Wize aims to electrify Saudi Arabia’s last-mile delivery sector

Wize is set to embark on a strategic expansion into Saudi Arabia following a successful pre-seed funding round. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 December 2023
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Wize aims to electrify Saudi Arabia’s last-mile delivery sector

  • UAE-based mobility startup to be fully operational in KSA by 2024

CAIRO: The UAE-based eco-friendly mobility startup Wize is set to embark on a strategic expansion into Saudi Arabia following the successful closure of a substantial pre-seed funding round.

Established in 2022 by Alexander Lemzakov, Wize operates as a business-to-business enterprise, tackling the pressing issues of carbon emissions and fuel consumption. The startup specializes in offering sustainable solutions designed to electrify the last-mile delivery sector across the region.

During an interview with Arab News, Lemzakov outlined the company’s roadmap, expressing intentions for Wize to be fully operational in Saudi Arabia by 2024.

“Wize’s expansion into the Saudi market is a strategic move that aligns with the company’s vision for sustainable and efficient delivery services. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with its immense population and growing e-commerce sector, presents a significant growth opportunity for Wize,” Lemzakov said.

He further stated that the Kingdom’s last-mile emissions and fuel costs can be offset with Wize’s electric transportation solutions which have reported a 30 percent reduction on monthly costs.

“Wize’s solutions help local delivery and retail businesses achieve eco-efficiency, meet Saudi Arabia’s net-zero requirements, and strengthen its decarbonization and clean energy collaborations,” Lemzakov said.  

“Wize’s primary focus in Saudi Arabia is to revolutionize last-mile delivery into a sustainable option, addressing environmental concerns and business challenges,” he added.

Wize offers a diverse array of sustainability-focused services. These include renting out electric motorcycles for businesses, a subscription-based platform enabling businesses to efficiently manage their electric vehicle fleets, and solutions in battery-as-a-service and battery swapping.

Eco-Delivery Expansion

Wize has focused its efforts on enhancing its entry into the Saudi market by forging strategic partnerships with third-party logistics providers and companies specializing in last-mile delivery.

“Wize’s fleet of electric motorcycles reduces the environmental impact of deliveries and offers a safer mode of transportation than traditional delivery vehicles. By leveraging innovative technology, we can implement speed restrictions in specific city areas to prioritize pedestrian safety while maintaining efficient delivery speeds on major highways,” Lemzakov said.  

“Furthermore, Wize strategically positions swapping stations within warehouses and dark stores, enabling couriers to exchange batteries and pick up orders simultaneously seamlessly. This streamlined process significantly reduces delivery time and downtime, ensuring prompt and efficient deliveries across the city,” he added. 




Wize gauges its success by the growing number of partnerships. (Supplied)

Moreover, Wize has initiated discussions about potential collaborations with the Saudi government to improve delivery services within the Kingdom.

Lemzakov emphasized that these partnerships would be instrumental in promoting the adoption of electric vehicles in Saudi Arabia and in enhancing the supporting EV infrastructure.

A strategic Kingdom

“Wize’s expansion into the Saudi market is a strategic move that aligns with the company’s vision for sustainable and efficient delivery services. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with its immense population and growing e-commerce sector, presents a significant growth opportunity for Wize,” Lemzakov said.

“The Saudi government’s emphasis on environmentally friendly transportation aligns perfectly with Wize’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact. Together, Wize and the Saudi government can contribute to creating a more sustainable and eco-conscious transportation landscape,” he added.

As part of its electric fleet division, Wize Power, the company is planning to introduce a variety of new products and services in the Saudi market.

“One of the most significant upcoming developments is installing a network of battery-swapping stations across Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These stations will enable drivers to quickly and easily exchange batteries for fully charged ones, significantly reducing downtime,” Lemzakov said.

“Additionally, Wize Power has developed the Battery Swap App, a user-friendly mobile application that allows EV drivers to locate and reserve batteries in advance seamlessly find and reserve batteries in advance,” he explained.

