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Dubai Tourism reveals the 10 finalists of its six-week accelerator programme



This year, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) launched the third edition of its Futurism Programme in collaboration with the leading professional services company Accenture. The programme is a zero-equity accelerator initiative aimed at providing a platform for technology startups from all over the world to bring about a shift within the industry ecosystem and help create innovative tourism experiences. Dubai Tourism has now released the list of 10 finalists for this year’s international Futurism Programme, in an announcement that came last week.

The third edition of the Futurism programme helped entrepreneurs in driving various Futurism themes, such as ‘phygital’ experience, digitising operations, connected travel, conscious travel, first choice destination, and hyper personalisation, by providing them with the opportunity to share their innovative technology solutions.

The winner and runner-up can win a prize of Dh100,000 ($27,220.2) along with the opportunity to secure future funding, an office space, licensing, and relevant visas in Dubai.

This year’s programme has attracted a lot of entrepreneurs worldwide. Over 155 startups submitted their applications before the given deadline. A panel of judges comprising of the Programme’s partners shortlisted the 10 most innovative ideas for the final round, which are Ads-Flight, Stayhopper, Ariadne Maps, Stayology, Airlines Technology, Further Network, Xandar Kardian, Omniflow S.A, Cerebri AI, and Chatdesk.

The finalists will now undergo a six-week accelerator programme, which features one-on-one mentorships, networking with key industry partners, and bootcamp sessions, where the Dubai Tourism along with its partners will guide each one of them in finalizing pilot projects and the ways in which they could use their innovative solutions across the Dubai’s tourism sector.

The finalists will then be able to pitch to a jury of investors, business owners, and venture capitalists at GITEX Future Stars, the largest startup event in Middle East, South East Asia, and Africa, which is going to be hosted at the GITEX Technology Week in October, 2019.

Yousuf Lootah, the executive director of Dubai Tourism, said that the high level of interest shown in the Futurism Programme by startups worldwide is a result of their efforts to take the tourism industry to digital era, which is in line with the 10x initiative launched by the Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to keep Dubai 10 years ahead of other world cities and retain its reputation as the regional technology hub.

According to Norberto Cibien, the Products Client Service Group lead at Accenture Middle East & Turkey, Accenture is committed and proud to bring the best startups into the Dubai ecosystem to help the region’s Travel and Tourism grow through their collaboration with Dubai Tourism.

Apart from Accenture, this year’s Futurism Programme is also being supported by the major industry partners and investors from a variety of sectors ranging from legal, aviation, hospitality, travel, transportation, technology, and finance. The strategic partners include Emaar Hospitality Group, the Emirates Group, Seera Group, industry partners Atlantis the Palm and the Accor Hotels. Moreover, the partnership network comprises of Careem, Wamda, Shorooq Investments, Middle East Venture Partners, Amazon, Microsoft, Alteryx, Dentons and Dubai SME.

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Egypt’s Homemade Food Market Mumm Launches Meal Subscription Service For Companies



Egyptian food-tech startup Mumm has just added a meal subscription service called Mumm Office Club in Cairo to their line of services. Mumm’s kitchen-to-delivery online marketplace has been offering homemade food cooked by partners to users for over three years, but the Mumm Office Club sources a large variety of meals and different cuisines from central kitchens throughout Cairo specifically catered to companies.

Within their operations, Mumm partners with companies from a variety of sizes to offer ‘nutritious meals’ at a discounted rate to its employees, where both companies and employees can save up on costs and receive food on a daily or monthly basis. Once the company partners up with Mumm, their employees are allowed to subscribe to receive food on working day, pick the meals they receive daily or monthly, and have a free deducted from the employee’s salary or pay directly upon receiving.

After piloting last month with several companies varying in sizes, Mumm’s CEO Waleed Abdelrahman watched fellow business owners realise the difference ‘Mumm Office Club’ has made on the overall productivity of their employees in only a few weeks. “Across the board, the employers witnessed a general decrease in wasted office hours and the spread of a positive outlook on company culture,” says Waleed Abdelrahman, CEO and founder of Mumm.

