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New UAE tax rule on two products from November 1

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The FTA asserted that the scheme was launched to support its efforts to collect taxes


UAE – The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) is ramping up its efforts in preparation to implement the second phase of the ‘Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products Scheme’, where it will be expanded to cover waterpipe tobacco (known in Arabic as ‘Mu’assel’) and electrically heated cigarettes as of November 1, 2019.Digital Tax Stamps will be made available for purchase by producers and importers of waterpipe tobacco and electrically heated cigarettes, the authority revealed, as it held its second awareness workshop in Dubai to introduce them to the scheme’s procedures and objectives, as well as the timeline for the second phase. The workshop was led by FTA experts and representatives from De La Rue, the company commissioned by the authority to operate the system. The FTA asserted that the scheme was launched to support its efforts to collect taxes, combat tax evasion, and protect consumers from commercial fraud. The FTA went on to note that these preparations follow the successful implementation of the Scheme’s first phase, where the sale and possession of any cigarette packets not bearing the ‘Digital Tax Stamps’ was prohibited across local markets as of Thursday, August 1, 2019.

FTA director general, Khalid Ali Al Bustani, said: “This workshop is part of the authority’s plan to raise tax awareness among taxable businesses, maintain constant communication with professionals working across all economic activities, and keep them in the loop with regards to the latest developments in tax procedures. These workshops allow us to listen to their opinions and suggestions, and address any obstacles they may be facing to ensure a smooth implementation of tax laws. The authority is committed to strengthening its partnerships with the various relevant entities in both the government and the private sector. These strategic partnerships are crucial for successfully implementing the tax system.”

He added that the FTA is also dedicated to organising continuous awareness campaigns, seminars, and workshops for all business sectors. FTA experts went into the details of the upcoming phase two of the ‘Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products Scheme’, noting that as of November 1, 2019, the Digital Tax Stamps will be made available for purchase, where producers and importers of waterpipe tobacco (‘Mu’assel’) and electrically heated cigarettes are required to place them on these products to indicate that all due taxes have been settled. As of March 1, 2020, it will be prohibited to import into the UAE any of the Excise Goods outlined in FTA Decision No. (2) of 2019 on Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products, if they do not bear the stamps. Then starting on June 1, 2020, it will no longer be permissible to supply, transfer, store, or possess said Excise Goods in the UAE unless they have the stamps.

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banking

Restructuring plea on the burner as Lebanon’s Chances of Avoiding Default Dim

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The central bank bought 3 trillion pounds ($2 billion) of Treasury bills from the government at 1%, well below market rates, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. It’s expected to buy half as much again at the same rate by the end of the year to reduce the government’s rising debt costs, the person said on condition of anonymity because the issue is sensitive.

News as sensitive as this go unnoticed int he market as it seems that a lot of dealings with Eurobonds have plummeted last month – all are on march maturities awarding their investors hot speculative money!!!

Some foreign holders of Lebanon’s Eurobonds are expressing support for a government debt restructuring as the clamor grows among local politicians to skip a payment due in weeks.

Lebanon’s cash-strapped authorities are struggling to decide what to do about a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing in March but are leaning towards repayment for foreign holders and a swap for local investors, political and banking sources said. Lebanon, which has never defaulted on its hefty debt, is in the throes of a financial and economic crisis that has shattered confidence in banks and ignited protests against a political elite blamed for steering the country towards collapse.

A government source and two senior political sources said big differences remained over options: pay in full, ask local holders of the issue to swap for longer-dated notes delaying payment by at least 10 years, or simply not pay.

Two of those sources and three senior bankers said a swap would ease pressure on dwindling foreign currency reserves and buy time. Three sources said the government has not initiated any steps for a default scenario. At a private meeting days ago with government representatives, a number of foreign funds that own Lebanese sovereign bonds, including a $1.2 billion note due March 9, argued that the crisis-ridden country would be better off restructuring rather than paying its debt, said a person familiar with the matter, declining to identify the investors.

In a suggestion that the fallout can be contained, they said Lebanon’s bonds were already discounted on their balance sheets, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the information isn’t public. Most of Lebanon’s bonds maturing beyond this year trade at between 35 and 40 cents on the dollar. The March notes fell around 2 cents to 87 on Thursday, still above their low of 76 on Jan. 29.

Central bank Governor Riad Salameh has told officials including the new prime minister, Hassan Diab, that he is willing to pay the debt if instructed by the government, people familiar with the talks said. He’s already helped repay nearly $5 billion of bonds in the past year.