Wize has pledged to comply with the Kingdom’s stringent regulatory framework, reinforcing its reputation as a dependable electric vehicle provider in the region, Lemzakov stated.

Business foundations

Wize gauges its success by the growing number of partnerships and the escalating demand for sustainable solutions in the last-mile delivery sector.

“One key metric is the number of kilometers traveled on eco-friendly motorcycles. For instance, one motorcycle can be used by several couriers, and then it will travel around the clock. So, the more kilometers of delivery we can provide with electric transport, the cleaner air in the city will be,” Lemzakov added.

Wize is financially well-equipped to accelerate its expansion efforts, having secured $16 million in a pre-seed funding round this past November.

Additionally, Lemzakov revealed that a considerable portion of this funding is earmarked for regional growth initiatives, with a focus on extending the company’s reach into Saudi Arabia.

He also mentioned that while Wize remains open to exploring further funding opportunities, these efforts are expected to intensify in the upcoming year.

Moreover, Wize has established a solid business model designed to cater to the needs of modern fleet management.  

Central to their revenue streams are the rental and subscription platform for businesses and a battery-as-a-service model with convenient swapping stations. 

Another key component of their revenue generation is the cloud-based SaaS solution, designed for comprehensive fleet management. This platform, which tracks vehicle inventory, condition, and operational metrics, is available as a white-label solution for businesses.

Furthermore, Wize has recently formed a long-term partnership with Motoboy, one of the leading sustainable logistics companies in the region.

The partnership results in Wize acquiring 50 percent ownership in Motoboy, while also facilitating access to a shared client base.

Lemzakov disclosed that a major online food delivery service in the region, especially prominent in Saudi Arabia, is currently trialing Wize’s services. He noted that the name of this company will be announced in the coming month.

Lemzakov’s motivation for founding Wize was driven by the expanding online food delivery market, which is projected to grow annually by 9.28 percent in Saudi Arabia, coupled with the pressing issue of carbon emissions.

“As a co-founder, I have always been driven by a desire to create something meaningful that positively impacts the region and empowers local businesses to achieve sustainable growth. Alongside my co-founder, we recognized the pressing challenges posed by extreme weather conditions, climate change, and the rapid expansion of the retail industry in the Gulf Region,” Lemzakov stated on the inspiration behind Wize.

“Embarking on a journey toward a more sustainable future, we engaged local businesses to gauge their perspectives on electric motorcycles. After that, we got hundreds of responses, fueled by the community’s eagerness to embrace eco-friendly solutions. This marked the genesis of Wize,” he added.


Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

Updated 16 sec ago
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Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

RIYADH: The pace of deploying digital technologies in the energy sector will depend heavily on the ability to build a workforce with the right skills, according to an analysis. 

In its latest report, the International Energy Agency said that technologies are set to play a key role in the transition to more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

IEA noted that the deployment of advanced technologies could help ensure energy efficiency, reliability, and greater connectivity, along with reducing emissions. 

“New digital tools – such as those that can help match power supply with demand; predict and detect faults in networks; or give greater control to consumers – will enable the faster integration of renewables, improve grid stability and unlock greater energy savings,” said the energy agency. 

It added: “However, the pace of digitalization will depend heavily on the energy sector’s ability to build a workforce with the right skills.” 

Energy sector should concentrate more on digital roles

IEA said the number of digital roles across the energy sector has increased globally. However, there is growing evidence that it remains broadly insufficient, inhibiting greater investment in digitalization. 

The report cited an EY survey and noted that 89 percent of the participants from the energy sector identified skills gaps as the main challenge to accelerating the adoption of digital technologies. 

“With most jobs set to require digital skills in the coming years, energy utilities will increasingly be competing for a limited pool of qualified workers to bridge the sector’s skills gap. This will require stronger and more cohesive digital hiring strategies and training efforts,” said IEA. 

