds Fatoumata Bâ.

Proparco, Burda Principal Investments, Muller Medien & asset management veterans join anchor investors EIB, AfDB & Boost Africa

Janngo Capital Startup Fund is backed by first-class investors with an equal number of development finance institutions & leading commercial private investors, including:

  • The European Investment Bank (EIB), the world’s largest multilateral development bank active in 160 countries and with a total balance sheet of more than EUR565 billion as of 31/12/2021;
  • The African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa’s largest development finance institution with 81 member countries (54 regional and 27 non regional);
  • Boost Africa, a joint initiative supported by the European Union and led by the EIB and the African Development Bank (AfDB) with financial support from the OACPS aiming at unleashing the entrepreneurial potential of African youth through investment by venture capital funds;
  • Proparco, the private sector financing arm of the French Development Agency (AFD Group) with a balance sheet of over EUR7 billion as of 31/12/2021;
  • Burda Principal Investments (BPI), the growth capital arm of media and tech company Hubert Burda Media with successful unicorn investments such as Etsy, Vinted and Carsome;
  • Muller Medien, a German family-owned media conglomerate; with its New Business sector, Mueller Medien holds more than 60 startup investments, e.g. Booksy, UrbanSportsClub & bookingkit;
  • An ex-KKR Partner & Private Equity veteran with a strong experience in emerging markets.

“Africa has some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a young, fast-growing population. We believe we can improve its living standards and social progress by supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. That is why we are pleased to partner again with Janngo Capital Startup Fund through our Boost Africa Initiative,” said Ambroise Fayolle, European Investment Bank Vice President.

Stefan Nalletamby, the African Development Bank’s Director for Financial Sector Development, said “The Janngo Fund can drive the transformation from a more traditional business ecosystem into a dynamic, youth-driven, and technology-focused entrepreneurial community. Africa is experiencing rapid mobile penetration with Android and other platforms. Janngo Start-up Fund provides huge opportunities to develop innovative and high-growth-driven start-ups and SMEs and our investment under the Boost Africa Program will help fill the severe scarcity of risk capital for the new and upcoming first generation of venture capital funds targeting early-stage businesses.” 

“With its investment in Janngo Capital Start-up Fund, PROPARCO, via FISEA +, the AFD Group facility advised by Proparco and part of the Choose Africa initiative, is partnering with a fund manager that can bring both essential financing and strong mentoring to early-stage businesses in Africa with a rare focus on the Francophone West African region. Proparco is strongly committed to supporting the new generation of entrepreneurs in Francophone Africa, where investment for start-ups lags behind their peers in other parts of the continent. Janngo’s innovative approach of operating a start-up studio was also a key convincing factor, presenting a unique way to incubate businesses that can overcome gaps in the current local market. Last but not least, we are proud to partner with a female-led fund manager that seeks to contribute to diminishing the existing gender gap in terms of start-up financing,” said Jérémie Ceyrac, Head of Private Equity at Proparco.

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2022 to Bring Global Cultural Leaders to UAE Capital in October to Explore the Future of a Diverse, Resilient, and Sustainable Culture Sector

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi will take place from 23 to 25 October, 2022 at Manarat Al Saadiyat 

Under the theme ‘A Living Culture’, the event will bring together art, culture, policy, media, and technology leaders from over 90 countries 

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has announced that its fifth edition of Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, a leading global forum, will return to Manarat Al Saadiyat under the theme ‘A Living Culture’. Designed to explore the future of the culture sector and discuss creative cultural solutions to some of the most urgent issues affecting the world today, the in-person event will run from 23 to 25 October, 2022 in the UAE capital. 

This year’s theme ‘A Living Culture’ will examine contemporary issues driving change in the culture and creative industries (CCI) and the wider culture sector today. The programme will explore what it means to embrace culture as a lived experience in a world that has been transformed by COVID-19, and better understand the pervasive influence culture has had on our individual and collective lives. Culture Summit Abu Dhabi will harness the expertise of attending cultural leaders, artists, practitioners, scholars, educators and creative professionals to discuss these urgent contemporary issues.

The programme is curated so that each day examines a sub-theme in more detail. On the first day, Living Cultural Ecosystems will take a sectoral perspective, looking at the emergence of more dynamic or living cultural and creative ecosystems that are more adaptable, resilient and responsive to change. This theme looks at culture sector issues and challenges in producing and disseminating culture in the wake of the pandemic, particularly when it comes to new, more dynamic or living cultural or creative ecosystems. On that day, the Summit will notably welcome three former Heads of States, Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of Lithuania (2009-2019); Ivo Josipović, President of Croatia (2010-2015) and Joyce Banda, President of Malawi (2012-2014) moderated by HE Zaki Nusseibeh, Cultural Advisor to the President of UAE to explore the role of culture in making resilient and shared societies. All creative fields will be reviewed through this lens with an exceptional keynote conversation between HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, and world-renowned comedian and television host Trevor Noah. Performances by key figures from the performing arts scene, discussions on diversity in Hollywood creative industries ,on the role of the collector and the power of culture districts, creative presentations by artists, film screenings, workshops and policy sessions all occurring in a  multi-track programme.

On the second day, Living in Culture will consider how culture impacts people and communities through the lens of changing patterns of cultural participation. This theme looks at how the pandemic forced the sector to innovate in order to survive. Particularly during times of lockdown, access to these digital cultural products and services became a social and psychological lifeline and part of people’s daily routine and experience. During this second day, that will start with a key note by the UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, HE Noura Al Kaabi, participants to the Summit will be notably invited to explore the role of AI on the future of culture through panel discussions, case studies by cutting-edge tech companies such as TeamLab as well as an exceptional creative conversation between Tim Marlow, Director of the Design Museum and Ai-Da, the world’s first ultra-realistic artist robot. Panos A. Panay, President of the Recording Academy will also explore in conversation with Jimmy Jam the relationship between “Technology, Creativity, and the Changing Face of Pop Culture” followed by a keynote from celebrated architect and Director of Forensic Architecture Eyal Weizman. A deep dive into the vibrant cultural scene in Afghanistan will be explored in a panel followed by a performance from whirling dervish female dancer Fahima Mirzaie. and a panel moderated by the Guggenheim Museum alongside artist, Emeka Ogboh and architect Jing Liu will unpack what makes a public space today and conclude the second day programme.

Finally, Culture, Diversity, Power will focus on the critical challenges related to the protection and promotion of cultural diversity and the diversity of cultural expression and how policies can support in a sustainable way the expression of this diversity. This theme focuses on critical challenges related to the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expression, and the policies and structures of enablement being implemented to sustain diversity. While this theme of diversity and inclusion will permeate through the entire Summit, on this closing day two critical panel discussions will be organised on “Creating a Richer Chorus” and “The New Canon”. The notion of diversity will also be explored in the panel moderated by Berklee Abu Dhabi on “Integrating Cultural Diversity through Music”. Highlight keynotes and creative conversations featured that day include architects Sumayya Vally, Sir David Adjaye OBE and Berklee President Erica Muhl. The day will start by a performance of Al Ahalla, a traditional UAE maritime chant, and end with a performance by the Global Jazz Project, a multicultural music project by Grammy Award-winning artist Danilo Perez, featuring musician Charbel Rouhana.

Other topics that will also be discussed during the Summit include: the impact of digital media and Artificial Intelligence, some geographical focus such East Africa and the arts and culture, culture and climate emergency, among others.

Additionally, this year’s programme hosts high-level speakers including Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Fiammetta Rocco, Culture Editor at the Economist, Dr Helena Nassif director of Culture Resource (Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy), Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, producer Jennifer Stockman, award-winning architect Frank Gehry and collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens among many others.

The Summit programme features an outstanding series of keynotes, panel discussions, artist talks, workshops, film screenings, creative conversations, and cultural performances. Performances will be interwoven withing the plenaries and will include heritage performances on the onset of every morning, including a dance performance by hip-hop choreographer Kader Attou, and a musical performance by renowned Oud player and composer Naseer Shamma.  

HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “We are excited once again to organise, alongside some incredible global partners, Culture Summit Abu Dhabi in the UAE’s capital. Abu Dhabi is committed to be a meeting place for cultural experts and professionals from various fields of expertise to come together and discuss the future of our sector and how we can build a diverse and more sustainable cultural ecosystem. As we get ready to welcome these global leaders, we are reminded of the shared responsibility we have to find solutions and shape policies that can address the pressing issues of our time and find ways to drive change in our global industry.”

“The 5th Culture Summit Abu Dhabi presents a timely opportunity for cultural stakeholders worldwide to share a common vision to revise current models and imagine more sustainable and resilient pathways for the future,” says Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO.

“It’s a pleasure for the Design Museum to be one of the convening partners in Culture Summit 2022 bringing together creative people from across the design world and joining creative thinkers, cultural leaders, artists and change makers from across the globe as we all meet together in Abu Dhabi,” says Tim Marlow, Director of the Design Museum.

“The Summit provides an opportunity to hold conversations around important cultural questions while incorporating worldwide audiences. It offers an all-too-rare opportunity for artists and thinkers to envision the future,” says Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

“The most exciting part of the Culture Summit is the many fascinating people I meet. Listening to them speak allows me to step into their shoes and experience the world from a whole new perspective. They offer a whole new perspective on the phrase “eye-opening”,” says Fiammetta Rocco, Senior Editor and Culture Editor of The Economist.

“We are thrilled to partner with Culture Summit Abu Dhabi and are looking forward to discovering ways we can all work together to ignite the power of music. The Middle East is a true ‘Living Culture’ and home to so many different thriving music scenes and this summit is a great opportunity to shine a light on this vibrant music community,” says Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of The Recording Academy.

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2022 is organised by DCT Abu Dhabi in collaboration with global partner organisations bringing expertise in diverse fields, from culture and arts to media and technology. Partners include UNESCO, Economist Impact, Google, the Design Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation and the Recording Academy. Other participating partners include Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Film Commission, Sandstorm Comics, Cultural Foundation, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Berklee Abu Dhabi, Culture Resource, Arab Fund for Arts & Culture, and the Institut Français.  

Those looking to attend Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2022 can register their interest on the website: The event is by-invitation only and spaces are limited.  

HSG Holding Acquires Leading Middle East and Africa (MEA) Region Technology Integration Company — IT Hospitality Group — as it Rolls Out its Long-Term Investment Plans Focused on the Hospitality Industry

Holding has acquired IT Hospitality Group ( in a definitive agreement which launches its rollout of investments in the global hospitality industry Hospitality Industry. This acquisition will enable the IT Hospitality Group’s management to better support its increased market expansion across the region, establish new offices, and bring more services to its clients. 

HSG Holding has announced its acquisition of IT Hospitality Group (ITHG), a market-leader in integrated IT solutions and infrastructure, in Africa and the Middle East. With this acquisition, HSG Holding enters the hospitality arena as an investment vehicle to strengthen the developments of companies within the industry in the post Covid 19 period.

HSG Holding was established to focus on investment opportunities within the hospitality sector at the intersection where the strength of traditional hospitality operations meets with new technologies that can assist in the digital transformation of the industry. Technology is playing a far greater role in the industry and is fast becoming a critical aspect of running hotel operations. The company believes in investing over the long-term as it sees great opportunities for growth in the MEA region and beyond.

Helping the hospitality industry with its digital transform journey

For more than a decade, ITHG has designed and implemented integrated networks, guest entertainment platforms, connectivity solutions, telephony, digital signage, and CCTV, into more than 200 hotels, and 75 000 hotel rooms across the MEA region. Long-term partnerships with the likes of Accor, Marriott, Radisson, and Hilton, among others, are a strong reflection of the ITH team’s depth of experience and understanding of the local environment, as well as the technical challenges their clients face — particularly in a post-pandemic period.

Today’s guest is looking for seamless connectivity, whether they are traveling for business or pleasure. They have become accustomed to living in a highly connected world, and accessing everything they need through their mobile phones, and expect the same stress-free, connected experiences wherever they stay. By working closely with their clients, ITH is able to provide customised solutions designed specifically with their individual client’s requirements in mind which allows each hotel to offer the highest quality guest experiences in the region.

“Strong networks and the ability to implement the latest wired and wireless technologies is what gives our customers the edge over their competitors. It means that guests staying in their hotels are able to connect to the internet effortlessly, access streaming services such as Netflix, and even call the concierge from their own mobile device, rather than relying on in-house telephone services. The hotel’s Guest Relations team is able to welcome guests and keep them informed about available services and activities as well as updated airport arrivals and departure times via in-house advertising and promotions across a variety of dynamic information points,” says Olivier Hennion, Managing Director of IT Hospitality Group.

“As we continue to strengthen and grow our relationships with our partners, we are expanding our support and service offerings to these chains over a larger geographic area. This acquisition by HSG Holdings means that we are able to accelerate our own development to be able to provide even greater services to our clients, through expansion of our current 12 locations in the region into additional territories, bringing us closer to our customers to provide more direct assistance as it is needed,” continues Hennion.

Cocoa & Forests Initiative Reports Progress on Traceability, Agroforestry and Forest Protection in Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire

Actions in 2021 included more development of agroforestry with the distribution of 11.3 million non-cocoa trees by cocoa and chocolate companies in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. This brings the total number of multi-purpose trees supplied by the private sector since the launch of CFI to 21.7 million. In both countries, companies reached on average 72% traceability in their direct supply chains. Companies are also investing in large scale farmer training for better livelihoods and less incentive to encroach into forests.

Governments’ efforts have focused on the further development of national cocoa traceability systems and forest monitoring. In Ghana, a total of 515,762 farmers have been enumerated into the Cocoa Management System, owning 845,635 farms in the Western South, Ashanti, and Central regions of Ghana. Côte d’Ivoire has mapped more than 1 million farmers 3.2 million ha of cocoa farms. The satellite forest monitoring tool IMAGES was adopted by the Ivorian CFI signatories. Based on IMAGES it was observed that in the cocoa belt forest cover disturbance almost halved compared to the previous year.

All signatories invest in reforestation. The government of Côte d’Ivoire, with the Ministry of Water and Forests (MINEF) in the lead, has planted over 28 million trees in the past year, which accounts for almost one tree per capita. This includes the 3.5 million trees planted by Le Conseil Café Cacao as part of its new program to achieve the planting of 60 million trees on cocoa farms by 2024. In Ghana, under the leadership of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MNLR), authorities were directly involved in the restoration of 9,488 ha of degraded forest and the distribution of 5.297.739 multi-purpose tree seedlings by both the public and private sector.

Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are looking to accelerate public private collaboration to preserve primary forests and to foster reforestation in protected areas. This includes a further scaling of the public private partnerships for the preservation of selected primary and secondary forests in Côte d’Ivoire. This comes in addition to the Memoranda of Understanding which were signed between MINEF and cocoa companies, now bringing the area under public-private protocols for the conservation and restoration of category III classified forests to 666,081 ha. In Ghana, seven additional companies signed onto agreements in the collaboratively identified priority Hotspot Intervention Areas (HIA) landscapes of Asunafo, Bia-Juabeso, and Atwima.

Quote Ghana: “The story of CFI is an interesting one and a lot has been invested over the past years for its implementation. The Green Ghana Project I launched in 2021 will augment the effort of CFI to restore our degraded forest reserves and off-reserve landscapes.” 

Quote Côte d’Ivoire: “The observed decrease in deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire is a positive signal. The government does everything possible to completely end deforestation in the coming years. The slowing down of deforestation can be attributed to the many ongoing actions and programs, including the Cocoa & Forests Initiative.”

Quote WCF: “We must continue to strive for complete provenance of all cocoa no matter where it is grown or by whom. It cannot be acceptable that any cocoa that is linked to deforestation finds its way to consumer countries. Additionally, farmers must be rewarded and benefit from the traceability protocols that make this possible. We look forward to the next phase of Cocoa & Forests Initiative that will bring us closer to this goal.”

Quote IDH: “As we learn more about deforestation trends, we see that it is crucial that signatories maintain the current level of ambition and build on CFI’s significant track record of public-private collaboration. Through our convening role, we look forward to contributing to key milestones such as the joint investments in forest preservation, the roll-out of the national traceability systems and assuring community engagement”

About the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI)

CFI is a joint partnership of the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and 35 cocoa and chocolate companies facilitated by IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BUZA), the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Partnership for Forests (P4F) through the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank. Cocoa and chocolate companies and governments collaborate within the framework of CFI with other stakeholders such as NGOs, farmer organizations and civil society organizations on the development and implementation of business-driven solutions.

Best Shared Workspace Provider – East Africa 

What does it mean to be in the office in the 21st Century? To ten different organisations, you’ll find ten different answers. The team at KOFISI, however, have made it their mission to deliver truly incredible results to their clients. In MEA Markets’ African Excellence Awards 2022, the firm was recognised for their incredible achievements. We take a closer look at how they’ve risen through the ranks to such heights of success.

The office is a concept which has stood still for decades, but KOFISI stands apart as an organisation dedicated to bringing the idea of the office firmly into the 21st Century. As work evolves, peoples’ needs change, so too will their space requirements at the office. Empowering businesses of every size to make this change has been the mission of the KOFISI team, and it’s a mission that they’re succeeding at.

With eight centres strategically positioned across the continent, in Nairobi, Lagos and Dar Es Salaam, the team at KOFISI have been able to support businesses from every corner of industry. Whether developing a bespoke solution for large teams to congregate within or a fully furnished private office for teams of three or more staff members, they excel at delivering something special.

The need for the office has never gone away. Moving on from the COVID-19 pandemic people realised they still need to congregate to collaborate and communicate.  As businesses have returned to the office, enterprise has been trying to make sure the office remains relevant in different ways. For KOFISI, the aim has always been to raise the bar when it comes to the quality of the office space provided for employees, workers and businesses operating in Africa. These are designed to be spaces that not only inspire and engage but enable productive business and working practises. It’s a clear investment from clients into their staff.

The support of KOFISI has made an enormous difference to lots of enterprises. Within each KOFISI Centre, there is a host of workspaces where teams are able to collaborate and connect. These include flexible desk areas, private booths, phone booths, meeting rooms, a media and podcasting studio as well as communal kitchens, cafes, a restaurant, outdoor terraces and large event and conference facilities. Since opening their doors, the team have put world class interior design at the heart of how they operate, but that’s not the only important factor.

Key to the way in which the team has expanded is the concept of hospitality-led work environments, delivering the sort of service that would only otherwise be found within a hotel. The KOFISI team provide front desk and reception services, bring free tea, coffee and refreshments to your desk, help with day-to-day administration such as printing and binding -services, booking taxis and food deliveries. They even have stunning on-site restaurants and rooftop cafes serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Office space plays such an important role in any business that the KOFISI design and build team are always determined to get in on the ground level of what is required from them within their space. Do they need special facilities? Can their brand be captured in the space? Do they need their own meeting rooms or a private kitchen? Will they need breakout rooms or phone booths? How many people will be working from the office on a regular basis? The list goes on and on, and only once these details have been settled can progress be made.

Since starting in this exciting industry, the team have built large spaces and complex facilities that have satisfied every single requirement that their clients have presented them with, even perfecting a laboratory for one of their clients. The team’s ability to deliver these stunning results, however, is realised once all of the information has been gathered. After this, it’s time to make a comprehensive creative brief and to hand that over to the KOFISI in-house interior designers to create something unique for their client.

The team’s work is extensive, and their experience in this industry allows the client to get more square footage of workspace than the traditional office model. Because space is shared, businesses can use outdoor flexible desk areas, members lounges, cafes and restaurants communally, sharing the costs between them. The floorplans for what the team develops is continually revised until total satisfaction is achieved. The team’s ability to deliver genuinely stunning workspaces, unparalleled in their level of sophistication, is almost entirely unique in Africa. It’ll come as no surprise, therefore, that the KOFISI team is in high demand indeed, with a long pipeline of enquiries and requests.

With more and more people wanting to work with KOFISI, it’s clear that African multinationals have begun to think about space more clearly. The arrival of Fortune 500 companies in the continent’s cities and towns means that more people are demanding services of an ever-higher standard. Working with landlords, the KOFISI team has been able to educate enterprise in how to make the most out of its square footage, evolving businesses ready for the future. The team is particularly proud of its efforts in disrupting the serviced office model. These once drab and very boring offerings have blossomed into a very exciting and colourful growth industry.

There was previous resistance to shared workspaces from landlords, with many not seeing the benefit of “space as a service”. As time has gone on, however, the realisation of what KOFISI offers has been seen as a major benefit to many. 10% of commercial office space in developed cities is shared, roughly one in ten floors of any new building. The potential of this new space is clear, offering strong footfall as a building establishes itself, creating “tenant tow” and offering substantial commercial upsides to landlords who partner with providers like KOFISI in the building. There has been an increase in those who have wanted to work alongside established brands like KOFISI over the years, as it gives them an extra value proposition to take to potential tenants.

Much of these has come through the implementation of “management contract” style arrangements, where both the landlord and the provider collaborate to deliver a space. KOFISI pioneered this way of thinking, delivering the first management contracts in Africa, repurposing older buildings for modern businesses and delivering the largest workspace centres in Africa’s newest additions to the city skylines. That there is a new way of thinking spreading across the continent is entirely down to this intrepid team.

With this changing approach at the heart of the firm, it’s little wonder that over the last year, the KOFISI team have been busier than ever before. Now the worst of the pandemic is over, businesses are returning to Africa and need office solutions. They can see that this is a region where there are enormous opportunities. In many ways, the pandemic has presented the team with a host of exciting new prospects, as more and more companies start to embrace alternative ways of working. Whilst previously, it would have been unthinkable not to have a specific office space, the flexibility of shared workspaces has allowed companies to match the flexibility demanded by their employees.

As companies have returned to the office, they’ve also seen the need to ensure that they are better suited to the needs of their employees in other ways. By consulting space experts such as those who work for the team at KOFISI, office space has become an investment in itself, designed to act as a more stimulating location to work with a higher quality than ever before. By scaling back on space and removing the capital investment of licensing space, corporate organisations have been able to achieve wonderful things.

The idea that keeps KOFISI at the forefront of this exciting new industry is a determination to uncover precisely what inspires people. This is why there has been such strong commitment to hospitality services, for example, which has proven to be wildly successful. The team works tirelessly to ensure that their clients have the best possible experience at all times. When you work with KOFISI, you essentially gain an assistant whose goal is to make sure you can focus on what you do best. When managing your own office, you need to consider maintaining that space. When you use a shared workspace under KOFISI, all of those burdens are lifted.