While Diab is in favor of meeting Lebanon’s debt obligations this year, according to a local media report, he hasn’t yet made a final decision.

Lebanon's debt may approach 200% of GDP in next years

The decision will come down to a choice of who should bear the cost of easing one of the world’s biggest debt burdens, estimated at over 150% of gross domestic product last year, as hardships mount after months of protests. Lebanon is enduring its worst financial crisis in decades, with the central bank rationing dollars and nationwide unrest over what many fear could be an imminent collapse.

Despite a spotless record of servicing international debt, consensus is fraying in Lebanon as almost $3.5 billion in Eurobond principal and interest payments come due by June.

Payment Options

Bankers say local lenders, which hold most of the country’s Eurobonds, favor a repayment to avoid blowing a hole in their balance sheets. The most recent payment of $1.5 billion, made by the central bank in November, was criticized by some local politicians who said Lebanon should instead use what’s left of its reserves on buying much-needed imports.

A group of lawmakers aligned with a majority in parliament is lobbying the government to seek technical assistance from international institutions before making a final decision. They’re trying to convince the premier and others that Lebanon risks a crisis and violence similar to Venezuela, which defaulted on its debts in 2017.

Legislators present at a committee meeting last week almost unanimously agreed — albeit in private conversation — that the government shouldn’t pay, a lawmaker said. The debate is playing out against a dire backdrop, with Lebanon’s reserves stretched thin and the economy succumbing to a recession as currency shortages worsen.

An ex-economy minister, Nasser Saidi, has called for a restructuring of public debt, while also saying Lebanon would need a bailout of as much as $25 billion that could require support of the International Monetary Fund. Former Minister of State for Information Technology Adel Afiouni has said paying off the March bond would be “wrong.”

-Paying #March20 EBs from reserves is WRONG
-We don’t earn markets’ trust by paying EBs from reserves
-We earn markets’ trust & support with credible debt sustainability & financial plan 
-Restructuring is not a stigma
-Orderly restructuring is the fair & courageous decision
(1)— Adel Afiouni (@adelafiouni) February 5, 2020

The decision rests with the government, formed last month with the backing of Lebanon’s most powerful military force, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, and its allies. “The issue should be finalized next week,” a Hezbollah Member of Parliament, Ali Fayyad, said in an interview in Beirut. “We need to look at all the options and study their impact and there should be a conclusive plan that doesn’t only focus on paying or not paying but also a larger plan.”

The central bank’s net foreign-currency holdings are sufficient to pay for the near-term import bill and debt redemptions, while local lenders have enough in reserve to cover deposit outflows, according to Morgan Stanley.

“What is more important to watch is the political sentiment on the trade-off of using reserves to cover debt servicing versus imports,” Jaiparan Khurana, a London-based strategist at Morgan Stanley, said in a report. “Market focus should remain on the cabinet decision.” A repayment of Eurobonds may entail a controversial proposal by the central bank to get local holders of the March notes to swap into longer-dated instruments and pay foreign creditors. Salameh has told bankers that a foreign fund was interested in buying the bonds coming due next month if Lebanon proceeds with the swap.

Bonds Up

Lebanon needs to pay about about $3.5 billionthis quarter on Eurobonds

Around a third of Lebanon’s roughly $30 billion of Eurobonds are held by outside investors, with the rest owned by the central bank and local lenders, according to Oxford Economics. Foreigners owned about 40% of the March bond in early December.

Lebanese banks also have billions of dollars of foreign-currency deposits tied up at the central bank.

Lebanese lenders and the government have already agreed on a plan to relieve some of the debt this year. Bankers who met with the new finance minister earlier this week agreed to lower interest rates they get on local-currency sovereign bonds, a person who attended the meeting said.

The central bank also said it would waive interest payments on the government’s local debt this year. Authorities want to use the saved funds, amounting to about 2.9 trillion pounds ($1.9 billion), to reduce the budget deficit. A plan to impose a one-time tax on banks’ profit to generate $400 million fell through.

