Saudi Arabia to host 12th session of OIC’s statistical committee

According to a statement by the General Authority for Statistics, the two-day meeting will take place from Oct. 3-4 in Jeddah. Shutterstock
Short Url
Updated 02 October 2023
Follow

Saudi Arabia to host 12th session of OIC’s statistical committee

RIYADH: Amid efforts to enhance communication and collaboration between countries, Saudi Arabia is set to host the 12th session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation statistical committee. 

According to a statement by the General Authority for Statistics, the two-day meeting will take place from Oct. 3-4 in Jeddah. 

The engagement cements the Kingdom’s standing globally and in the Arab world, given that this is the first time the gatherings have been held outside its headquarters in Turkey.

The primary objective of the meeting is to provide statistical data in support of development plans and facilitate the exchange of experiences among member states.

It also aims to enhance the technical and scientific capabilities of statistical professionals working in official statistical agencies of member countries.

Participants will share expertise and knowledge to improve the production and dissemination of accurate statistical data and indicators, aligning with internationally recognized methodologies and standards. 

The agenda includes discussions on developing a strategic vision to elevate statistical systems through short-, medium-, and long-term plans, enhancing the technical capabilities of national statistical agencies in Islamic countries.

The event is expected to see the participation of heads of official statistical centers from OIC member countries.

In September, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attended a coordination meeting of foreign ministers from OIC member states during the 78th UN General Assembly session in New York. 

During the session at the time, the Saudi foreign minister emphasized the importance of a safe and stable regional and international environment for collective action to address common challenges.


Brazil sends largest ever delegation to Gulfood

Animal protein was one of Brazil’s highlights at Gulfood 2024. (Twitter @Gulfood)
Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Brazil sends largest ever delegation to Gulfood

  • 117 Brazilian companies attend Mideast’s largest food, beverage trade fair in Dubai
  • ‘Our expectation is to surpass $2.5bn in business deals,’ trade agency manager tells Arab News

SAO PAULO: Brazil sent its biggest ever delegation to the Middle East’s largest food and beverage trade fair this year.

From Feb. 19-23, 117 Brazilian companies conducted business with buyers from all over the world at the 29th edition of Gulfood in Dubai.

Andre Muller, agribusiness manager at the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, told Arab News: “This year we had record participation, the largest ever for Brazil at this fair, with 117 companies. Our expectation is to surpass $2.5 billion in business deals.”

The mission of the agency, which is linked to the Foreign Ministry, is to promote Brazilian exports and attract investments to the country. It has been responsible for the Brazilian delegation at Gulfood since 2009.

Showcasing their products to some 150,000 visitors from around the world, the Brazilian companies were organized in six pavilions: a multisector pavilion; a beverage pavilion; a spices, grains and cereals pavilion; and three animal protein pavilions.

The delegation represented small, medium and large companies, a third of which are led by women.

“This fair is one of the most important in the world because in addition to covering the entire Middle East, we also noticed this year many buyers from Europe, Africa, India and some from Asia, mainly China,” said Muller.

“So it’s a fair that in addition to having this important market in the Arab region, ends up being almost a global fair.

“This is very important for Brazilian companies because they can, in just one event, access and connect with clients from different regions and continents.”

He added: “We have a waiting list to participate in the fair. We’ve been asking for more space from the fair organizers for a few years now, but unfortunately there’s none. This shows that Brazilian companies are really very interested.”

Ricardo Santin, president of the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein, told Arab News: “Gulfood is a strategic event for the Brazilian poultry industry. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of chicken meat and nearly half of its shipments are halal products, making our sector the largest exporter of poultry products to Islamic nations.”

He added: “In this edition of the fair, we promoted tastings, held meetings with clients and potential importers, and consolidated advances in business prospects between Brazilian exporters and partners from Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia, which is one of the main destinations for our products.”

Muller highlighted the relevance of the Arab world for Brazilian food and beverage exports.

For the poultry meat sector, for example, the Middle East is the destination for more than a third of the total exported. “It’s a very important region for Brazilian agribusiness exports,” said Muller.

The pavilion’s opening ceremony was attended by the business director of the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, Ana Paula Repezza; the director of the Department of Trade Promotion, Investments and Agriculture at the Foreign Ministry, Alex Giacomelli; and the deputy secretary of international relations at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Julio Cesar Ramos.

The Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce also participated with a pavilion, bringing 11 companies to Gulfood.