Working with KOFISI massively increases the flexibility of how a business can operate too. The firm’s events service provides clients with incredible outdoor and indoor event spaces for members to hold bespoke and unforgettable conferences and seminars. The team take the strain of offering the whole range of event services that might be required, from planning the event in detail to executing it with aplomb. Catering, marketing and hospitality are all taken care of, provided to a standard which will delight and astound even the most particular of guests.

With so much potential at the team’s fingertips, it seems like KOFISI is likely to continue its path of growth for a considerable while yet. Their success in the African Excellence Awards, however, is not their own triumph as of late. The team have recently been nominated as a finalist in the international, SBID Office Design Awards. KOFISI is in the mix with some very well-known office designers. Perhaps, the most significant factor in their nomination is that they were the only shared workplace provider on the African continent to reach this stage. Such an achievement shows not only that the team are more than able to hold their own, but that they are able to hold their own against international competition. If African excellence is to be found anywhere, it’s in this incredible company.

Looking forward to the future, the team at KOFISI have big plans for the rest of 2022. These plans will see them expanding their reach in Nairobi, Lagos and Dar Es Salaam, as well as in other gateway cities across Africa. The incredible demand for the team’s unique efforts has seen them being approached by some of the largest multi-national corporations who want to expand across the continent. The team at KOFISI see this as a sign that they’re doing something right!

KOFISI is an example of a business which is inherently disruptive. The work that the team undertakes has been transformative for many in these transformative times. Office space is a concept which cannot stay still, and the companies and landlords that are aware and able to keep up with these changes are the ones which will continue to thrive in the years to come. For many, it’s clear that KOFISI is going to be a core part of this change, providing the knowledge and expertise to design an office unlike any other and then to maintain it to the highest possible standards. We celebrate the team’s tremendous success in the African Excellence Awards, and cannot wait to see what they do next!

For business enquiries, contact Georgia Webber from KOFISI via email –  [email protected] or on their website –

MEA Markets Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2022 African Excellence Awards

MEA Markets Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2022 African Excellence Awards.

United Kingdom, 2022– MEA Markets magazine announces the winners of the 2022 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 sixth year, the African Excellence programme continues to highlight the companies and leaders who are spearheading and driving industry across the continent. On the eve of the announcement, Awards Coordinator Holly Blackwood 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 wish you the very best of luck for the year ahead, and for the remainder of 2022.”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.


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.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

Alongside this, we have a luxury-lifestyle magazine, LUXlife, which appeals to a range of high-net-worth individuals, offering them insight into the latest products, experiences and innovations to ensure they can live the high-life to its fullest.

Common Mistakes in Link-Building to Avoid

One of the fundamental practices in search engine optimisation (SEO) is link-building. Despite how long it’s been around, it remains as effective now as ever when generating inbound web traffic and improving its online presence. Unfortunately, however, while there is a multitude of different techniques to create effective strategies for building links, many commit errors. As a result, it negatively impacts their websites, causing traffic losses and receiving costly penalties in severe cases.

As the saying goes, mistakes don’t just happen on their own; they’re caused. The good news is that you can avoid traps by knowing where they are laid out. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common mistakes made in link-building that you should avoid at all costs. So, if you want to learn more, keep on reading.

Doing everything yourself

SEO might sound simple in concept. But its execution is more complicated than you might think. If you try to tackle the job yourself, you’ll risk doing more damage to your search rankings and internet visibility than good. So don’t make this mistake and invest in link building specialists like They will save you the trouble, do much better, and help you achieve the intended outcome.

Buying links

Purchasing links was a notorious strategy in the 2000s. Some websites even promoted the service outright, to improve rankings on the search engine results pages by selling the links. It was a time when the Page Rank of Google was the KPI, or metric everyone wanted to concentrate on. This resulted in an overwhelming amount of paid links all over the World Wide Web. However, Google eventually began to lock down on the practice, resulting in penalties for these services.

While this strategy is no longer as prevalent as it once was, many sites still think they can get away with it. Don’t make the same mistake and steer clear of this Blackhat strategy. Build your links organically instead. Doing so will give you peace of mind that you won’t get penalised for your efforts. More importantly, it’ll show your brand or organisation as being transparent and honest. This is especially important if you’re trying to enter a new market, like the Middle Eastern or African markets because it will give you a better chance of winning them over.

Ignoring broken links

Optimising a well-organised website structure for search engine crawlers is one of the most effective ways to ensure that the materials you publish online find their audience. If you leave broken links the way they are, the crawlers won’t be able to fulfil their intended function. Moreover, users will find it frustrating, sending a signal that the online property is of poor quality and leading to lower rankings.

Therefore, you must regularly audit the website, check if there are any dead or broken links, and address them accordingly. It may be a minor detail, but it will impact your link-building efforts and SEO campaign as a whole.

Spamming links

Another common mistake many make is spamming links. The practice frequently happens on guest posts and blog comments where users remark on a piece with little more than a link to a poor-quality online domain or write and upload posts containing the spammy links. Similar to the acquisition of links by paying for them, this is a practice that you mustn’t do because search algorithms have gotten to the point where they can detect these Blackhat methods and penalise the sites accordingly.

Failing to establish relationships

Link-building isn’t only a technique for promoting and connecting content with other sites. It’s also an excellent strategy for establishing networks and creating mutually beneficial partnerships. In other words, the practice is more than merely building links. If you overlook this aspect of link-building, you could miss out on opportunities to strengthen your connection with the webmasters and increase your exposure further. So be sure that you don’t because you may just win over your intended audience, whether they’re from the United States or the Middle Eastern countries.


These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any brand or company that doesn’t use link-building strategies in one form or another. After all, this digital marketing method can boost an organisation’s visibility in ways that few others can. However, you mustn’t take it lightly, or it could end up bringing the opposite of the intended results, so avoid the abovementioned mistakes.

Mastercard New Payments Index 2022: UAE Consumers Embrace Digital Payments

Adoption of a broader range of digital payment methods is accelerating in the UAE and the technology fueling the future of payments is already here, according to Mastercard’s New Payments Index 2022. In addition to being aware of solutions like cryptocurrency, digital cards, biometric payments, BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) and open banking, consumers in the UAE are increasingly and actively using these solutions in their everyday lives.

Mastercard’s New Payments Index 2022 found that 88% of people in the UAE have used at least one emerging payment method in the last year. Of these, 39% used a tappable smartphone mobile wallet, 29% used BNPL, 20% used cryptocurrency and 18% used a payment-enabled wearable tech device. Consumers are also making purchases in increasingly diverse ways, including through voice assistants and social media apps.

Usage of digital payments increasing, use of cash declining

While traditional payment methods still have traction, 29% of consumers in the UAE indicated they used less cash in the past year. By contrast, 66% of UAE users (compared to 61% globally) increased their use of at least one digital payment method in the last year, including digital cards, SMS payments, digital money transfer apps and instant payment services. While crypto use was low, 40% of cryptocurrency users in the UAE say they have used it more in the last year. These behaviors are expected to continue, with comfort and security key to growing adoption.

The Index confirmed security is top of mind when deciding what payment methods to use, globally and in the UAE (36%). In the country, security and rewards are main considerations, followed by promotions and ease of use. Highlighting sustainability as a key driver in the region, 36% of UAE consumers said they also consider social and environmental benefits.

“It is exciting to see the increased adoption of emerging payment methods and consumers’ eagerness to reap the benefits of the digital economy in the UAE and across the region. Mastercard is committed to understanding the needs and preferences of the people in the markets we serve, and we will continue partnering with the public and private sectors to develop market-relevant solutions as we build an inclusive and connected digital future that works for everyone,” said J.K. Khalil, Cluster General Manager, MENA East, Mastercard.

The Mastercard New Payments Index 2022 further shows:

High awareness of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) Installments as a budgeting tool

The majority of UAE consumers have heard of BNPL with 87% saying they are familiar with the concept, and almost half (46%) are already comfortable using it today. Consumers want the flexibility and convenience of BNPL, but with the sense of security associated with a trusted provider like a bank or payment network.

Those that have used BNPL find it useful for emergency and big-ticket purchases, as well as increased purchasing power. Consumers also find BNPL useful for unique use cases, including as a budgeting and financial planning tool.

Deeper understanding of blockchain technology key to expanding cryptocurrency and NFT use

Broad mainstream awareness of cryptocurrency (95%) and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) (86%) exist, though depth of understanding about both currencies and the underlying technology is lacking, with three in four (74%) UAE consumers agreeing they would use cryptocurrency more if they understood it better. Consumers are looking for more education, security, and flexibility to manage crypto assets. Still, about two thirds (66%) of consumers in UAE agree NFTs and other digital assets could be good investments. Two in three UAE consumers (67%) have undertaken at least one crypto-related activity in the past year, such as opening a crypto wallet, buying, trading or holding crypto as an investment.

Most consumers are open to future cryptocurrency engagement, with potential opportunities ranging from holding an investment to redeeming rewards, using crypto as means of payment, to purchasing an NFT using a credit or debit card. Stability in the industry is lacking, with those familiar with crypto feeling especially strongly about the need for regulation. Banks are presently the most trusted entity to drive digital currencies.  

Receptiveness to more direct Account-to-Account (A2A) payments

The majority of consumers are seeking greater agility to optimize bill payments, prioritizing control, flexibility, convenience, and integrated payment technologies. Most consumers are open to direct account-to-account payment options, by linking their account to a merchant site for future purchases. 83% of UAE consumers using account-to-account payments have maintained or increased their usage in the last year.

Seven in ten consumers (70%) agree they are interested in a bill payment option that allows them to change the date they pay their monthly bills, mostly due to an irregular income. Bill payment options that allow them to pay over a period using a buy now, pay later solution (71%) was also of interest, as well as automatic payments for their household bills (70%).

Consumers turning to fintech, and indirectly open banking, to accomplish everyday finance needs

Consumers are relying on digital finance options for their everyday financial tasks, with the benefits of open banking like speed, convenience, and transparency. Eight in ten (81%) know about open banking, and are using it to pay their bills, do their banking, secure or refinance loans, and make BNPL payments.

Over half (55%) of UAE consumers feel safe using apps to send money to people or businesses from their phone. Five in ten (50%) are willing to share financial data information with apps to have access to payment tools that help them manage their money.

Biometrics offer convenience and security at checkout, though data access concerns remain

Consumers recognize the convenience that biometrics can offer, with 71% agreeing it is easier to make payments using biometrics than a card or device. The potential for security optimization is also evident to consumers, with seven in ten agreeing biometrics tech for payments is more secure than two factor authentication.

While consumers do have some concerns about what entities have access to their biometric data, they are still open to using it given the time it saves, and nearly two thirds (62%) have used biometrics for at least one purchase in the last year. Five in six (87%) consumers have used or plan to use their fingerprint to make a payment, which was followed by other biometric methods like facial recognition, palm or hand, retina scans, and voice recognition.

Emerging payments have strongest traction among more digitally native generations

Younger generations have gone more digital in their purchasing and payments behavior, and their engagement in and usage of emerging digital payments engagement is accelerating at a faster rate than older audiences. They are also more open to exploring emerging payment approaches like crypto, or buying virtual products in the metaverse. While security and data privacy remain a concern for them, it is less heightened than for older audiences, and they are more likely to perceive digital tools as secure.

Across the UAE, Gen Z is least likely to use cash or make in-person purchases and payments. They are proactively seeking out new payment methods, and nearly two thirds of Gen Z (64%) in the UAE are likely to have obtained a new digital payment alternative (e.g. digital wallet, click-to-pay account) compared to only 22% of Boomers.

As consumers shop, bank and transact digitally more than ever before, Mastercard continues to strengthen its digital payment capabilities in the UAE and wider EEMEA region. Its trusted technology solutions are being used for new use cases, brought to market through various partnerships with fintechs, governments, financial institutions, digital giants and telecom operators. By tapping into multi-rail capabilities to create competitive localized solutions, Mastercard is accelerating the transfer of value in new ways, on multiple rails, thereby advancing a bright future for inclusive commerce.

One in Five MEA Employees Would Prefer Better Software Over More Vacation Time, Freshworks Report

Freshworks Inc. ,a software company empowering the people who power business, today released the findings of a report, which found IT professionals in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) spend nearly a full work day each week (an average of 7 hours and 53 minutes) dealing with bloatware – unwanted, overly complicated SaaS add-ons and features that hinders productivity and causes frustration at work. This has consequently had an impact on their productivity (51%), decreased their motivation (31%) and made them want to resign (23%). 

Freshworks’ new, State of Workplace Technology: Bloatware – the difference between love and hate for workplace tech, report explores more than 2,000 global IT professionals’ interactions with workplace technology. In it, 40% of MEA respondents report that most of the software their work provides doesn’t help them do their job better, while over half (54%) say their company pays for software products their IT teams never use – indicating that organizations are currently spending significant amounts on unnecessary overheads.  

IT Pros Want More of Less

Despite widespread innovation and a societal movement toward simple, easy-to-use apps, the new research reveals that bloatware is a persistent and pernicious problem for organizations. MEA IT professionals report that they have an average of 7.5 different applications available for use on their work computer, but only actively use half of them meaning that half are simply a distraction that lowers overall system performance. Almost every IT professional (91%) says their company could benefit from reducing overall software contracts, stating benefits that include increased productivity (56%), cost savings (50%) and more enjoyable work (25%).

“It’s clear Middle East users prioritise functionality over features as unnecessarily complex software can be a bane rather than a boon. For businesses, investing in overcomplicated technologies has a threefold negative effect – the costs sunk into implementing the solution, the impact on employee satisfaction, and the subsequent loss of productivity,” Manish Mishra – Head, Middle East & Africa, Freshworks.

“Legacy SaaS providers may have had good intentions by offering more add-ons and features, but the era of complexity has backfired and is bogging down businesses’ ability to deliver,” said Prasad Ramakrishnan, CIO of Freshworks. “As we approach a possible slowdown in the economy, the C-suite is re-examining their tech stack to prioritize solutions that deliver maximum productivity, not complexity and burnout. Bloatware needs to go.”

However, gaining the necessary understanding of user preferences will require a culture shift that encourages employees to share their experiences and frustrations. Currently, despite costly and frustrating issues with software, three quarters (75%) of MEA IT pros have hesitations about sharing feedback on their software. Why? One in four don’t want to be seen as a complainer and say their company has a history of ignoring feedback (24%), while 18% don’t believe they’ll be listened to.

Frustrating Software Hurts Motivation and Performance

Almost unanimously, IT pros hate their company software. 84% of MEA IT pros said they have frustrations with their company’s software, with the leading reasons being: it slows down their work (36%), it lacks flexibility (33%) and it requires multiple programs to do their job effectively (28%). But more worrying is that bad software also hurts work performance and morale. Notable findings include:

●    Contributes to the Great Resignation. Nearly a quarter of MEA IT workers (23%) say being forced to use outdated legacy software makes them want to quit their job. 
●    Hurts mental health. The large majority (87%) of MEA IT pros are burnt out and nearly half (49%) say they are the most burnt out they’ve ever been in their career. They see bloated software as part of the problem, with 25% reporting that easier-to-use software would help reduce their burnout.
●    Better software can be part of the solution. MEA IT professionals say that easier-to-use software (45%) and software that reduces workload (36%) would help reduce burnout.


IT Pros Will Give Up a Lot for Better Software

In the MEA region, fifty-seven percent of IT pros say they hate using outdated legacy software that isn’t easy to use. Many hate the software so much that they are willing to give up benefits, vacation days (47%), more parental leave (36%), and more sick/wellness days (35%).

“In an increasingly digital world, business and IT heads need to pay careful attention to the usability, performance, and intuitiveness of their digital platforms. Those that get this right will have their pick of their industry’s top talent as workers gravitate towards organizations that place an emphasis on delivering exceptional digital experiences,” Mishra concluded.

Freshworks recently released Part 1 of its State of Workplace Technology series titled, Workplace technology: The new battleground for the war on talent, productivity & reputation. It found that businesses globally face a potential workplace crisis due to inadequate technology – which damages employee productivity, mental health and the ability to retain talent – as an overwhelming 91% of employees report being frustrated due to inadequate workplace technology. Meanwhile, 71% of business leaders acknowledge that employees will consider looking for a new employer if their current job does not provide access to the tools, technology or information they need to do their jobs well. 

Unprotected Entry Into the Metaverse Brings Accrued Cyber Risks

IT and cybersecurity experts concerned that most brands are rushing to establish their presence without a proper cybersecurity strategy

Enterprises that are considering joining the metaverse bandwagon have been put on high alert against imminent cyberattacks that could expose their valuable data to crippling cyberattacks, data exfiltration and breaches.

As brands get increasingly engulfed in the metaverse, largely driven by the exciting opportunities that this relatively new digital concept presents, IT and cybersecurity experts are seriously concerned that most of them are rushing to establish their presence without a proper cybersecurity strategy.

Metaverse, an attempt to create an immersive virtual world that combines augmented and virtual reality, includes economic and social spaces where users from anywhere in the world can enjoy a wide range of content and experiences.

This, according to cybersecurity experts, also significantly exposes individual internet users and brands that are playing in that space to a plethora of risks that could lead to a surge in cases of account hacking and tampering, phishing and assets theft.

“Metaverse is an exciting and futuristic concept that is creating enormous opportunities for enterprises as well as innovators. However, enterprises that are considering operating in that space should also be weary of the imminent cyber threats that come with new innovation. As soon as digital property in the 3D universe, for instance, becomes of value, cases of account hacking, theft, ransomware and phishing will also increase significantly. Partly to blame will be the lack of a solid cyber protection strategy to safeguard private and confidential information from potential attackers,” said Candid Wüest, VP of Cyber Protection Research at Acronis.

According to the Acronis Cyber Protection Week Global Report 2022, cybercriminals are exploiting the IT complexity to launch catastrophic cyberattacks. With most users still not fully aware of the magnitude of the cyber threats they are facing in the wake of increased metaverse adoption, daily data theft (credit card, identity, passwords, etc.), malware, phishing attacks are likey to increase by 200% by 2024 due to unpreparedness or lack of a cyber protection master plan.  

Main risks

Device security remains high on the cyber protection priority list as platform and device hacking is widely expected to soar as the metaverse uptake also skyrockets. Threats and breaches to devices is likely to worsen and could subsequently also have actual terminal consequences in the physical world.

“For individual users of Metaverse, hacking of metaverse-enabled devices like specific headsets, for instance, can cause seizures, if someone is epileptic. It can also hurt their vision or hearing at least temporarily as well as expose their physical location, and more,” noted Candid Wüest. Metaverse will not have entirely new security issues as it will have the similar issues as the gaming industry. The explosive popularity of gaming, which is arguably the biggest segment of the entertainment industry, with over three billion regular participants, paints a picture of just how lucrative the metaverse can become for cybercriminals based on the number of users it can attract.

Data regulation

The lack of data collection and usage regulation has also emerged as a possible enabler of cyber threats within the virtual reality platform. This, IT security experts warn, could create a myriad of loopholes that cybercriminals could exploit to infiltrate private networks and gain unrestricted access to sensitive data from enterprises and individuals.

With regulation lacking, cybercrime could become the fastest-growing type of crime currently valued at ​​US$1-2 trillion and growing at a faster rate. However, despite the commitment by social media giant Meta that it will invest US$50 million in external research that will primarily focus on privacy and security in the metaverse – including a partnership with the National University of Singapore, to investigate data use – more still needs to be done, especially by enterprises to secure their data.

These safeguard measures include a comprehensive artificial intelligence and machine learning-driven cyber protection strategy combined with vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. Other effective security measures include blockchain technology to identify users; tokens assigned by an organization and use of biometrics in a headset to confirm user identity.

Metaverse warfare

While the concept of a virtual world was developed primarily for social platforms to help them boost engagement, the immersive multi-dimension will also create more opportunities for complex cyber attacks.

“Metaverse for information warfare is now emerging as a real threat that could be used to spread malicious information. Issues such as deep fake news will be more convincing in metaverse, news coverage will get more “gruesome”, and sports and entertainment will feel more real. Emotions will run high – which in theory a weakness used by threat actors, including politically motivated ones,” noted Candid Wüest.

Ceramic Tiles, Bioclimatic Architecture in the Construction, Design Industry Can Drive ROI by More Than 1000%

Rising global warming rates point toward the need for sustainable architecture and materials in the building industries which accounts for 40% of global emissions in the world

The region’s growing popularity for high-rise buildings and expansive infrastructure development has been on sharp focus for mounting pressure on its energy dependency to power its amenities. This, according to key stakeholders in the construction and interior design industry, is reversing the slowing down of the region’s goal to reverse the adverse effects of climate change.

High-rise buildings consume nearly 80% of all energy produced in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) every year. Apart from massive energy consumption, these buildings add another hole to the country’s sustainability plans on the back of sky-rocketing maintenance costs, design and infrastructure needs that are extremely energy-intensive.

Apart from massive energy use, buildings and construction are responsible for 40% of total carbon emissions in the world, and with the Gulf region being surrounded by this industry, it is essential that these industries are focused upon even as the region moves closer to its vision of achieving net zero-emission by 2050.

The urgent need to redevelop

Over the past few years, the Gulf region has been witnessing a massive boom in the construction and design sector. This, according to Tile of Spain – the official umbrella brand that represents the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association (ASCER), calls for an urgent need to adopt sustainable practices within this industry, especially in the use of ceramics.

Mott MacDonald conducted a study across the GCC region to explore how carbon emissions from buildings could be reduced. The research studies the impact of adding insulation, and external insulation finishing to improve energy consumption and significantly reduce carbon emission.

“Remodeling and using sustainable building material is an urgent cry of the hour, as global warming rates across the globe keep on rising. One of the most effective and sustainable building materials has always been ceramic, as these are 100% natural and environmentally friendly. Ceramic tiles, bricks and blocks can withstand the most adverse climate effects and can resist heat up to 1,500 degrees Celsius, which makes them most suitable for use in ventilated facades. Ceramic slabs and panels can also help reduce 154 to 229 Mt CO2-eq. This places bioclimatic architecture at the heart of sustainable design and construction,” noted Mr. Vicente Nomdedeu, president and chairman, ASCER – Tile of Spain.

Bioclimatic architecture: the absolute need for Gulf countries

Bioclimatic architecture focuses on the design and construction of buildings taking environmental conditions into consideration and using them to benefit building users. It promises to provide maximum comfort while using the least amount of resources, as climatic and environmental factors are taken into consideration to reduce cost by using environmental factors in your favor.

Tile of Spain, a pioneering brand, has taken on the task of promoting and establishing bioclimatic architecture around the world during this crucial hour, when the global climate is taking a massive hit.