…The deal helps offset higher interest rates incurred by the Finance Ministry, which last month sold $3 billion in Eurobonds to the central bank at as much as 12

Lebanon's default risk has surged since protests broke out in October

It’s the latest sign of how the government, effectively shut out of bond markets amid a crippling political crisis, is increasingly relying on the central bank to prevent a financial meltdown. The country has been without a functioning government since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October in the face of mass protests against corruption and inequality

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Lebanon ecosystem suffer more failed deadline since oct17 protests

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It is true to say that Lebanon’s entrepreneurship landscape has “leapfrogged” since August 2013, when Banque du Liban (BDL), Lebanon’s central bank, released Circular 331 that authorized Lebanese banks to invest in new startups in the knowledge economy. However the ecosystem is suffering more deadline failures since October 17 protests. True to say that most startups and innovators are on the streets since that date; however a number of legislations that should have seen the light and help boost the system have been postponed to a new era.

Digitizing government services is a key pillar of Lebanon’s economic reform plan and measures to combat bureaucratic restraints and old traditional techniques in state institutions as well as corruption. OGERO Telecom, the backbone infrastructure for all telecom networks in Lebanon, have started implementing several initiatives to digitize the Lebanese telecom such as enhancing the transport network, implementing fiber access to the users, upgrading existing submarine cables, enabling IoT services, establishing a startup incubator and data center.

Following the protests the use of digitization is seen as a major component for anto corruotion measures, for example blockchaing.

Another example could be Digital ID. Five years ago we couldn’t have used now we can and have a more reliable, safer and efficient product. There are a lot of areas to utilize for governmental products and services even though we have not fully discussed technical specifications and other technologies can allow to develop efficient, transparent offerings in an era of digitization.

The sheer complexity of the digital transformation project within the government heralded the need for the creation of an Inter-Ministerial Committee chaired by the Prime Minister with members that include OMSAR (Office of the Minister of State for Administrative reform), Minister of telecom H.E. Mohamed Choucair, Minister of state for IT, Minister of Finance, as well as Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Ghassan Hasbani. H.E. explains, “In an effort to develop our digitization strategy we needed to create a clear governance model and the committee is here to make sure the execution among all stakeholders is carried out cohesively with full understanding of the roles, mandates, responsibilities, and accountabilities of each party. This will ensure there are no fragmented efforts. In addition being chaired by the Prime Minister ensures that decision making will be effective.”

The second layer of governance is the steering committee, which will develop the technical specifications, guidelines and KPIs required for the governmental digital transformation strategy. H.E. explains, “The steering committee is headed by OMSAR alongside the Ministry of state for IT. It will develop the plan and then every governmental administration moves ahead with the projects supported by OMSAR. OMSAR’s role is to support and provide capacity building for implementation.” He adds, “This role has historically been mandated to OMSAR and will remain as such.”

Dgitizing Lebanon’s Economy and developing tech sector

As for the Ministry of State for IT, H.E. is focusing 75% of his efforts on the digitization of private sector and the development of a digital economy as well as growing a tech sector that can contribute to job creation and GDP ( Gross Domestic Production). Afiouni comments, “I have set four key priorities to develop the digital economy and tech sector in Lebanon. The first is ease of doing business, through agile government and legislation as well as incentives for corporations regardless of size to grow and encourage them to set up based in Lebanon. One of the main drivers for this in addition to infrastructure will be legislations and simplification of procedures when dealing with government. The second priority is ensuring startups at all stages have access to investment from diversified sources not just the banking sector, as banks don’t traditionally lend to non-asset businesses such as tech. We have a pool of capital whether through our Lebanese expat base or others that can play a strong role and we already have some good stories we can share.”

The state of MENA digital investments shows that the gap in the total number of deals among Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan is diminishing. In terms of number of deals for 2018, Egypt and Tunisia have jumped in rank compared to 2017, holding second and third place respectively. Meanwhile, the UAE, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia have maintained their 2017 ranking. While Egypt and Lebanon hold the same ranking, they also share the same number of deals (40) for 2018, and are only five deals away from the UAE. Oman has moved up two places since 2017, currently ranking fifth; this is a clear reflection of the investment prowess of the Oman Technology Fund. The largest shift in ranking is Yemen’s jump of four positions, followed by Tunisia, Bahrain, and Syria all displaying an increase of three positions. This is mostly attributed to the activity of funds such as the Yemeni Angel Group, Flat6Labs Tunisia, and Flat6Labs Bahrain.

Looking at the Lebanese startup ecosystem, the Lebanese government believes that a digitized economy needs a lively startup community. Ever since the implementation of Circular 331 of the Central Bank of Lebanon, the entrepreneurial ecosystem thrived making Lebanon one of the capitals of digital innovation in the MENA.

