Startups flourish from Morocco to Saudi Arabia

Founded in 2023 by Thabet Al-Subaie, LYNK connects financial institutions, commodity markets, and beneficiaries through its Shariah-compliant services. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 November 2023

Startups flourish from Morocco to Saudi Arabia

  • KSA’s fintech sector make significant stride with LYNK investment round

CAIRO: Startups across the Middle East and North Africa region managed to raise significant funding rounds, hailing a rebound in the venture capital space.

Saudi Arabia’s fintech sector marked a significant stride with LYNK successfully securing an investment round.  

This financial boost came from notable backers Al Fozan Holding and Ramla Holding Group, although the investment amount remains undisclosed.  

Founded in 2023 by Thabet Al-Subaie, LYNK connects financial institutions, commodity markets, and beneficiaries through its Shariah-compliant services.

This latest infusion of funds is set to catalyze the company’s growth, facilitating the introduction of new financial products and expanding its footprint both locally and globally. “LYNK is considered a leading company in the fintech industry. LYNK is dedicated to expanding its scope of work and strengthening its position among prominent financial institutions by establishing strategic partnerships aimed at meeting the aspirations of customers and fulfilling market needs,” Al-Subaie said.

Since its launch by BIM Ventures’ Saudi Venture Studio, LYNK has demonstrated remarkable performance in automating financial transactions. The platform has efficiently processed over SR100 million ($26 million) in Murabaha transactions.

The company claims to handle up to 15,000 transactions daily, each executed in less than a minute, and collectively valued at over SR5 billion.

Saudi BNPL Tamara raises $250m in debt financing

Saudi Arabia’s buy now, pay later giant Tamara managed to secure an additional $250 million in debt financing, bringing its total facility to $400 million.

The investment consists of an up to $200 million senior debt contribution from Goldman Sachs, complemented by a $50 million tranche by Shorooq Partners.

Co-founded in 2020 by Abdulmajeed Al-Sukhan, Turki bin Zarah, and Abdulmohsen Al-Babtain, Tamara’s offers its consumers the opportunity to purchase products in installments.  

Last March, the company successfully raised a $150 million debt financing round, also from Goldman Sachs. This consistent backing from prominent financial institutions underscores Tamara’s growing influence in the fintech sector. 

Co-founded in 2020 by Abdulmajeed Al-Sukhan, Turki bin Zarah, and Abdulmohsen Al-Babtain, Tamara’s offers its consumers the opportunity to purchase products in installments. (Supplied)

“We are pleased to announce this significant debt financing, a testament to our excellent operational performance to date and our future growth outlook,” Stefan Marciniak, Tamara’s chief financial officer, said.

“In a challenging economic climate, we are grateful to Goldman Sachs and Shorooq Partners for their support. These funds will catapult us forward, enabling us to further develop our flagship BNPL product and invest in new, innovative products and services, which will further strengthen our position as a leader in the industry,” Marciniak added.

The strategic utilization of this new financing is set to catalyze Tamara’s expansion. With its capital, the company is poised to invest in developing new products and services, further cementing its position in the competitive BNPL market.  

Saudi Arabia’s VMS invests in Egypt’s Akhdar

Egyptian educational technology company Akhdar has successfully completed a six-figure funding round, led by Saudi Arabia’s venture studio, Value Maker Studio. This strategic investment is aimed at bolstering Akhdar’s expansion efforts into the Saudi market.  

Established in 2016 by Mohamed Osama and Shady Ahmed, Akhdar has carved a niche in the education technology space by providing a wide array of Arabic-language educational materials.

Their offerings encompass over 2,500 pieces of content, including audio and written books, comprehensive book reviews, and engaging podcasts.  

This diverse range of educational resources caters to a vast audience, with the app being utilized by 1.5 million users across 174 countries globally.  

The recent funding underscores the growing interest in edtech solutions and reflects the confidence of investors in Akhdar’s potential for growth and impact.  