Main features of Bioclimatic architecture

Tile of Spain’s move to encourage the use of Bioclimatic architecture is largely expected to jolt the industry and reignite the stakeholders’ sustainable construction and design commitment. The use of Bioclimatic architecture will expose the industry to numerous benefits including saving energy, reducing air conditioner costs, and improving health and wellness.

“The Spanish ceramic tiles are developed using a technology that allows rainwater harvesting reuse as part of international certification in green building. In view of society’s increased awareness and sensitivity to living and working in healthier and more sustainable spaces, there is a growing demand for and supply of spaces with green building certifications. This makes ceramic tiles the go-to sustainable building and design solution for modern living and working spaces,” added Mr. Nomdedeu.

Six Trends to Watch for MENA-Based Family Offices

Apex Group experts recently spoke at the Cross Border Wealth Management Conference in Dubai where much discussion focused on family offices in the region and the current challenges (and opportunities) they face.

1. Traditional banks are no longer the answer

Contrary to popular belief, wealthy family offices in the region are finding it increasingly difficult to open bank accounts, particularly with traditional banks. There are several reasons for this, including PEP status and the distinctive low volume but high value nature of family office transactions. Perhaps most pertinently, banks may be less willing to pay the higher compliance costs associated with family office onboarding.

The global pandemic has changed our relationship with technology, with many now expecting the ease and efficiency they experience as retail banking customers, to be replicated by their business banking provider.

As a result, more family office businesses are looking to so-called “neobanks” – exclusively digital banking platforms – which can provide a more nimble and flexible service and with lower compliance associated fees and costs.

2. Foundations are beginning to outpace Trusts

Throughout the Middle East, foundations are significantly growing in popularity with increasing numbers being established in the market.

While trusts remain the predominant vehicle, many consider foundations to be a more compatible solution, owing to their discreet independent legal structure and better asset protection. Likewise, there is a growing sense that trusts are not fully Sharia compliant and should be used with caution.

The direction of travel suggests that more family offices will soon be considering and reviewing their trust structures and should explore the option of a foundation, which may provide greater flexibility and futureproofing.

These are complex and relatively new structures, however, so family offices consider seeking expert professional advice to help identify foundations that operate in line with a family’s needs.

3. SPVs no longer fit for purpose

Many family offices in the region have traditionally adopted Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) to hold assets and investments.

However, as more of these vehicles are accumulated, they become increasingly difficult to preside over, given the complexities of their individual structures and the myriad service providers involved. These factors can make it difficult for family offices to react appropriately when circumstances change, such as regulations or tax events, for example.

Cell companies offer a good alternative to SPVs. These vehicles are protected and independent, with each unique cell governed by an English Common Law TopCo structure, which provides increased efficiencies and opportunity.

4. The Saudi family office is evolving

Saudi Arabia is a hotbed of fiscal development, and the needs of its constituents are changing.

With the increase in tools and investment vehicles available, Saudi families are beginning to explore new methods of managing family finances, such as trusts, foundations and, in some cases, appointing professional fund managers to run private funds.

There is a greater emphasis on diversifying investments and with the financial community becoming more closely acquainted with Sharia Law, and with several Sharia-compliant investments having come to markets, families are keen to embrace a more modern approach to financial planning.

5. UAE corporate tax headwinds

Proposed UAE corporate tax laws, and the potential issues that private wealth management may face as a result, was a recurring theme at the Dubai conference.

The UAE Federal Tax Authorities have recently released a consultation paper which provides a glimpse into how the jurisdiction plans to implement corporate taxes. Key issues to consider over the 3–5-year execution period include repapering, jurisdiction shopping and capital structure changes, with a new 9% federal corporate tax coming into effect from June 1st 2023.

Family offices need to be abreast of these changes and understand the alternative services available that may help mitigate such challenges.

6. Succession planning has come to the fore

There is a slow migration from Sharia-based family wealth planning, which is raising significant succession planning and asset protection questions and has led to a spate of very public succession planning disputes in the Middle East. This has focused minds across the family office space in the region on how critical it is to get their succession planning and preparations right.

Disputes of this nature can be lengthy and draining. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but it is worthwhile taking time to design and implement a succession plan that suits all parties and to avoid engaging in taxing disputes within the courts.

It should be noted that while having a will in place is a positive starting point, this alone does not constitute succession planning for a family office. It is important for family office leaders to engage with a trusted financial advisor well in advance, in order to alleviate any uncertainty and better protect your assets for the next generation.

Best Film Production Company 2022 – Abu Dhabi

With deeply ingrained values of respect, creativity, and boldness, Al Kalema Productions is one of the most well-renowned and well-respected production companies in the Middle East. Having made a name for itself both within its region and in the international market, this company sets itself apart with its creative integrity and team spirit, creating each piece of film and media with an unparalleled passion that pushes the envelope of what is possible in modern cinematography.

A United Arab Emirates company with an international pedigree, Al Kalema Productions has managed to gain accreditation across a wide cross section of heavy hitters in its market. With an office in the United States, partnerships all over the world, and the title of the most prominent independent production house in the MENA region, Al Kalema Productions boasts an in-house roster of talent that has secured its place at the top. From producers to directors, screenwriters, camera operators, video editors, animators, and sound mixers, its team are well-educated, well-trained, and enthusiastic, each with their own individual artistic flair that breathes life into any project.

Nominally, with one of the largest in-house production inventories in the country at its fingertips, Al Kalema Productions puts some of the greatest innovations in film to use. By putting this equipment in the hands of the people who can make the best use of it – its team – it is able to create some of the most beautiful and well executed artistry made possible by the medium of film. Thus, it appreciates its clients, stakeholders, and audience, each of whom put their faith in its creative and logistical acumen at every stage of the process, and who appreciate its proven ability to deliver the best results on a reliable basis.

Furthermore, this company is one that admires nature. By capturing the natural beauty of landscapes and people, it hopes to bring an audience a greater appreciation of the world they live in by showing them it through a variety of different perspectives, both in terms of character and creative context. In this manner, it lets its products speak for itself, the message it shares being one of ambition and diligence; with each film it creates, it gets one step closer to its goal of making the United Arab Emirates a media hub not just for the Middle East, but for the entire world.

From development to post-production, Al Kalema Productions provides a well-fleshed out and comprehensive pipeline that will take a project from start to finish. Always paying attention to the details as well as remaining cognizant of the bigger picture, its diverse and dynamic team are experts in finding the synergy between ideas, pulling them together to form a beautiful tapestry of world-class media, infused with a variety of opinions and experiences. Fundamentally, this infusion of such a myriad of different viewpoints into a work ensures that each project leaves as the best version of itself it can be, a version that is respectful to all and meets a client’s vision.

Critically, in the past, this attitude to film making has allowed it to create some of the best works in major events, film, TV production, and even marketing campaigns for high-end clientele. Further to this, with an upcoming pivot towards VFX, it promises that its distinctive style will only be developing further as it moves forward towards the bright future that its surely in store. Moreover, this future will be built atop the deeply integral principles and values that Al Kalema Productions has infused into the very foundation of the business.

These values speak to opening the door for new creatives, to delivering new content and pushing the envelope when it comes to what is possible for film, media, and visual content creation. Its expert team work hard to listen to the client at every turn, incorporating their voice, ideas, and commentary into the media itself so that the final product is truly reflective of what the customer wanted; moreover, when it receives feedback, this is something it addresses with the utmost seriousness. Crucially, when it receives a review from its clients – no matter the issues raised – it will always seek to try and analyse and learn from the comments, concerns, and critiques.

It thrives by receiving and responding sensitively to constructive criticism, using it to construct the pillars that will allow it to reach greater heights of success. Although – due to changes in its industry and in the world at large – it has had to change elements of its processes or ways of working time and again, its core value of listening to and valuing customer feedback has remained ever-consistent. This, its other values of fostering new ideas, and pushing for further innovation, has created a company that will never rest on its laurels, instead dedication itself to always finding out how it can be better, create something more hard hitting, or reach new audiences.

Its independent feature films, documentaries, and TV shows have therefore become examples of some of the best of modern film making. Able to create both Hollywood style movies and regional Arab content, its corporate videos, TV commercials, and promotional content isn’t restrained by borders; indeed, it is able to create content that appeals to the global market, with a history of taking initiative in the production of its own content. By not waiting for the market to come to it, it creates the new content that will satisfy the market’s hankerings for the uncharted and unexplored, developing a reputation for originality, pizzaz, and a singularly prestigious flair.

Stylistically, its relentlessly ambitious and front-running ability to develop the latest and greatest hits is made possible through its incredible team. Each of them is talented, dedicated, and hardworking, with an ethos of family that follows them throughout their career right from day one. No matter the department, each person will find themselves fully ingrained in the business as an integral part of the greater whole, an indispensable element of the production process with their own highly valued talents, passions, and experience. The energy and ambition of these people is what has put wings on the feet of Al Kalema Productions’s success.

Having developed a project called ‘people of determination’, a three-part TV mini-series and drama, with a crew of people with special needs and disabilities from all over the world, this series has been made by the people it is about, allowing Al Kalema Productions to tell the stories of people who are seldom seen in media. It looks forward to developing many projects like this going forward, and is excited to see where it can takes its clients – and its industry – in the future.

For further information, please visit 

Solar Electric Vehicle Leader Lightyear Enters Agreement With Sharjah Innovation Park

The Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTI Park), the leading incubation hub for tech startups, has established a new collaboration with Lightyear, the Netherlands-based, high-tech company developing the world’s first solar car, Lightyear 0.  This partnership will be the first of its kind for Lightyear and will boost the efforts of SRTI Park and UAE in sustainable mobility solutions.      

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the two sides to further establish     Lightyear’s growing international presence outside of the Netherlands and reflects the rising global importance of Sharjah in enabling the development of sustainable mobility solutions through the SRTI Park.

The two parties are exploring a range of activities to drive sustainable mobility in the region, which could include the establishment of Lightyear testing facilities and sales and service support across the region. With an educational component at the core of the two companies, Lightyear and SRTI Park aim to set up university research exchange programmes on solar-powered electric vehicles (EVs), and advance policy initiatives that promote government incentives for EVs, including solar-extended EVs.

The MoU was signed by Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTI Park, and Lex Hoefsloot, CEO of Lightyear on June 13th in the Netherlands, in the presence of HE Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, His Excellency Jamal Al Musharakh, UAE Ambassador to the Netherlands, and His Excellency Lody Embrechts, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the UAE, with facilitation by consultancy firm Sawadi Ventures.

Speaking on the new partnership, Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri said: “The UAE has created a holistic innovation ecosystem that helps companies develop and scale up trailblazing solutions. Today, it is a hub for top-notch competencies and scientific innovations, particularly those related to clean energy. This complements our nation’s efforts to combat global warming and contribute to collective climate action, and aligns with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative. We are pleased by Lightyear’s decision to set up its first base outside the Netherlands at SRTI Park, and wish the company success in its endeavors.”

CEO of SRTI Park, Hussain Al Mahmoudi said: “This is an exciting moment for the SRTI Park, which was set up to turn Sharjah into a hub for cutting-edge innovation, R&D, higher education and university-level research. We are delighted to add Lightyear to our list of global innovators.”

“Having Lightyear at the SRTI Park boosts the UAE’s position as a nation on the frontline of the transition to sustainable mobility, and, in doing so, contributes to combating climate change through innovative technologies. UAE is already the world’s third-largest producer of solar power, making it the perfect place to test Lightyear’s patented solar technology. We are confident that Lightyear’s presence at SRTI Park will spark interest among all countries in the region to embrace EVs,” Al Mahmoudi added.

Lightyear CEO, Lex Hoefsloot said: “We look forward to collaborating with SRTI Park to further move the needle of innovation in solar electric vehicles. The GCC region is of strategic importance for our company and is a strong growth market for solar electric vehicles.”

SRTI Park has been attracting global innovation-driven companies that are conducting R&D in vital sectors such as transportation, vertical farming, hydrogen energy, 3D printing, and more.    

Lightyear, which began as a world championship winning car racing team, became experts in energy efficiency and decided to put their knowledge to good use by going into solar car technology. Six years later, the first-of-its-kind Lightyear 0 is production-ready and set to revolutionize the auto industry. Thanks to a solar yield of up to 11,000 kilometers a year, drivers using Lightyear 0 for their daily commute (35 kilometers) can drive for months in the summer period before needing to plug into a public charger or household outlet.    

Lightyear’s entry into the EV market comes at a time when it is estimated the total EV transition for Europe would cost over 80 billion euros. Of which over 50 billion euros are estimated to be used for the charging infrastructure. With Lightyear’s SEV innovations, dependence on charging infrastructure would be mitigated, thus accelerating EV transition at drastically lower costs.

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts Dining Destinations Recognised In Gault&Millau Guide 2022

  • Executive Chef Beatrice Segoni of Pierchic at Jumeirah Al Qasr takes highest rating among all female chefs in UAE

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts has been recognised in the inaugural edition of the prestigious Gault&Millau UAE 2022 guide, with ten of its much-loved restaurants featured for their exceptional culinary craftsmanship.

The results of Gault&Millau’s team of independent reviewers, were revealed at an exclusive gala and awards ceremony hosted at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah this Tuesday. The hotel group’s culinary credentials took centre stage at the event, as the group with the greatest number of restaurants listed in the guide. Ten of its own signature dining destinations were shortlisted across five award categories, with Al Muntaha, Burj al Arab Jumeirah’s French-Italian restaurant receiving 3 toques – the highest awarded in the UAE, and Pierchic, the Italian fine dining restaurant at Jumeirah Al Qasr received a rating of 13 and 1 toque, making Executive Chef Beatrice Segoni the highest rated female chef in the UAE.

“The UAE’s reputation as a culinary destination has grown considerably over the last 20 years, and as a hospitality brand born in Dubai, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts is proud to have been at the forefront of this gastronomic evolution,” commented Jose Silva, CEO, Jumeirah Group. “We believe investing in exceptional culinary talent and creating unique dining concepts is not only integral to the guest experience, but a differentiator in the luxury hospitality sector.  Today, across our 2km private beachfront in Dubai, which is home to six of Jumeirah Group’s luxury hotels and resorts, guests can enjoy an incredible choice of restaurants, of which 13 are featured in the Gault&Millau guide.” He continued, “The launch of the first UAE edition of the Gault&Millau guide is testament to the quality, diversity and outstanding culinary craftsmanship you will find across the Emirates, and we are delighted our culinary talent and award-winning dining concepts have been selected for this prestigious guide.”

One of the world’s most established and widely respected food guides, Gault&Millau’s rating system sees restaurants visited anonymously by professional food critics, and then ranked on a scale of 1 to 20. Points are awarded based solely on the quality and creativity of the food, with service, price and the restaurant’s ambiance judged separately. Based on a restaurant’s overall rating, venues are able to display one to five toques (or chef hats), reflecting their positioning in Gault&Millau UAE.

Jumeirah’s strategic vision puts exceptional dining as a core pillar of the brand and its strongest differentiator. Renowned for its exceptional dining experiences, ten venues from the luxury hotel brand’s award-winning culinary portfolio – Al Muntaha, SAL, Al Nafoorah, French Riviera, Pai Thai, KAYTO, Pierchic, Shimmers, Zheng He’s and Bastion – were all included.

The full list of Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts’ restaurants featured in the Gault&Millau UAE 2022 guide and their respective ratings are: 

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

  • Al Muntaha – Rating 15, 3 Toques
  • SAL – Rating 12

Jumeirah Al Qasr:

  • Pierchic – Rating 13, 1 Toque
  • French Riviera – Rating 12
  • Al Nafoorah – Rating 11
  • Pai Thai – Rating 11

Jumeirah Al Naseem:

  • KAYTO – Rating 11.5

Jumeirah Mina A’Salam:

  • Shimmers – Rating 11
  • Zheng He’s – Rating 11

Jumeirah Beach Hotel:

  • Bastion – Rating 10

To explore Jumeirah Hotels & Resort’s portfolio of dining destinations across Dubai, with concepts to cater for all tastes and occasions, please visit or contact [email protected] for reservations. In the meantime, stay connected via our social media channels and don’t forget to tag us in your posts #TasteofJumeirah #TimeExceptionallyWellSpent.

25% of Dubai Homebuyers Seek Living Spaces That Bolster Mental Health

A quarter of homebuyers in Dubai are on the hunt for living spaces that provide mental health benefits, according to real estate brokerage Union Square House (USH).

Living spaces and amenities that bolster mental health include spa-inspired bathrooms, freestanding bathtubs, meditation corners, indoor plants and fixtures, outdoor spaces, layouts that let in more natural light and fit-for-purpose residential communities.

Developers and facilities management firms play a key role through the upkeep of common areas, which represent essential convening venues for the community to celebrate gatherings and engage in fun activities.

According to a recent study about work-life balance conducted by mobile tech company Kisi, Dubai residents are among the most overworked in the world. As a result, stress levels among residents tend to be higher, and therefore finding a healing place in a home becomes a necessity.

Gaurav Aidasani, Founder & Managing Director, Union Square House, said: “The last two years have been tough on all of us. Apart from work-related challenges, our living spaces may have a direct impact on our mental health. In the wake of the pandemic, the correlation between a home and stress levels can’t be overlooked.”

Homebuyers in Dubai are increasingly pursuing thoughtful layouts and wellness-focused designs. Over the past couple of years, a new form of demand for living spaces that aim to enhance positive emotions and reduce depression emerged. Developers are now taking note of this trend to optimize living space for health and mental wellness.

“Finding the right home to ease the mental health burden extends beyond the living space itself. Homebuyers need to find the right community first. Many of us envisage owning a home in a friendly, serene community with parks, play areas, gyms and pools. Being part of a lively neighbourhood has moved up the homebuyer’s agenda thanks to a prevailing work-from-home lifestyle calling for greener communities where people can spend their times joyfully,” Gaurav continued.

“However, singles or couples may prefer living in the bustling city centre. Therefore, it is important to pick a community that suits you based on what a perfect home personally means to you. You must live in a community where you feel a sense of belonging,” Gaurav concluded.

When identifying the right community, homebuyers should also consider ease of access. Some communities in Dubai suffer from traffic congestion. Time spent coming in and going out of a residence can have an impact on mental health.

Factoring in proximity of a home to key facilities is also important. Short distances to points of interest such as schools, hospitals, retail outlets, leisure facilities, beauty centres and restaurants can make life easier, hence reducing stress levels.

In 2021, USH achieved AED 3 billion in real estate transactions, expanded its customer-base from six to 30 nationalities, saw a threefold growth in business performance and a twofold growth in team members. The real estate brokerage also focused on new markets, capitalizing on demand for luxury homes from European, American and Canadian customers.

USH has recently claimed the number one spot as the most awarded real estate agency in Dubai. The company has received the “Top Real Estate Agency” award from Emaar Properties for the past 10 years in a row, Dubai Properties (seven consecutive years), Meraas Properties (two consecutive years), Majid Al Futtaim (No.1 Performing Partner 2021), District One Meydan (No.1 Agency 2021), Nakheel (No.2 Agency 2021), RERA (2021), Dubai Holding (2021), and DAMAC Properties (2021).

DUQE Free Zone Launches its Operations From Queen Elizabeth 2 in Dubai

In Partnership with “Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation”

  • Providing integrated support for the benefit of emerging entrepreneurs
  • Elevating Dubai’s position as a global business hub

DUQE Free Zone has announced the official start of operations at its headquarters in the historic Queen Elizabeth 2 Floating Hotel; the newest free zone in Dubai that headquartered on a floating hotel in Dubai waters for the first time.

In the presence of a group dignitaries and businessmen in the start-up companies’ sector in the United Arab Emirates, DUQE announced its partnership with the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC), an umbrella organisation operating under the Dubai Government, in providing full integrated support for the benefit of entrepreneurs and emerging entrepreneurs from expanding their businesses, through an approach that enhances the flexibility of doing business in the United Arab Emirates. It is a step that aims to meet the increasing need for competitive and pioneering solutions for establishing companies, in light of the strong economic recovery and the continuous flow of international companies that relocate their offices and employees to Dubai.

Headquartered in Dubai, DUQE, with its dedicated experts, seeks to provide assistance beyond the stage of launching companies; to provide a wide and comprehensive range of value-added services, including bank account opening assistance, accounting, medical fitness checks, Emirates ID, health insurance, VAT registration process, as well as business center solutions.

PCFC established DUQE Free Zone to meet the growing need for competitive and leading-edge company formation solutions, as the country’s entrepreneurial sector sees unprecedented growth amidst strong economic recovery and a continuing influx of international businesses relocating to Dubai.

His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman of PCFC, said: “The establishment of DUQE goes in line with the UAE’s vision to focus on economic growth, that aims for diversifying investment opportunities and enable community development, whilst building the infrastructure and environment needed to realise these objectives and establish Dubai and the UAE as a pivotal business hub for global trade”.

Saeed Al- Bannai, CEO of PCFC Investment, said: “We are confident that DUQE efforts will stimulate the business environment in Dubai and boost its competitiveness through adopting new initiatives designed to improve ease of doing business in the Emirate, while expanding our efforts to attract multinational companies and high-potential start-ups, which will result in elevating Dubai position as a global business hub through tapping into a wealth of growth opportunities in our promising market”.

Ghaith Al Daker, General Manager at DUQE, said: “DUQE is built to be the home of the next generation of game changers, innovators and disruptors. We have designed DUQE to be a modern business hub that provides all-inclusive support for entrepreneurs and start-ups, enabling them to source everything their business needs to thrive and succeed in one place. We have a team of carefully selected professionals who provide dedicated support through each stage of running a business, from setup and registration, all the way to operational tasks, such as book-keeping, licence and visa renewals and VAT registration. DUQE is where you can get everything done for your business to take off”.

Emirates Transport and China’s NEV Investment Establish a Joint Venture

On May 24th 2022, during the Electric Vehicle Innovation Summit (EVIS), Emirates Transport and NEV Investment have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center to officially establish a Joint Venture for the development, construction, marketing, operation, and management of the New Energy Vehicle Project in the UAE.

The Joint Venture is a product byway of the acceleration of the New Energy Vehicles Project in the UAE, which has four key components: trading, infrastructure, research, and development, as well as manufacturing.

The project was initiated to pave the way to produce electrics in the UAE. The project is in alignment with the Make it in the Emirates drive and Operation 300bn, the UAE’s industrial strategy aiming to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the economic output of the country, while also being expected to create employment opportunities and provide a strong boost to local SMEs.

