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Saudi Arabia, UAE plan joint visit visas to boost tourism

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Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Thursday signed a raft of agreements which included a deal to issue joint visit visas for residents of both countries in a bid to boost tourism.

According to the UAE’s official news agency WAM, the accord, among six initiatives highlighted during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the UAE, was part of a cooperation deal between the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and the UAE’s Ministry of Economy.

The agreement will allow for the speeding up of the flow of traffic at ports of entry between the two countries.

A separate joint strategy for food security was also inked, aimed at tackling food challenges not only in Saudi Arabia and the UAE but throughout the region.

Enhancing cybersecurity and supporting the provision of reliable cyberspace for each country was another initiative agreed upon to find ways of preventing cyberattacks on the two nations.

On an economic level, it was agreed to issue an experimental digital currency strictly targeted for banks, with the aim of better understanding the implications of blockchain technology and facilitating cross-border payments.

The two countries will also develop a new mega-crude refinery with a capacity of 1.2 million barrels per day, integrated with a modern petrochemical complex at an initial cost of $70 billion (SR262 billion) in the state of Maharashtra in western India, to secure the supply of at least 600,000 barrels per day of Saudi crude oil.

FASTFACT

  • A Saudi-Emirati Youth Council is to be established to strengthen the partnership between youth in both countries, exchange ideas, and coordinate efforts to promote young talent.

A Saudi-Emirati Youth Council is also to be established to strengthen the partnership between youth in both countries, exchange ideas, and coordinate efforts to promote young talent.

Meanwhile, the two sides also signed four new memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in the health, culture, space and food security fields.

The first MoU was penned between the Saudi Ministry of Health and its UAE counterpart, and was followed by a cultural agreement signed between Noura bint Mohammed Al-Kaabi, the UAE’s minister of culture and knowledge development, and Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, the Saudi minister of culture.

A third MoU was inked in the field of space between Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al-Falasi, minister of state for higher education and advanced skills and chairman of the UAE Space Agency, and Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, Saudi minister of economy and planning.

The fourth accord on food security was agreed between Mariam Hareb Al-Mheiri, minister of state for food security, and Al-Tuwaijri.

During the Saudi crown prince’s stay, he visited the headquarters of Expo 2020 Dubai along with Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. 

The mega event, which features the participation of 192 countries, is scheduled to take place in the city under the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” from Oct. 20, 2020, to April 10, 2021.

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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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Business

2019 is Record Year Investment for MENA countries; MAGNITT

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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??

MORE THAN $1B TO BE INVESTED IN MENA-BASED STARTUPS
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.

ANOTHER RECORD YEAR FOR EXITS IN 2020
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.

MORE VENTURE-BACKED INTERNATIONAL STARTUPS WILL SET UP SHOP IN MENA
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.

MORE FAILURES OF VENTURE-BACKED STARTUPS
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.

MORE INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS AND ACQUIRERS OF MENA-BASED STARTUPS
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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Entrepreneurship

Flat6Labs graduates 11 startups

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SOURCE: Disrupt Africa


The Flat6Labs Cairo startup accelerator has concluded its latest programme with a demo day showcasing the 11 Egyptian startups graduating from its second cycle of the year.

Launched in 2011 as the first office of the Flat6Labs MENA regional startup accelerator,  the Flat6Labs Cairo programme provides startups with cash funding of between EGP500,000 (US$31,000) and EGP750,000 (US$46,000) with access to possible follow-on funding.

Participating companies also gain access to strategic mentorship, office space, a multitude of perks and services from various partners, and entrepreneurship-focused business training and workshops.

The latest cycle commenced in August, with 11 startups chosen to take part from over 1,200 applications. It has now concluded with a demo day, where the startups pitched in front of an audience of Flat6Labs investors, mentors, government officials, experts and the media.

The 11 graduating startups include smart home solution developer AION, medical insurance platform Axon, cloud-based engineering solution BeXel, expert-finder Consulting Pad, medical service booking platform Curotrip, and business procurement service Fridge.

Also taking part were logistics startup HOVO, laundry service Makwa, shipping platform ShipHaly, recruitment service Talents Arena, and website builder Wuilt.

“We’re extremely happy to be graduating this latest batch of 11 startups and cannot wait to see how they’ll continue to scale their businesses to a new level post-demo day,” said Flat6Labs chief executive officer (CEO) Ramez El-Serafy. 

“We can say with confidence that this group of entrepreneurs are go getters and relentless in their quest towards success, and we fully stand behind them even after they’ve left Flat6Labs Cairo’s doors.”

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Entrepreneurship

StartUps to keep on your radar

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Middle East innovation: These 4 startups are making their mark

Author: MAGNiTT Staff

SOURCE: ZDNet


“The Middle East was late to the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. This time, it must be ahead of the curve,” Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board argued earlier this year. 

“It’s time for our region’s countries to push harder on their path from carbon economies to knowledge economies. Startups are key to the journey,” he said in an article for the World Economic Forum.

Although launching a startup in the Middle East and North Africa is not without its challenges, the number of these ventures is growing despite the region’s upheavals and political instabilities, driven by its young population and increasing interest from investors and governments. 