“This strategic partnership will greatly support our expansion plans into the Gulf Cooperation Council region, with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia. Additionally, it will enable us to fuel our growth and further enhance our technology to effectively address the challenges faced by today’s learners,” Osama said.

This investment acts as a stepping stone for Akhdar to strengthen its presence in the Middle East, starting with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi cybersecurity startup COGNNA raises $2.25m

Saudi Arabian cybersecurity startup COGNNA has successfully secured $2.25 million in a seed funding round led by IMPACT46 and saw contributions from Vision Ventures, Faith Capital, along with other investors.  

Established in 2022 by Ibrahim Al-Shamrani and Ziyad Al-Shehri, COGNNA specializes in leveraging artificial intelligence and sophisticated data analysis to identify and neutralize threats in customers’ systems and networks.  

Notably, COGNNA was part of the first-ever Cybersecurity Accelerator Program initiated by the Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority in August 2022, underlining its commitment to advancing cybersecurity solutions.

UAE’s fintech startup Mafhoom Technologies raises $1.36m  

Mafhoom Technologies, a UAE-based fintech startup, has successfully raised $1.36 million in a pre-seed funding round by Al-Wafra Al-Thanya for Investments, complemented by contributions from various angel investors.  

Established in 2022 by founders Ahmad Khatib and Ziad Melhem, Mafhoom is designed to empower users to manage their finances more effectively.  

It offers tools to optimize spending, reduce bills, clear debt, and enhance financial literacy, while also helping users to meet their saving and investment goals. 

This strategic partnership will greatly support our expansion plans into the Gulf Cooperation Council region, with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia.

Mohamed Osama Akhdar, cofounder and CEO

“Mafhoom Technologies is at the forefront of financial innovation, and we are delighted to have the support of esteemed investors who share our vision for a financially empowered future,” said Khatib.    

This fresh injection of capital will enable Mafhoom to expand its team and facilitate its growth plans in Saudi Arabia.

Morocco’s CloudFret raises $2.1m

CloudFret, a Morocco-based logistics startup, has successfully raised $2.1 million in a funding round jointly led by AfriMobility and Azur Innovation Fund.  

Launched in 2021 by Driss Jabar, CloudFret leverages an AI algorithm-based platform to facilitate connections between shippers and carriers across Mediterranean shores.  

With this new capital, CloudFret aims to significantly expand its operations. The company has set ambitious targets to double its workforce by the end of 2024, a move that is poised to enhance its service offerings and broaden its network of shippers and partner carriers.  

UAE’s logistics startup Wize raises $16m

Wize, a UAE-based logistics startup, has successfully secured $16 million in a pre-seed funding round predominantly backed by angel investors.  

Established in 2022 by Alexander Lemzakov, Wize is carving a niche in the logistics sector with its eco-friendly last-mile transportation solutions.

The company operates on two primary fronts, firstly, as a marketplace for electric motorcycles, and secondly, as a subscription platform that enables businesses to efficiently manage their own fleets.  

In a bid to support sustainable transportation, Wize offers a unique battery-as-a-service model, along with swapping stations.  

Additionally, it has developed the Battery Swap App, designed to aid drivers in locating and reserving batteries, while also keeping them updated on charge levels.

With the injection of this new capital, Wize is set to accelerate its product development initiatives.  

The funding will also facilitate the company’s expansion within the UAE, and enable it to explore and establish new partnership opportunities across the broader MENA region.

New climate change and governance framework launched by Islamic Development Bank insurance arm at COP28

Updated 12 sec ago

New climate change and governance framework launched by Islamic Development Bank insurance arm at COP28

RIYADH: A new policy on climate change and framework for environmental, social, and corporate governance was launched by the Islamic Corp. for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai. 

The ICIEC, a member of the Islamic Development Bank Group, revealed that the policy aims to integrate governance principles into the institution’s operations, product development, and risk assessment processes, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The framework also represents a comprehensive tool showcasing the strong commitment of member countries to the principles of environmental, social, and institutional governance. It also includes measures to enhance sustainability across internal operations, resources, and asset utilization.