The country has seen more refined solutions, advanced technologies, and successful entrepreneurs. As a result, more accelerators, venture capitals, and ecosystem support programs followed suit. Given the space to grow, entrepreneurs are thinking digitally, are oriented to move forward, and are driving digitization in Lebanon.

 This policy has spurred the development of new growth capital funds and the entry of commercial banks into the equity market, unleashing (theoretically) more than half a billion dollars into the Lebanese economy. This sudden abundant supply obviously generated demand and buzz around startup creation, from entrepreneurs lining up with business ideas, to support platforms such as accelerators and business support organizations, and facilitators such as entrepreneurs

Though some of these organizations and resources are at a nascent stage of development, the primary elements of a complete entrepreneurial ecosystem are present, as can be seen in the diagram below.

Many of the above building blocks also come from non-Circular 331 initiatives, contributing even more funds to the ecosystem. (Disclaimer: The diagram is a recent snapshot representing major funding and active support actors—some may have disappeared, and others may have appeared since this diagram was created in 2018).

According tot he Execuitive ; A few striking observations can be made by reflecting on the state of the ecosystem.

First, all are private sector-driven initiatives, with a complete absence of government involvement so far—despite the latter being one of the main pillars in the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP) framework. This framework describes the five main interconnected elements for an innovation ecosystem stakeholder model: entrepreneur, risk capital, corporates, universities, and government. Obviously, the role of the government in this context is, at a minimum, to provide basic infrastructure. This includes physical infrastructure like the internet, communications, and electricity, and other support such as an adequate legal framework and a conducive business environment.

Second, there is almost a 10-fold difference in the availability of startup funding in the later downstream stage versus the early upstream stage, where funding is needed more. For a startup to receive substantial funding in Lebanon, it is required to initially thrive on a shoestring budget, in order to reach the later-stage, “jackpot.” An entrepreneur once said: “I feel like I am on a lifeboat in the middle of the sea with no water to drink.”

Third, there is currently more of a landscape than an ecosystem, but the building blocks are being put together slowly but surely. However, an overarching strategy needs to be put in place so that new initiatives complement each other, rather than compete in the same space. One example of overcrowding might be the numerous similar seed accelerator programs that have emerged over the last couple of years—the likes of Speed@BDD, TheNucleus, Flat6Labs, BootCamp by AltCity, SmartEsa, and HultPrize. All of these entities accelerate the creation of startups typically over a three-month period before graduating them at a Demo Day ceremony. However, most of these graduating startups are not yet investor-ready after the three-month period and require further guidance and assistance to develop their project or business model. Thus, the majority of these startups unfortunately disappear, indicating that perhaps more investment is needed in developing post-accelerator programs to fill this funding and equity gap to maximize the chances of increasing “graduated” startups. Such a program would offer them the opportunity to receive subsequent seed funding, keeping them on some kind of “life-support” system.

Ecosystems take years to build. We Lebanese are known for our resilience, but our impatience as well. Some fear that Circular 331 money might dry up— fine, we will find other solutions. I am optimistic. We are all here because we decided to apply the famous quote by the late American President John F. Kennedy, perhaps inspired by our own Gibran Khalil Gibran: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”Sharing

Nicolas

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Competition

Lebanon ranks 88th globally, 10th among Arab countries in terms of competitiveness

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The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Lebanon in 88th place among 141 countries globally and in 10th place among 14 Arab countries on its Global Competitiveness Index for 2019, a report by Bybloss Economic Research said Lebanon also ranked in 28th place among 38 upper middle-income countries(UMICs) included in the survey, it added. In comparison, Lebanon came in 80th place among 140 countries globally and in ninth place among 14 Arab countries on the index in 2018.Based on the same set of countries. Lebanon’s global rank regressed by seven spots from the 2018 survey, which constituted, along with Costa Rica and Serbia, the fifth steepest decline globally. Lebanon’s rank among Arab countries declined by the one notch from the last year’s survey.

The index measures the ability of a country and its enterprises to compete in global markets by assessing the country’s institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic, stability, education and healthcare systems, and entrepreneurial culture.