Mumm Office Club is a comprehensive food programme offering over 15,000 unique dishes from a variety of international and Middle Eastern cuisines, giving employees full control over their daily orders by allowing them to set their own dietary restrictions and get information on the nutritional value of each meal. Since its official launch this month, Mumm’s new service managed to gather over 700 paying subscribers at 10 companies and startups ranging in size, including Swvl, Robusta, Harmonica, BasharSoft, and Bel using the subscription service.

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Zain and Microsoft partner to boost digital transition of Kuwaiti SMEs



Zain, a growing digital service provider based in Kuwait, recently announced its partnership with Microsoft to drive digital transformation for SME consumers through the provision of cloud services.

Current Zain customers will benefit from the partnership as well as special promotions from its launch offers. Kuwait’s entrepreneurial community will be able to connect with the developed technology it needs to grow and compete amongst the international economy.

Small and medium sized enterprises will be able to access tools such as Office 365 and others of its kind, for their employees to utilise and improve their products and services as well as make complete use of their resources to upgrade their operations.

Eaman Al Roudhan, Zain Kuwait’s Chief Executive Officer, whilst announcing the collaboration with Microsoft discussed the company’s visions to boost their partnerships within the business hub and attract prominent international figures from the tech industry to provide Kuwait with the latest business solutions for its entrepreneurial societies. He also emphasised the need to support talent within the country to create more employment opportunities for Kuwait so that they can make a mark on a regional and global levels.

Kuwait is now working to expand its small and medium sized enterprises to strengthen their national economic diversification programs. The regional General Manager of the Middle East Cluster of Microsoft, Charles Nahas said that Microsoft is dedicated to helping Kuwaiti SMEs grow through the power of digital change by helping businesses engage with customers, empower employees and use the resources provided to their full extent.

Zain’s Microsoft Office 365 bundle will consist of several packages including Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange Online to boost productivity and efficiency, whilst companies can reap the benefits of cost-free upgrades anytime. They will also have access to other services such as 24/7 support and consultancy from Zain and Microsoft. Customers will also enjoy the benefits of onboarding and mobile bundles, including the new 5G technology.

Zain entered into a partnership agreement with Microsoft on October 2018 to offer cloud-based services to large businesses and small and medium enterprises across the country. The agreement was signed at the 38th conference of The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition. After the partnership, Zain created bundles of their own services and tools along with Microsoft for the customers.

Currently, Gulf states are competing in a regional domination of technology and economic developments by innovating and coming up with new ways to attract consumers. Zain hopes that the partnership with Microsoft will prove to be beneficial in the long-term.

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Emirates SkyCargo works with Dubai start-up for efficient sourcing of seafood



Early on Friday, 6 September, a batch of salmon arrived in Dubai in the cargo hold of Emirates flight EK 28 from Glasgow. The shipment of Scottish salmon, destined for restaurants and consumers in the UAE, was the first that was being transported for Seafood Souq, a Dubai based start-up working on transparent and efficient sourcing of seafood, by Emirates SkyCargo, the freight division of Emirates. The shipment marked the culmination of a round of discussions and the start of a fruitful partnership between the two companies.

Seafood Souq has created an online B2B marketplace application that helps seafood buyers procure products from all over the world. In addition to streamlining the traditional model of sourcing seafood, the application also allows for improved quality and traceability of the produce being transported. Better information sharing facilitated by the platform means that there are likely to be fewer instances of mis-labelling and expiry of seafood.

Seafood Souq have entered into a partnership with Emirates SkyCargo for transporting their seafood shipments rapidly from source markets to customers. Although the initial focus is on delivering fresh seafood from markets such as Norway, Cyprus, Chile, USA and Scotland to customers in the UAE and the Middle East, the start-up has plans to harness the potential of Emirates SkyCargo’s global network to reach a global clientele.