The event was attended by the President of the IsDB Group, Mohammed Sulaiman Al-Jasser and the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, Francesco La Camera, as reported by SPA.

Furthermore, the framework emphasizes the institution’s commitment to climate change by supporting initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, preserve nature, fulfill obligations under the Paris Agreement, and advocate for investment and trade opportunities. 

These efforts are designed to enhance the ability to adapt to climate change, thereby supporting sustainable economic growth in member countries.

CEO of the ICIEC, Oussama Abdel Rahman Kaissi emphasized stating: “The launch of the climate change policy and the environmental, social, and corporate governance framework reflects the institution’s commitment to sustainability, driving positive change, and contributing to the achievement of global climate goals.”

He added: “It sets new standards for excellence in environmental, social, and corporate governance within the insurance and development sector.”

The ICIEC’s initiative marks a significant step toward aligning financial institutions with global sustainability goals and fostering responsible practices within the sector. 

The organiztion aims to be recognized as the preferred enabler of trade and investment for sustainable economic development in its member countries and to facilitate trade and investment between them and the world through Shariah-compliant risk mitigation tools.

The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral development bank working to improve lives by promoting social and economic development in member countries and Muslim communities worldwide, delivering impact at scale.

Saudi private sector employment reaches 10.8m

Updated 26 min 23 sec ago

Saudi private sector employment reaches 10.8m

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s total number of employees in the private sector reached 10.8 million in November, up 0.93 percent from the previous month, according to newly released figures.

Of those, 2.3 million were Saudi nationals, and 8.5 million were residents of the Kingdom, the Saudi National Labor Observatory report revealed.

Analysis of the Saudi national contingent shows that 40.99 percent were females. In contrast, of the 8.5 million non-Saudi workers, 3.86 percent were females.

This data represents a positive trend as the private sector continues to expand its workforce, creating opportunities for Saudi citizens.

Saudi environment ministry initiates programs to propel agricultural sector growth

Updated 55 min 41 sec ago

Saudi environment ministry initiates programs to propel agricultural sector growth

RIYADH: Several initiatives are underway in Saudi Arabia by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture to drive the growth of the agricultural sector and bolster its contribution to the gross domestic product through strategic training and investment incentives. 

Among these efforts are projects aimed at localizing agricultural professions through comprehensive training programs. The focus is on qualifying professionals in various fields, ranging from fishing trades to livestock management, beekeeping, and honey production. 

Additional government support is being extended through a series of legislative decisions, with the objective of enforcing high-quality standards for Saudi products. This is achieved by issuing food quality certificates and expediting the procedures for obtaining agricultural licenses.

The support also encompasses the provision of subsidies and the allocation of soft agricultural loans through the Agricultural Development Fund, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The ministry has introduced distinct labels for agricultural products, fish, and livestock in the Kingdom. These labels include “Organic,” “Fish,” “Saudi Dates,” and “Saudi Qab” certification. 

This allows farmers and investors to market and export their products, thereby expanding opportunities in both local and global markets. Simultaneously, it provides a dependable means to ensure quality and safety standards. 

This came during a workshop organized by the ministry, aligning with the Vision 2030 objectives for food security and sustainable agricultural development. The workshop was conducted under the title “Future Prospects for Investment in the Agriculture and Aquaculture Sector.” 

The workshop took place with the attendance of various private sector companies, investors, and experts in the agriculture and aquaculture sectors within the Kingdom, as reported by the SPA. 
Participants in the workshop expressed their consensus that the ministry is actively working toward implementing numerous initiatives and programs.  

These initiatives aim to foster and implement sound agricultural practices, advance applied agricultural research, and fortify frameworks for the sustainable development of food consumption. 

Moreover, the ministry reiterated its commitment to establishing the previously announced Regional Center for Sustainable Development of Marine Fisheries, demonstrating its dedication to supporting the aquaculture industry. 

The measures implemented by the ministry resulted in a substantial boost to the agricultural sector’s contribution to the GDP, reaching approximately SR100 billion ($27 billion) in 2022.  