Halal market

Animal protein was one of Brazil’s highlights at Gulfood 2024. The country is recognized for its reliable and high-quality halal meat production, and has been gaining ground in this rapidly expanding market.

“In food and beverages alone, the halal market represents $1.6 trillion, and Brazil has a growing share,” said Muller.

“We’re talking about more than 2.2 billion people who have this consumption habit, and Brazil is positioning itself very well in this segment.”

 


Regional startups raise funding rounds amid activity flurry

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Regional startups raise funding rounds amid activity flurry

  • Venture capital ecosystem experiences heightened activity with startups securing large investments

CAIRO: Startups across the Middle East and North Africa region have garnered substantial support through significant funding rounds over the last seven days.

The regional venture capital ecosystem experienced heightened activity, with startups securing large investments, with Saudi Arabia at the forefront.
The Kingdom’s logistics startup PIESHIP successfully closed an undisclosed pre-seed investment round from SEEDRA Ventures, Nama Ventures, and various angel investors.
Established in 2023 by founders Nasser Al-Harthi, Musaed Al-Amri, and Mohammed Mohsen, PIESHIP offers a comprehensive suite of logistics solutions.  
These include warehouse management, a dedicated app for shipment deliveries, and a range of technical services aimed at enhancing logistics operations.  
“PIESHIP provides innovative solutions in the logistics sector to improve the last-mile delivery companies’ experience, aiming to deliver shipments faster with practical communication tools with customers. PIESHIP has also enabled delivery companies to increase the efficiency of delivery representatives by creating an effective competitive environment among employees,” Al-Harthi said.
The company has announced plans to allocate the new funds towards its business expansion, as well as the research and development of innovative products and services aimed at enriching customer experience and operational efficiency.

Established in 2023 by founders Nasser Al-Harthi, Musaed Al-Amri, and Mohammed Mohsen, PIESHIP offers a comprehensive suite of logistics solutions. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia’s PhysioHome secures seed round
Saudi Arabian healthtech startup PhysioHome has successfully closed a seed funding round, securing an undisclosed amount from a group of private angel investors.  
Established in 2021 by Ahmed Sidam, PhysioHome is dedicated to providing comprehensive rehabilitation services directly to patients’ homes or in dedicated rehabilitation centers.  
Currently, their services span across nine cities within the Kingdom, including both medical and behavioral rehabilitation for children.
This recent capital injection follows PhysioHome’s pre-seed funding round in 2022, which was spearheaded by Sanabel 500 and the Saudi Venture Capital Co., alongside contributions from angel investors associated with Oqal.  

Established in 2021 by Ahmed Sidam, PhysioHome is dedicated to providing comprehensive rehabilitation services. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia’s Basserah merges with UAE’s nybl
Saudi-based data automation company Basserah and UAE’s artificial intelligence innovator nybl have announced a merger that will expand their footprint in the regional market.  
Nybl, established in 2018 by Noor Al-Nahhas, specializes in making AI technology accessible, offering solutions for real-time failure prediction, prescription, prevention, and optimization in critical industries to enhance productivity and reduce expenses.  

Saudi-based data automation company Basserah and UAE’s artificial intelligence innovator nybl have announced a merger aimed at expanding their footprint in the regional market. (Supplied)


On the other hand, Basserah, also founded in 2018 as a part of NOMD Holding, provides services to sectors such as telecommunications, oil and gas, and government, focusing on leveraging data to improve efficiency through robotic process automation.
The merger will retain the nybl brand and team, with Basserah being fully integrated into the combined entity.  
This strategic move is set to bolster their capabilities in delivering advanced AI and data automation solutions across a broad range of industries.

UAE’s Exverse secures $3m in funding
Exverse, a UAE-based Web3 gaming platform known for blending traditional AAA-quality first-person shooter gaming with the Web3 space, has successfully secured $3 million in a private funding round. This significant financial boost was led by prominent investors including Cogitent Ventures, Cointelligence, and Moonrock Capital, with additional support from KuCoin Labs, Epic Games, Seedify, and ChainGPT.
Founded in 2020 by Nikita Uriupin, Exverse aims to set a new standard in the gaming world by ensuring that the quality of its first-person shooter games matches or exceeds that of traditional AAA titles.
The freshly acquired funds are earmarked for several key areas of development and expansion. Primarily, the investment will accelerate the launch of Exverse’s eagerly anticipated products.
Additionally, it will enable the company to forge strategic partnerships and bolster its marketing efforts, particularly across the Asia-Pacific region.