“The core aim of Seafood Souq is to provide access to fresh products in the quickest possible time by connecting customers to suppliers and allowing produce to be dispatched on the day that the order is received. Working with Emirates SkyCargo was the naturally obvious choice for us because of the network and frequency of flights offered by them,” said Sean Dennis, CEO and Co-Founder of Seafood Souq. “Not only does Emirates SkyCargo have a good frequency of flights into all the key global origin and destination markets for seafood but they also have the cool chain infrastructure and capabilities that allows seafood to retain its freshness during the journey,” he added.

“We are excited to be working with Seafood Souq and to be supporting an innovative Dubai-based start-up having the potential to transform the supply chain for the seafood industry,” remarked Dennis Lister, Emirates VP Cargo Commercial Development. “Our Emirates Fresh product is designed for the rapid and efficient transport of seafood and other perishables. With our modern aircraft and other equipment including dedicated Emirates Fresh Cool Dollies, Emirates White Covers and a state of the art hub in Dubai with extensive cool chain facilities, we are well positioned to support Seafood Souq as they continue to grow.”

Emirates SkyCargo transported over 400,000 tonnes of perishables across the world in 2018 out of which more than 70,000 tonnes was seafood. Some of the major origin markets for seafood on Emirates SkyCargo in 2018 included Norway, India, Sri Lanka, Uganda and the UK.

Emirates SkyCargo currently uses cargo hold capacity in Emirates’ fleet of more than 265 aircraft, including 12 freighters– and provides air cargo services to over 155 destinations across six continents.

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Qatar To Block Uber And Careem Acquisition Deal



With both companies facing setbacks in their acquisition journey, it’s becoming more difficult to decipher the future of this deal. In a recent filing, Qatar’s competition authority reveals the blockage of Uber’s proposed multi-billion acquisition of Careem in the country, as reported by MENAbytes. The statement lacks a couple of key details; however, the decision was made privately between the establishments back in August 2019 and hasn’t been publicly announced yet by the governing body in Qatar.

In Qatar, Careem’s business equates to only 1.8% of its overall business worldwide. Although this incident could count as a setback for both companies, this news hardly translates as bad news. As reported by MENAbytes earlier this year, the price of the $3.1 billion deal could decrease if Careem and Uber fail to obtain regulatory approvals in its respective market.

According to Uber’s filing, Uber and Careem aim to seek further review of the decision. The filing also revealed that the Uber and Careem deal has been under review by various antitrust agencies in the region including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It should be noted that the United Arab Emirates is the only country that has formally approved of the Uber-Careem deal as disclosed by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy.

Additionally, earlier in May of this year, the Egyptian authority met with officials from Uber and Careem to discuss the aforementioned proposition, with certain media outlets issuing statements warning both companies against the merger and the possibility of the companies facing multi-million-dollar fines. Similarly, in a statement issued by Careem to Reuters, Careem has exited the Sudanese market less than a year after launching in Sudan’s capital, and just three months after Uber announced its acquisition. Both Uber and Careem had reported that the deal is expected to close in early 2020 but these complications serve as obstacles in the face of the ride-hailing giants.

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Careem expands payments offering with Mobile Recharge



Careem, the region’s leading internet platform, has launched mobile recharge payment services within the Careem PAY wallet across Egypt and Pakistan and the UAE with Jordan to follow soon.

Careem entered the payments space with closed loop peer to peer transfers in November 2018 as part of a broader, ambitious payment strategy. The Careem PAY wallet is the most downloaded wallet in the Middle East region and one in three rides booked by Careem customers are paid for via the Careem PAY wallet.

As Careem moves towards its super app strategy, payments capabilities will be a critical enabler to offering multiple products and services and being host to third parties. With only 14% of the MENA population banked, Careem is pursuing the digital payments opportunity of addressing this gap with a digital wallet and in the future, financial services.

Managing Director of Careem Pay, Junaid Iqbal said: “Careem’s payment offerings will be core to becoming the region’s every day super app. Our wallet is the most downloaded digital wallet in the market and we will continue to add more products and services that can be paid for through our platform. With only 14% of the region holding a bank account, there is a massive opportunity for us to serve this unaddressed audience and enable them to participate in digital finance. Providing the option to purchase mobile recharge credit is the beginning of many more ways in which we aim to simplify and improve our customers’ lives.”

