Egypt’s Intella relocates headquarters to Saudi Arabia after KSA’s AI boom 

Operating a Software-as-a-Service business model, Intella has been profitable since its inception in 2021 but has been heavily investing in research and development. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 May 2023
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Egypt’s Intella relocates headquarters to Saudi Arabia after KSA’s AI boom 

  • Kingdom is becoming a hub for tech companies, says Intella CEO and founder Nour Taher
  • Saudi Arabia’s artificial intelligence sector is increasingly attracting regional and international players as demand continues to escalate, with Egypt-based Intella the latest to join the field.

CAIRO: Speaking exclusively with Arab News, Nour Taher, CEO and founder of the company, said Intella has begun relocating its headquarters to the Kingdom after gaining massive traction in the country. 

The move is evidence of how Saudi Arabia is making strides in the field of artificial intelligence and positioning itself at the forefront of the AI revolution in the Middle East. 

“Saudi is becoming a hub for tech companies, and we plan on playing a core role in the Saudi tech ecosystem,” Taher said. 




Nour Taher

“Saudi Arabia is currently our largest market with 70 percent of our business coming from there. We have just taken the decision to relocate our HQ there to better serve our existing clients and further expand our business. We are also inspired and aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030,” she added. 

Intella is one of the region’s leading deep tech companies that aspires to create Arabic-language AI technology that caters to a vast range of dialects.  

“Our mission is to capture voice data and convert it into text, which we then analyze and mine for valuable information,” Taher explained. 

AI-Powered products 

The company offers a wide range of products in the areas of voice transcribing, data mining, and AI-powered insight capturing. 

“Our unique advantage lies in our ability to amass vast datasets, which we continue to expand with every conversation captured. By harnessing the power of technology, we are able to reveal insights and patterns that might have been impossible to detect through traditional means,” she explained. 

Intella offers Intella Contact Center Intelligence, a transcribing then analyzing tool for call centers; Intella Surveys, a real-time insight-capturing tool for businesses; and Intella Voice, a multi-dialect Arabic voice transcriber which averages a 95.7 percent accuracy rate covering 25 dialects. 

“We transcribe different Saudi dialects such as Najdi, Hejazi, Gulf and Faifi with an accuracy exceeding 95 percent, even when multiple dialects are intertwined within the same conversation,” Taher explained. 

Opportunities Ahead 

Intella has already cemented its position in the Kingdom with a majority of its client base coming from Saudi Arabia as well as landing multiple partnerships. 

Taher explained that the company’s AI products are suited for contact centers, government bodies, businesses, media agencies, and educational institutions. 

FASTFACTS

Intella won the Startup World Cup regional competition last February and will be heading to Silicon Valley to compete in the grand finale for a $1 million prize.

Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a cornerstone for AI development in the region, with multi-billion dollar investments and initiatives set to reshape the sector.

The Kingdom established the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority back in 2019 to drive national data and AI to transform the country as a leading data-driven economy.

Saudi Arabia has also set its sights on being ranked among the top 15 nations in AI by 2030.

“We have hundreds of active partnerships, in Saudi Arabia we are working very closely with governmental entities, consulting firms, tech companies, and contact centers. We have also secured global and regional partnerships with big tech companies like Huawei and Microsoft,” Taher stated. 

Taher believes that the Kingdom holds a massive opportunity for AI adoption. She stated that the company’s products were built for businesses and institutions to capture solutions and expand on them. 

“The most exciting part at Intella is that we’re not trying to build solutions alone. The first thing we’ve done when we built our model was avail it through API integration for other parties to integrate with and build on top of,” she said. 

“Saudi Arabia is becoming a tech hub and is attracting a lot of regional and global tech players, hence empowering everyone with accurate multi-dialect transcription could mean that every single conversation turns into meaningful insights,” she added. 

With Saudi Arabia opening to the world, Arabic speaking individuals are heading to the Kingdom to take hold of the opportunities presented by the trillion-dollar economy. “What’s interesting about the Saudi market for us is that Arabic is the main spoken language and even the expats in Saudi are predominantly Arab, so we believe the country is in line with our vision of bridging the gap between global AI advancements and the Arab-speaking world,” Taher emphasized. 