Emirates Transport and NEV Investment have jointly attended the Electric Vehicle Innovation Summit (EVIS) as an exhibitor, with BYD Han (TBC) and Henrey Mini Tiger as the key New Energy Vehicles for the debut of Chinese New Energy Vehicles to the UAE.

During the event, Emirates Transport, along with NEV Investment networked across the value chains and exploited new opportunities at the intersection of EV technologies with influential EV-related institutions, companies, and government officials from around the world at the EVIS booth. Discussions surrounding not only New Energy Vehicles but also NEV Infrastructure components such as fast charging stations, aftersales service and spare parts logistics centers establishment, IoT, electrical cables, and more were actualized.

EVIS is the launchpad for NEV Investment and potential Chinese New Energy Vehicles which can be introduced to the UAE. The UAE’s NEV Future is optimistic, and this is the first step to a long-term sustainable partnership between the UAE and China as the two countries have a shared goal in raising NEV Industrial innovation.

Emirates Transport is a public joint stock company established in 1981 and now operates under the umbrella of the Emirates Investment Authority.

Despite making its name in the field of school transport, ET achieved significant investment growth and service diversification over its 40-year history. Today, the company can offer its customers, both establishments and individuals, an array of services including, but not limited to transport, vehicle leasing and auto maintenance.

NEV Investment LLC is a New Energy Vehicle investment company among strategic international investors and stakeholders in UAE, aiming to establish a comprehensive New Energy Vehicle ecosystem in the UAE and MENA region, through the introduction of Chinese New Energy Vehicles including trading, R&D, infrastructure, and manufacturing.

Faryal Tawakul, Acting CEO of Emirates Transport, stated that the company was proud to be part of this exciting development in the UAE’s automotive and transport industries. She said: “Emirates Transport has been a leader in the transport industry in the UAE for over four decades and as an industry leader it’s fitting that we are now at the forefront of this new dawn of electric vehicles.

“We are proud to share this journey with our partners from the private and public sectors and we look forward to playing a vital role in ensuring the UAE is again a leading light, both regionally and at the international level, when it comes to new technology”, added Tawakul.

Leo, chairman of NEV Investment, expressed his delight at the official premiere of Chinese New Energy Vehicles at EVIS and the event on a whole. He said: “As the UAE continues to make significant progress towards becoming a global leader in the renewable energy sector, we are delighted to be a key player in creating future industries by leveraging existing Chinese NEV technologies and introducing them to the local as well as regional markets, jointly with Emirates Transport.

Sharjah Tourism Highlights Progress in Major Tourism Projects and Future Plans for a Sustainable Tourism Industry

Held at the Sharjah Pavilion at ATM 2022, the press conference brought together His Excellency Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of SCTDA; Her Excellency Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairperson of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority in Sharjah (EPAA); H.E. Ali Salem Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah International Airport Authority, and Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), along with officials from various government entities and representatives of local and international media outlets.

Speaking at the conference, H.E. Al Midfa said: “In line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to advance the emirate’s position as a prominent family tourism destination on the global tourism map, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority works closely and continuously with its strategic partners in the government and private sectors to implement projects and initiatives that allow the emirate to offer innovative, one-of-a-kind and diverse tourism experiences to visitors from around the world.”

“Our leadership’s constant support paved the way for Sharjah to make immense progress in recent years in terms of major tourism projects across cities and villages in the emirate, including major infrastructure projects to connect the Heart of Sharjah to the Central and Eastern regions,” H.E. Al Midfa continued. “The emirate’s strategic location is an added value for its tourism sector, playing a key role in the development of the tourism industry and its diversity, and offering an array of experiences to meet all interests and cater to every age group. The emirate boasts world-class tourism capacities, offering an annual agenda full of events, exhibitions, and major festivals – all of which work together to meet the aspirations of visitors from all categories.”

The SCTDA Chairman explained that Sharjah has significantly developed its hotel sector to include more than 100 facilities with over 10,000 rooms and apartments. “These include beach hotels, city-centre hotels, and other facilities with more of an authentic Emirati feel, in addition to hotels in the Central Region in Mleiha and Al Badayer, which offer unique accommodation experiences, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, where guests can immerse themselves in natural landscapes from mountains to sand dunes,” he said.

“Over the course of the past few years, the emirate made tremendous efforts towards developing the eco-tourism sector to offer exceptional experiences to all visitors. The various destinations offer a range of experiences for adventure lovers, as well as those looking to go camping, visit parks, and do water, desert, or mountain activities, in addition to experiences catering to lovers of heritage, arts, history, and archaeology,” H.E. noted. “The Emirate of Sharjah supports development plans that are designed to ensure the sustainability of its key sectors, including tourism – one of the pillars of the national economy.”

The total number of guests in hotel establishments in the Emirate of Sharjah during the first quarter of 2022 exceeded 350,000, marking a growth rate of 26% compared to the same period last year. The UAE ranked as the first source market for hotel establishment guests in Q1 2022, followed by India, Russia, and Oman, respectively, underlining Sharjah’s appeal to both tourists and visitors from around the UAE.

For her part, EPAA Chairperson H.E. Hana Saif Al Suwaidi shed light on the Sharjah Safari project – the largest safari outside the African continent, which includes 12 different environments representing Africa’s terrain and the animals and birds that live there. “Sharjah Safari places the Emirate of Sharjah and the UAE at the forefront of attractive destinations for nature and wildlife tourists, and contributes to promoting various other sectors, from aviation to hospitality,” H.E. said.

“During its participation at ATM, the EPAA will meet with representatives of tourism and hotel companies to organise visits to Sharjah Safari, in addition to discussing ways to cooperate with the authorities concerned with eco-tourism to set up joint events and programmes that serve the emirate’s vision for both tourism and the environment,” H.E. Al Suwaidi asserted.

Meanwhile, H.E. Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority, said: “Our participation in the Arabian Travel Market 2022 reiterates Sharjah Airport’s commitment to strengthening communication with its international counterparts from the aviation sector. We are also utilising this opportunity to seek potential partnerships that would result in mutual growth, and further enhance the distinguished position that Sharjah Airport currently enjoys as one of the most prominent airports in the region.”

“The exhibition will serve as a platform for us to showcase the services and facilities we provide to our partners in the tourism and travel sectors,” H.E. Al Midfa added. “We also look forward to highlighting the services and smart solution features that we have recently launched, in addition to demonstrating the quality of our safety standards and operational efficiency, which has been enhanced to provide customers and travellers with a more comfortable experience. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our dedication to enhancing Sharjah’s image and maintaining the emirate’s lead as a distinguished financial and cultural hub for tourism investment in the Middle East.”

Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, Acting CEO of Shurooq, lauded the unparalleled efforts of SCTDA and its collaboration with other public entities to continue developing Sharjah’s tourism sector and create new opportunities to elevate its position as a leading hub for experiential travel. He also asserted that SCTDA’s objectives are perfectly aligned with Shurooq’s belief that this complementarity of roles established by different entities entrusted with Sharjah’s sustainable development is a key accelerator of development.

Announcing Shurooq’s two new luxury hospitality projects, namely, Najd Al Meqsar Retreat and The Serai Wing, Bait Khalid bin Ibrahim, Al Qaseer added: “These projects offer residents and travellers more choices in the ways they wish to explore Sharjah and complement the other eco- and heritage-inspired hospitality projects developed by Shurooq in the emirate. Through these new undertakings, we reiterate our commitment to enhancing Sharjah’s tourist landscape, encouraging diversified investments through local and global partnerships, and developing projects all across Sharjah as part of an inclusive, community-focused development plan, in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.”

The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority is heading the Sharjah Pavilion at Arabian Travel Market 2022, bringing together 24 entities from the emirate: seven government departments and 17 private entities from tourism, travel, and hospitality sectors. The Authority aims to shed light on its achievements in driving growth and development in the tourism sector in the Emirate of Sharjah in the post-pandemic period, raising awareness of the tourism services and products it provides, in collaboration with its strategic partners, to build a sustainable tourism sector.

Saudi Arabia Takes Rapid Steps to Export Solar Panels Worldwide

On exporting solar panels, Refae said it was vital as it helps in increasing and creating more job opportunities in the Kingdom and contributes to growing Saudi Arabia’s GDP.

He reminded that the export of national products is one of the most important axes of Saudi Arabia’s national transformation plan, Kingdom Vision 2030.

In coordination with the Saudi Energy Ministry, Desert Technologies has plans to provide the needs of the Kingdom’s market. This includes building solar power plants with capacities greater than 2 megawatts for citizens and major consumers inside their facilities and homes.

Any surplus would be exported to the public electricity network in 2022.

Exporting Solar Panels:

The Kingdom has taken great strides in exporting solar panels through several programs that support Saudi manufacturers, such as the Saudi Export-Import Bank, the Saudi Development Fund, the National Companies Leadership Program.

“We, as a specialized company, have had the privilege of cooperating with the National Companies Leadership Program and the Import-Export Bank in signing agreements to export solar panels to Europe, Africa and the US,” Refae told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Positive Returns:

Besides generating more job opportunities for the Kingdom’s youth, exporting solar panels also contributes to growing Saudi Arabia’s GDP by focusing on export activity, which is one of the main objectives of Kingdom Vision 2030.

Moreover, the manufacture and export of solar panels helps advance the Saudi Green Initiative which brings together environmental protection, energy transformation and sustainability programs to work towards a green future.

Desert Technologies, the first Saudi factory and company to export solar panels, has been keen on being one of the main contributors to renewable energy projects, stressed Refae.

The company has developed a production line to manufacture solar panels with an accumulated capacity. This will contribute to making Desert Technologies one of the most important national factories for solar panels in the region.

Energy Ministry:

“Our plan is compatible with the Energy Ministry and works to provide the Kingdom’s market needs of solar energy products,” said Refae, noting that the Saudi market is one of the largest Arab markets in need of solar products.

“The residential sector in the Kingdom constitutes more than 50% of the market size,” noted Refae, adding that the demand is increasing with the rise of new cities such as Neom.

“We are working to contribute to the realization of plans aimed at expanding the use of solar energy at the commercial and residential levels,” affirmed Refae.

Saudi Made:

Refae pointed out that the “Saudi Made” program is a milestone for all Saudi manufacturers, as it reflects the ability of the Saudi product to compete with high quality.

“Saudi Made” builds a cooperative society linking several companies, whereby adequate support is provided to the public and private sectors. It also contributes to making the Kingdom’s goods and services a preferred and prominent option at the local and global levels.

Exporting Outside the Kingdom:

On foreign projects, Refae added that Desert Technologies had expanded its participation in the framework of supporting the “Saudi Made” program and increasing the volume of Saudi non-oil exports.

Its activities reached Greece, where it is currently supplying solar panels for renewable energy projects on one of the Greek islands with a capacity of 11 megawatts.

“The company has signed a commercial agreement with a US company to export solar panels to its projects in the US,” revealed Refae.

The deal puts Desert Technologies in a leading position in the US market and enhances its position in the field of producing and exporting solar panels at the international level.

And in April, Desert Technologies signed an agreement with the Swiss/German Group meeco to export its solar panels to Germany to implement several projects in the city of Lambsheim. Reaching out to new markets that hadn’t been reached before.

World-Class MEP Services

Arabian MEP Contracting is a grade A and ISO-certified MEP company in Qatar, approved by Kahrama for electrical works and QCDD for firefighting and fire protection systems. It provides a complete range of mechanical, electrical and plumbing services through a highly experienced engineering and project management team fully compliant to time, cost and quality requirements of projects. MEA Markets magazine has recognised the company as 2022’s Leading Experts in MEP Engineering – Qatar, so we take a closer look at how this is the case.

Since 1998, Arabian MEP has been providing clients with world-class service in engineering, design, quality construction, exceptional product knowledge professionalism, and full resources capability to carry out mechanical and electrical building services. Market sectors benefiting from its services include infrastructure, medical care, high rise towers, commercial, and education.

Its inhouse engineering and design personnel have proven expertise in engineering, design and quality construction with exceptional product knowledge to carry out engineering works such as design review (IFC and project specification); technical material submittals for MEP systems including the equipment selections and shop drawings; technical queries; heat load; ESP; pump head calculations; cable sizing; voltage drop calculation; and project handing over documentation.

Under the supervision of the engineering manager and with the help of design software and AutoCAD/BIM technology, speed is ensured, along with accuracy and high quality of operations.

To begin a project, all client expectations are clarified so the team can arrange manpower resources and raw materials as required. During the project execution, the team will focus on getting the work done as per the client’s plan, holding regular meetings with them and consultants throughout to ensure they remain up-to-date with regards to project progress. Should any revisions to the plan arise, the team will work to fulfil these.

Arabian MEP General Manager, Mutasim Al Ghadir commented, “We are not finished with your project until you are completely satisfied. This includes guaranteeing a smooth and worry-free delivery of MEP services, proper testing and commissioning followed by DLP period.”

Arabian MEP believes that its employees are the most important factor in its economic success. To ensure their wellbeing, it follows best practices in human resource management, supporting best practices in job design, employee selection, performance management, employee compensation, and employee training. Mutasim said, “We believe that employee development, motivation and training enable managers to achieve expected organisational performance and competitiveness by achieving desired employees.”

Arabian MEP’s in-house Technical Training & Testing Center facility closely monitors and measures its Manpower’s capability, productivity, and effectiveness in performing their duties. Right training enables employees to always perform well on their jobs and be safe in doing so! “It is a struggle to reach the top, but the real art is to maintain the top position! We are achieving this by implementing such quality standards and training programs, thereby ensuring the quality of MEP works” Mutasim added.

With the help of its team, Arabian MEP is striding towards its vision of becoming the regional market leader within the MEP construction industry, consistently providing engineering excellence to its valued clients through commitment in delivering best practices in corporate governance and transparency.

For further information, please contact Mutasim Al Ghadir or visit

MEA Markets Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2022 UAE Business Awards

United Kingdom, 2022– MEA Markets Magazine has announced the winners of the 2022 UAE Business Awards.

Running consecutively in its seventh year, the UAE Business Awards programme acknowledges and celebrates distinctly talented businesses based in the Middle East. The year 2022 has been full of challenges and successes for these outstanding companies. The aim of the UAE Business Awards is to celebrate those businesses and professional individuals who have shown strength and captured the entrepreneurial spirit by changing the direction of their business – a trajectory upward and onward to better things – so that they may blossom further.

Our Awards Coordinator, Gabby Ellis, has expressed her delight of hosting the awards programme this year: “I am filled with pride to have been associated with this MEA Markets Awards programme. I am pleased to see these unique and dedicated businesses grow and extremely happy to wish them all the best for the future ahead. Long may their success continue!”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.


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.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media (  has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

Unparalleled Personal Financial Advice

Hoxton Capital Management was founded in 2018 by UK financial advisers, Chris Ball and Matt Dean, and quickly established itself as one of the fastest growing independent advisory companies. With operations in London, Sydney, Texas and Dubai, the firm manages a growing client base of mostly expatriate clients, endeavouring to provide them with the highest possible service in the industry – And this hasn’t gone unnoticed, with MEA Markets magazine recognising it as 2022’s Most Outstanding Tailored Investment Solutions Provider – Dubai. Join us as we learn more about what the firm has to offer clients.

Hoxton Capital Management prides itself on its personalised, honest and committed approach, offering tailored solutions and relevant advice that can only come from a deep understanding of the client and their personal requirements. It works with the client to understand their financial goals and offer the right strategies to help their investments develop and move forward so they can live their financial dreams.

Putting this into action is its highly qualified team of highly experienced advisers, who offer sound knowledge and transparent advice with a personal approach. Its consultants are always available to the client, providing an unsurpassed service that is honest and informative. They focus on quality and performance in everything they do, guaranteeing that the advice they provide is best-in-class.

Once the consultant understands what is important to the client, they will set realistic goals and create a made-to-measure financial strategy tailored to their individual circumstances. Hoxton Capital is a firm believer that its financial propositions offer the best value for its clients’ investments. Its people work tirelessly to move clients’ financial strategies forward, ensuring smooth and timely delivery.

Hoxton Capital is vigilant about keeping its clients on track to reach their financial goals and maximise their financial positioning, so it offers regular updates and monthly valuations on their investment performance with complete transparency. Alongside this, the client’s investments are accessible at any time through the company’s detailed online platform, which means everything is kept in one place. The client’s personal consultant will guide them on their investments to ensure they remain updated on performance.

The firm’s unique fee structure means that clients can choose an option that best suits their circumstance. Its fee-based structure means the client pays a direct fee, agreed upon prior to service, while its commission-based structure means the client’s product provider pays a varied rate on their behalf, based on portfolio performance with no extra fees. All fees are communicated with the client before any engagement is finalised.

With a 4.8-star rating on Trustpilot, Hoxton Capital’s clients delight in its “good solid advice”, “very efficient communication”, and “fantastic support through the whole process”, with “nothing but praise for their work”. Having earned a great reputation for its unrelenting commitment to safeguarding its clients’ finances, Hoxton Capital only intends to continue in this way as it heads towards the bright future that is ahead of it.

For further information, please visit

PwC Middle East Details Six Steps to Develop Sustainable Real Estate Markets in the Region in a New Report

Governments in the Middle East have implemented wide-ranging economic measures and incentive packages for their respective Real Estate markets in recent years in hopes of driving growth and boosting the sector.

Despite this effort, when compared to global markets using multiple indices, Middle East markets are working on enhancing certain market fundamentals, which are critical to achieving sustainability and growth in the long-term.Taking a closer look, within global indices such as the International Protection Rights Index, the Real Estate Transparency Index, and the UN E-Government Development index, Middle Eastern Real Estate markets are classified as being at a developing stage.

In response to the classification, PwC Middle East has conducted an analysis of top ranking markets within such indices to draw best practices for the region and to suggest six guiding principles for regulators to follow:

  1. Integrated legal framework
  2. Land/property register and cadastre system
  3. Effective governance
  4. Proficiency of service
  5. Sustainable financing
  6. Data management and transparency

These guiding principles were developed to help address specific issues present in markets in the region. Namely, market distortions, imperfect competition, asymmetric information, and other externalities. While the Real Estate markets in the region as a whole can benefit from the six guiding principles, each country has a varying degree of maturity within each category.

Commenting on the report Dr. Martin Berlin, Real Estate Leader at PwC Middle East said: “We see huge potential for growth in Middle Eastern Real Estate markets. Across the region, many regulators are already making strides in closing the regulatory gaps between the Middle East and high-ranking markets globally. We developed six principles to act as a guide based on an analysis of these high-ranking markets to support regulators in their quest to achieve long-term sustainable growth.”

He added “We believe the six suggested principles ,when followed, will have an impact on reducing volatility in the market and have a price correcting effect, reducing the cost of living for households and related costs for businesses and taking inflationary pressures off wages.”

Nearly 9 in 10 People in the Middle East Report Increased Use of Digital Payments in the Past Year

Since acquired habits stay with people, 92% of those surveyed intend to use Internet banking and e-wallet services more often even after the end of the pandemic

According to the Kaspersky Digital Payment survey, 93% of respondents from the Middle East reported an increase in their use of e-wallet and mobile banking in 2021. COVID-19 was one of the main factors for that: 64% report that they only started using online payments services during the pandemic. In particular, online payment services helped 61% of the respondents to maintain social distancing. Since acquired habits stay with people, 92% of those surveyed intend to use Internet banking and e-wallet services more often even after the end of the pandemic.

Convenience compelled people in the Middle East most to embrace financial technologies – 91% of those surveyed appreciated the ability to pay whenever and wherever they are. 55% also stated that Internet banking and mobile wallet services make it easier to manage financial information.

Another factor that closely correlates to the popularity of digital payment services is the decrease in financial malware attacks in the UAE by more than 70% in 2021 compared to 2020 according to Kaspersky experts. While the decrease in numbers is reassuring, the country also saw an increase in financial malware attacks on Android devices by 42% in 2021 compared to 2020. Given that online services are rapidly growing in size and numbers, new vulnerabilities are welcoming complex cyberattacks.

When asked about their reservations prior to using mobile banking and payment apps, users admitted their fears – afraid of storing their financial data online (37%) and worried that their personal devices are not secured enough (27%). 4 in 10 also revealed they do not trust the security of these platforms. 28% don’t have any reservations at all.

“Digital payment services are gaining more adopters despite the concerns and reservations. The pandemic was an opportunity in disguise for people to understand, learn and use digital payments services at their disposal for their own benefit”, said Emad Haffar, Head of Technical Experts at Kaspersky. “However, as the cashless economy grows and evolves to accommodate the needs of the new normal, it is also important to understand and stay vigilant to the cyber-risks pertaining to online transactions. Since people are becoming increasingly comfortable with accessing digital payment applications, app developers and providers should now look into cybersecurity gaps at each stage of the payment process and build security features that will win the trust of potential users, as well as keep the existing customers protected at all times”, adds Emad Haffar.

J.K. Khalil, Country General Manager, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Levant at Mastercard, said: “As the world grows increasingly connected through the power of digital transformation, cyberattacks have escalated, leaving people and businesses at risk of financial or reputational damages. As such, it is more vital than ever for industry leaders to act as the first line of defense to create a secure financial ecosystem. At Mastercard, we aim to stay ahead of fraudsters and to continually evolve and enhance our protection of cyber environments for our bank and merchant customers as we work towards a safer future for all.”

To help users in the Middle East embrace digital payment technologies securely, Kaspersky experts suggest the following:

  • Do not share your PIN, password or any other financial information with anyone online or offline.
  • Avoid using the public Wi-Fi to make any online transactions.
  • Use a separate credit or debit card to make online transactions. Set a spending limit on the card which can help keep a track of financial transactions.
  • Shop from trusted and official websites

For developers, banks and companies involved in providing digital payment services, Kaspersky recommends:

  • Invest in holistic cybersecurity solutions that can help detect fraud across multiple levels of online payment processes and consumer touchpoint.
  • Complex attacks by APT groups on financial institutions are also on a rise. In-depth visibility and threat intelligence are a necessity to keep customers protected and to ensure business continuity. Using the Kaspersky Threat Intelligence service is helpful to support your IT teams in analysing and mitigating threats.
  • Conduct cyber awareness training for employees continuously. This will help employees know the red flags to look for when an organization is under attack and to understand their role in protecting the organization.

Shaping the Future of the Events Industry

ESMOS Recruitment, the company lauded as the ‘Event’s Recruitment Specialists of the Year’ in 2022 for Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, has secured notoriety as a partner to its clients’ businesses and careers over the past year. Despite being a relatively young company, it is no stranger to operating in times of turmoil and has been a critical touchstone in helping professionals in events management and creation to adapt to the changing modern paradigm, guiding new talent and experienced industry heavyweights alike.

