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Egypt – Women as Engines of Economic Growth



The Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) and the American University in Cairo (AUC), jointly held a major conference on Tuesday as part of the AUC’s centennial celebration dubbed ‘Women as Engines of Economic Growth.’ The conference focused on empowering women innovators, entrepreneurs, executives, and educators toward the fulfilment of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. The conference brought into focus the vital contributions of women leaders in economic growth across the MENA states, and the importance of supporting their development in key positions in public institutions and companies, which is a key national priority in Egypt. It concluded with key reflections on the future of work challenges and opportunities in the MENA region and globally. The AIWF is a non-profit development organisation focused on women’s development and youth empowerment headquartered in London and founded in 2001 by Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani.

Gender equality= sustainable economic growth The Founder and Chairperson of the AIWF, Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, began her speech by asserting that sustainable and inclusive economic growth is a clear priority for the MENA states, noting that it will only be achieved with the full engagement of young people and the rightful participation and valuable contributions of women who make up half of the Arab population.

Agreeing with Al Kaylani, the Minister of Planning and Administrative Reform, Hala Al-Saeed, asserted that gender equality is at the heart of sustainable development in any country, noting that it is an issue at the core of the UN’s SDGs.

Leveraging Women’s Successes in MENA region Al Kaylani stated that it is always important to acknowledge what has been achieved in order to build on it for the future, noting that throughout the MENA region, women are increasingly taking on high-level leadership positions in business, public service, the judiciary, and legislature. She noted that women are rapidly advancing in professions previously dominated by men, including finance, aviation, business, technology, academia, research, and STEM careers, challenging gender bias in nearly every sector and sphere.

She added that Arab women are commanding a greater presence in corporate boards, in senior executive leadership positions, and in top jobs at multinational and family-owned businesses. Al Kaylani pointed out that in most Arab countries, women are also successfully assuming positions of leadership in public service and international relations, and are increasingly being elected and appointed to political, diplomatic, and development roles, giving women a greater voice in legislative reform throughout the region.

“The overall rate of parliamentary participation of women in Arab States is, as of April 2019, 18.1% (up from 13% in 2012 and 9% in 2010, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union),” she revealed.

Al Kaylani showed that in Tunisia and Algeria, Electoral Law in both countries now includes a quota that women should comprise half of the candidates on political party lists. “Last year, Jordanian women also celebrated a record number of female ministers, with seven women appointed to cabinet seats out of 29 cabinet seats in the new government,” according to Al Kaylani.

“Morocco also has some of the most gender progressive laws in the region and one of the largest percentages of women in parliament – around 20.5% in 2018, surpassing the quota that mandates 15% of parliamentary seats for women,” she added. She mentioned that this is in addition to senior cabinet positions, noting that more Arab women than ever before are serving as governors, ambassadors, and leading diplomatic figures, and are also levelling the playing field in law and politics, breaking new ground at the highest levels of the judiciary.

Adding to what Al Kaylani said, Al-Saeed mentioned that over the past decade, the MENA region has taken great steps in health, education, and in all issues related to gender equality.

She asserted that these are just a few cases of the strong actions taken by governments in the MENA region on the political front, which are significantly reflected in the rising percentage of women’s participation in all fields.

Leveraging women’s success in Egypt Talking about women`s achievements in Egypt, President of the National Council for Women(NCW), Maya Morsi, stated that the NCW prepared in 2017 the national strategy for Egyptian women’s empowerment 2030, which emanates from the vision of Egypt 2030, in cooperation with a large number of bodies, ministries, national councils, and civil society organisations. Morsi pointed out that for the first time, women represent 25% of Egypt’s Cabinet. In June 2018, for the first time in Egyptian history and under the inspired leadership of the President of the republic, the Egyptian Cabinet announced the appointments of eight female ministers.