According to the report, countries can be divided into four groups based on interest in hiring workers with digital profiles. 

The first group includes nations such as Singapore, Portugal and the Slovak Republic, where employers are actively hiring workers with digital talents across all sectors, including for roles at power utilities. 

The second group features countries like Australia and New Zealand, where hiring for tech roles by power utilities is even stronger – outpacing digital hiring across all sectors. 

Nations like the US, the UK, and Canada fall into the third group. In these countries, the share of job vacancies that require digital skills posted by power utilities is higher than for the economy as a whole, but overall, digital recruitment remains low. 

In contrast, the fourth group sees low demand for digital roles overall and in the power sector. It includes the majority of EU member states, along with certain Latin American and North African nations. 

“Europe has consistently had a low share of digital jobs, especially between 2022 and 2023, indicating that countries in the region may not be fully leveraging their investments in digital equipment,” said IEA. 

According to the report, power utilities have been slower to create significant numbers of digital jobs than other sectors, such as finance, insurance, and public administration. 

“In recent years, digital job postings approached 16 percent of total listings by finance and insurance companies, whereas the share for power utilities stagnated around 11 percent, with a decline below 9 percent between 2017 and 2021,” the energy think tank noted.  

A shift in demand for skills

According to IEA, expertise in structured query language of SQL  – a programming language used for managing and manipulating data – was among the most sought-after digital skills in the energy sector in 2012.

At that time, the demand for a workforce with expertise in scripting languages or knowledge of cloud solutions was rarely required. 

However, since mid-2021, demand has grown rapidly for workers with skills in data analysis, scripting languages and cloud solutions, in addition to SQL database talents and cybersecurity expertise. 

The report added that demand for employees proficient in machine learning, artificial intelligence, or the Internet of Things is still at very low levels, even though these are extremely powerful tools for power system management. 

The vitality of bridging the skills gap

In its report, the energy agency cautioned that failing to bridge the current skills gaps could create bottlenecks in efforts to build more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

Underscoring the necessity of adopting a skills-focused digital strategy in the energy sector, IEA suggested some steps to improve and expand current initiatives. 

According to the think tank, energy utilities can develop mechanisms to track skills and systematize measurements of digital literacy to ensure they have the talent to manage changing power systems. 

“In parallel, having a clear understanding of the skills needed can improve the effectiveness of the policy actions for supporting the shift toward a more sustainable economy,” said IEA. 

The report also highlighted that the energy sector should increase the attractiveness of digital roles by creating an environment of innovation and growth, offering appealing career paths and opportunities for professionals seeking dynamic positions.

The energy agency further pointed out that workforces in the digital sector should be empowered through internal training programs. 

“Utilities can implement training and upskilling programs to equip current employees with essential digital skills, fostering a culture of continuous learning, a sense of ownership and allowing for adaptation to technological advancements,” said IEA. 

It added: “By designing training programs to be more inclusive – for example, making them targeted to increase gender parity – governments and industry can respond to labor demand while capitalizing on opportunities to build a more diverse workforce of the future.” 

IEA concluded by saying that energy utilities can engage with governments and other stakeholders to develop training initiatives and curricula tailored to address current and future market demand for digital skills, creating a solid pipeline of well-trained talent.


Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD

Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s economy witnessed growth of 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2024 – higher than that seen across the G20 as a whole, according to new data.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has released its latest gross domestic product report for the G20 countries, noting that the Kingdom bounced back from a contraction of 0.6 percent in the previous three-month period. 

GDP in the G20 area grew by 0.9 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of 2024, slightly up from 0.7 percent in the previous quarter. 

The economic performance of the G20 area was primarily driven by China and India, with Turkiye, Korea, and Indonesia also recording higher GDP growth than the G20 average. 

Turkiye led with an increase of 2.4 percent, followed by India at 1.9 percent, China at 1.6 percent, Korea at 1.3 percent, and Indonesia at 1.2 percent. 