How customers purchase mobile credit within the Careem app

1. Update to the latest Careem app for Android

2. Open the Careem PAY Wallet screen

3. Tap on ‘Mobile Recharge’

4. Enter or select from contact list the mobile number that you’d like to recharge

5. Select or enter the Recharge Amount

6. Confirm payment. The credit will be added directly to the receiver’s number

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Egypt’s digital payments company Fawry plans to enter UAE, Saudi and Kuwait markets



Fawry, an Egyptian private company for electronic payments, has released its plans to expand its services into the United Arab Emirates by the end of 2019 and into the Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti markets next year.

Founded in 2009 by Ashraf Sabry and Mohammed Okasha, Fawry is an electronic payment network which offers financial services such as convenient and reliable ways to pay bills to consumers and businesses in Egypt. Egypt is the most populous Arab country and surprisingly a lot of Egyptians do not have bank accounts. Fawry offers its services in over 65,000 locations via multiple channels including the internet, mobile wallets, ATMs, and retail points.

Mohamed Okasha claimed that Fawry is owned by regional and global investment funds, and dominates the Egyptian market. The firm made its stock market debut in August and is now planning on using its technology platform in the Gulf country by carrying out a deal with one of the largest listed UAE banks. However, the identity of the bank or value of the deal were not disclosed.

Okasha said that they are aiming to offer their services in Arab countries where a lot of Egyptians reside. Fawry will provide the people in those countries with their bill payment services. Moreover, in addition to the UAE, they are also hoping to enter the Saudi and Kuwaiti markets in 2020 but did not provide any details pertaining to this. Nevertheless, Okasha did go onto mention that Fawry currently have no plans to expand further in Africa.

Currently, Fawry invest between 250 million to 300 million Egyptian pounds annually from their own resources. There are now plans to have 300 “Fawry plus” branches within next five years, in addition to the 70 existing ones. Okasha also shared that the firm has 105,000 service points as of now.

According to Fawry’s website, the firm has almost 20 million customers and handles 2.1 million transactions on a daily basis. Last year, it collected over 40 billion pounds ($2.43 billion) and its share price has increased up to 10.24 pounds from the 6.46 pounds on debut. ($1 = 16.4500 Egyptian pounds)

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Saudi Arabia to launch a new tourist visa on September 27



The validity of the visa is for one year from the date of issuance, and the duration of stay in the Kingdom is three months JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia is set to launch a new tourist visa on Sept. 27, which will allow the citizens of 51 countries to visit the Kingdom, a government source told Saudi Gazette.

The source said that the visa fee would be SR300 ($80 or 70 euros), with the applicant paying an additional SR140 for medical insurance fee thus bringing the total cost of SR440 paid by each applicant for the tourist visa.
The validity of the visa is for one year from the date of issuance, and the duration of stay in the Kingdom is three months for each visit and not more than 180 days during one year.

The visa will be obtained through an electronic platform, within 30 minutes, or through the “visa on arrival” process when the tourist arrives in Saudi Arabia.

A return ticket or hotel reservation is not required to obtain the visa; In this case, the tourist address is only sufficient. A paper copy of the visa is not needed, and a digital copy is preferred. It is also required that the passport be valid for at least six months.

The Muslim visitor will benefit by performing Umrah during the non-Haj season, entering Makkah, visiting Madinah and any of the Saudi cities as a tourist. The applicant is required to be at least 18 years of age. Those below the specified age require a companion above that age to be the guardian.

The Saudi ports that receive visitors holding a tourist visa includes King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah, King Fahd Airport in Dammam, King Fahd Causeway, Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah, and Al-Batha land crossing.

The sources said that this move would open the way for the world to see the beauty of Saudi Arabia and increase non-oil revenues to contribute to its prosperity. It is also in line with Kingdom’s Vision 2030 aspirations.

The sources stressed that the tourist must issue a signed pledge prior to obtaining the visa. The most important of which is to endorse that the information documented in the application is correct, abide by all Saudi laws and regulations, and to respect the Islamic customs and traditions of its people.