A distinctive, highly targeted consultancy service, ESMOS Recruitment specialises in recruitment for the events industry focusing on the three core pillars that make up any good event. Aiding a client in securing good sales, marketing, and operations, this relatively young company – having only found its feet in March of 2021 – has been making waves amongst the events planning industry, leading recruitment across these verticals in order to provide exemplary permanent placements. Nominally, by doing this, it maintains the talent pool of new and passionate people coming into its industry, delivering effective solutions through personalised and professional services that go hand in hand with a transparent, proactive, ethical, and client centric approach.

It fosters human connection between an employee and their prospective placement in this manner. Fundamentally, by drilling down into this relationship development as a core tenant of its business, it promotes healthy, sustainable, and compatible teams that will work together exceedingly well to make an event run swimmingly, ensuring that the person fits the placement and vice versa. Over the past year of recruiting specifically for the events sector, ESMOS has built solid foundations and a robust reputation amongst candidates, placing them in key leadership positions across the industry and setting it in good stead with professionals across its relevant verticals.

Additionally, working with key, high-profile clients within the local and regional exhibition markets, as well as the conference markets, it serves the world’s leading B2B exhibition organisers and government owned entities, making the recruitment experience smooth, seamless, and transitional for all involved. It regularly engages with all its clients for a quarterly headcount and talent sourcing purpose, maintaining an open dialogue built on mutual trust. This, in essence, has all contributed to making it a lifelong business and career partner for many, ESMOS appreciating and respecting the trust its clients put in it to be a guiding hand in their professional life.

ESMOS appreciates the importance of building relationships with the people and businesses it represents. Critically, from screening to placement, it believes in a transactional approach to recruitment that suits all parties, putting the development of a positive dynamic between the company and candidate back at the forefront of concerns when it comes to hiring fresh talent. Having launched shortly after returning from lockdown, ESMOS and its staff are undaunted by challenge, as it has been working throughout one of the toughest times yet to face the modern world. Helping the events industry move into the new modern epoch that is starting to take shape, it has joined its clients at the start of a journey through uncharted waters and is dedicated to helping them rebuilt in a way that will prepare them for the changes and opportunities ahead.

For further information, please contact Mark Benaicha or visit

Nigeria Takes the Lead in Exploration, Production and Regulation in 2022

Nigeria represents one of Africa’s heavyweights when it comes to hydrocarbon exploration and production. With over 36 billion barrels of oil (bbl) and 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the country has managed to position itself as both an attractive upstream market and competitive producer. In its Q1 2022 outlook, The State of African Energy, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) ( contends that Nigeria will maintain its position as one of Africa’s leading crude oil producers as well as one of the continent’s top three gas suppliers between 2022 and 2025, providing an opportunity for the west African country to leverage its energy resources for economic growth while addressing global energy demand.

According to the outlook, Nigeria will produce 1.46 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil out of the 6.35 million bpd that Africa as a whole will produce during the year, reaffirming the country’s position as a continental energy hub as production in the west African state peaks in 2023. Production declines in mature oilfields coupled with the country’s reliance on offshore basins – approximately 65% of the crude oil Nigeria currently produces sourced from offshore projects – has highlighted the need for Nigeria to increase oil exploration and production to maintain a secure supply as legacy projects diminish and thereby shrink the country’s production capacity from 2023 onwards. Out of the 36 bbl of oil reserves Nigeria holds, just over 25% is currently produced from deep water projects, underlining a huge opportunity for Nigeria to expand partnerships and investment to ramp up production and increase its role in both the continental and global energy landscape.

“The recent $1.2 billion deal between Nigeria’s Seplat Energy and American energy firm ExxonMobil, in which the multinational will continue with its deep-water projects whilst handing over onshore projects, is an indication of the huge potential the country’s offshore projects have in the near future in addressing energy needs as energy consumption increases. By increasing focus on these projects, accelerating exploration and production in key basins, Nigeria has the ability to unleash its full energy potential,” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the AEC.

In order to consolidate its position as a global producer, the Nigerian government needs to fast-forward the approval process for deep-water projects and put in place policies that reduce taxes for operators, the majority of which are international majors that have partnered with national oil companies, to ensure more projects come online through 2025 for a continued stable supply of crude oil.

More investments are also required within the country’s downstream sector with inadequate infrastructure slowing down oil production and increasing Nigeria’s reliance on fuel imports. Nigeria imports up to 1.25 million metric tons per month of gasoline due to inadequate domestic refining capacity. Accordingly, the $12 billion Dangote refinery project in Lagos, slated to kickstart operations during Q4 of 2022 with a processing capacity of 540,000 barrels per day and partly owned by state-company the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, is an example of the willingness of Nigeria to set itself as an oil heavyweight while expanding its oil and gas capabilities to meet domestic, regional and global energy needs.

Meanwhile on the gas front, the AEC outlook shows that Nigeria has also retained its spot amongst Africa’s main gas producers in 2022. An annual production capacity of 1,450 billion cubic feet is expected as the country recovers from 2020 low production levels. Existing gas producing fields, as well as those currently under development, are expected to sustain the country’s gas production through to 2025. Despite factors such as vandalism of infrastructure which are restraining optimal gas and oil exportation, as well as the high costs and emission rates associated with deep-water projects driving majors to diversify their portfolios, greenfield investments in Nigeria and its African counterparts will increase capital expenditure across the continent to $30 billion in 2022, providing an opportunity for new projects to come online and for leading hydrocarbon producers such as Nigeria to modernize and build new infrastructure as well as expand exploration and production.

Nigeria is positioned to lead African investment with proven oil and gas reserves as well as a reformed regulatory landscape making the sector increasingly attractive for foreign capital. The implementation of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in 2021 by the Nigerian government, for example, provides regulatory clarity on royalties and other issues that have previously made it difficult for oil and gas E&P companies and downstream market players to expand investments within the country’s market. Now, with the implementation of the PIB, Nigeria is better positioned, now more than ever, to attract investments and accelerate development in 2022 and beyond.

The AEC’s annual conference, African Energy Week (AEW), taking place from October 18-21, 2022, in Cape Town, will not only highlight post-PIB opportunities in Nigeria, but will make a strong case for the role the country plays in both the African and global energy landscape. Through a range of investor-specific forums, market-driven panel discussions, and ministerial summits, AEW 2022 will discuss exploration, production and regulation, with dialogue centered around how Africa’s oil and gas sector can make energy poverty history by 2030.

Saudi Arabia Announces 60 Water Projects Worth SR35bln at MENA Desalination Projects Forum 2022

  • The Forum examines the depth of the situation in water scarcity and desalination projects and discuss way forward – in line with the climate change target and reduction in emissions by 2030 and 2050
  • Saudi Arabia announced more than 60 water projects, worth SR35 billion (US$9.33 billion), that will cement the Kingdom’s position as the world’s largest water desalination market;
  • In 2020, Saudi Arabia approved 11 Independent Water Projects (IWPs) and 9 Independent Sewage Treatment Projects (ISTPs);
  • In 2021, the country approved 8 IWPPS, 14 Independent Strategic Water Reservoir (ISWR) projects and 7 Small Sewerage Treatment Plant (SSTP) project clusters;
  • There are more than $5.5 billion of water projects currently under construction. Saudi Arabia has adopted Public-Private-Partnerships as a procurement strategy, with 70 per cent of its water processing infrastructure projects procured on this basis.

Saudi Arabia announced more than 60 water projects, worth SR35 billion (US$9.33 billion), that will cement the Kingdom’s position as the world’s largest water desalination market, a top official told delegates at the 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum 2022 that got underway at the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers Hotel.

“Saudi Arabia has been increasing its investment in clean energy, power and water. In the water sector, we have integrated the water desalination and wastewater treatment and have been expanding our capacities across the industry,” Engineer Khaled Al Qureshi, Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC), said in his keynote address.

“We have been increasing the number of water projects over the last few years. In 2020, our organisation approved 11 Independent Water Projects (IWPs) and 9 Independent Sewage Treatment Projects (ISTPs), while last year we approved 8 IWPPS, 14 Independent Strategic Water Reservoir (ISWR) projects and 7 Small Sewerage Treatment Plant (SSTP) project clusters.

“However, I am happy to announce that this year, we have approved more than 60 water and sewerage projects, worth more than SR35 billion, that will increase water desalination capacity as well as increase strategic water reserves and the capacity to treat more wastewater in the coming years.”

Once completed, these projects will increase the desalination capacity to 7.5 million cubic metres of water per day by 2027, from 2.54 cubic metres per day in 2021 – nearly tripling the capacity in just six years.

Saudi Arabia’s National Water Strategy published in 2018, adopted a sustainable approach to the water sector, committing to safeguarding the natural resources and the environment of the Kingdom and providing cost-effective supply and high-quality services

“We are developing strategic water reserves that should supply enough water to Saudi consumers in case of emergency. By 2029, we plan to raise the capacity to hold 45.7 million cubic metres of water – that will serve the entire country for a few days, if the water supply stops for some reason, he said.

“We are developing a network of 147 SSTPs with 14,925 kilometres of wastewater collection network that will recycle a large amount of wastewater across the country.”

SWPC, one of the leaders in public-private partnership projects in the GCC, has successfully achieved financial close of US$2.5 billion (SR9.4 billion) during the last two years.

Saudi Arabia’s population is expected to grow from 35 million in 2021 to around 40 million by 2026. This growth in the population will put pressure on basic infrastructure. Being an arid country, Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in its water infrastructure.

There are more than $5.5 billion of water projects currently under construction. Saudi Arabia has adopted Public-Private-Partnerships as a procurement strategy, with 70 per cent of its water processing infrastructure projects procured on this basis.

Investment in the desalination projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has increased substantially in recent years and accounts 48 percent of global desalination projects, with further investments expected to spur the market to $4.3 billion by 2022, according to the MENA Desalination Market report by Ventures Onsite, which tracks construction projects in the region.

Seawater desalination now contributes to more than 90 percent of all daily water requirements in the GCC region, according to a report. Desalination capacity of GCC countries is expected to grow further by approximately 37 percent during the next five years, with investments of up to $100 billion, according to reports. The global desalination market is predicted to grow from $17.7 billion in 2020 to $32.1 billion by 2027.

The news comes as 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum takes off today at the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers Hotel, UAE, that examines the depth of the situation in water scarcity and desalination projects and discuss way forward – in line with the climate change target and reduction in emissions by 2030 and 2050.

More than 150 C-Suite Executives (CEOs and MDs) including more than 30 speakers, panelists are participating at the conference and exhibition where more than 30 exhibitors and sponsors display the latest innovation and technologies at the two-day event.

The MENA region contains more than 6.3 percent of the world’s population, but less than 1 percent of global water resources. Making up the predicted MENA water deficit in 2025 will require the production of an additional 237 billion cubic metres of potable water. By 2050, water scarcity could cost MENA between 6-14 percent of the entire region’s GDP each year.

In Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC) has announced that commercial operations on the Jubail 3A independent water producer (IWP) project will commence in the last quarter of 2022.

Countries within the MENA region will add an estimated 20GW of solar capacity and 5-6GW of wind by 2025. The global desalination market is predicted to grow from $17.7 billion in 2020 to $32.1 billion by 2027.

Leila Masinaei, Managing Partner, Great Mind Events Management and organizer of the 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum, says, “The depth of the water scarcity is getting from bad to worse. The governments of the MENA countries are seeking alternative ways to generate clean water, without harming the environment. Although there are new sustainable sources of generating water, such as from air, desalination still now remains one of the most viable sources to feed large communities. That way, the Middle East Desalination Projects Forum is one of the most important industry conferences that highlights the challenges as well as opportunities.

“We are happy to curate such an important industry conference and bring all the major stakeholders in this important event where senior government officials, private businesses, contracting companies, project consultants and water experts will discuss key issues such as new technology, reducing the cost of desalination, sustainability and energy efficiency at the two-day conference.

“Great Minds Event Management brings some of the strategically important industry events that are crucial for the future development of economy and society of the MENA region.”

Exhibitors, partners and sponsors were seen networking with key government utilities to participate in the new projects, which is going to help the industry expand in the next few years.

Rory Weaver, Marketing Director, FEDCO, said, “The Middle East is leading the way for the desalination industry in delivering larger projects than ever, at water tariffs that were unimaginable just a few years ago. The MENA Desal Forum is a crucial space to share the expertise and experience necessary to drive further innovation for the industry.”

The 3rd MENA Desalination Projects Forum is supported by Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure – UAE, Department of Energy – Abu Dhabi, Saudi Water Partnership Company – KSA, Saudi Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) – KSA, Water Authority of Jordan, Emirates Water and Electricity Co (EWEC) – Abu Dhabi, Moroccan National Company of Drinking Water and Sanitation, RAK Municipality, Palestinian Water Authority, Water Alliance, International Water Management Institute, Sustainable Water Power Consultants, among others.

The Vibrant Lifestyle Destination Is Driven By Some of the Region’s Greatest Female Entrepreneurs

Introducing the inspiring women of Al Seef Village Abu Dhabi

With it being International Women’s Day today, Al Seef Village Abu Dhabi is honouring the achievements of the many brilliant women who have helped make the destination the vibrant, exciting and entertaining place it is today.

Home to multiple restaurants, cafes, boutiques and lifestyle brands, numerous innovative and ground-breaking venues at the family-friendly mall are led by powerful, intelligent and inspiring women.

From Rima Zanoun, the creative founder of MAKAW Fine Chocolate, to Marjon Andesha, Executive Chef and founder of Nolu’s, the city’s favourite homegrown healthy eating restaurant, the women of Al Seef are proud to #BreakTheBias and build towards a world that is free from stereotypes and discrimination.

Marjon Andesha, Executive Chef and Founder of Nolu’s

Raised in Afghanistan and California, Marjon’s diverse upbringing led to her develop a unique and eclectic approach to cooking and cuisine. After relocating to Abu Dhabi from California in 2004, she launched her first Nolu’s restaurant in 2010. 

Combining laid-back Californian dishes with the authentic smoky flavours of Afghani cuisine, the concept was an instant hit and she now manages seven locations within Abu Dhabi and Dubai, including Raw by Nolu’s at Al Seef Village Mall, and there are another six more in the pipeline, too.

Boasting a casual and approachable ambiance and offering traditional recipes served with a modern and contemporary twist, Marjon’s extensive menus encompass everything from healthy salad bowls to traditional kabobs. 

An abbreviation of her children’s names, Noah and Lujayn, Nolu’s is a passion project that Marjon is proud to nurture every day. 

To find out more, please visit

Salama Khalifa, founder of Soil

At just 30 years old, Emirati Salama Khalifa is the proud owner of organic and healthy food brand Soil. Designed to help people adopt a clean-living lifestyle and embrace the joy of healthy eating, she launched her business as a small kiosk back in 2016. Now, she operates two locations in Abu Dhabi, at Al Seef Village Mall and New York University, as well as a comprehensive online store. Her offerings encompass over 300 natural retail grocery products, a menu of healthy food and drinks, and cold-pressed juices that are available to be bought in bulk.

Passionate about health and wellbeing from a young age, her family were often forced to import basic supplies such as dairy-free milk and gluten free crackers from overseas. So, frustrated by the lack of organic options available locally and inspired by her own struggles to find clean, allergen-free food products in the UAE, she decided to launch her own health-food company, Soil.

To find out more please email [email protected] or visit

Rima Zanoun, founder of MAKAW Chocolate

Rima is a creative and passionate entrepreneur with a vast array of experience in business, life coaching and mentorship. 

On a mission to spread happiness to the people of Abu Dhabi and help them gain uplifting new experiences, the powerful business lady has poured all her creativity and skills into creating the world of MAKAW Fine Chocolate.

A multi-sensory destination that invites guests to indulge in decadent, heart-warming chocolates and confectionary, MAKAW specializes in imaginative and magical French chocolates that are filled with subtle creative flavours and luxurious little touches.

Inspired by the vibrant and majestic nature of Makaw parrots, Rima believes that “all businesses sell feelings through the stories they tell”. Above all else, she wants to make customers feel happy and content and show them what amazing taste sensations can be crafted out of quality cocoa beans.  

To find out more about MAKAW Fine Chocolate, visit

Assessing Cybersecurity Today to Improve and Protect Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Operations

Organizations are now pushed to prioritize cybersecurity so that their systems remain secure, stable, and protected

Process plant automation systems are engineered over a long period to ensure repeatable, reliable, available, and safe operations. However, increased connectivity to business systems has also increased the vulnerability of control systems to cyber-attacks.

Organizations are now pushed to prioritize cybersecurity so that their systems remain secure, stable, and protected. But how and where do they even begin their cybersecurity journey?

Emerson recommends a cybersecurity risk assessment to evaluate gaps in currently implemented strategies, technologies, and policies and procedures. The output of the assessment will provide a roadmap for identifying, prioritizing, and eliminating vulnerabilities.

To begin, operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) teams must be aware of three common missteps:

  • Assuming the team already knows and understands all the risks

Cybersecurity is not a set-and-forget solution. It is constantly evolving, and antivirus software and firewalls are no longer sufficient to secure and protect a system. A cyber risk assessment can help teams identify, document, prioritize and build a roadmap around the highest threat vulnerabilities. This roadmap provides a guide for creating solutions and the required framework to protect the plant.

  • Believing in a single solution to fix all risks and threats

Cybersecurity is not a single solution. There are no shortcuts, especially when dealing with cyber security on an industrial scale. Cybersecurity requires constant testing and evaluation of systems and solutions on their compatibility and effectiveness to a plant’s process.

  • Assigning the cybersecurity program as a low priority with limited funding

Cybersecurity should be a priority. The simplest example of inaction is assigning a small department handling IT and OT on a limited budget. It is easy for such a team to become overwhelmed because there are so many vulnerabilities to address with their limited resources and funding. Not every problem needs to be fixed at once. Organizations can start with individual solutions and build toward a comprehensive, in-depth strategy to manage budget and resource concerns. A good cybersecurity risk assessment will allow businesses to prioritize what they most need to build an effective first defense system at a reasonable cost.

Increased connectivity to business systems launches businesses forward, but it also raises the relevance of cybersecurity protection to maintain the safety and security of control systems. A cyber risk assessment is one of the most practical ways to begin approaching cybersecurity. This lays the groundwork for a sustainable and robust cybersecurity system that can help future-proof businesses.

Africa is the Place to Invest, Visiting US Congressional Delegation Acknowledges to African Development Bank Chief

The congressman from New York and Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee was speaking during a visit to the African Development Bank Group on Saturday, as he and a team of congressional colleagues concluded a tour of four African countries. African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina and several senior Bank officials welcomed the group to the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan.

“If the United States is not investing in Africa today – especially when we look at the size of Africa’s youth population, which is larger than America’s entire population– then we are not going to be a part of the future,” Meeks said. He added: “My singular focus had been to make sure Africa moves “from the back to the front. There’s a lot of work to do. Governments can’t do it alone. The African Development Bank will play a big role. When Prosper Africa needs guidance, I will point them to the African Development Bank.” 

Meeks was accompanied by Congressman Ami Bera of California, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, and Congressman Troy Carter of Louisiana.

The group had visited Sierra Leone, Liberia and Tanzania before their arrival in Côte d’Ivoire. Members said they were inspired by the immense opportunities the African continent offers American investors.

Adesina thanked the United States for its continued support, including support for the Bank’s general capital increase in 2019, which saw its capital base rise from $93 billion to $208 billion. Adesina said the United States, the second-largest shareholder of the Bank, was “working with the right institution.” “We are African, we understand the needs of Africa, and we are driving change in Africa,” he said.

Adesina and the visiting members of Congress agreed on the need for closer cooperation between the African Development Bank and US investors. Adesina said the Bank would open an office in Washington, D.C., once Board approval was secured. He explained that the office would provide guidance about how to structure substantive US private sector investment in Africa. “We’d like to see a lot more US direct investment in infrastructure,” Adesina said. “We look forward to working with the United States Trade and Development Agency and others on this.”

Adesina said African economies were rebounding, but the continent faced mounting commercial debt, the adverse impacts of climate change, lack of opportunities for youth, and poor access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The African Development Bank is leading calls for the reallocation of $100 billion in International Monetary Fund special drawing rights (SDRs) to African countries. It is advocating that these funds be channeled through the Bank as a prescribed holder of SDRs, and as an institution which has a AAA credit rating. “SDRs offer African countries a tremendous opportunity to deal with debt,” the Bank chief said.  

Adesina asked for the United States’ support in tackling climate change. He explained that the Bank was investing heavily in climate adaptation and was working closely with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on climate finance.

In April 2021, the African Development Bank, together with the Global Center on Adaptation, launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program to mobilize $25 billion to support climate adaptation on the African continent. 

Africa’s youth featured prominently in the discussion. The visiting delegation learned that the African Development Bank is supporting entrepreneurship and skills development, especially digital skills, and has been working to develop youth entrepreneurship investment banks, which will support the businesses of young people.     

On health, an equally important subject given the realities of the last two years especially, the Bank president explained that as part of its plans for quality health care infrastructure, the institution would invest $3 billion in building Africa’s pharmaceutical industries and vaccine manufacturing capacities.

Adesina also looked ahead to the 16th replenishment of the African Development Fund, the African Development Bank Group’s concessional lending arm. He is promoting reform of the Fund to enable it to leverage its equity and tap into capital markets in support of Africa’s low-income countries.

The  US Congressional members and the Bank’s senior leadership  shared consensus on the transformative roles of women.  According to Adesina, the Bank, through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women initiative, would disburse $500 million to women businesses across the continent.  

Delegation members expressed strong support for the African Development Bank’s priorities and  appreciation of its development impact.

According to Congressman Butterfield, a constant refrain during the Africa visit was: “Congressman, we appreciate your aid but what we really want is trade and investment.”

Congresswoman Omar underscored the need for partnerships. She said: “We know Africa is resource-rich. Resources can only be well utilized if they are developed. Africa needs partners to prosper.” 

Congressman Bera stressed the need to address Africa’s governance issues and the importance of keeping revenue from its resources within African countries.

Discussions also covered the role of the African diaspora and the need to stem the brain drain of African professionals from the continent.    

Accompanying the African Development Bank president at the meeting were several senior officials of the institution, notably Senior Vice President Swazi Bajabulile Tshabalala, Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth Kevin Kariuki, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development Beth Dunford, Acting Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management Kevin Urama. Others were Acting Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery Yacine Fal, Acting Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Hassatou N’Sele, and Acting Director-General, Office of the Bank President Alex Mubiru.