“We’ve also seen an increasing demand from Saudi media and podcast companies who are using our self-service platform to obtain transcripts for their voice content to boost their search engine optimization,” she added. 

Taher aims to position Intella as a market leader in the Saudi space as she stated that the company is actively hiring in Riyadh across a wide range of roles. 

“We are currently 29 and we’re expecting to double this year with the majority of the new hiring happening in our Saudi office,” she added. 

Operating a Software-as-a-Service business model, Intella has been profitable since its inception in 2021 but has been heavily investing in research and development, Taher claims. 

“We have already quadrupled last year’s revenue in the first 5 months of this year,” she said. 

In terms of funding, the company secured a $1 million investment last year through a funding round led by Hala Ventures, in addition to “wrapping up a larger round which will be announced soon,” Taher said. 

Furthermore, Intella won the Startup World Cup regional competition last February and will be heading to Silicon Valley to compete in the grand finale for a $1 million prize. 

Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a cornerstone for AI development in the region, with multi-billion dollar investments and initiatives set to reshape the sector. 

The Kingdom established the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority back in 2019 to drive national data and AI to transform the country as a leading data-driven economy.  

This includes the development of Saudi Arabia’s National Strategy for Data and AI, which was launched in 2020 with the aim of attracting $20 billion in investments for AI initiatives, training 20,000 data and AI specialists, and certifying 100,000 Saudi citizens in the sector by 2030. 

Moreover, Saudi Arabia has set its sights on being ranked among the top 15 nations in AI by 2030.  

Another major attraction is the Kingdom’s giga-project NEOM, intended to be a smart city powered by AI, machine learning, and other variations of advanced technology.


Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

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Saudi banks’ money supply surges 10% to reach $726bn in January

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s money supply surged 10 percent in January to reach SR2.72 trillion ($726 billion), the central bank data showed.

The growth was primarily driven by a substantial rise in banks’ term and savings accounts, which recorded a rise of 31 percent to reach SR864.32 billion. The overall figure, however, also includes currency outside banks, demand deposits, and other quasi-money deposits.

Since the Saudi riyal is pegged to the US dollar, the rise in interest rates is also seen as a source of motivation for depositors who want to pursue more profitable avenues particularly term deposits known for their higher-yielding nature.

Fitch Ratings also noted that the liquidity boost in Saudi Arabia could be linked to a significant rise in funds from government-related entities.

According to the agency, the rise in these GRE accounts suggests that these entities chose to invest their surplus liquidity in higher income-generating deposits with commercial banks, rather than with the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA.

It highlighted that these deposits serve as an expensive source of funding for banks, which has significantly increased the average cost of funding due to heightened competition in the financial market.

Reflecting on the changes, demand deposits, which constituted a 53 percent share of the money supply a year ago, now stand at 48.42 percent, with a growth rate of only 1 percent during this period.

Despite the elevated cost of funding for Saudi banks, the increase in interest rates also bolstered profits on their asset side, as higher borrowing rates resulted in greater income.

Based on data from Bloomberg compiled by Arab News, the net income of listed Saudi banks surged by 12 percent annually in 2023, reaching SR69.96 billion.

Among these, the Saudi National Bank held the largest share at 29 percent, equivalent to SR20 billion. Notably, the most significant growth in net income was observed in Saudi Awwal Bank, with profits soaring by 45 percent to reach SR7 billion.

During 2022, SAMA increased key policy rates seven times followed by an additional four times in 2023. In its July 2023 meeting, the central bank last raised its repo rate by 25 basis points to 6 percent, reaching its highest level since 2001. This move was in line with the measures taken by the US Federal Reserve as part of its efforts to combat inflation.

Saudi Arabia has nevertheless demonstrated exceptional resilience and stability in managing inflation. This success can be attributed to the steadfast implementation of robust government policies designed to safeguard the economy.