The report highlighted that while Saudi Arabia experienced a significant recovery, other G20 countries faced varying economic conditions. 

The US saw a slowdown, with GDP growth dropping to 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year from 0.8 percent in the previous quarter. 

Japan’s economy contracted by 0.5 percent, and South Africa saw a contraction of 0.1 percent. 

Conversely, Brazil, the UK, and Germany showed signs of recovery in the first quarter of 2024 after contractions over the previous three month period, with growth reaching 0.8 percent, 0.6 percent, and 0.2 percent, respectively. 

Canada, Mexico, and the EU grew by 0.4 percent, 0.3 percent, and 0.3 percent, respectively, in the three months to the end of March, after zero growth in the final quarter of 2023. 

Year-on-year, GDP in the G20 area grew by 3.3 percent in the first three months of the year, maintaining the same growth rate as the previous quarter. 

Among G20 economies, India recorded the highest year-on-year growth rate at 8.4 percent in the first quarter of 2024, followed by Turkiye at 7.4 percent. 

However, Saudi Arabia recorded the most significant year-on-year decline at a drop of 1.5 percent. 

According to a separate report by the General Authority for Statistics released earlier in June, the Kingdom’s non-oil activities also rose by 0.9 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the previous quarter.  

Additionally, non-oil activities increased by 3.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024.  

GASTAT further noted that Saudi Arabia’s GDP amounted to SR1.01 trillion ($270 billion) in the first quarter.  

“Crude oil and natural gas activities achieved the highest contribution to GDP by 23.4 percent, followed by government activities at 15.8 percent, and then wholesale and retail trade, restaurants, and hotels activities with a contribution of 10.4 percent,” said GASTAT in the report.  

Strengthening the non-oil private sector is crucial for Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom is steadily diversifying its economy to reduce its decades-long dependence on oil.  

The report further noted that government activities in Saudi Arabia rose by 2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter while declining by 1.1 percent on a quarter-on-quarter basis.  

GASTAT added that the Kingdom’s oil activities increased by 1.7 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter.  

However, oil activities dipped by 11.2 percent year-on-year as Saudi Arabia reduced its crude production in line with the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+.  

To maintain market stability, Saudi Arabia reduced its oil output by 500,000 barrels per day in April 2023, and this cut has now been extended until December 2024.  

In April, the International Monetary Fund projected that Saudi Arabia’s economy would grow by 2.6 percent in 2024 and 6 percent in 2025.  

In the same month, the World Bank also raised the growth prospects of the Kingdom’s economy to 5.9 percent in 2025, up from an earlier projection of 4.2 percent. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s gross fixed capital formation surged to SR317.5 billion in the first quarter of 2024, marking a significant 7.9 percent increase compared to the same period last year. 

According to a separate report by the Saudi Ministry of Investment released earlier this month, gross fixed capital formation expansion was driven by growth in both the government and non-government sectors.  

GFCF, which represents the net increase in physical assets within an economy, plays a crucial role in gross domestic product as it reflects capital accumulation supporting future production capabilities and economic growth. 

Of the total GFCF, the government sector contributed 7 percent, experiencing a robust growth rate of 18 percent. Meanwhile, the non-government sector, constituting 93 percent, also saw a substantial rise of 7.2 percent. 

Saudi Arabia’s proactive efforts to attract foreign direct investment and bolster bilateral relations have significantly strengthened the Kingdom’s economic trajectory.  

FDI serves as a pivotal catalyst for GFCF development, facilitating funding for investment projects and resource and knowledge transfer across borders, thereby fostering economic expansion and maturation. 

Key initiatives such as the National Investment Strategy, the Regional Headquarters Program, and zero-income tax incentives for foreign entities play a vital role in advancing Vision 2030, which aims to diversify and expand the economy. 

During this quarter, the Ministry of Investment issued 3,157 investment licenses, marking a 93 percent surge compared to the same period last year, excluding licenses issued under the anti-concealment law. 