She stated that the presence of women in various decision-making positions contributes to changing the mindset of people, changing the negative social perception of the limited roles that women can play in society and their contribution in all fields. In that context, Al-Saeed said that the representation of women in Egypt’s Cabinet is higher than America and Portugal.

“It’s not a matter of increasing the numbers of female ministries in the cabinet, but what really matters is that these female ministries are running one of the key ministries in the country,” Morsi said proudly.

For her part, Al Kaylani described this achievement as a landmark for Egyptian women leaders in political and public life.

Al-Saeed also mentioned the increase in the number of female representatives in Egypt’s Parliament, which currently sits at 15%, up from only 2% in 2012.

‘Women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of Egypt’s vision, which aims to provide equal participation with men in all fields,’ she asserted. Al-Saeed declared that Egypt aims to increase women’s engagement in the workforce from below 25% to 35%, while dropping the unemployment rate among females.

In that context, she mentioned that the female unemployment rate has dropped from 24% between 2011-2017, to 19% in 2018.

“To date, significant progress has been made in the implementation of Egypt’s 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy, which has set gender targets to reduce female unemployment and increase female formal labour participation, ” Al Kaylani asserted.

Notably, the President of Egypt and the President of the NCW had declared 2017 the Year of Egyptian Women. Al Kaylani also stated that Egypt is further making excellent progress on financial inclusion, having adopted the Maya Declaration which champions financial inclusion and contributes to SDG 1 on the elimination of poverty.

Regarding financial inclusion, Al-Saeed revealed that the percentage of women that experience financial inclusion in Egypt has increased to 27% in 2018, up from only 9% in 2012.

Addressing challenges to women’s economic empowerment in the MENA region Arab and international business communities are taking note of women’s remarkable progress, their energy, and their aptitude for meaningfully contributing to the economic prosperity of the region. Leveraging these valuable achievements is key to addressing the empowerment challenges that remain for many women throughout the region. For her part, Al-Saeed stated that despite of all the progress witnessed in the Arab world, women still face barriers keeping them from achieving their potential.

“The region faces considerable and highly unique demographic, economic, and resource-driven challenges,” Al Kaylani explained.

She mentioned that as a result of these challenges, many Arab governments have prioritised their national economic development agenda parameters, including sustainable economic diversification and development in order to meet core SDGs on poverty, water and food security, and humanitarian obligations toward refugees and the internally displaced, in addition to addressing youth unemployment in the region, all while improving the low rates of women’s participation in the economy and in parliament. Al Kaylani mentioned that the conference sessions addressed key development challenges in the region.

“We need to bring to light challenges and opportunities for women’s leadership and gender diversity on corporate boards and in family businesses. We also need to address women’s inclusion and participation in the MENA economy, with emphasis on women’s entrepreneurship and SMEs development, as well as women in the rural or agricultural sectors and women in the informal economy,” she said.

“There is great importance to assert women’s critical role in public service and policymaking to advance legislative reform and societal progress, in order to effectively address the issue of women’s under-participation in this sphere,” she continued. Meanwhile, Al-Saeed stated that there is an urgent need in the Arab world in general, and in Egypt specifically, to focus on improving the quality of education, which has proven to impact women’s self- esteem and desire to achieve decision-making positions. She explained that there is a positive correlation between the mothers who received a higher-level education and the daughter’s chances to access education. In addition, women are found to have benefited more than men from higher education to apply in the labour market.

According to Al-Saeed, ‘Supporting women’s organisations is a necessity that can transform women’s access to paid work and, in turn, empower women and allow them to be more active citizens. This includes entrepreneurship policies that bring better access to finance, and a variety of other non-financial services.’

She also mentioned the necessity of encouraging more women to use information and communication technology, describing it as a promising field for improving women’s engagement in the labour market and as a tool to empower agency in the fourth industry revolution. Meanwhile, Morsi referred to the importance of legislative reform to ensure the rights of women and girls in various fields, and to provide equal opportunities for them.