Concurrently, total food production surged to around 11 million tons, contributing significantly to price stability and elevating self-sufficiency rates for essential goods and products in the Kingdom.

UAE’s non-oil activities steady as PMI hits 57 in November: S&P Global

Updated 06 December 2023

UAE’s non-oil activities steady as PMI hits 57 in November: S&P Global

RIYADH: The growth of non-oil activities in the UAE was steady in November, driven by a sharp rise in new business inflows and efforts to rapidly replenish and build stocks in the face of healthy demand conditions, an economy tracker showed.  

The latest S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index report revealed that the UAE’s PMI hit 57 in November, slightly down from 57.7 in October.  

Despite this slight decline, the PMI of the Emirates remained well above the neutral threshold of 50, indicating a continued improvement in business conditions.  

David Owen, senior economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said: “The strong run of demand growth in the UAE non-oil economy sparked a rapid increase in input buying during November, as firms looked to ensure they were in a good position to take advantage of growth opportunities.”  

He added: “Indeed, the uplift in buying — the fastest since July 2019 — supported the most rapid build-up of stocks in close to six years, benefiting both local businesses and trade partners.” 

The report revealed that operating conditions for non-oil private firms improved rapidly midway through the final quarter, supported by strong trends for new business, output and inventories.  

S&P Global added that sustained growth in new business also led to an acceleration in purchasing activity in November. 

The report pointed out that overall cost inflation in November remained stronger than recent trends, but selling prices were largely stable.  

On the flip side, some companies that took part in the PMI survey expressed a clear drop in their confidence level about the future due to concerns about competitive pressures.  

Even though the expansion in total sales was one of the fastest seen in close to four-and-a-half years, it slowed markedly from October, as some firms noted greater competitive pressures and a softer rise in new export business.  

“Businesses were much less upbeat about the future path of activity, as some survey panellists reiterated concerns that a large number of firms are entering the market. The build-up of competition was likely a key factor behind stock-building efforts, with businesses wary of falling behind in a fast-growing economy,” explained Owen.  

Saudi Arabia’s real estate supply reservations more than double

Updated 06 December 2023

Saudi Arabia’s real estate supply reservations more than double

RIYADH: Citizens in Saudi Arabia are gaining greater access to residential units as the real estate supply reservations surged 110 percent year on year in November to reach 12,503, according to new figures.    
The Kingdom’s National Housing Co. announced that residential units were sold at competitive prices starting from SR250,000 ($66,649) compared to the previous year’s rates, in which the lowest contract amounted to SR321,000 per residential unit, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
This falls in line with the Gulf country’s plans and strategies to launch several extensive residential projects in order to achieve a balance between population growth and rapid urban expansion.   
This also comes as the rise in population density has led to increased demand for housing, meaning the Kingdom is working to boost the real estate supply to meet this need, aligning with a sustainable urban approach.
This rapid increase in reservations is mainly attributed to the launch of a number of residential projects in various regions, the most prominent of which is the inauguration of the Al-Fursan Suburb in Riyadh which aims to provide the largest real estate supply with a high level of quality and luxury. Other projects include the Sadayem Suburb which was launched in Jeddah along with many housing schemes in distinctive locations within the main cities.
In fact, the number of residential projects reached 46 during 2023, thereby cementing Saudi Arabia’s innovative model for real estate development.
National Housing Co. is the leader and enabler of the real estate development sector and the largest major developer of suburbs and residential communities in the Kingdom characterized by quality of life.  The company pumps more than 300,000 housing units into eight suburbs and six residential communities on an area of more than 120 million sq. meters, accommodating more than 1 million citizens.
It seeks to find solutions to secure supply chains with high quality and more sustainable construction materials, as part of the company’s keenness to increase the real estate supply with residential options according to international standards.
All the firm’s efforts are directed to achieving the goals of the housing program by raising the percentage of residential ownership for Saudi families to 70 percent by 2030.