Joining virtually were the Bank’s Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure, and Industrialization Solomon Quaynor, and Senior Director of the Africa Investment Forum, Chinelo Anohu. The Africa Investment Forum, Africa’s premier investment platform, has played a key role recently in driving closer ties between the Bank and the US investment community as well as with certain business-related arms of the US government like the United States Trade and Development Agency. 

In late 2021, the Africa Investment Forum signed a memorandum of understanding with the US Trade and Development Agency to support high-quality infrastructure solutions for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Speeding Up the Car Rental Industry With a Customer-centric Marketplace: OneClickDrive

OneClickDrive is a platform that connects users directly to the listed car rental companies for the booking process. While other websites and apps allow online bookings and may charge additional fees (upfront or hidden), OneClickDrive is completely free of charge for its users. They don’t pay any commission, booking, or admin fees.

Customers can compare offers for every type of car and book one directly with the service provider. There are cars to suit all styles and budgets, from a convertible Ferrari and an exotic Rolls Royce to an economy Nissan Sunny and even a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV. Vinay Pagarani, Founder and Growth Manager, tells us more about the innovative firm.

“Build, collect feedback, and improve is our philosophy,” he begins. “We take user feedback and complaints very seriously. We have resolved 99% of issues. With our ever-growing experience of working with the local car rental market, we make sure to list only reputed car rental companies. In fact, we have delisted untoward partners in the past.”

It was in 2015 that OneClickDrive came into existence and this was at a time when the car rental industry was predominantly offline in Dubai. Most car sales relied on walk-in customers and outbound telesales marketing and Vinay tells us it was an arduous task to get people online and to adopt inbound marketing strategies. Yet the companies that initially partnered with OneClickDrive are still with the firm several years later.

Cut to the pandemic when walk-in customers completely vanished from the industry and OneClickDrive really came into its own. “We saw it as an opportunity in disguise and scaled up our digital marketing activities,” says Vinay. “Users found our partners’ fleet on OneClickDrive and booked with them instantaneously. A lot more companies came onboard soon after.”

“Among other things, User Experience is a prime factor we take into account,” elaborates Vinay. “Our website and app are constantly overhauled to deliver a better experience to our users. Feedback is collected on a regular basis and worked upon.”

Staff strive to stay constantly ahead of the game when it comes to the latest digital trends and are always exploring new avenues that can give OneClickDrive an edge over its competitors. In fact, OneClickDrive was the first to begin training its clients and their staff on not just using the platform but also about customer service and, to date, the firm regularly delivers inbound sales and communication training to ensure complete customer satisfaction each and every time.

The team at OneClickDrive is entirely capable, focused, and diverse. The culture is progressive yet flexible. “Together with an open plan office layout, we follow a flat hierarchy. Projects are assigned across teams so each one is up-to-date on developments and offers their two cents along the way,” Vinay shares.

Due to its hard work, diligence and devotion to customer care OneClickDrive was recently recognised in the MEA business Awards 2021 and named Best Car Rental Application Platform – Dubai, and Vinay has big plans for the future.

“We are working on a CRM SAAS for the car rental industry,” he enthuses. “One that’s closely aligned with the local UAE market and moving forward, as per international markets. This will catapult OneClickDrive to new heights in the region. Our main objective is to standardize the industry, streamline their operations and improve customer service.” “OneClickDrive is poised to expand globally. We hope to enter the European market as the Covid regulations are put at ease. While we already work with a number of companies online, local presence would speed things up.” The future looks promising for OneClickDrive, Vinay, and his team.

Download the OneClickDrive Car Rental Marketplace on your mobile phone: iOS App | Android App

For further information, please contact Vinay Pagarani or visit

African Amusement Industry Operators Must Visit DEAL 2022 for Latest Concepts In Entertainment

With 300 plus exhibitors from across 45 plus countries, DEAL 2022 is all set to bring the industry leaders and showcase concepts that are developed with the current requirements of the fast-paced generation.

“Africa’s population is set to grow to 2.3 billion by 2050. In contrast to the rest of the world, however, its booming population is getting younger. Experts believe that the next big thing for the entertainment and leisure industry especially in the African region would be driven by virtual reality technology.  Several DEAL 2022 exhibitors from across the globe would be showcasing a plethora of concepts that the African FECs and Amusement operators to choose from. Soon theme park enthusiasts strapped with VR paraphernalia, will enter worlds that were literally impossible to recreate,” added Mr.Rahman.

IEC CEO further stated that, “This is a great business opportunity for mall owners, real estate developers and other stakeholders in Africa, planning to launch or grow their unique projects embedded with a gaming / entertainment zone.  DEAL 2022 will provide the right platform to create a win-win-win situation for the exhibitors, visitors and the end consumers who will experience these amazing concepts.”

On the growth of the virtual reality concepts, Mr. Rahman, stated that,“ Today, the entertainment aspect is an integral part of any retail megamall. The key reason is to increase the footfall of people and eventually increase sales. The African stakeholders who visit DEAL can also visit the VR Parks in UAE to know the potential and also to know how they are growing their revenues. The facility can remain the same, however, the software and the games need to be upgraded and changed which is not as expensive as changing the whole interiors of the facility. In Dubai, there are many options for VR based rides in Virtual Worlds, Magic Planet among others, an exclusive VR Park in Dubai Mall has changed the face of entertainment in the city”.

DEAL 2022 will take place within the mega World EXPO 2020 Dubai calendar months which is scheduled between 1st of October 2021 and 31st March 2022. The DEAL show organisers urge the participating exhibitors to plan their trip in advance to also witness this multi-billion-dollar event.

UAE to Fortify World’s Food Security and Climate Change Drive with the Opening of Food for Future Summit and Global Agtech Expo

With over 100 global leaders, policymakers, 50 start-up innovators and over 140 exhibitors from more than 60 countries, to share trends and solutions, the ‘Food for Future’ Global Leadership Symposium, featuring a keynote address by H.E. Mariam Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, will strongly reinforce the country’s status as an industry enabler.

The partnership with FAO – the first time in the MENA region a government ministry has come together with the UN organisation in an issues-focused think tank – underlines the UAE’s leadership in addressing global food security and the climate change agenda by bringing local and international ministerial delegations and leading NGO executives under one roof.

The powerful speaker line-up includes Ban Ki-moon, 8th UN Secretary-General and Co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre, Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the City of Milan, who will address the gathering virtually. On stage, ministers and ministerial representatives from Nigeria, Ghana, Lebanon, Spain, the Bahamas, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, amongst others, will be joined by leading officials from the UN, FAO, the World Bank, World Food Programme, AGRA, CGIAR, Irish Food Board, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Singapore Food Agency, as well as C-suite from multi-national food producers.

With over 130 hours of empowering content featuring more than 200 speakers and 14 ministers, the summit will include FAO MENA Agrifood Innovation Days to foster public-private sector engagement in transforming the region’s agrifood systems. The FAO will hold two high-level sessions on Committee on World Food Security Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, and Trade, Innovation and Technology as Enablers for Food Security.

FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East, and North Africa, Abdulhakim Elwaer, said the Innovation Days will bring cities and municipalities, academia, and civil society together in a common goal. He said: ‘Innovation is a key driver — it helps in transforming our agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all.’

The Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens based in Vienna will also be at the Summit to, in the words of its CEO Monika Froehler, represent a ‘wide environmental portfolio.’

‘Climate change affects agriculture, food and the stability of food systems leading to hunger and poverty. Not all communities have the same capacity to adapt to climate change, and those in fragile areas and living in poverty are most vulnerable. As we work together to strengthen global food security and increase agricultural development aid, we must champion climate-resilient agriculture and smallholder farmers,’ said Ms. Froehler.

The summit will also host ‘Making It Happen’ sessions, bringing industry leaders together to focus on regional innovation and technology-enhanced agriculture and supply chain to make farming more efficient and sustainable. The sessions will explore end-to-end IoT solutions to drone and satellite monitoring, robotics, AI and supply chain with Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) to optimise food production along the value chain and reduce waste.

Empowering Community Change

The summit’s Generation Food stage will host workshops spanning topics related to food for the future global population. The interactive sessions will highlight expert views on how food can be more sustainably and healthily produced, improved, and consumed. The stage will also be home to the ‘Thought for Food MENA Challenge’ start-up showcasing ambitious entrepreneurs will vie for a cash award to progress their innovations.

The ’Food for Future’ and ‘Global Agritech’ shows will see exhibitors display the technology and methodology for future food production and waste reduction, opening rich business opportunities. They will also feature the region’s first FoodWise Challenge for schools and universities and see 170 young food system transformers from 11 countries pitch their solutions in the TFF 2022 MENA Agri-Food-Tech Challenge pitch their innovations for funding support.

‘Food for Future Summit and Global Agtech Expo will be a watershed moment in the evolution of public-private sector commitment to change,’ said Trixie LohMirmand, Executive Vice President, Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the event organisers. ‘It will be an empowering event inspiring a radical food security rethink by uniting the industry, governments and NGOs to ensure a food secure world.’

Businesses Must Rethink Growth Strategies As People Examine Relationships With Work, Technology, Brands and the Planet

Finds Accenture’s Annual Fjord Trends Report 2022, which investigates human behaviors that will affect culture, society and business in the coming year

Nearly two years of disruption to the fabric of society has resulted in a collective shift in people’s relationships with work, consumerism, technology and the planet, pushing companies to design new ways of doing business, according to the annual Fjord Trends report from Accenture.

In its 15th year, Accenture Interactive’s latest Fjord Trends report provides practical guidance as companies look to deliver value and relevance to their customers, employees and society.

According to the report, newly identified behaviors will challenge businesses to rethink their approach to design, innovation and growth as a result of the shifts in employee expectations and mindset, scarcity caused by disrupted supply chains, and new virtual environments such as the metaverse.

“Don’t underestimate the degree of relationship change we are seeing — or the role of business in responding to it,” said Mark Curtis, head of global innovation and thought leadership at Accenture Interactive. “The choices that businesses make next might affect our world and its structure in more ways than we can imagine, and it all points to shifts in people’s relationships — with colleagues, brands, society, places and with those they care about. There are challenging times ahead, but also great opportunities for businesses to stitch together positive relationships to create a fabric of life that is good for people, society and the planet.”

Fjord Trends 2022 investigates human behaviors that will affect culture, society and business in the coming year 

Fjord Trends 2022 dives into five human behaviors and trends bound to affect society, culture and business: 

  • Come as you are: The growing sense of agency that people have over their lives two years into the pandemic is affecting the way they work, relate and consume. People are questioning who they are and what matters to them. The rising individualism underlined by a “me over we” mentality has profound implications for organizations in how they lead their employees, how they shape a new employee value proposition, and how they nurture company-customer relationships.
  • The end of abundance thinking?: Over the past year, many have experienced empty shelves, rising energy bills, and shortages in everyday services. While supply chain shortages might be a temporary challenge, the impact will persist and lead to a shift in ‘abundance thinking’ – built on availability, convenience and speed – to greater consciousness about the environment. Businesses must address the availability anxiety experienced by many around the world.
  • The next frontier: A cultural explosion waiting to happen, the metaverse will be a new frontier of the internet, combining all the existing layers of information, interfaces and spaces with which people interact. It offers a new place to make money, is creating new job types, and offers infinite brand possibilities that people will expect businesses to help build and navigate. And it won’t just exist through screens and headsets — it will also be about real-world experiences and places that interact with the digital world.
  • This much is true: People now expect to ask and have questions answered at the touch of a button or through a brief exchange with a voice assistant. The fact that it’s so easy and immediate means people are asking more questions. For brands, the range of customer questions and the number of channels for asking them is growing constantly. How to answer them is a major design challenge, a critical driver for trust, and a future source of competitive advantage.
  • Handle with care: Care became more prominent this past year in all its forms: self-care, care for others, the service of care, and the channels to deliver care, both digital and physical. This is creating opportunities and challenges for employers and brands, regardless of their health or medical credentials. The responsibilities around caring for ourselves and others will continue to be prioritized in our lives. Designers and businesses alike need to make space for being able to practice care.  

“As consumers overhaul all of their relationships, brands will be faced with two big responsibilities: taking care of the world today while also building its future in a way that’s good for the planet, for business and for society,” said David Droga, CEO and creative chairman of Accenture Interactive. “The key lies within deeply understanding the impacts of those relationships and aspirations and converting them into potent business strategies that drive relevance and growth.”

Each year, Accenture publishes a trilogy of trend reports, offering a comprehensive view into the future of people, technology, and business. Fjord Trends, which is focused on customer behavior and its resulting impact on society, culture and business for the coming year, is crowdsourced from across Accenture Interactive’s global network of 2,000+ designers and innovators in more than 40 locations.

Best Eco-Friendly Waste Food Disposal Solution 2021 LFC® Biodigester – Power Knot

Recognized as the Best Eco- Friendly Waste Food Disposal Solution, Power Knot’s LFC Biodigester is renowned for disposing of food matter waste within 24 hours. The company, alongside Power Knot Middle East, has recently collaborated with Microsoft Dubai to create the first solar-powered biodigester in the world.

Power Knot is the market leader for onsite organic waste management solutions and provides economically sound solutions solutions to commercial, industrial, and military companies implementing environmentally conscious changes within their businesses by reducing carbon footprints and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.Power Knot manufactures the internationally recognized, fully enclosed automatic waste digester called the LFC biodigester. By offering its LFC biodigester, Power Knot is introducing ways to achieve corporate sustainability goals while optimizing operations – this also saves a huge amount of money for each customer.

Manufactured in the USA, the LFC biodigester is a machine that digests food waste in an environmentally friendly way. Usually installed in a commercial kitchen, the machine reduces expenses, inconvenience, mess, and carbon footprint by disposing of waste food that would otherwise end up in landfill. Power Knot offers ten different sizes that digest from 9kg (20lb) per day to 3,000kg (6,600lb) per day of food waste. With many hundreds of installations globally, the LFC biodigester has proven to be reliable, safe, and cost-effective.

The LFC biodigester plays a significant role in the reduction of landfill waste, while also enabling companies to comply with new environmental laws, achieve corporate sustainability, reduce greenhouse gasses, and optimize operations. The food waste digester machine uses a series of processes that include microorganisms to break down food and transform it into liquid. By using the LFC biodigester, companies can save the space and energy that would normally be used to remove the unwanted food scraps from their facility, with there being no need to collect, transport, or pile it up in a landfill. For its innovation and technology, MEA Market has awarded the LFC biodigester the Best Eco-Friendly Waste Food Disposal Solution 2021 Award.

Most recently, Microsoft Dubai joins Dubai Municipality, Beeah, RAK Waste Management Authority Headquarters, DULSCO and Accor group, Hilton, Marriott, Rotana, and Mandarin Hotel Group in utilizing an LFC biodigester as their food waste solution. The Dubai office has implemented an exciting initiative: a solar-powered LFC biodigester for their restaurant. Microsoft purchased the LFC biodigester to help it achieve its goals of becoming carbon-negative, water-positive, and zero-waste by 2030. The digestate that the machine outputs is then used as a plant-organic fertilizer to create an even better working environment.

James Spearman, the UAE Sustainability lead at Microsoft commented, “By implementing the biodigester system here in our Dubai office, we’re able to process our food waste locally, directly contributing to those three goals and making our office and, ultimately, the planet, a more sustainable place to work.”

For further information about Power Knot, please visit

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

United Kingdom, 2022– MEA Markets magazine has announced the winners of the 2021 MEA Business Awards.

Running consecutively in its fifth year, the MEA Business Awards programme acknowledges and celebrates diversely talented businesses based in the Middle East. The year 2021 has been all about recovery and moving forward after a turbulent first year of the pandemic. The aim of the MEA Business Awards is to award those businesses and professional individuals who have shown resilience and demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit by taking their business to a new level of success.

Our Awards Coordinator, Victoria Cotton, has expressed her joy over hosting the awards programme this year: “I am delighted to have been associated with the Awards programme this year and would like to offer my biggest congratulations to all the winners this year. I am very proud of all the businesses associated with MEA Markets this year and would like to wish them all the best for their future endeavours!”

To find out more about these prestigious awards, and the dedicated professionals selected for them, please visit where you can view our winners supplement and full winners list.


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.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media (  has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

New Zealand’s Leadership in Sustainable Food System Shines During Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week at Expo 2020 Dubai

H.E. Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri, Secretary General, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Essa Abdul Rahman Al Hashemi, Head of the UAE Food and Water Security Office (UAE), will share progress updates on the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy, and give insight into how the UAE and New Zealand are collaborating to identify more sustainable uses of water resources for local crops.

Other topics being covered during the forum include the importance of public-private collaborations in the global agricultural ecosystem, effective use of resources for farmers, modern food safety systems, livestock productivity, and the role of technology in solving challenges to global food systems.

New Zealand was selected by Expo 2020 Dubai and Dubai Chamber to co-curate the business forum because of its leadership in sustainable food systems, smart applied science and proven track record of producing high value products. New Zealand is recognised globally as one of the most progressive agricultural and aqua cultural nations – its food sector feeds around 40 million global consumers each year, eight times its population.

A delegation of some of New Zealand’s top experts in sustainable food systems will lead discussions during the forum and showcase examples of joint research initiatives that are supporting a more reliable supply of nutritious food to the global population. Among them are:

  • Damien O’Conner, Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Trade and Export Growth – New Zealand Government (available virtually). He will discuss the transition to positive food systems and how natural resources can be utilised sustainably.
  • Dr Ayesha Verrall, Minister for Food Safety, New Zealand Government (available virtually). She can provide an overview of the importance of a robust and international standards-based food safety system – from policy, to regulation and operational systems designed to reduce risk and waste, and enhance export capabilities.
  • Suzie Newman, Head – International Development & Aid, Plant and Food Research (New Zealand), takes a closer look at how small-hold farmers can use resources more effectively to enhance yields and economic returns. She will be joined by project leads from current field work cases in India and Vietnam.
  • Sharl Liebergreen, Consultant at world-leading agribusiness consulting firm AbacusBio (New Zealand), will be joined by Dr. Mamdouh Alsharari, Deputy Director General – Animal Production General Department, at the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. Their discussion will focus on sharing best practice to solve challenges around improving long-term productivity of local livestock in KSA.
  • Joining the Business Forum virtually, will be Sue Bidrose, CEO of AgResearch – a leading New Zealand Crown Research Institute, as well as Volker Kuntzsch, CEO, of Cawthron – New Zealand’s largest independent science organisation. Bidrose will join the discussion on modern food safety systems while Kuntzsch will discuss the role of technology, governments and businesses in reshaping the future of food and agriculture. 
  • Several other New Zealand Agritech companies will also present during the Business Forum and attend the Future Food Summit taking place from 23 to 24 February at Expo’s Dubai Exhibition Centre. Among them are Gallagher, a global leader in the innovation, manufacture and marketing of animal management, security, fuel systems and contract manufacturing solutions, who will speak about their virtual fencing solution eShepherdTM; and LIC, a herd improvement and agri-technology co-operative that empowers farmers through the delivery of superior genetics and technology- including using satellites for pasture evaluation.  For more details about full New Zealand delegation attending Expo’s Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week, visit New Zealand Agritech in the UAE | NZTE.

When: 21 February 2021
Where: Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) Hall 1 North, Expo 2020 Dubai 

Other New Zealand activities during Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week:

New Zealand’s leadership in sustainable food systems and agritech innovations will be shared throughout the thematic week at Expo 2020 Dubai with a number of the country’s foremost scientific experts presenting at World Majlis events.

New Zealand Experts at World Majlis Events
Food Agriculture and Livelihoods Week, Expo 2020 Dubai

Kelvin Wickham
CEO AMENA Fonterra

Farms of the Future: Feeding the Planet with Technology
Australia Pavilion
17 February, 4-6pm

By 2050 we will need to feed two billion more people. How can the world ensure the availability of food while simultaneously cutting down on the environmental harm caused by agriculture? What future innovations will help farms be more productive, while reducing their environmental impact?

Associate Professor Miranda Mirosa, Department of Food Science, University of Otago New Zealand …together with Louise Nash, Founder and CEO of Circularity.

The Value of Food: Rethinking the Cycle of Food Waste(co-curated by New Zealand and Expo 2020 Dubai) 
Terra Pavilion

20 February, 4-6pm.

Approximately one third of the food we produce each year is lost or goes to waste. This creates massive inequalities within populations, causing problems of obesity in some places while, elsewhere, others starve. Moreover, there is an environmental impact. How can we innovate and invest to make supply chains more efficient and reduce waste? How can we make the most of the food that is produced before it is gone

Dr. Suzie Newman
Head – International Development & Aid at New Zealand Crown Research Institute Plant and Food Research

Women’s World Majlis: From Farmer to Boss Lady:Developing a Gender-equitable Agricultural Sector
Women’s Pavilion

21 February, 3-4.30pm.

Women produce more than 50% worldwide, and up to 80% of national output in some countries, yet women are barely represented in the rest of the global food value chain. This session will explore gender equitable employment and decision-making in the food and agriculture sector, and the impact that gender-inclusive agriculture has on ending hunger and poverty and promoting sustainable development.

Dr Brent Clothier Principal Scientist with Plant & Food Research and President of Royal Society Te Apārangi

Food for Thought: How We Will Eat in the Future
Italy Pavilion

22 February, 4-6:00pm

Food is living knowledge and tradition, passed down through generations. As we tackle the challenge of exploring new food to feed a growing global population within the limits of our planet, the question of what are we going to eat in the future is also a matter of balancing culture and innovation.

New Zealand Crown Research Institute, Plant and Food Research, will also exhibit its “From This Land” photo-story exhibition at the New Zealand Pavilion from 17-19 February. Showcasing its partnerships in Vietnam and Cambodia, the exhibition comprises 18 portraits, other photos, text, video and a podcast series, from four agricultural development projects to give Expo visitors insight into the experiences and dreams of farmers, agronomists, business-owners, scientists and others as they work together to create more sustainable food systems.

All New Zealand entities will have representatives available for media interviews or comment during Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week.