She asserted that many laws have been issued for preserving women’s rights and participation in the economic, social, and political life, such as Investment Laws and laws against sexual harassment, in addition to the Inheritance Law. Morsi also pointed out that Labour Laws that give women in the government sector more rights, in addition to adopting the policies by the ministry of social solidarity, may increase the participation of women in the labour market. She also suggested cooperation between the NCW and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to raise awareness among women on financial inclusion.

Morsi also confirmed that the NCW seeks to increase women’s participation in the field of entrepreneurship and to eliminate economic illiteracy among women. Finally, the president called on the private sector to adopt more policies that would grant increased rights to women in order to strenthen their participation in the sector, noting that strong women are determined to play a role in society and bring about change. She called on women and girls to believe in their power, and to create the engine of their future that will break glass barriers and obstacles standing in their way.

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MENA startup ecosystem highlights in February 2020




Every month, MAGNiTT releases a Dashboard report, providing a condensed and data-driven overview of all the key activities that took place in the month from a venture capital and startup funding perspective.

With 25 deals taking place last month, as highlighted by this month’s Dashboard, February 2020 saw a decrease in the number of deals compared to the same period last year. However, due to a flurry of high-profile later-stage deals, February 2020 saw a significant increase in total funding, with $193M raised by MENA-based startups.

Looking at the countries, we see similar trends as previous years emerge. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) took the lead by total funding, with the country accounting for many of the high-profile funding rounds. Moreover, the UAE accounts for more deals than any other country in the region, with which it reclaims the top spot from Egypt in 2020 YTD, which saw the highest number of deals in 2019.

The development comes as multiple UAE-based government initiatives are being launched, with Dubai announcing the Dubai Future District at the beginning of the year, which includes a fund to support venture capital firms and startups. Simultaneosuly, Abu Dhabi is also increasingly focusing on entrepreneurship and venture capital, with Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) expanding its scope to include later-stage investments as well.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia saw an increase in the number of deals as well, with the country recently launching its new Ministry for Investment in a major government overhaul. As part of the move, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) will become the Ministry of Investment, led by former Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, the new Minister of Investment. SAGIA has increasingly focused on the startup ecosystem, including the signing of several international venture capital firms, to spur innovation and investment in the Kingdom.

This, along with many more data-driven trends on funding and venture capital in the MENA region, are included in this month’s Dashboard.

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Lebanon’s Basma, the digital dental startup secures US$1.2M Seed funding




Author: Basma

Basma, the Beirut-based digital dental startup, secures a Seed round of US$1.2M and opens up access to simple and affordable orthodontics in the MENA region.

This financing round was led by prominent Beirut-based VC firms, B&Y Venture Partners and Cedar Mundi Ventures, with the joint participation from iSME and various business angels.

Basma is a direct-to-consumer healthcare brand that wants to give customers straighter and brighter teeth. It’s a digital health company founded on the belief that affordable dental care should be accessible to everyone. 

According to their Founder and CEO, Dr. Cherif Massoud: “7 out of 10 people in the Arab world can benefit from straighter teeth. But we think that everyone deserves to smile confidently. Aligners are the best alternative to braces, by changing the distribution channel and putting everything online, Basma cuts the treatment cost by up to 65%. Patients are constantly connected to doctors on our advanced telemedicine platform and are able to receive the treatment kit that will have a series of clear custom fitted aligners, straight to their homes.”

“Basma understands the consumer desire to improve their smile discreetly and they have the tools to make it happen.” Their CEO adds: “Adults should not feel pressured to wear wired braces. They are looking for invisible braces that don’t affect their confidence and this is exactly what we can give them.”

Bassel Attieh, Chairman and Managing Partner of Cedar Mundi Ventures, says: “We see much appetite for HealthTech and cosmetics services in the Middle East, both from consumers and professionals. And the teeth aligner industry is only getting started here. We believe in Basma’s bright future, building on local entrepreneurial and tech talents, and leveraging internationally-acclaimed remote professional initiatives for and from the region.”