Globally, Lebanon has a more competitive economy in Algeria, Ecuador and Botswana, and is less competitive than Ukraine, Moldova and Tunisia among economics with a GDP of $10bn or more. Also, the Lebanese economy is more than its counterparts in Algeria and Ecuador, and less competitive than Argentina and Srilanka among UMICs. Lebanon received a score of 56.3 points, compared to the global average of 60.6 points, the UMIC’s average of 59.8 points and the Arab average of 59.5 points. Further, Lebanon’s score came lower than Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ average of 68.7 points, but higher than the average of non-GCC Arab countries of 52.6 points.

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eCommerce

Middle East StartUps and Silicon Valley Guru look for common synergies

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compiled from dispatches

Middle East investors have long had an interest in Silicon Valley, but now some of that attention is being reciprocated. 

The Middle East’s first unicorn, Souq.com, was acquired by Amazon in 2017 for $580m. More recently, at the end of March 2019, ride-hailing service Careem was acquired by Uber, in a $3.1bn transaction that is expected to close in Q1 2020.

Amazon paid $580 million in cash for Souq, according to filingsBloomberg previously reported that Amazon was in discussions over an investment at a valuation in excess of $1 billion but, amid rivalry from Emaar’s ambitious Noon.com project and others, an acquisition agreement was reached.

The two companies said today that they have completed an initial integration that allows customers to log into Souq.com  using their Amazon account credentials.

Next up, they plan to integrate products and services between the two sites to leverage their respective scale. In an announcement, Souq.com in particular spoke of the potential to integrate with Amazon’s global seller and customer base to boost its business.

Careem will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber, operating as an independent company under the Careem brand and led by Careem founders. Careem became the region’s second unicorn in late 2016, just four years after it was formed. Since then, the company reckons it has “created over one million employment opportunities” and generated over $2bn in earnings across 15 markets. 

However, not every journey to acquisition, or a $1bn evaluation, is that quick. As Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO of Souq.com, noted in Harvard Business Review, his company was originally founded way back in 2005. His site migrated from being an eBay-like auction marketplace to a mobile-focused e-commerce platform before being bought by Amazon over a decade later.

Uber’s financial foray into the region, coupled with Amazon’s earlier purchase, has inevitably sparked interest in which company might be acquired next. 

Predictions are notoriously difficult to make. Instead, we’ve opted to showcase four other major Middle East startups of varying sizes and focus on the ones that we think are worth watching.

1. FETCHR

ZDNet interviewed Fetchr’s founders Joy Ajlouny and Idriss Alrifai in 2015, just after the company had announced $11m in Series A funding. At the time, this was the largest such US investment in a Middle East originated app.

Since then, the shipping and logistics service has added a further $41m in Series B funding and quickly expanded. 

“We started Fetchr with three developers and six years later we now we have close to 3,500 employees,” Alrifai told Supply Chain Digital in April 2018. “We’ve grown rapidly. Last year alone, we grew by 600%. Right now, we’re recruiting about 100 people a week and we’re still growing.” 

Fetchr is expected to seek Series C funding later this year. The service – which ships to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, and Egypt – seeks to “solve the unpredictability of package delivery in the UAE and Middle East because of the absence of a formal street address system”.

This address issue matters in a region where non-delivery rates are high, yet where demand for e-commerce is growing.

“We’re like Uber,” Ajlouny explained to ZDNet. “But instead of picking up a person, we use the same GPS coordinates to deliver packages.”

2. PROPERTY FINDER

Real-estate classifieds might not be the most exciting area for technology, but UAE-based Property Finder secured a $120m investment late last year from General Atlantic, a New York-based private-equity firm. 

Chief executive Michael Lahyani told Reuters that the business, which operates in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Morocco, is now valued at close to $500m.

This is up from a valuation of $200m in 2016, when the Sweden-listed investment company Vostok New Ventures bought a 10% stake for $20m. 

SEE: 10 books every small business entrepreneur should read (free PDF)

The origins of the business can be traced back to 2005 when founder and CEO Michael Lahyani moved from Geneva to Dubai to launch UAE’s first printed real-estate magazine, Al Bab World.

The publication featured classified ads for properties, with some 70,000 copies delivered every two weeks. In October 2007, the outlet was rebranded and moved online.

3. JAMALON

Jamalon markets itself as the largest online bookstore in the Middle East. Based in Jordan, the site offers customers access to more than 10 million titles – from more than 30,000 publishers – in both Arabic and English. 