In case of any violation, the authorities have the right to stop the visitor from entering the Kingdom and send the visitor back to the country from where he had come. The number of countries benefiting from the visa is expected to increase in the first quarter of 2020, while some of the current countries are the United States, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, South Korea, Italy, Iceland, France, Norway, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Romania, Croatia and Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Singapore, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Austria, Belgium, Poland, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Bulgaria.

Paris Verra, a foreign tourist who recently visited the Kingdom, said that the Saudis are the nicest, most accepting and welcoming people.

“I love the people here, and I can’t express that enough. I especially love the way they live and how important family is to them. I find life in Saudi Arabia to be extremely safe and respectful — which is very important to me as a foreign woman traveling. Saudi Arabia feels like home to me,” she said.

“After seeing a few photos of Al Ula once getting my visa, I didn’t want to leave Saudi Arabia until I visited there. I was still traveling full time, but Al Ula became a priority must visit. After spending months in Saudi Arabia without seeing that region, I already ended up falling in love with this country. Al Ula was only a bonus to my experience,” she added.

“I have already recommended tons of people to KSA through my social media account. My recommendation is to go with an open mind, have coffee and dates with the locals, and to explore the towns as well as the beautiful landscapes. Once they visit, I highly recommend not leaving without seeing AlUla, Jeddah and Abha,” she said.

She described AlUla as “The vastest beautiful place I have visited in Saudi Arabia and probably in all of the world”. It’s breathtaking, so much history and beauty here that I visited two weekends in a row and would love to go back soon.

On Abha, she said, “This was the most recent place I visited, and I can easily say it’s unlike any of the other sites. Abha has a beautiful green mountainous landscape with incredible sunsets, rich culture, and the most kind, welcoming, vibrant people. In my experience, I think the people of this region are some of the kindest and inviting of all the areas.”On Jeddah, she added, “Another one of my favorite spots that I need to go back to explore more. I spent a weekend here, swimming in the Red Sea amongst the most colorful coral sea life I have ever seen. I have been snorkeling in tons of countries — even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia — nothing compares to the reef here. Another highlight is the historical Town of Jeddah.”

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eCommerce becomes the first to offer same-day delivery in Saudi Arabia



The e-commerce trade bars have been raised higher as steps forward by offering same-day delivery service in Saudi Arabia.

Souq has become the first e-commerce company in the country to offer such a practical service. Currently, only the citizens of Riyadh and Jeddah are poised to benefit from the Fulfilled by Souq (FBS) products.Saleem Hammad, General Manager of’s Kingdom of Saudi Arabia chapter has expressed his confidence in the move and stressed that the focus of his company is making it ever more convenient for the customer to purchase products online and have them delivered at their doorsteps at the earliest. The only caveat associated with the offering is that the customers will have to order the product(s) before noon to ensure the company has sufficient time to prepare and dispatch products.

As the e-commerce industry peaks in the region, this announcement from cuts at the heart of the rapid development that the industry has been undergoing in recent years.

Hammad claimed that by allowing the customers to have their products delivered in the same-day, his company was allowing the buyers to choose from a large assortment of products and categories at the quickest turnaround. The recent quirk of the company is duly complemented by the UI/UX focused mobile and web application of the company that confers ease of use and reliability to the customers who wish to purchase the products.

Many small and medium sized businesses are expected to profit from the same-day delivery policy of Amr Abdul-Aziz, one such entrepreneur and owner of Derma.KSA1 highlighted that same-day delivery means that now he can guarantee enhanced services to his customers which will incentivise them to order products faster, enabling him to manage his inventory better.

In a fast-paced world where customers are more aware of globalization than ever, state of the art technologies/products/services are quickly adopted by countries. The move by definitely complements the path of innovation and can be regarded as an insightful strategy that is going to attract many customers to its services, consequently raising the level of competition and pushing other e-commerce companies operating in the region to expedite the process of developing an organic e-commerce industry in the region.

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Ecosystem of the MENA

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