The funds will further push Basma’s tech base and fuel expansion in the MENA region.

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2019 is Record Year Investment for MENA countries; MAGNITT



Another record year for total funding when excluding the investments of Souq & Careem

Main highlight of 2019

2019 saw an increase of 12% in total underlying funding; This reflects a 33% 5-year CAGR as the ecosystem grows and matures. Egypt ranks first by number of deals for the first time

  • Egypt accounted for 25% of all deals in MENA in 2019
  • Saudi Arabia’s share of total deals increased by 4%

MENA deal flow hit a record of 163 investments in Q3 2019

  • 2019 saw a higher number of deals in each quarter compared to 2018
  • Q1 2019 was a record quarter for MENA investments when exc. Careem’s $200M funding in Q4 2018

FinTech ranks first by number of deals for the second year in a row

  • FinTech accounted for 13% of all deals in 2019
  • Accelerators and governments play a key role in supporting FinTech startups

What would MAGNITT expects for 2020??

While this was predicted for 2019, the funding gap left by the Careem acquisition was too big to cover by other, earlier-stage startups.
Moving into 2020, we expect this gap to be filled, as more startups look to raise growth capital, and government initiatives such as
Funds of Funds and matching programs come into effect.

Several industries in the region, including e-commerce and transport, are heavily fragmented, and investors and startups will look to
consolidate to gain a competitive edge. We will also see international interest in more established startups, as we have seen with the
likes of Careem, Souq, Harmonica, and others.

International startups will capitalise on the increased government initiatives to support startups in the region. With the emergence
of flexible co-working spaces across MENA and initiatives to help reduce the cost of setting up and moving, the barriers to entry are
reducing, making the MENA region more accessible than ever.

Bassel Idriss, founder of Generics, shared his 5 learning lessons from the failure of his startup with MAGNiTT. As the ecosystem
matures, it is statistically inevitable that a higher number of startups will fail. This is not a bad thing, as long as we collectively learn
from these experiences and encourage founders to become serial entrepreneurs.

The success story of Careem and the increased media attention for venture-backed companies is a positive. Consequently, many will
start looking to scale out of the region for continued growth – international startups and investors alike will look for opportunities as
they become more familiar with the MENA landscape and as they seek arbitrage opportunities. Look out for more Asian venture capital
and corporate investors with experience in South-East Asia and China to start developing an interest in the region.

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Scooter Startup Unicorn Goes Bust, what about MENA markets?




When scooter startup Bird acquired scooter startup Scoot back in June, we got the first hints of consolidation within the two-wheeled mobility industry. The deal closed for roughly $25 million, and reminded all of us that it’s expensive to have a scooter startup. And logistics aren’t a (cough) legal walk in the park, either.Two bits of recent news show that the consolidation has continued, but not exactly in terms as ideal as a scoop or buy.

First up, months after the aforementioned acquisition, Bird has laid off less than two dozen ex-Scoot employees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. This is Bird’s second wave of layoffs this year. The layoffs impacted salaried, technical workers, according to TechCrunch.

Berlin’s Circ first to get e-scooter licence in Abu Dhabi

Berlin-based Circ is the first regulator-approved to deploy e-scooters in the UAE and broader Middle East as Abu Dhabi seeks to diversify transport options in the city.

Abu Dhabi’s Integrated Transport Centre (ITC), which last month said it was piloting e-scooter rentals for use on pedestrian and cycle paths in a bid to reduce traffic, revealed that Circ has now been licensed.

Abdullah Alaryani, director of Traffic Studies Department at the Integrated Transport Centre, said: “This service… enables members of the community to reach their final destination in a fast and economical way as e-scooters are an effective, easy and environmentally friendly means of transport for short daily work and entertainment commutes. It also links easily to public transport busses and commercial centres, as well as residential and recreational areas.”