UAE’s GameCentric secures $1.5m
The UAE’s emerging gaming platform GameCentric has successfully raised $1.5 million in a funding round from angel investor Bilal Merchant.  
Launched in 2023 by Saad Khan, GameCentric will cater to a diverse community of gamers, ranging from competitive to casual players, by creating a unified gaming ecosystem.
This financial boost is set to empower the company with the means to expand its operational reach beyond the Gulf Cooperation Council and MENA regions.  
Moreover, the investment will facilitate the enhancement of the platform’s features and  elevate the overall gaming experience for its user base.

UAE’s The Cloud raises $12m
The Cloud, a UAE-based cloud kitchen startup, has secured $12 million in funding from MENA Moonshots, part of its ongoing effort to raise a $30 million series B round, which also includes debt financing from Aluna Partners.  
Founded in 2019 by Kamil Rogalinski and Georges Karam, The Cloud operates within the business-to-business-to-consumer food technology space, providing restaurant owners the opportunity to optimize kitchen utilization by hosting external food delivery services.

“Looking forward, we continue to actively eye more strategic acquisitions while also seeking to raise further capital” — Georges Karam, CEO of The Cloud


This recent financial infusion will support The Cloud’s ambitious plans to penetrate new markets in Lithuania, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK.  
As part of its expansion strategy, The Cloud has also completed the acquisition of KBOX, a UK-based food tech company, extending its global footprint to over 200 locations.
Previously, in September 2022, The Cloud successfully raised a $10 million series A round led by Middle East Venture Partners and Olayan Financing Co., with additional backing from Rua Growth Fund.  
To date, The Cloud has amassed a total investment of $22 million, positioning it for further growth and innovation in the global food tech landscape.

DFDF participates in Partech’s $300m fund
The Dubai Future District Fund has joined the second closing of Partech Africa II, a pan-African fund managed by global investment firm Partech, contributing to a total raise of $300 million.
This investment round also attracted participation from Africa Re, Orange, AXIAN Investment, and the African Development Bank Group, signaling robust confidence in Africa’s tech ecosystem.  
Partech Africa II, which celebrated its first closing a year prior, is set on bolstering its investment strategy across the continent.  
The fund aims to support African startups from seed to series C stages, offering initial investments ranging from $1 million to $15 million, a move that underscores the growing interest and potential in Africa’s innovative sectors.


Saudi Arabia ahead of US, EU and UK when it comes to Basel IV compliance

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia ahead of US, EU and UK when it comes to Basel IV compliance

  • Basel IV regulations mandate that banks maintain specific leverage ratios and designated reserve capital

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s dedication to financial stability has been underlined by figures from the Kingdom’s central bank showing its capital adequacy ratio stands at 19.5 percent – far above the 8 percent minimum requirement introduced in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

This position comes as Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries to be fully compliant with Basel IV regulations, which mandate that banks maintain specific leverage ratios and designated reserve capital.
This adherence to global standards contrasts with the varied timelines seen worldwide for Basel IV implementation.
While the EU, the UK, and Switzerland are navigating finalization processes, the US is yet to commence consultations on these critical reforms, which remain a top priority for regulatory bodies amidst recent bank failures.
Although Saudi Arabia’s ratio falls slightly below the 20 percent recorded in the same period in 2023, it still comfortably exceeds the Basel III minimum requirement of 8 percent, encompassing both Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital.
Basel III is a set of international banking regulations developed by the Bank for International Settlements to promote stability in the international financial system. It was introduced following the 2008 global financial crisis to improve the banks’ ability to handle any shocks from financial stress and strengthen both their transparency and their disclosure.
Basel III builds on the previous accords, Basel I and Basel II, and is part of a process to improve regulation in the banking industry. Basel IV, or 3.1, was introduced in 2017 and is the final reform of Basel III. It focuses on strengthening the banking sector for increased resilience against future crises. The target timelines for implementation of the final reforms vary significantly worldwide.
Originally scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, the implementation of Basel IV was postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with transitional dates being revised and varies among countries.
The Basel IV proposals seek to restore credibility in the calculation of risk-weighted assets and improve the comparability of banks’ capital ratios.
One of the most significant risks faced by traditional banks is credit risk, which involves the uncertainty that loans, the primary assets of a bank, may not be repaid, leading to unexpected losses.
To mitigate this risk, regulators impose a regulatory capital intended to absorb losses in times of credit default. The absence of sufficient capital can lead to a bank collapse, posing not only a threat to the individual bank but also to the broader financial system.