Founded in 2010, Jamalon offers “customized payment methods that suit the Arab region”, such as Cash on Delivery, CashU – a prepaid online and mobile payment method available in the region – and Orange Money, a mobile money service used by the telecom operator. To date, Jamalon has raised a total of $14.2m, Crunchbase reports, in funding over six rounds, including $10m raised in March from a Series B round. Wamda reports that the company is now valued at $1.7bn.

According to a press release announcing the investment, this latest cash injection will “will be used to increase the reach of Arabic books across the globe”, the company said in a statement. Jamalon’s Print-on-Demand service can “print over two million titles in under five minutes per book”.

According to Vox: “The company has been referred to as the Amazon of the Middle East, but that label doesn’t quite do it justice. The platform’s success … is based on meeting a demand that Amazon has overlooked.”  Jamalon offers more 150,000 books in Arabic, Vox pointed out, whereas “Amazon, by contrast, offers only a few hundred books in Arabic, and is often difficult and costly to use in the Arab world.” 

4. ANGHAMI

Spotify launched in 13 Middle East and North Africa countries in November last year, offering free and premium services designed for listeners in the region. The service will cost about half the $9.99 subscription Spotify charges in the US, according to Billboard.  In 2018, Deezer, the French streaming service, also launched in the region, following new investment and a partnership with the Arabic music service Rotana.

More than 100 prominent regional artists are signed to Rotana Records, which has historically produced its own content and shows for distribution via its TV, FM, and digital channels.  These moves have put pressure on Anghami, the Lebanon-based music streaming service, which has had much of this market to itself since it launched in 2012. 

Speaking at a BECO Capital conference last November, co-founder Elie Habib revealed that the service, enjoys over 1.5 billion streams per month, and that it has more than 13.5 million monthly active users. The platform supports over two million artists, and includes “a self upload service for independent artists”.

“Competition is great,” he posted on LinkedIn in late March 2019, highlighting a series of job openings. “We’re growing month on month and pushing hard to make sure that a local Arab business maintains domination in the region.” One plank of its strategy to stay ahead of the competition is to stress its local origins, as well as its local content. Rami Zeidan, vice-president of partnerships at Anghami, recently outlined how podcasts that originate in the Middle East are one element of this approach. 

“We believe in our region; we are from the region, for the region,” he told Communicate Online, explaining how Anghami is investing in podcast discoverability, production, and marketing.  Anghami is also innovating in other ways to tap into the region’s love of social media and offer a product that differentiates itself from its new rivals. Apart from its audio-streaming interface, the service has recently rolled out social features like Anghami Story, modeled after Snapchat and Instagram Stories, and Video Expressions, similar to now-defunct Musical.ly,” according to Billboard.

Along with “unconventional ad formats such as ‘shakeable’ ads and an original-content and artist-development program”, as a local company Anghami is also “currently ahead of Spotify and Deezer when it comes to high-quality localized content”.

Whether that last advantage can easily continue is a moot point. As Fares Ghandour, a partner at Wamda Capital, has spelled out, Anghami has “had a monopoly over local streaming for the past six years, but customer acquisition costs have been cheap because there was no one else to compete with them”. “Now that Deezer and Spotify are there, those costs will skyrocket. An acquisition by Tencent is by and large the most likely exit strategy that Anghami will pursue,” he predicted. 

LOOKING AHEAD

In 2018, a record number of investments – 366 of them – were made in the Middle East and North Africa region, Magnitt 2018 MENA Venture Investment Report found. More widely, it detailed that more than 155 institutions invested in the region’s startups in 2018, 30% of which were from outside the region.

These developments, coupled with efforts seen in the past year – such as the establishment of Egypt’s first venture-capital fund focused on investing in fintech, the $100m for startups in the Bahrain-based Al Waha Fund of Funds, and Tunisia’s startup act – are giving the region’s startup scene unprecedented momentum. With record levels of investment, interest from tech watchers and interesting new ventures launching all the time, the region’s startup scene looks like it’s going to get even hotter.

magnitt2018menaventureinvestmentreport.jpg
In 2018, a record number of investments were made in the Middle East and North Africa region. Image: Magnitt

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economy

New businesses pick up in UAE

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Dubai, Abu Dhabi remain investors’ top choices as 1-year countdown to Expo 2020 nears

The UAE economy gained momentum at the right time by posting a 6 per cent growth in new business licences this year, reflecting growing investor confidence in the country ahead of the one-year countdown to Expo 2020 Dubai that starts next month.