Leading European micro-mobility startup CIRC opens Gulf HQ, first approved e-scooter in the region

Just months after Dubai’s transport authority (RTA) banned electric scooters from the emirate in order to investigate their use, the first international micro-mobility company officially launched in the Gulf region in partnership with local regulators and private developers. In March 2019, the RTA announced that it was “currently considering the technical and legislative requirements to allow the operation of electric scooters in addition to the conditions and commitment of scooter drivers.”

Circ, Europe’s micro-mobility champion, also announced that it has established a regional HQ in the UAE, with a multi-million-dollar investment that is the company’s first foray beyond Europe. People are now able to use e-scooters in designated areas of Abu Dhabi on Circ’s certified, purpose-built e-scooters.

The Berlin-based start-up is Europe’s largest and fastest growing micro-mobility company, exceeding three million rides already this year. Circ’s service is now available in 39 cities in 12 countries and is enjoyed by hundreds of people every minute.

Circ was co-founded by Lukasz Gadowski who previously created Delivery Hero, which owns and operates regional food delivery brands Talabat, Carriage, Zomato UAE and HungerStation. Lukasz is also an investor and board member of Volocopter, the flying taxi service being piloted in Dubai.

Lukasz Gadowski, Co-Founder of Circ​,​ ​said:“We are building a European champion with global ambitions. We stand for responsible micro-mobility, working with city authorities, local communities and other road users to transform urban transportation wherever we are welcome. The vibrant ecosystem of innovation and eagerness to try new concepts in the UAE makes it a perfect place for Circ.”

Circ’s vehicles are purpose-built for continuous shared use. They put safety first, are sturdier, and are designed to last longer. They have larger wheels, better suspension, longer battery life, the industry’s best braking system, and many other standout features. Every Circ ride is insured, with personal accident, third-party liability and product-liability insurance in the UAE. Circ provides clear in-app safety instructions and local guidelines on how to use the vehicles legally and responsibly.

In addition to launching in Abu Dhabi, further expansion elsewhere in the Gulf region is also in development, led by Circ MENA co-founders, Jaideep Dhanoa and Bader Al Kalooti.

Next up is Unicorn, a scooter startup co-founded by a co-creator of the popular tracking system Tile. The company has shut down operations, according to The Verge. This is leaving the roughly 350 orders of Unicorn scooters unfulfilled. Customers will be scooter-less, and refundless.

The startup pointed to overspending on advertising and marketing as the reason for its demise. In an email obtained by The Verge, Unicorn’s CEO Nick Evans pointed to the price tag of Facebook ads as the home for a “large portion of revenue.”

Evans also cited cold weather and a struggle for customer acquisition.

“Unfortunately, the cost of the ads were just too expensive to build a sustainable business. And as the weather continued to get colder throughout the US and more scooters from other companies came on to the market, it became harder and harder to sell Unicorns, leading to a higher cost for ads and fewer customers,” he wrote, according to The Verge.

Back in October, our former EIC Alex Wilhelm wrote that while the scooter boom has proven popular with consumers and investors alike, most scooter companies are “far from having a sustainable business model.” Besides these layoffs, we’ve reported on the staggering amount of losses reported by the likes of Lime and Bird. What does this tell us? That popularity doesn’t always equal profitability, or even viability.

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ekar Launches in Saudi Arabia Following $17.5M Series B Round




Press Release

ekar, the Middle East’s first and largest carshare operator, will now launch operations in Riyadh following the company’s successful Series B totaling USD$17.5 million in June of this year. Dubai-based venture capital firm Polymath Ventures led the round which includes Al Yemni Group and Audacia Capital.

“We are excited to announce the launch of ekar Riyadh and are eager to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Saudi residents and tourists alike with ekar’s seamless carshare service,” says Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO ekar Middle East. “Today, ekar UAE services 50,000 bookings per month, a number which we expect to quadruple over the next twelve months as we launch services across cities in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. We have 1,000 ekars in our fleet and over 75,000 members and envision surpassing 10,000 ekars and over a million members by 2021.”