In a February 2023 report, Fitch Ratings highlighted that Saudi Arabia, along with Australia, Canada, Indonesia, and South Korea, was among the few jurisdictions that successfully met
the globally agreed official Basel IV implementation date in
January 2023. The report also emphasized Saudi Arabia’s status as one of the most sophisticated and conservative regulators in the Middle East and Africa.
Under these regulations, banks are required to measure their risk-weighted assets in a calculation that involves assigning different risk weights to various categories of assets based on their perceived riskiness. The goal is to reflect the varying degrees of credit risk associated with different types of assets in a bank’s portfolio.
Banks are then required to assign regulatory capital to ensure they have a sufficient buffer to absorb potential losses, particularly during economic downturns or financial crises. The capital requirements are usually expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk-weighted assets.

The key capital types that are allowed under Basel III are divided into two main tiers: Tier 1 which is the highest quality capital and includes common equity, retained earnings and other comprehensive income, in addition to Tier 2, other instruments with specific loss-absorption features.
Within the banks’ capital adequacy calculations under the Basel III framework, another significant ratio that banks need to comply with is the regulatory Tier 1 capital, which should be maintained at a minimum 6 percent of RWA to safeguard their financial strength.
In the context of Saudi banks, this regulatory Tier 1 capital reached 16 percent of their RWA, indicating a robust position that comfortably surpasses the Basel III requirement for a minimum Tier 1 capital of 6 percent.
Furthermore, this capital encompasses the capital conservation buffer – a supplementary measure under Basel III intended to absorb losses during economic stress, fixed at 2.5 percent of total risk-weighted assets.
The primary purpose of the capital conservation buffer is to build an additional layer of capital that banks can draw upon in times of financial difficulty.
It aims to promote the conservation of capital and prevent banks from depleting their capital levels to a point where they may be at risk of financial distress.
Importantly, this buffer must be fulfilled using Common Equity Tier 1 exclusively, and it is positioned above the regulatory minimum capital requirement of 8 percent. This elevates the overall required minimum ratio to 10.5 percent.

FASTFACT

In a February 2023 report, Fitch Ratings highlighted that Saudi Arabia, along with Australia, Canada, Indonesia, and South Korea, was among the few jurisdictions that successfully met the globally agreed official Basel IV implementation date in January 2023.

If the minimum buffer requirements are breached, capital distribution constraints will be imposed on the bank.
Tier 1 capital is categorized as going concern, signifying its immediate capacity to absorb losses as soon as they arise. On the other hand, Tier 2, the second type of capital considered in calculating the bank’s capital adequacy ratio, encompasses supplementary capital and operates as a gone concern, absorbing losses before affecting depositors and general creditors.
Total available regulatory capital is the sum of these two elements - Tier 1 and Tier 2. Both categories have distinct criteria that capital instruments must meet before being considered. Banks must adhere to specified minimum levels of Common Equity Tier 1, Tier 1, and total capital, with each level expressed as a percentage of risk-weighted assets.
The Basel IV proposals seek to restore credibility in the calculation of risk-weighted assets and improve the comparability of banks’ capital ratios.
Fitch Ratings said this move is expected to benefit banks with significant exposures to residential and commercial mortgage loans, as well as high-quality project finance in Saudi Arabia. The capital ratios of these banks are expected to improve, thanks to more detailed risk-weightings that are generally lower than those observed under the previous regime.
However, according to the agency, banks involved in land acquisition, construction, development, financial guarantees and equities will face increased capital requirements.
Retail-focused banks are set to benefit from improved capital ratios with lower risk-weightings, particularly in residential mortgage loans. SAMA’s cap on the loan-to-value ratio at 90 percent will lead to reduced risk-weights, ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent, from 50 percent previously.
The overall capital ratio for the Saudi banking sector will remain mostly unchanged as indicated by a parallel run conducted by SAMA in 2022.


FII Priority: Leaders in Miami and the Kingdom are fostering environments for growth and talent

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

FII Priority: Leaders in Miami and the Kingdom are fostering environments for growth and talent

  • Diversity, inclusivity are key ingredients to make a place attractive, panelist said
  • Kingdom has made great improvements to rebrand itself as global talent hub

MIAMI: Leaders in Saudi Arabia and Miami share common ground in their efforts to foster environments conducive to growth and talent, experts highlighted at the FII Priority conference in Miami on Friday.