Latest official data indicates that a total of 32,256 new business lincences were issued across the UAE during first eight months of 2019, bringing the tally of active businesses to 572,615 from 540,359 at the end of December.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai remained investors’ top choices to start new businesses in the UAE as the two emirates accounted for 70.6 per cent of the total number of business licences issued by the end of August, according to the Ministry of Economy’s National Economic Register.

Dubai held the first spot by issuing 268,574 business licences, followed by Abu Dhabi and Sharjah that granted 135,918 and 82,825 business permits, respectively, in the January-August 2019 period.


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Dubai businesses upbeat on new export markets and projects

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The survey also showed that 83 percent of the businesses in Dubai rated their situation as “good” or “stable” in Q2 of 2018
New export markets and projects being launched ahead of Expo 2020 Dubai are energising economic activity in Dubai, particularly in the trading and construction sectors and businesses are confident of improved outcomes in the months ahead.

The quarterly survey of the Dubai Economy shows Composite Business Confidence Index, BCI, in the emirate improving by 2.2 points to reach 114.9 in the second quarter of 2019, compared to 112.7 points in the same period of 2018, with respondents anticipating higher volumes and profits.

The survey also showed that 83 percent of the businesses in Dubai rated their situation as “good” or “stable” in Q2 of 2018, while the others had to deal with a few obstacles, such as weak demand during the Ramadan season and increasing competition. The proportion of businesses foreseeing an improvement in the business situation has slightly increased from 45 percent in Q3 of 2018 to 46 percent in Q3 of 2019, while 43 percent expect stability to prevail.

Large companies continue to maintain stronger projections as compared to SMEs with Composite BCI scores of 118.3 and 109.9 points for Q3 of 2019, respectively. As Dubai successfully promotes itself as a competitive source market, 22 percent of the firms look to exporting to new markets during Q3 of 2019. The leading new markets for export diversification are Africa and Europe.

Commenting on the latest BCI scores, Khalid Al Kassim, Assistant Director-General for Economic Affairs at the Dubai Economy, said businesses in the emirate are being innovative and seizing opportunities in spite of a challenging global economic landscape.

“Businesses in Dubai have been able to remain competitive and aim for the next level as a series of measures adopted by the government continue to enhance the ease of business and create new economic opportunities.” A comparison of expectations among key economic sectors reveals that the trading sector holds the strongest outlook for sales revenue, volumes sold, profits, hiring and new purchase orders as compared to the manufacturing and services sectors for Q3 of 2019. Overall, 50 percent of businesses are looking forward to their revenues improving in Q3 of 2019, chiefly on higher volumes, while 33 percent estimated stable revenues.

For the upcoming quarter, while 79 percent of respondents intend to maintain their selling prices at the current level, 10 percent plan to increase prices.

The trading sector is most confident about its prospects on sales volumes, selling prices, revenue, profits, hiring and new purchase orders as compared to the manufacturing and services sectors.

Within services, the construction segment is the most optimistic about volumes for Q3 of 2019, while in the trading sector, the auto (spare parts) segment is most optimistic about volumes during Q3 of 2019.

In the coming 12 months, 30 percent of the firms intend to expand their current headquarters. Manufacturing firms are most optimistic about capacity expansion plans as compared to the services and trading firms.

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Lebanon skyrocket 589 places in startupblink ranking report

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by Maan Barazy

Lebanon’s ecosystem gained a significant push in the startup blink ranking report topping the annual 300 list, after skyrocketing 589 locations up – Now it is ranked among the first 100 in the world

the report editor wanted to build an ecosystem ranking syetm; they asked Have you ever wondered how the strength of your local startup ecosystem compares to others?  What about the vital factors that help empower a growing ecosystem? comprehensive, global startup ecosystem map and research center provides users with all the data they need to draw comparisons, view rankings, and make better informed business decisions. Our startup ecosystem rankings feature the strongest startup hubs in the world, while also giving smaller cities and countries the chance to be highlighted.  

Welcome to the top 100 Lebanon the web version of the report said

What makes the StartupBlink platform so unique and impactful is the treasure trove of data available on hundreds of locations across the globe. We don’t only map startups, but also focus on all other relevant startup ecosystem players including coworking spaces, accelerators, investors, tech reporters and much more.

StartupBlink has launched the Startup Ecosystem Rankings Report 2019 that now ranks 1,000 cities and 100 countries worldwide. This is the first report to track both momentum and trends within the global startup ecosystem.