Commenting on the successful Series B raise, Hedberg notes: “We are delighted to have a select group of strategic investors who are aligned with ekar’s passion to provide cost-effective mobility across emerging markets. ekar’s in-house tech team now has the fuel to scale ekar across MENAT.”

ekar is entering an inflection point as it arrives Saudi Arabia, where a young and tech-savvy population of 20 million smartphone users are by-passing traditional car ownership in favor for alternative mobility solutions. ekar is a natural extension of the transportation vertical in KSA and is perfectly suited to address a growing demand for cost-effective transportation on the back of ekar’s four years of experience building a world-class carsharing business. In addition, more than 70,000 women in the Kingdom have been issued driving licenses, and ekar is well-positioned to be the ‘first-car solution’ for these drivers. ekar is launching in Riyadh with 600 ekars and will launch in other cities throughout Saudi including Dammam, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, and KAEC.

“We believe smart systems and shared transport platforms like ekar are the future for sustainable mobility especially in cities with densely populated environments such as Riyadh. We invest with conviction where teams are driving innovation to solve tomorrow’s problems today, and we look forward to helping ekar succeed,” says Ali Hashemi, Managing Director of Polymath Ventures.

Emad Mansour, CEO of Audacia Capital, sees strong alignment with the broader vision in The Kingdom. “Saudi Vision 2030 puts great emphasis on development of infrastructure, especially in urban areas, and we are fortunate that the Kingdom’s goal aligns with ekar’s values.”

New members in Saudi Arabia can enjoy two hours of free drive time upon registering via the ekar App. ekar is directly integrated with Elm’s Products such as Yakeen and Tamm so these members will be instantly approved after entering a valid email address, mobile number, National/Iqama ID number, and driving license expiry date. Credit and debit cards including MADA are accepted forms of payment in addition to Apple Pay.

ekar’s pricing model is simple from 40 Halalas to 75 Halalas per minute depending on car models, which range from economy to business class vehicles. The average ekar ride is 60 minutes that can cost as little as 24 Riyals, a price which includes fuel and insurance and no monthly membership fees and is a fraction of the cost of ride-hailing services, traditional car rentals or taxis. What’s more, with ekars spread across hotspot areas in Riyadh, including the airport, ekar allows for the benefits of self-drive without the associated high costs of car ownership.

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Nine Business Sectors That Entrepreneurs Can Capitalise On In KSA



Nine sectors of opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and startups in Saudi Arabia to consider (and what investors are looking for).

The math is a no brainer, tech investor Abdullah Altamami explains. A GDP of US$782 billion in 2018, and a population surpassing 34 million- of which 60% are below 35 years of age. Add to that, the fact that Saudis are extremely digital with smartphone penetration at 96%, and online penetration at 89%– well above the 57% world average. All of these are factors that simply don’t exist elsewhere.

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Saudi Arabia: Supercharging Startup Opportunities



As the Kingdom amps up its business-friendly credentials and welcomes a new wave of entrepreneurs, Kais Al Essa, Founding Partner and CEO of venture capital firm Vision Ventures, talks opportunity and accessibility

Supercharging opportunities for foreign startups is a high-profile focus for Saudi Arabia. While our nearest neighbours have historically been the go-to hubs, in future a much higher percentage of entrepreneurs are expected to venture into the Kingdom.

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Achieving Women Forum Slated For October 21, 2019 In Dubai



Former Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard, athlete and adventurer Erik Weihenmayer (the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest), and FTI Group Managing Director Roula Jouny are among the personalities scheduled to speak at the RiiSE Conference: Achieving Women Forum, which is happening on Monday, October 21, 2019 from 8am to 1pm at Sofitel The Palm Dubai.

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Ecosystem of the MENA

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