Over the past few years, both have prioritized initiatives aimed at improving living standards for their residents, focusing on socio-economic policies that promote diversity and inclusivity.

“There are so many parallels between what’s going on here (in Miami) and what’s going on there (Saudi Arabia),” said Jeff Zalaznick, restaurateur and managing partner of hospitality company Major Food Group.

During a session titled “The special sauce: what is the recipe for a vibrant city?” he added: “Both are fostering environments where people can grow (and) excel in their fields. They want to attract talent.”

Zalaznick noted that both regions strike a balance between cultivating diversity and talent locally while also attracting the best from around the world, fostering their potential across various domains such as sports, music, and culinary arts.

Aligned with its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has undertaken significant policy reforms, placing diversity and inclusion at the forefront of its development agenda.

This shift has been especially pivotal for the Kingdom’s youthful demographic, as they aspire to leverage this momentum and carve out their niches in various industries.

“(When you make) young people feel optimistic about what they can do, you basically are writing the future,” said Steve Stoute, CEO of marketing agency Translation and music label UnitedMasters.

“I do believe that this idea of multiculturalism, of embracing emerging subcultures and helping enforce that, are (fundamental) ingredients that this city gets and (only) a couple other cities get really well.”

He emphasised that places lacking diversity and inclusive support systems miss out on attracting the brightest young talent, as they fail to cultivate the dynamic and vibrant environments necessary for growth and innovation.

Renowned as a haven for retirees, Miami has undergone a transformation in recent years, enticing a younger demographic with a blend of job prospects and reduced tax obligations.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a campaign to redefine itself as not just a regional hub, but a global magnet for young talent.

With its population surpassing 32 million, as per a 2022 census by the General Authority for Statistics, Saudi Arabia boasts a youthful majority, with those under the age of 30 constituting 63 percent of the total.

Drawing parallels between these two “renaissances,” Zalaznick noted the evolving criteria for vibrant cities and the changing preferences of city dwellers.

He highlighted the growing importance of cultural dynamism and multiculturalism in city selection, particularly for companies seeking diverse talent pools and innovative environments.

“It’s about young people,” said Tom Garfinkel, vice chairman, president and CEO of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium and managing partner of the Formula One Miami Grand Prix.

“We have to attract young people, we have to have cultural dynamics where young people can afford to live, where business opportunities exist, where it’s easy to start businesses and to create.

“The talent goes to the city that attracts, that has the culture that attracts young talent, and the companies go there and not the other way around,” he concluded.


UAE and Kenya finalize terms of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

UAE and Kenya finalize terms of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

RIYADH: The UAE and Kenya have concluded negotiations on a trade deal that will boost investment flows in logistics, healthcare, and travel and tourism between the two countries. 

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement will enhance market access for businesses on both sides, according to a press release.

Investments in the infrastructure and ICT sectors are also set to benefit, and the deal will also see a platform for small and medium enterprise cooperation and expansion on both sides.

Kenya's economy experienced real annual GDP growth of 5 percent in 2023, up from 4.8 percent in the previous 12 months. 

Its services sector, which accounts for 53.6 percent of Kenya’s economy, and agriculture sector, comprising around a quarter of national GDP, offer vast potential for UAE businesses looking to expand into the region, the release added.

The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi described the new agreement as marking a “significant milestone” in the country’s trade deal program.

He added: “It is a testament to our commitment to strengthening economic ties with the African continent and to creating new opportunities for businesses and investors in both of our countries. 

“The UAE-Kenya CEPA will not only boost trade and investment, but also foster innovation and sustainable growth in key sectors such as agriculture, technology and tourism. 

“We look forward to deepening our relationship with Kenya and to further expanding our presence in Africa as a trusted partner and investor.”

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Investments, Trade and Industry Rebecca Miano said the agreement was testament to her government’s drive to use international commerce as “a key lever of economic growth and transformation.”

She added: “The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the United Arab Emirates will play a key role in these efforts, enabling our exports to reach important markets in Asia and the Middle East, and also in stimulating the investment inflows that will further develop our national capabilities. We look forward to its implementation and the mutual benefits it will deliver.”

In 2023, the UAE’s non-oil trade in goods reached an all-time high of $710 billion, a 12.6 percent increase on 2022 – and 34.7 percent more than 2021. 

The UAE has already concluded 10 CEPAs, including with India, Israel, and Indonesia, as well as Türkiye, Georgia, and South Korea.