Most of the data used while generating the rankings was either accumulated on StartupBlink over the past 5 years or was sent to us by our ecosystem partners in cities around the world.

StartupBlink’s map is carefully curated and updated to assist startup founders, governments and investors in their quest to better understand what makes a healthy startup ecosystem. We also help corporates with data that supports their open innovation activities when connecting and supplying resources to relevant startups.

The report quoted

After increasing 19 spots, Lebanon has joined the club of leading countries and its top is now in the top 300 list, after skyrocketing 589 locations up. Despite the fact that Lebanon has a small market, the public and private sectors see the importance in supporting the startup ecosystem by creating many accelerators and spaces, including Berytech, Speed@BDD, the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, and AltCity.

Also, the nation has high tech literacy and boosts with many funding avenues, like Banque du Liban (BDL) that injected $400 million into the Lebanese enterprise market. Lebanon has witnessed several exits, among others, are Cleartag, Diwanee, and Shahiya.com. As for the startup ecosystem, the main focus should go maintaining the good momentum of Beirut and bring form an additional startup hub.

The algorithm analyzes tens of thousands of data points and is powered by our global partners such as Crunchbase, and SimilarWeb. We also analyzed data gathered from more than 50,000 members throughout the Global StartupBlink community.

Specifically for Crunchbase, our partnership allowed us to locate hundreds of unicorns around the world and include them as a critical part of the algorithm. Unicorns are vital success stories that increase money flow to the local startup ecosystem. They also encourage the local population to join the startup revolution.

New entrants to the top country rankings

The top 10 countries list as compared to the 2017 rankings has welcomed 3 new entrants: Australia, the Netherlands, and Spain, as seen in the table below.

StartupBlink Report: Top 10 Rankings

The top 11-30 list has been a real battlefield for some countries due to the changes in the algorithm. Some of the major changes include Denmark (falling 9 places down to the number 16th) and India (skyrocketing to the 17th spot, after passing by 20 rivals). Additionally, Singapore (leaving the top 10 and declining to 21), New Zealand (jumping 20 positions up to the 26th), and China (15 places down and ranked at 27 now).

Startup Blink: 10-30 Rankings

Top city ecosystems

As for the cities, the top 10 list remained relatively stable with only Boston, Tel Aviv, and Berlin shifting positions. Moscow also joined the top 10 club after moving 4 positions up the ranking.

Startup Blink: Top 1-10 City Rankings

Nonetheless, the top 11-20 cities list was slightly more dramatic. Bangalore (ranked 11) almost hit the top 10 and Tokyo moved 15 positions up to the number 14. New Delhi and Sydney also rose 5 and 6 positions up accordingly.  

StartupBlink: Top 11-20 City Rankings

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economy

Kuwait – ‘Budget crisis worsening due to failure in collecting debts’

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KUWAIT CITY, Aug 15: The debt crisis is worsening and all or most of the efforts exerted to collect the debts have failed over the past years, to be more specific since 2015, when the deficit began to appear in the state budget, and the government had to increase its revenues, reports Al-Qabas daily. However, despite all attempts, balance of payment is rising and not decreasing. It has increased by 18% in 2018-2019 compared to the previous year to reach the balance of 1.54 billion dinars.

Financial sources confirmed this crisis has been dragging its feet for the past 10 years without a radical solution. From 773 million dinars in 2010-2011, the balance has gradually risen each year to 1.54 billion dinars, an increase of 100% in less than 10 years.

The debts owed to the government include court cases pending final court rulings on them, entitlements to individuals for the unlawful payment of salaries, bonuses or bonuses to employees, dues to the Ministry of Oil on certain countries to grant them a grace period to pay what they owed, and taxes on some large companies operating in Kuwait, the Ministry of Electricity and Water dues towards companies, institutions and individuals for electricity and water fees.

Ministry of Finance sources had earlier talked about the weakness of the financial system in government agencies stopped by obstacle to the settlement of these accounts as required, although the Ministry of Finance has made great efforts to train, prepare and urge employees of the financial system in those bodies. Meanwhile, as the Ministry of Education is waiting for the results of students who took the TIMES international test in April, sources revealed the ministry has disbursed KD 5.9 million in the last four years (KD 1.5 million annually) to improve the quality of public education by revising the curricula, teaching methods, assessment, policies and planning, reports Al-Qabas daily quoting sources.

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Ecosystem of the MENA

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