Central to this stability is the Saudi Consumer Protection Association, a vigilant guardian of fair pricing practices for essential goods and services. The Kingdom’s strong regulatory framework ensures that consumers are shielded from unwarranted price escalations, fostering an environment conducive to business.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to social welfare is evident in its comprehensive policies. The Kingdom has strategically invested in initiatives such as subsidies on essential goods, affordable housing schemes, quality education programs, and accessible healthcare services.

A prime example of this commitment is the Citizen Account Program, a cornerstone of support for low- and mid-income families. Through this program, the government provides crucial cash transfers, alleviating the financial strains caused by the rising cost of living.

In January, Saudi Arabia maintained stable inflation at 1.6 percent, holding steady from December 2023, as reported by the General Authority of Statistics.

The primary driver of the inflation rate was the cost of rent, given their significant weight of 21 percent in the Saudi consumer basket.

Nevertheless, according to data from Trading Economics, the Kingdom ranked the second-lowest among G20 countries in terms of inflation, following Switzerland, which recorded a rate of 1.3 percent.

Looking ahead, Fitch Ratings anticipates that the cost of funding will continue to be sensitive to shifts in the Fed rate. However, the agency expects the average net interest margin, a crucial measure of banks’ core profitability, to stay at approximately 3 percent.

Fitch also projects a 10 percent growth in deposits for 2024, driven primarily by term accounts. The proportion of demand deposits will likely decrease, falling below 50 percent of total deposits.

The agency’s predicted Saudi banking sector financing growth stood at 10 percent in 2024, well above the Gulf Cooperation Council average of 5 percent but down from an estimated 12 percent in 2023 and 14 percent in 2022.


RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

Updated 36 min 58 sec ago
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RSG partners with Amazon Payment Services to introduce online transactions

RIYADH: Saudi tourist destinations, The Red Sea and AMAALA, will soon offer online transaction options through a recent partnership with Amazon Payment Services. 

Initiated by its developer Red Sea Global, the deal aims to provide a comprehensive suite of payment solutions tailored to meet the needs of RSG’s customers, according to a statement. 

This aligns with RSG’s vision of providing exceptional experiences for its travelers, as stated by Ahmed Ali Al-Sohaily, group head of technology at RSG. 

He said: “By collaborating with Amazon Payment Services, its best-in-class technology ensures convenient, secure, and efficient payment processes for our guests.”  

RSG said it seeks to collaborate with partners who share similar values in making a positive impact on both people and the planet. Currently, more than 90 percent of Amazon Payment Services’ electricity comes from renewables, with a goal to reach 100 percent by 2025, the release added. 

“We are excited to support Red Sea Global and its customers through this new partnership that allows us to enhance the payment experience for luxury travelers through our innovative and tailor-made payment solutions,” said Peter George, managing director at Amazon Payments Services.


Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

Updated 3 min 41 sec ago
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Australia’s University of Wollongong joins top global institutes in Riyadh expansion 

RIYADH: Saudi students will gain increased access to high-quality higher education as reputable institutes, including Australia’s University of Wollongong, secure licenses for branches within the Kingdom. 

The Saudi Ministry of Education and its investment counterpart announced the issuance of an approval to the Australian public research university during the recently concluded Human Capability Initiative Conference in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

This move is a part of the preparations to establish its branch in the Kingdom, in collaboration with the Digital Knowledge Co., to provide innovative, globally recognized education for international and local students across various higher schooling levels. 

The collaboration with Digital Knowledge Co., known for its high-quality expertise in schooling and training, aligns with Saudi Vision 2030, aiming to attract foreign university branches and increase private sector involvement in higher education by 2030. 

The University of Wollongong holds the 14th position among the best modern universities worldwide, ranking in the top 1 percent of institutes according to the 2024 QS World Index. 

The SPA report added that, during the same event, the two ministries also signed a memorandum of understanding with Arizona State University and Cintana Education to establish a new institute and an affiliated school in Riyadh. 

The MoU with ASU and Cintana Education outlines the framework for these institutions, emphasizing high-quality education, research, and innovative programs to contribute to economic success and influence future generations in the Kingdom. 