New Digital Skills Index from Salesforce Reveals 76% of Global Workers Say They are Unequipped for the Future of Work

  • There is a major gap emerging between everyday digital skills and those needed for work, especially among younger workers
  • Using collaboration technologies is viewed as the most important digital workplace skill for workers over the next five years

Salesforce, the global leader in CRM, today published its new Global Digital Skills Index, revealing a growing global digital skills crisis and an urgent need for action. The Salesforce Index is based on more than 23,000 workers in 19 countries reporting their readiness to acquire key digital skills.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) don’t feel equipped to learn the digital skills needed by businesses now and even more (76%) don’t feel equipped for the future. Despite 82% of survey respondents planning to learn new skills in the next five years, only 28% are actively involved in digital skills learning and training programs now.  

The global digital skills gap

This gap is a concern – but it also presents an opportunity. With companies around the world rapidly transitioning to digital-first models, the demand for employees with digital skills has soared. 

The Salesforce Index’s overall global score for digital readiness, assessed in terms of preparedness, skill level, access, and active participation in digital upskilling, is currently only 33 out of 100. The countries represented in the survey ranged from scores of 63 to 15, highlighting that while certain countries feel more digitally ready than others, there is an urgent need for global investment to close the digital skills gap and build a more inclusive workforce. 

Everyday digital skills don’t translate to the workplace

Everyday skills such as social media and web navigation don’t necessarily translate to the core workplace digital skills needed by business to drive recovery, resilience, and growth.

More than two thirds of all Gen Z respondents (64%) say they have advanced social media skills — supporting the stereotype of digital mastery among the younger generation — but less than a third (31%) believe they have the advanced digital workplace skills needed by businesses now. 

Generational skills gap

However, the Salesforce Index also reveals that younger respondents have the greatest confidence and ambition to learn new skills — over one-third of Gen Z is actively learning and training for skills needed over the next five years compared to 12% of Baby Boomers.  

The most important digital skills needed by businesses today

According to the Salesforce Index, skills in collaboration technology are viewed as the most important digital workplace skill for workers today and over the next five years. But despite respondents’ prowess with everyday collaboration technology like social media, only 25% rate themselves advanced in those collaboration technology skills needed specifically for the workplace. 

Salesforce Global Digital Skills Index: In-Depth Insights from 23,000 Workers

Learn more about the findings from the Global Digital Skills Index in our in-depth article.

Business has a critical role to play

Now more than ever, businesses have a responsibility to act to address the growing global skills gap. Salesforce is committed to investing in the future workforce through its diverse set of workforce development programs, including:

  • Trailblazer Community, a global network of 15 million people across the Salesforce ecosystem who help each other learn new skills and succeed with Salesforce. 
  • Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform which has helped more than 3.9 million people skill up for the future of work.
  • Pathfinder Training Program, a workforce development program that prepares individuals with the technical, business, and soft skills needed to pursue a career in the Salesforce ecosystem.
  • Salesforce Military, which offers free online training classes and certification exams at no cost for active-duty military, veterans, and military spouses. Salesforce also connects participants with potential employers.
  • Salesforce Talent Alliance, an initiative that connects Salesforce partner companies to job candidates trained on Salesforce through Trailhead and brings new talent into the fast-growing ecosystem.
  • Trailblazer Connect, which helps people connect to mentorship and career opportunities through events and online resources.

RICS UAE Commercial Property Monitor – Q4 2021

Property experts have seen positive movements in investment trends across commercial property in the UAE during Q4, while owners continue to diversify the way we use office space. This according to the latest RICS Global Commercial Property Monitor.

Across all sectors, investment enquiries rose for the first time since the start of 2015, leading to capital value expectations rising for the year ahead. The strength of the industrial sector continues to edge ahead, with a net balance of +37% of respondents expecting prime industrial values to increase over the next twelve months. The outlook is also positive for prime office values, as a net balance of +30% of respondents foresee an increase during 2022 (the third successive report of growth).

Looking at the alternative sectors, respondents project an uplift in capital value expectations for data centres, multifamily residential, hotels and student housing. However capital values for aged care facilities are likely to rise at a slower rate than in Q3.  

As over half of respondents (+51%) believe the market to be in the early phase of an upturn, despite some impact from the latest COVID wave, respondents are more optimistic about the future of the UAE commercial property, with owners in the office sector looking at how to attract employees and occupiers back. 

As countries learn to live with COVID, 55% of respondents in the UAE still believe an office is essential for a company to successfully operate. However, 78% of contributors report that they are seeing an increase in demand for more flexible and local workspaces and over half (54%) have reported an increase in space allocation per desk following the pandemic; all highlighting how occupiers are making the office place safe and attractive for employees once more.

But traditional set ups are changing as 80% of respondents are seeing a re-purposing of office space.

Interestingly as UAE office space looks to be repurposed, investment enquiries from the UAE and overseas increased this quarter.


Growth across the industrial sector continues to intensify with availability of units failing to keep up with demand. This quarter, 33% of respondents saw an increase in the number of enquiries for industrial units whilst only +8% reported an increase in availability.  This imbalance means that over two-fifths of respondents anticipate industrial rents rising in the coming three months. Industrials are also slightly ahead of other sectors for rental and capital value growth over the coming 12months too.


The retail sector saw its first increase in occupier demand since Q3 2015 this quarter.  Investment enquiries also rose this quarter with +18% of respondents reporting a rise in domestic enquiries and +26% reporting a rise in foreign investment enquiries.  32% of respondents report that capital value expectations for the year ahead also improved and it is the third consecutive report where respondents have pointed to further growth in the retail sector.   

Tarrant Parsons, RICS Economist, commented: “At the aggregate level, MEA saw arguably the strongest improvement in sentiment compared to all world regions during Q4. Driving this, investment enquiries are now reportedly rising across all market sectors, with Saudi Arabia seeing a strong trend in investor appetite emerging. The turnaround evident within the UAE is also noteworthy, with investor demand now appearing to have more momentum than at any other point since 2014 as the market finally seems to be on a recovery path following a challenging few years. That said, conditions remain difficult across some parts of the region, and the pandemic still of course has the potential to knock confidence going forward if developments were to take a turn for the worse.”

Financial Services Companies Could Face Ransomware Vulnerabilities for Another Two Years

Organisations in the sector need an additional $2.61m and 29 new IT staff each to tackle the ‘vulnerability lag’ caused by COVID-led digital transformation, finds research from Veritas

The financial services sector is falling behind other industries when it comes to bridging the gap between the new technologies they have rapidly introduced to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, and the security measures required to protect them, according to research from Veritas Technologies, the global leader in enterprise data protection.

The Veritas Vulnerability Lag Report, surveyed 2,050 IT executives from the UAE and 18 other countries, including 245 respondents from the financial services sector. It discovered that companies in the financial services space were more likely to be struggling to keep pace with their security than those from most other sectors, with nearly half (48%) stating that their data security was lagging behind their digital transformation deployments. The average across all industries was 39%.

As a result, financial services companies are leaving themselves exposed to an increased risk of ransomware and other data loss incidents. The heightened threat to the sector is set to continue for another two years as organisations struggle to close the gap.

Johnny Karam, Managing Director & Vice President of International Emerging Region at Veritas Technologies, said: “In line with the UAE government’s ambitions to establish a strong digital economy, the UAE financial services sector has made significant strides in introducing new technologies and services to cater to evolving customer needs. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a curveball that no one could have seen coming, forcing organisations around the world to make transitions more rapidly than they anticipated. This has meant that the pace of security rollouts to protect this innovation has lagged behind, leaving them badly exposed to digital risk.

“In the UAE, we’re seeing businesses across all industries make strong progress with their data protection efforts. Unfortunately, the global financial services industry still has a long way to go. The good news is companies in this sector are beginning to redress the balance: 16% are confident that they will be able to close the gap this year.”

Financial services organisations that want to eliminate their vulnerability lag within 12 months would need to spend, on average, an additional $2.61m and hire 29 new members of IT staff. $2.61m is 5% more than the average required across all sectors, which may be disappointing news for IT leaders in the sector, given that they already typically spent 19% more than their peers on IT initiatives last year.

Financial services companies were also less likely to have the funds required to take action everywhere that their security was lagging. 43% of respondents in the financial sector said that they lacked the funds to close all of their gaps, compared to 28% of energy companies and just 25% in the public sector.

Expansion of cloud increases the risk of ransomware

Cloud environments are most at risk while this vulnerability lag persists: 82% of financial services respondents have implemented new cloud capabilities or expanded elements of their cloud infrastructure beyond their original plans because of the pandemic. With organisations having introduced an average of six new cloud services in the last twelve months alone, 54% of respondents said that they had gaps in their cloud protection strategy – more than any other area.

Responding to the global survey, three in five IT leaders at financial services organisations said that security risks have risen due to COVID-led digital transformation initiatives, with 44% specifying that the risk of ransomware attacks in particular, had increased.

Business operations have already suffered due to the vulnerability. 89% of financial services stated that their organisation had experienced downtime in the last 12 months, not least because, on average, financial services were the victims of 3.22 ransomware attacks which caused disruption and downtime to their businesses – this is nearly a third (32%) higher than the average across all sectors.

Karam said: “While the pressures that COVID-led digital transformation put on IT departments weren’t unique to the financial services sector, its position as a highly-attractive target to hackers may have meant that the industry has felt them more acutely. With hackers beating at the door, and limited resources to push them back, it can feel like the IT team is between a rock and a hard place. However, astute IT leaders are finding a third way: partnering with data protection providers that can minimise the admin burden of data protection through simplified tools leveraging AI and machine learning. Taking this approach can help financial organisations to accelerate their security rollouts and stop their protection infrastructure lagging behind their digital transformation.”

The Launch of MoroccoTech Seeks to Establish Morocco As One of the Best Digital Hubs in Africa

The launch event for MoroccoTech Brand is expected to be a mega-show with the presence of Government representatives and renowned names from the private sector, with the event is already generating a lot of buzz in the media and in the industry circles

MoroccoTech is officially scheduled to be launched on 14th January 2022. it will be launched by the Minister for Digital Transition and Reform of the administration, Dr. Ghita MEZZOUR (Digital Expert and PhD from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA). This is expected to be a significant event that will propel Morocco as a digital hub destination for companies across the globe. The event will be broadcast worldwide by several media organizations, reaching millions of viewers, leading to substantial exposure for the brands and business sponsors.

Emphasizing the objective behind the launch of the MoroccoTech, Dr. Ghita MEZZOUR remarked, “MoroccoTech is a movement, a brand, and a commitment to strengthen Morocco’s position as a regional digital hub”. The theme of the event is aptly summarized by its slogan, “Be Bold, Be Digital”.

This prominent launch event will feature top dignitaries, prominent industry leaders and influencers from various sectors. Government representatives expected to participate in the event include Dr. Ghita Mezzour (Minister Delegate in charge of Digital Transition and Reform of The Administration), Mr. Mohcine Jazouli (Minister Delegate in charge of Investment, Convergence and Evaluation of Public Policies), and Mr. Younes Sekkouri (Minister of Economic Inclusion, Small Business, Employment and Skills).

Representatives from private sector who will grace the event include Mr. Chakib Alj CEO of CGEM (General Confederation of Moroccan Companies), Mr. Amine Zarouk President of APEBI (Moroccan Federation of Information Technologies, Telecommunications and Offshoring), Mr. Mehdi Alaoui (Vice- President of APEBI Federation) and Mr. Mohamed Saad President of AUSIM (Association Of Users Of Information Systems In Morocco).

“This is going to be a major show for us.” says a spokesperson from the organizing team. “We are committed to promoting Morocco as the best digital destination in Africa that offers favorable ecosystem supporting innovative, sustainable and responsible work ethics. This is going to be the gold standard as we move towards an economy that will power the next wave of global innovations”.

The event will also have a galaxy of influential speakers sharing their experience and thoughts with the audience. The panel discussions have been organized around relevant key issues to uncover challenges and solutions. These discussions are expected to throw insights on several parameters that are going to drive the success of MoroccoTech movement.

The event will shine a spotlight on sustainable products and technologies by innovative companies in sectors such as FinTech, AgriTech, HealthTech, and GovTech. And these will gain further traction when they are streamed across the various networks & channels.

Digital and tech innovation is at the heart of Morocco’s economic transformation through innovation- led growth, as the country seeks to become an international digital hub and the best techshoring destination in Africa. Sector-specific developments are setting a precedent for the wider economic growth, as both the private and public sectors consider adoption of new technologies as a way to increase efficiency.

Over the last few years, Morocco has been able to capitalize on its the quality of its young talents, its proximity to European markets, as well as its regionally competitive telecommunication infrastructure and multilingual workforce, to achieve reasonable success in building up a digital hub model. The country has now embarked on a mission to develop MoroccoTech Ecosystem, as it realizes the enormous contribution it can make to the economic growth. digital is a promising sector and great opportunity for the national economy because of its potential to create jobs for youth and its contribution to the country’s balance of trade.

World Future Energy Summit 2022 Speaker Programme to Spotlight Five Critical Industries Driving Sustainability and Cleantech Globally

275 leading global experts and CEOs to address forums on Solar & Clean Energy, EcoWASTE, Water, Smart Cities and Climate & Environment

Grant Tuchten, Group Event Director at World Future Energy Summit, said: “These five forum programmes at the World Future Energy Summit 2022 bring together leaders and stakeholders driving the sustainability agenda, though leadership and global investment strategy. Attendees can network, do business and share knowledge about issues critical to sustainable development.”

The forums provide the perfect platforms for global stakeholders to network and do business, and in turn drive clean energy and sustainable development in the MENA region. Frost & Sullivan estimates that additional investment in solar in MENA could reach US$182.3 billion by 2025. At the same time, Dubai’s Clean Energy Strategy 2050 epitomises public-private partnerships widely viewed in the industry as the most efficient way to move forward.

The Solar & Clean Energy Forum will discuss energy transition, hydrogen (including the UAE national strategy for hydrogen) net zero energy, sustainable finance, and energy storage. Key speakers include Hind Almutawa, Director of Electricity and Energy Trade, Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure, UAE; AbdulAziz Al Obaidli, Director of UAE Assets, Generation, Taqa; Bruce Stedall, Asset Management Director, Transco; Ahmed AlMazrouei, Director, Electricity & Energy Trading Department, Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure, UAE; Lukas Sokol, Head, City Design, Sustainable Planning & Approvals, Masdar; Carmen Vidal, Chief Procurement Officer, Engie; and Mothana Bahjeat Qteisha, Senior Managing Director, MEA & APAC, Jinko Power.

Waste management targets set by the UAE include treating 75 percent of municipal solid waste by 2025 and 85 percent by 2035, as well as reducing municipal solid waste generation to 1.4kg per person per day by the year 2025. The EcoWASTE Forum will examine new attitudes to waste management, the benefits of reducing, reusing, and recycling, and evolving approaches to waste. The forum will explore other key trends including the circular economy, connected equipment and automation, waste to Hydrogen, landfill reduction strategies, and approaches to dealing with major waste sources.

Confirmed speakers for the EcoWASTE Forum include Daker El Rabaya, Managing Director of Waste Processing, Treatment and Disposal, Bee’ah; Pablo Arribere Jimenez, Senior Director – Operational Excellence & Innovation, Bee’ah; Ali Moidu, CEO, Dubai Technologies; Naseebah AlMarzooqi, Director of Studies, Research and Development, Ministry of Energy & Industry, UAE; and Franco Lusuriello, CEO, BTS Biogas.

Arab countries are home to six per cent of the world’s population but have less than two percent of renewable water supply, according to the World Bank. To ensure its own water security, the UAE has announced three additional seawater desalination plants to be completed by 2023, with a combined capacity of 420 million imperial gallons per day.

The Water Forum will explore these developments and will feature world class speakers including Dr Corrado Sommariva, CEO & Founder, SWPC; Fatima Al Shaygi, Vice President of Thermal & Water, Taqa; Rami Ghandour, Managing Director, Metito Utilities; Dr Shehab Al Ameri, Water Asset Division Manager, Transco; and Dr Mohamed Abdel Hamyd Dawoud, Advisor – Water Resources, Environment Quality, Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi. It will update attendees on decarbonising desalination, water efficiency strategies, water re-use priorities, food security – water nexus, and digitalisation and innovation highways.

Rami Ghandour, Managing Director at Metito, said: “Integrating advanced water management strategies enables more sustainable communities.

“The Water Forum this January will aim to tackle challenges related to the implementation of such strategies and the importance of public-private partnerships in developing more capital-intensive water projects. The Forum will also discuss the latest eco-friendly technologies that can be applied in the Middle East for greener operations.” Ghandour added.

The Smart Cities Forum will help drive the next generation of urban development and feature industry veterans including HE Eng. Yousef Al Ali, Assistant Undersecretary for the Electricity, Water & Future Energy Sector, UAE Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure; Khalid Mohamed Al Qubaisi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Energy Services Company; Greg Fewer, Group Chief Financial & Sustainability Office, Aldar; Stephan Gobart, Head of Strategy, Innovation & Customer Experience, Engie; Chris Wan, Head, Design Management, Masdar; and Karim El-Jisr, Chief Sustainability Officer, Diamond Developers. Topics that will be covered during the three-day Smart Cities Forum include master planning for sustainable cities, future transportation requirements, cybersecurity in smart cities, meeting net-zero carbon targets in cities, and digitalisation and efficiency in buildings.

The Climate and Environment Forum will highlight the latest advances in climate resilience and environmental protection with well-known industry figures such as Dr Christian Tock, Deputy Director General, Industry, New Technologies and Research, Ministry of Economy, Luxemburg; Capucine Jeunet, Sustainability Business Division Director, Schneider Electric; Dr Majid Sultan Al Qassimi, Partner, Soma Mater; Bruce Smith, Director of Forecasting and Planning, Emirates Water and Electricity Company; and Mohamed Al Hosani, CEO – Consultancy, Research and Innovation, Bee’ah. The forum will explore the commitments to carbon reductions targets, climate-linked finance, carbon capture and storage, decarbonising major industries and food security in desert environments.

The World Future Energy Summit 2022, organised by RX Global, will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), from 17 – 19 January 2022. Hosted by Masdar as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, it comprises a series of high-profile events addressing current global challenges and the means with which the world can cooperate to build a sustainable future for everyone.

E-commerce Sector to Boost Cosmetic and Skincare Market Growth

The global cosmetics and skincare market was valued at USD 129.23 billion in 2020, and is set to increase by USD 38 billion between 2020-2024, accelerating at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% during this forecast period

Beauty and e-commerce have historically gone hand-in-hand, making it easier for customers to purchase products online without having to step foot in a store, and for both luxury and drugstore brands to increase their outreach and market to potential customers.

The global cosmetics and skincare market was valued at USD 129.23 billion in 2020, and is set to increase by USD 38 billion between 2020-2024, accelerating at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% during this forecast period.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a lasting devastating impact on the beauty and cosmetics industry. Store closures due to strict lockdown measures globally have resulted in disastrous consequences, with sales decreasing by 60% – 70% from March to April 2020 on a global scale.

The flourishing e-commerce sector, however, is anticipated to once again boost market growth to pre-Covid levels. The pandemic shifted focus slightly away from cosmetics, with customers now looking to premium brands with a greater interest in skincare. This effect has helped premium skincare companies expand their market share and innovate, build digital appeal and prestige, and improve their credibility.

Dr Sabet Salahia CosmeSurge Jumeirah, says, “Companies have responded positively to the crisis by increasing production capacities and shifting focus to cater to immediate needs by offering hand sanitizers and cleaning agents. Research is showing that consumers now intend to spend more on skincare products, in lieu of traditional beauty and grooming products. We’re also now seeing a consumer base that is more knowledgeable than ever about skincare formulations, that is aware of ingredients and demands social and economic responsibility from the brands they purchase from.”

“Currently, there is an escalating demand for face creams, serums, sunscreens, and body lotions across the globe, as consumers learned to prioritize skincare over the various lockdowns when people were stuck at home. There are also many global ‘trends’ surrounding skincare, the most recent of which was the Korean skincare craze that pushed a lot of pre-pandemic sales. This increased demand for a flawless complexion is expected to have a positive impact on the market growth over the forecast period. “ he added.

Face creams, moisturizers, serums, and sheet masks are increasingly gaining popularity as both men and women continue to place a high premium on physical appearance and looking their best. Ease of access to knowledge online through Youtube, skincare blogs, and forums has also created awareness about easy-to-treat skin disorders, making it easier for customers to curate their own skincare routines. Eco-friendly consumers, such as those opting for animal cruelty-free, vegan, and plant-based skin care products make up a significant chunk of the skincare market.

The online distribution model has significantly re-shaped shopping habits of consumers, as this channel offers benefits such as doorstep delivery, easy payment methods, heavy discounts, and the availability of a wide range of products from anywhere in the world, on a single platform. Notable brands and distributors in the market are strategically launching e-commerce websites in large lucrative markets owing to rising internet penetration and a now largely digitalised mobile shopping consumer base. Skincare aficionados can expect to see more great skincare in the forecast period to come.

Mobile Payments in Africa Continue to Grow in Popularity, Proving Importance of Local Payment Methods

Mobile payments in sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to grow by over 60% in the next 5 years, showcasing that Local Payment Methods like these are key for more expansive e-commerce opportunities.


The total value of mobile money transactions in emerging markets is predicted to exceed $870 billion in 2026; this growth tendency can also be seen in sub-Saharan Africa, where mobile payments are expected to grow by over 60% in the next 5 years. Seen as one of prominent payment trends in emerging markets for 2022, the popularity of mobile payments is emphasizing the importance of Local Payment Methods, and could open up the African market to a number of global e-commerce opportunities.

Mobile payments as a Local Payment Method (LPM) appeared in the sub-Saharan region in the early 2000s with Safaricom, a Kenyan mobile network operator, offering one of the first mobile payment solutions. The importance of this LPM only grew with new players and more regional countries entering the space. While mobile payments were not automatically available to each sub-Saharan country, as some still lacked technical solutions, it has become a widely spread trend that continues appearing in more African countries.

Frank Breuss, CEO of Nikulipe, a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods to access Emerging and Fast-Growing Markets, notes that this payment trend has grown popular due to the particular circumstances sub-Saharan Africa is in.

“More than half of the African population remains without a traditional bank account even today, so solutions like mobile payments are most convenient for the region,” explains Breuss. “Mobile phones are widely available across the region, making mobile money payments the primary way for Africans to pay for goods and services like groceries, food delivery or taxi rides, or even utility bills.”

Breuss continues, adding that mobile phones in Africa are used in a very different way than they are in the US or Europe; they are often not based on monthly subscription models, but rather balances are topped up by purchasing prepaid airtime credits, that can be purchased at thousands of shops or agent-kiosks even in the most rural areas.