In its economic and investment monitor released in late May, the ministry revealed that the construction and manufacturing sector dominated with 47 percent of total permits, followed by vocational and educational activities, information and communication technology and accommodation and food services as well as wholesale and retail trade. 

The real estate sector witnessed the most significant year-on-year growth, with a staggering 253.3 percent increase in investment licenses. 

Furthermore, 127 international firms secured permits to relocate their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2024, reflecting a remarkable 477 percent year-on-year upsurge. 

Leading corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as Northern Trust, Bechtel, IHG Hotels & Resorts, and Deloitte have established operations in the Kingdom under this program. 

The report also highlights that Saudi Arabia processed 445 applications for investor visit visas during the first quarter of this year, enabling overseas businesspersons to explore opportunities in the country. 


Oil Updates – crude slips on US growth worries, ample crude supply

Updated 13 June 2024
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Oil Updates – crude slips on US growth worries, ample crude supply

HOUSTON/SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell in early trade on Thursday, as investors digested that the US Federal Reserve had likely pushed back an interest rate cut possibly to December, while ample US crude and fuel stocks also weighed on the market, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures lost 37 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $82.23 a barrel, as of 9:55 a.m. Saudi time, and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 34 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $78.16. Both benchmarks had gained about 0.8 percent in the previous session.

The Fed held rates steady on Wednesday and pushed out the start of policy easing to perhaps as late as December.

Higher borrowing costs tend to dampen economic growth, and can by extension, limit oil demand.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a press conference after the US central bank’s two-day policy meeting ended that inflation had fallen without a major blow to the economy, adding that there was no reason to think that can’t go on.

On the supply side, US crude stockpiles rose more than expected last week, driven largely by a jump in imports, while fuel inventories also increased more than anticipated, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.

Also weighing on prices was a bearish report by the International Energy Agency, which warned of excess supply in the near future.

“This is in stark contrast to the bullish report from OPEC+ earlier this week. The oil group maintained its forecasts for strengthening demand,” analysts at ANZ Research said.

Traders are also watching ongoing talks for a ceasefire in Gaza, which, if resolved, would reduce fears of potential supply disruptions from the oil producing region.

In the latest attack on shipping, Iran-allied Houthi militants on Wednesday took responsibility for small watercraft and missile attacks that left a Greek-owned coal carrier in need of rescue near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

The militant group has attacked international shipping in the Red Sea region since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Late on Wednesday, Palestinian militant group Hamas issued a statement stressing its “positivity” in the ceasefire negotiations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas had proposed numerous changes to a US-backed proposal for a ceasefire, adding that mediators were determined to close the gaps. 


Global businesses urged to acknowledge role in human development

Updated 12 June 2024
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Global businesses urged to acknowledge role in human development

RIYADH: Businesses worldwide must acknowledge their role in shaping human development, paralleling the responsibility of governments, said a top Saudi official.

During a panel discussion titled “Board of Changemakers: Invest in Dignity” at the Future Investment Initiative Priority Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar emphasized the absence of a sense of collective impact on a global scale.

This observation coincides with ongoing geopolitical tensions such as the conflict in Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine tensions.

“If the business world fails to recognize its responsibility in shaping human development, akin to the responsibility of governments, we are all lost,” Princess Reema stated.

She stressed the importance of broadening the understanding of the beneficiaries of business activities, underscoring that social impact is as crucial as financial return.

“And I think we forget that we need to broaden our understanding of who is impacted by the work that we do, who is impacted by our gain, who is impacted by our profit,” she added.

Princess Reema highlighted that social stability and growth are prerequisites for sustainable business success.

“If we’re talking about investing in dignity, we have to invest in stability, we have to invest in growth, we have to invest an opportunity,” the Saudi envoy noted.