The tailored programs aim to meet the increasing demand for international education in Riyadh, aligning with the priorities of Saudi Vision 2030. This includes specializations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as economics, along with the training of educational staff. 

SPA added that the launch is scheduled after the completion of the required studies by the signing parties of the MoU. 

In 2005, ASU had 20 undergraduate and four graduate students from Saudi Arabia. By 2017, these numbers surged to 682 undergraduate and 103 graduate students, according to its website. 

The university emphasizes 13 areas of study, with engineering being the most popular among half of the students, while one in five are pursuing degrees in business. Other fields of study include liberal arts, global management, public service, and education. 

AUS adds that the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and Aramco have sent multiple delegations to the educational institution to explore how the university accommodates sponsored Saudi students. Such cultural missions have resulted in 126 Aramco-sponsored scholars currently enrolled at ASU.


WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

Updated 59 min 10 sec ago
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WTO’s Abu Dhabi Declaration to empower least developed nations  

RIYADH: The least developed countries are set to benefit from the Abu Dhabi Declaration at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference, improving global supply chain access. 

Trade deals, aimed at fostering new agreements, will extend international trading system benefits to more nations, following intensive negotiations, as reported by the UAE’s official news agency, WAM. 

Members have agreed to implement Special and Preferential Treatment for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade. This effort supports producers in the least developed countries, facilitating their global supply chain access, the WAM report stated. 

The report added that the current measures of SPS constitute a staggering 90 percent of non-tariff trade barriers, posing a significant obstacle for smaller nations and being viewed as discriminatory. 

In a significant development for developing countries, ministers approved a decision responding to a 23-year-old mandate. The aim is to revamp special and differential treatment provisions for improved precision, effectiveness, and operational functionality. 

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and MC13 Chair, Thani Al-Zeyoudi, described the declaration as a significant milestone for the UAE and global trade. 

“It has been a momentous week for Abu Dhabi, for the UAE, and for global trade. I would like to thank the delegations from every member for their diligence and dedication to the negotiation and for their ceaseless efforts in making the global trading system more robust, more efficient and, most importantly, more accessible,” he said. 

The minister added that even in areas where final agreements have not been reached, issues that previously seemed unsolvable can now be unlocked — clearing the way for further progress in the coming months.  

Substantial progress has also been achieved in dispute resolution, as there is now an agreement to fulfill the MC12 mandate by establishing a comprehensive and efficient Dispute Settlement system by the end of 2024. This entails the adoption of various reform pathways by the participating members. 

Regarding e-commerce, members have agreed to extend the moratorium on customs duties for electronic transmissions for an additional two years. This decision implies that trade involving purely digital products and services will remain tariff-free until MC14 in Cameroon. 

Ministers also adopted a ministerial decision to extend the moratorium on non-violation and situation complaints related to the agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights until MC14. 

“Delivering the Abu Dhabi Declaration of outcomes is a true testament to the value that members continue to attach to the WTO and its pivotal role in ensuring an orderly global system of trade rules,” said Al-Zeyoudi. 

“With the adopted Abu Dhabi Declaration, we have demonstrated that we can deliver to ensure the global trading system remains a vital engine of growth and development for nations around the world. We must build on these significant achievements and remain united for global trade,” he added.  

The WAM report quoted Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, stating that the global body serves as a foundation of stability and resilience in an economic and geopolitical landscape filled with uncertainties and exogenous shocks. 

“Trade remains a vital force for improving people’s lives, and for helping businesses and countries cope with the impact of these shocks. Let us get some rest, then regroup and resume,” she said. 

MC13, hosted by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, took place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center from Feb. 26 to March 2. 


Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

Updated 03 March 2024
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Larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal account, IMF says 

CAIRO: The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday that larger declines in oil prices or extended OPEC+ cuts could weigh on Iraq’s fiscal and external accounts. 

“Iraq needs to increase non-oil exports and government revenue, and reduce the economy’s vulnerability to oil price shocks,” they said in a concluding statement.