“This allows people, even those without a bank account or a credit card, to buy phone credits not just to make calls, but also to top-up their phone to pay local merchants for goods and services—logistically, it’s the simplest and most convenient LPM to use. Knowing all of this, understanding why mobile payments are popular in this region can, in turn, open up more global e-commerce opportunities for both international merchants and African shoppers, looking to shop more globally.”

Since much of Africa’s population has limited access to financial services, the continent is regarded as one of the world’s most attractive banking opportunities for developing the existing financial industry and introducing new products to improve financial accessibility. After previously disregarding mobile money’s target market in favor of Africans with higher income, Africa’s traditional banks are, too, looking into entering telecommunications territory. This move by local banking institutions indicates that the mobile payments market will continue growing in the upcoming years.

While mobile payment penetration varies from one sub-Saharan African country to another, at the end of 2020, 495 million people were using mobile services, which represents 46% of the region’s population. It is predicted that by 2025 this number will reach 615 million—equivalent to 50% of the region’s population. This shows that Local Payment Methods will remain an important part of not only sub-Saharan Africa’s but also fast-growing and emerging markets e-commerce growth.

Annex Investments Is On the Lookout for Promising Early-stage MENA Startups In Need of Funding and Business Support

“We want founders to dream big and think they can be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, rather than selling to them,” he continues. “That is our role as early players and heavy movers in this ecosystem: to help assist both investors and founders.”

Currently, Annex is funneling its efforts into two avenues:

  • creating a venture builder for startups at the Pre-Seed stage, and going on to support them all the way to Series A;
  • deploying funds across promising MENA startups in a sector-agnostic manner.

“We’ve now allocated funds that will go into the MENA region,” Anabtawi explains. “We work on a deal-by-deal basis, finding deals where we believe the startup is of high quality and innovative, and where we can act as a strategic investor, where we can add value by opening doors, making the connections necessary, and providing advisory and mentorship for the journey of the startup. That’s essentially the investment mandate we follow. We’re sector-agnostic. We look across all of MENA.”

A shifting investment landscape

Looking back a decade or so at the existing investment landscape in the UAE, Anabtawi traces back an interesting journey of expedited progress and development.

“When we first started, there wasn’t really an investor scene in the venture capital in the region whatsoever,” he notes. “We were early movers into this space, before a lot of other people were. Essentially, we noticed that once Careem and Souq had exited is when everyone started to see the legitimacy of the [UAE and MENA ecosystem].”

“We believe that back then, there was an extremely small amount of deal flow within tech in the region. Because of the surge that came following [the Careem exit], we are starting to see now that the market is maturing with a lot of new regional and international investors entering. We’re seeing more and more quality deal flow. It’s not fully mature, yet, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.”

But the mere exit of Careem and other unicorns was just the culmination of the years-long efforts led by the UAE government to make doing business in the country easy and intuitive, Al Nowais explains. In his opinion, if government entities had not innovated and revamped elements like license registration, company laws, fee processes, and all the other aspects of setting up a business, the ecosystem “would never have matured” to this stage.

He explains that it was the combined effort of government regulatory support, in addition to improved self-education among investors in the region that helped produce the favourable environment that birthed success stories like those of Careem and others, and created the conductive investment environment we see today.

Fostering the culture of private investing 

While the UAE startup ecosystem is no stranger to publicly-owned investment entities, as the UAE government is historically known to pump a lot of strategic capital into the market, the number of fully-private investor organizations has slowly been ramping up over the years.

As one of these entities, Anabtawi hopes that Annex Investments’ efforts will help bolster the culture of angel investing in the country and region, to encourage more private investors to take the leap.

“I think this is played on two fronts. One is with the startups and the founders. And the second is with the investors.

“As Annex Investments, it is our responsibility to help foster this tech ecosystem and to do so we need to first educate investors about what we are doing, how they can join in, how they can add value, how we can work to open doors to assist these startups and allow SMEs in the region to flourish.”

“Secondly, it comes up on the startup’s end. For example, how can we introduce X fintech company to the right banks, so that they can get the rates that allow them to assist the consumer, or have the access in the first place to these banks so that they can operate?”

“[Overall, it’s about] making sure we’re assisting SMEs as much as possible to no longer be considered an SME at the end of the day. We want to grow these startups to become large

conglomerates and maintain value for the region. We don’t want every startup in [MENA] to exit into an international [market, where] control and value become lost and the region [misses out on the value].”

Startups: It’s not all about the money

While the Annex Investments team is always on the lookout for exciting startups that are looking for support, it is important to remember that most investors are looking to build a relationship with their beneficiaries, rather than simply using them as an investment vehicle.

Anabtawi frames it this way:

“As an investor, would you prefer if a startup comes to you over-subscribed, yet still wants you to be a part of their round, because they know you can offer them certain strategic support and advice, or would you prefer a startup come your way simply asking for money and nothing else?”

[The startup in the first example,] those are the people we look for. The people that don’t need our money, but our value add, and that’s how we know that our money will be in safe hands.”

In terms of improving a founder’s chances at receiving funding, Anabtawi advises, “Be prepared, do your homework, know the investor, what they like, what they invest in, and where and how they can add value. Make sure this is already within your pitch.”

“We don’t believe in just bringing in a cheque and praying for returns. We like to come in, add value, be involved. [Founders should] encourage our involvement, mentorship, and know exactly what they want from us.”

The Customer Loyalty and Engagement Experts

blu Loyalty™ is a company that specialises in offering end-to-end customer loyalty and customer engagement solutions to all types of businesses. By using its existing platform, it helps its clients’ reach and engage with their customers in a much more effective and engaging way. This in turn helps businesses working with blu Loyalty™ to grow at a higher-than-normal rate. That makes blu Loyalty™ an invaluable partner for any kind of business or enterprise. Below, award winning CEO, Tony Gougassian shares his own experience, as well as the excellent progression of his game-changing organisation.

Recently, a plethora of organisations such as retail brands, major corporates, and banking organisations have increasingly begun to reward their customers. They all started off with a simple goal and vision in mind – that of success, recognition, and a reputation of being the best – and have now found a multitude of ways to connect with their audience as well as completely win them over. With loyalty schemes and programmes these organisations have been accelerating even quicker than before. But it isn’t so straightforward.

Loyalty programmes need to be inclusive, exciting, and compelling in order for customers to want a slice of the pie. If the loyalty scheme can provide something that customers simply cannot achieve or gain without returning time and time again, the customer is twice as likely to return for another taste. With the world as it is today, customers come and go quicker than the rise and set of the scorching sun. Acquiring new customers is time consuming, costly, and sometimes disheartening. However, blu Loyalty™ has a knack for it – it has plenty of experience, years of dedication, and deep rooted intellect at the very base of all its endeavours.

With regards to being a new business or enterprise, blu Loyalty™ wants to take the reigns and guide you so that you can experience its seasoned lessons and adopt them into the core of your organisation. With the financial climate being full of such pressure, start-ups can find it daunting and even scary when trying to locate their target audience, never mind gaining followers or customers that will stick around. But with blu Loyalty™ there’s something magic in the air – something that will enchant the consumer and make them feel truly special.

With the programmes that blu Loyalty™ offers, organisations will find it easy to gain new customers, as well as keeping them coming back for the foreseeable future. These connections cannot be replaced and they certainly can’t be broken. By staying current and by understanding data on trends, purchasing habits, and demands, blu Loyalty™ stays on track and changes with the times – with a remarkable future in the industry.

Based in Dubai, UAE, and founded in 2013, blu Loyalty™ is a fine example of a highly effective customer loyalty and customer engagement solutions supplier that provides an end-to-end comprehensive range of loyalty programmes.

Tony Gougassian, CEO of blu Loyalty™, gained much experience and expertise within the electronic payments industry. He has earned a respectable seat in the industry with his fine work in end-to-end customer engagement solutions and has become the backbone of the company. With experience working for Visa for 10 years, he built up a portfolio of aiding a large number of markets within the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries which fuelled his passion for loyalty-based market research and business-to-customer connection.

Tony had a deep vision of success that has led him on his path towards creating and leading blu Loyalty™. His tenacity and determination have resulted in a very bright future for this organisation as his first-hand knowledge propelled it from a small enterprise to the huge success that it is today.

Tony learned that to be successful in gaining and retaining customers it is of utmost importance that the customer feels heard and rewarded for returning. Understanding that this is essential, blu Loyalty™ offers its services to all businesses looking to make it in their industries. With experience watching commercial banks offering rewards for their credit card programmes, Tony quickly realised that this can be used across the board. With these highly valuable elements, blu Loyalty™ attaches value to the organisations that it works with via its suggestion of points-based programmes and cashback systems.

By using schemes such as these, customers become increasingly keener and more engaged with earning more points and cash back. Tony found that credit card companies that didn’t provide these kinds of rewards didn’t do as well in retaining their customer-base. In fact, they lost customers more regularly. These customers would eventually end up going with another credit card company or commercial bank because they were aware of the other rewards that were on offer elsewhere.

blu Loyalty™ introduces ways to meet the needs of the consumer for card issuers large and small. Beginning with a simple ‘plug and play’ loyalty programme – a comprehensive and competitive approach that would include technology applications such as a loyalty management system, customer loyalty portal, and customer loyalty mobile application alongside the loyalty value proposition – blu Loyalty™ introduces an avenue that leads towards long-lasting relationships and success for all.

From the dawn of blu Loyalty™ – to this very day – there has been a huge paradigm shift for loyalty schemes across the modern corporate ecosystem. This ‘plug and play’ programme has not only become beneficial to credit card issuers, but it has become entirely relevant, advantageous, and valuable to all businesses who would like to understand and make use of insightful data throughout consumer trends. All in all, these loyalty programmes have become increasingly more popular and have become the primary tool in the new digital age – for customer data collection and consumer engagement solutions around the globe.

Social media, digital communication, online marketing, and retailing have all led to the ability for businesses to gather invaluable insights into consumer trends and the desires of consumers. With access to this analytical data, businesses are more able to fine tune their products, plans and loyalty programmes to suit the consumer – leading to more returning customers and satisfied individuals. This is entirely crucial to the health and wellbeing of every business and blu Loyalty™ is well aware of this – which is exactly why it offers its services. By providing its clients with the means to attract and keep more customers, it has created an attractive and irresistible name for itself in the customer loyalty and engagement industry. Incomes, lifestyle, and behavioural consumer trends will always have an impact on purchasing habits as well as customer loyalty – blu Loyalty™ is no stranger to this fact. By helping businesses to gain more insight into purchasing habits and other analytics, it has the means to make a huge impact on its client.

To this date, blu Loyalty™ works within nine markets across the Middle East and Africa. It has plans to expand globally in the near future. With its widening scope of services and programmes – including gamification, customer analytics and interaction, automated marketing and engagement tools – blu Loyalty™ has much to share with its clients so that they may flourish just as much as it has.

By building such a sophisticated and intelligent global platform, blu Loyalty™ has truly embarked on a noble yet inspiring journey with no signs of slowing down. With its AI assistance – for data analytics – blu Loyalty™ has the greatest tool to truly understand the consumer. As it specialises in all things consumer related – such as loyalty programmes, customer engagement, and analytics – it is offering a service that will inevitably positively alter the trajectory of any business.

For business enquiries contact Tony Gougassian at Blu Analytics DMCC via

Post-COVID-19 Recovery and Economic Transformation Will Be Increasingly Service-Sector-Led

These firms do face challenges in terms of scaling up – most firms in Kenya are small, largely based in Nairobi, and operate in the informal sector, according to the latest Kenya Economic Update Edition 24: From Recovery to Better Jobs. Kenya has over 138,000 formal establishments, and 7.4 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Among formal firms, only 3% have 50 or more employees, and only 1% of firms have 150 or more employees. The majority of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), 94%, are unlicensed micro firms with fewer than five employees. Nairobi hosts 36% of formal firms and 14% of MSMEs. The services sector dominates the firm landscape with 84% of formal firms and 83% of MSMEs in the services sector.

“Improving conditions in Kenya to support the ability of new firms to scale up and innovate is important to support the creation of better jobs at a large scale,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “When firms reach a critical mass, and are able to access larger markets, use technology, and expand exports, this results in increased productivity, better-quality jobs, and higher standards of living for large parts of the population.”

Services sector leads in job creation

The report finds that, prior to the onset of the pandemic, Kenya’s job creation was concentrated in the services sector. For instance, the number of formal firms in the retail sector increased fivefold – from around 700 in 2013 to 3,500 in 2018. This outpaced the growth of formal firms in the manufacturing sector, the number of which roughly doubled over this period, from 336 to 714.

With services driving job creation, Kenya is exhibiting a new pattern of economic transformation that is emerging in Africa, and which may differ from the manufacturing-led transformation of East Asia and many high-income economies. The growth in digital technology could enable some service sub-sectors to replicate features of the manufacturing sector that enable scale, innovation, and spillovers that are important for long-term development and job creation.

The services sector can be divided into four groups of sub-sectors based on their ability to enable scale, innovation, and spillovers: the global innovator services (ICT, finance, and professional activities); the skill-intensive social services (education and health); the low-skilled tradable services (transportation and storage, accommodation and food services, and wholesale trade); and the low-skilled domestic services (retail trade and personal services,). Low-skilled services currently dominate employment in Kenya. Low-skilled domestic services accounted for over half of all service sector employment, and the low-skilled tradable sub-sectors for one-quarter, in 2019.

The good news for Kenya: Prior to the pandemic, Kenya saw strong growth in employment among the higher-skilled services sub-sectors. Employment in the global innovator sub-sectors grew by 10% between 2015/16 and 2019, largely led by the finance and insurance sub-sectors. Employment in the skill-intensive social subsector, i.e. education and health, increased by an even larger 23%.

“Kenya’s fintech success story highlights how global innovator services can be a source of job creation, reduce poverty and benefit the broader economy,” said Ramya Sundaram, Senior Economist, World Bank. “With appropriate investment in trade, technology and training, Kenya will be able to create jobs for people at all skill levels, ensuring that growth benefits everyone.”

The pandemic’s impact on the job market

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very large impact on the labor market and some of the scarring will have longer-term implications. Workers lost jobs and moved into agriculture to survive. The services sectors, and urban areas were worst affected. The share of employment in services declined by 7 percentage points, reversing almost all the gains since 2005. Agriculture absorbed 1.6 million additional workers, increasing its share of employment from 47% to 54% in one year. Unemployment increased in urban areas, while employment increased in rural areas. In addition to contemporary effects, human capital losses during the pandemic can have significant intergenerational consequences, including through the productivity of future generations.  The incipient rebound in employment in more recent months suggest that, with appropriate measures, Kenya could recover and surpass these losses.

Way forward for job creation

Key takeaways from the report:

  • To recover fully from the pandemic and to create more jobs over the longer term, there is a need to orient policies consistently towards supporting a thriving private sector.
  • The main challenges facing Kenya are three-fold: (1) creating conditions that support firms in entering the market, in scaling up, and in innovating through the creation of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems; (2) reversing the losses in jobs during the pandemic in sectors such as global innovator services and skill-intensive social services to help increase the availability of better-quality jobs over the long-term; and (3) raising demand for jobs in labor intensive, lower skill sectors, including through linkages to the more skill-intensive sectors.
  • Creating conditions that support firm entry, scale-up, and innovation can be done through supporting greater access to finance, reducing barriers to technology adoption, supporting development of entrepreneurial eco-systems in lagging regions, and providing business development services to help improve firm capabilities and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Creating conditions to support the growth of firms and jobs in the services sector (among other sectors) and exploiting its linkages with the rest of the economy involves the 3Ts: (i) trade: lowering barriers to trade – particularly in services; (ii) technology: expanding access to digital technologies, and updating the regulatory framework to address new features of data and digital business models; and (iii) training: improving training and skills development among the current and future workforce to enable faster adoption of technology, as well as better socio-emotional and interpersonal skills that are especially important in some services.
  • Raising demand for jobs in labor intensive, lower skill sectors, helps support all segments of the population in attaining a higher standard of living. Cross-cutting reforms such as enabling a stable business environment and improving access to both physical and digital infrastructure can benefit all firms, across all sectors. For example, with appropriate investment in physical infrastructure, better roads, and so on, the tourism sector has great potential to further benefit the Kenyan economy and continue creating jobs for low-skilled labor.

Finance, Digital Economy Key to Driving Growth of ASEAN Markets: Industry Experts

“The pandemic undoubtedly had a disruptive impact on the economy and adversely affected growth in South-East Asia, with the region registering a 4% contraction last year – its deepest in the last decade,” said Winfried Wicklein. “The good news is that we are expecting the region to bounce back with growth of more than 3% in 2022 and 5% in 2023. The economic recovery has been driven to a great extent by the bounce-back in the agricultural sector, as many of those who lost their jobs in tourism headed to agriculture.”

Wicklein went on to list four strategies that are necessary to lead the region’s recovery in the period ahead: “First, there is strengthening social protections, especially for vulnerable groups. Then strategy number two is to enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN’s business environment in order to attract further investments, including investment in human capital to build a competitive workforce and economy.”

“The third strategy is maintaining the ongoing digital transformation in order to generate jobs and income,” he continued. “And finally, there is ensuring that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green.”

For his part, Stephen Moss asserted that interest in ASEAN from the Middle East is at an all-time high, citing several reasons for this development. “First, if we look at ASEAN as one entity, it would be the third-largest economy in Asia and fifth-largest in the world; the region is also expected to become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2030. It sits right in the middle of two of the world’s largest trade agreements – the CPTPP and RCEP.”

“Furthermore, exports from ASEAN are valued at over USD1.3 trillion – a figure that is expected to more than double to USD2.8 trillion by 2025, making ASEAN the world’s fastest-growing trade bloc,” he continued. “In terms of digital adoption, ASEAN already has one of the world’s most digitally enabled populations, with 40 million additional internet users reported in 2020 alone. The total number of users is expected to rise from 130 million to 300 million by 2030. This is not to mention the dynamic population, 35% of which are under 20 years old – a population that is fast moving into the middle class.

“Given all of this, we can see why investors from the Middle East are increasingly looking East towards ASEAN,” Moss concluded.

In the second session, ‘ASEAN’s Digital Landscape,’ Dr Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer ADDO AI, a global artificial intelligence and big data firm that headquartered in Singapore and with clients and employees located in the Middle East, Asia and the US, discussed how digitalisation was underpinning the recovery from the pandemic.

She highlighted the ‘e-Conomy Southeast Asia (SEA) Report – Roaring 20s: The SEA Digital Decade,’ published by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company in 2021, that revealed that 40 million new internet users came online this year, bringing the internet penetration in South East Asia to 75%, with eight out of 10 of these users having purchased something online at least once.

“Not only are people in ASEAN using digital more than ever before they are using it more frequently than ever before. It is not only the scale of penetration but also the depth of penetration as more and more digital services are added. That has risen to a sense of the digital decade for ASEAN – 2020 to 2030,” she said.

“One in three of these customers think that we would not have survived without these digital services – e-commerce, transport and food, and then to financial services and travel. As it matures, it comes to education and health-tech. We have seen great examples of how people are now, using more than four digital services than they were doing before the pandemic – food and grocery delivery have gone up the most, but digital merchants for all the centres are merging,” she added.

“The net positive impact that digitisation has on the country as a whole, benefitting both end users as well as the merchants and suppliers, range from job creation to business opportunities. More than 83% SME survey say it has created more jobs and if it weren’t for digital their revenues would have declined. In fact, six in 10 of them have said they would like to maintain the use of digital supply chain financing and consumer financing as the next thing to explore. What we are seeing is that we are in a position now to move beyond just consumer services to helping small businesses,” she continued.

Dr Khanna concluded by highlighting that in her base of Singapore, startups raised $11.2bn in the first nine months of 2021 – more than double raised in the whole of 2020.

“Singapore has made a great deal of effort to attract ASEAN unicorns. The country is one of the top investment destinations in south East Asia, from where family offices and investment offices, sovereign wealth funds can have a channel and exposure to all the growing startups, billion dollar value startups, across ASEAN. This is the opportunity that we see in both ASEAN and the Middle East as well, a flourishing of digital services,” she said.

GBF ASEAN forms part of Dubai Chamber’s flagship Global Business Forum series, which was launched in 2013 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to provide Dubai’s business community with new opportunities and strengthen the emirate’s position as a dynamic global business hub. GBF ASEAN represents the latest in the programme, which also has GBF Africa and GBF LATAM under its umbrella.

UAE Residents Prefer Automation in Their Homes & for Online Shopping

YouGov’s latest technology report reveals the industries and institutions where consumers show enthusiasm for automation as well as the areas where they oppose it.

The whitepaper titled International Technology Report 2021 explores sentiments and perceptions towards AI across 17 geographies and 19,000 consumers, and aims to help public and private sector organisations plan, while acknowledging and empathizing with human aspirations and concerns.

The data shows beliefs about the impact of automation on society skew more towards positive feelings among UAE residents. About three in ten (30%) consumers in UAE stated ‘Acceptance’ as the word to describe their feeling towards AI & automation, and almost a similar proportion chose optimism, hope and excitement (28% each). Comparatively, less than one in five respondents in the country feel skeptical (18%) towards AI or chose words like fear (18%), confusion (19%) and unnecessary (15%) to describe their feelings towards automation.  

In UAE, almost three in ten (29%) consumers feel AI will have a “more positive than negative” impact on the society. However, this number increases to 44% among those who claim to be well informed about the technology, highlighting a positive correlation between knowledge and positive perceptions about AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now a part of our everyday existence and has impacted many sectors of our lives. On a personal level, UAE consumers are generally comfortable with automation in most life areas except a few. They are comfortable with AI in their homes (54%), for shopping (53%), manufacturing (51%), mobility (47%) and travel (43%), but prefer humans-led approach in areas such as education, medical consultation and government policies. 

When asked about the industries that will be more profoundly impacted by AI, about two in five consumers in UAE think that the manufacturing industry (41%) will have the greatest impact followed by communications (39%), banking & financial services (38%), transport and mobility (36%) and education (32%).

Finally, when we look at the entities that people trust with the developing ethical automated solutions, we find that consumers across the globe are more likely to put their trust in big, established companies over small ones, and the private sector more than the public sphere.

Among UAE residents, even though the big technology companies (46%) are trusted the most with this responsibility, the trust in government is also high and is above the global average (33% vs 16%). 

On the other hand, trust in non-government public serving entities and foreign governments is the least in the country (18% each). Therefore, building trust and credibility will be crucial for institutions to reinforce positive consumer sentiment.

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

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 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

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

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. 



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 by emailing [email protected]. Alternatively, visit 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.


“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.