In another panel titled “Will Ascending Economic Powers Reshape the Future of Investment?” Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb discussed the Kingdom’s shift from an oil-centric focus to diversifying into sectors like tourism and mining, as outlined in Vision 2030.

Al-Khateeb outlined three essential pillars for this transformation: a clear vision for the future, leadership and commitment, and a long-term perspective.

“First, it requires a very clear vision for the future, and we have an amazing leader, the crown prince, who established this vision and second it requires a leadership and willingness and we are all, you know, fully committed to make this happen,” the minister said.

“And the third pillar is a long-term view, we must have a long-term view about the future. We must not just look at the short term rather than look at the long term.”

The summit, themed “Invest in Dignity,” aims to explore how investments in renewable energy, artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship, and social impact can prioritize human dignity in policymaking. Discussions also focus on safeguarding the dignity of all citizens as a fundamental goal for economic decision-makers.


Saudi EXIM forges key international partnerships during Greek visit

Updated 12 June 2024
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Saudi EXIM forges key international partnerships during Greek visit

 RIYADH: Saudi EXIM Bank and its Swedish counterpart have signed an agreement to enhance the Kingdom’s non-oil exports and explore trade and investment opportunities. 

In an X post following the deal, the Saudi lender stated that the memorandum of understanding with the Swedish Export Credit Agency was inked in the Greek capital, Athens.

The agreement, signed by Saad Al-Khalb, CEO of Saudi EXIM, and Anna-Karin Jatko, director general of EKN, aims to enhance cooperation between the two sides, improving access and expanding the Kingdom’s non-oil exports into the Swedish markets. 

Al-Khalb was in Athens to participate in the TXF Global 2024 event held from June 11 to 12. The event brought together executive leaders, policymakers, and experts in the field of export credit from various countries worldwide. 

During a panel discussion, the CEO emphasized that Saudi EXIM has extended $12 billion in credit facilities encompassing both lending and insurance. He outlined the organization’s ambition to achieve an annual facility exceeding $20 billion by 2030. 

Al-Khalb underscored that the bank has issued the largest insurance policy in the Middle East, valued at $2 billion, covering 450 financial institutions.  

Additionally, he highlighted the bank’s contributions to Saudi Arabia’s sustainability and renewable energy initiatives, both domestically and internationally.   

During the tour, Al-Khalb also met with Raja Al-Mazrouei, CEO of Etihad Credit Insurance of the UAE. The discussions revolved around identifying areas of collaboration to boost bilateral and regional trade, promote mutual commercial projects, and improve the efficiency of transactions with global markets, according to official statements. 

Additionally, he met with John Hopkins, the CEO of Export Finance Australia. Their discussions centered on exploring opportunities for collaboration to enhance economic ties and trade between their respective countries. They also explored ways to facilitate the entry of Saudi non-oil exports into the Australian markets. 

Additionally, the Saudi CEO engaged in discussions with Andre Gazal, the Global Head of Financing at Credit Agricole Bank of France. They reviewed the progress of projects stemming from the memorandum of understanding signed between their organizations in 2023. 

Furthermore, they explored potential avenues for collaboration to facilitate Saudi exports in the targeted markets across the African continent.   

 

Additionally, Al-Khalb convened with Richard Hodder, the managing director and global head of export agency finance at Citibank. Their discussions focused on identifying optimal methods to strengthen mutual cooperation and offer the requisite credit solutions to bolster the expansion of Saudi non-oil exports in targeted markets.  

They also delved into collaboration opportunities in financing priority projects and industries. 

With a vision to empower the Saudi non-oil economy in global markets, the bank is also on a mission to facilitate the Kingdom’s exports’ access to global markets by bridging financing gaps and mitigating export risks. 

Additionally, Al-Khalb met with Tone Lunde Bakker, CEO of Export Finance Norway, to discuss opportunities for collaborative efforts aimed at bolstering trade relations, fostering investment opportunities between their respective countries, and facilitating the entry of Saudi non-oil exports into the Norwegian markets.