Here are four startups that caught our eye. They come from very different sectors, e-commerce, transport, energy and medicine/digital health, but all have information and communications technology at their heart.  

MISWAG: IRAQ’S OLDEST E-COMMERCE PLATFORM

“With an inventory of over 15,000 products, the startup has a strong focus on great quality products and delivers all over the country,” notes Zahra Shah, country manager of Iraq Re:Coded, a non-profit working to create “the future tech leaders of Iraq, Turkey and Yemen”.

Founded in 2014, Miswag delivers everything from clothing to books, food and groceries, as well as health and beauty products anywhere in Iraq in between one and six working days. Nearly a quarter of a million people follow them on Facebook.

With products paid for via cash-on-delivery, the company boasted 700,000 registered customers within a few years of opening, and offers a range of international products, such as Tate & Lyle Sugar and Quaker Soups, as well as more local fare.   

SWVL: EGYPT’S APP-BASED BUS BOOKING SERVICE 

Egypt had the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa in 2018, reports MAGNiTT, an online community for Middle East startups.

Of the 83 funding rounds taking place in the country, Swvl led the pack securing series A and B investments that valued the service at about $100m.

Through its app, which has been downloaded more than a million times, users can book fixed-rate affordable bus rides on more than 600 routes in Cairo and Alexandria.

Swvl also began piloting its service in Nairobi earlier this year and recently announced a deal with Ford for the Transit minibus to be its vehicle of choice.

The startup, which was founded in March 2017, started from the premise that there were “too many cars on the streets, wasting our limited resources: time, space, and money”. 

“Rush hours, traffic, terrible driving habits and unavailability of parking spots,” are just some of the issues the app seeks to resolve, through “a technology-based alternative to public transportation”. 

E24: ENERGY STORAGE FOR AREAS WITH VARIABLE SUPPLY

Power outages can be a fact of life in some developing countries, including across the Middle East. For some, private generators offer a workaround to this. But they’re often expensive and not necessarily environmentally friendly.

E24, which began life in Lebanon and now has additional offices in Quebec, Bulgaria, and London, aims to provide reliable and affordable energy using solar generation and battery systems. 

As Forbes noted in a 2017 profile with co-founder Antoine Saab: “It’s a difficult field to grow in developing countries, because electricity is unstable. It’s not as simple as creating a unit to store energy – he [Saab] had to factor in fluctuating utility voltage and frequency.” 

Catering for home, office, and factory environments, the company focuses on energy storage and energy generation products. Its goal is to ensure that customers have energy 24 hours a day, hence its name, E24. 

E24 offers IoT and web-monitoring services so customers can track all their energy data from their PC, laptop or smartphone. The company’s IoT products, enable users to “take actions such as starting or stopping certain equipment, modifying settings or other actions…remotely from any internet device”.

HEALTHY.IO: CLINICAL URINALYSIS VIA YOUR SMARTPHONE

The Tel Aviv-based company, which uses disposable strips and cups in conjunction with a smartphone camera to read and interpret urinalysis, raised $18m in series B funding in February this year.

Founder and CEO Yonatan Adiri was the first chief technology officer to an Israeli president, Shimon Peres, at the age of 26 and was named one of Time Magazine’s 50 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2018.

Led by the VC firm Aleph, other investors in this funding round included Samsung NEXT, reflecting growing interest from the mobile company in ‘the medical selfie’.

Funding will help scale the company’s home testing service in the US, a market where one in three adults are at risk of kidney disease. Early detection through the app may help patients and ease pressure on the Medicare budget. In 2018, Medicare spending on kidney disease was in excess of $114bn.

“Even though we had never thought to invest in digital health or medical technology, Healthy.io ticked many of our boxes,” Michael Eisenberg, partner at Aleph, explained in a blogpost. “It was using machine vision, had a unique big-data sample of urine and unique, automated, smartphone testing methodologies.”

As Healthy.io’s website acknowledges: “Many different smartphone cameras and infinite lighting conditions make accurate dipstick reading highly challenging. However, our computer-vision algorithms and unique calibration method make accurate testing as easy as taking a selfie.”

The funding round for the company follows in the footsteps of recent FDA clearance for its products, as well as a global partnership with international market leader Siemens Healthineers. 

Meanwhile, in the UK, Healthy.io has been working with Boots, a subsidiary of Walgreens Boots Alliance, to trial a new cystitis test and treat service in 37 stores. 

Through a “urine self-testing kit and an app, which turns a smartphone camera into a clinical-grade analyzer,” the product will “help customers to quickly test for indication of infection from the comfort of their own homes”.READ FULL ARTICLE

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economy

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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Entrepreneurs

Internet submarine cable to link the country to Europe on the burner

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The Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT) has plans for a new Internet submarine cable to link the country to Europe, said Minister of Telecommunications Mohamad Choucair. The aim is to boost the Internet service locally and to turn Lebanon into a hub for Internet distribution to countries in the region, he said.

Once the studies related to the project are completed, a tender will be launched which will be implemented in partnership with other parties. Lebanon will pay part of the cost of the cable project and will later share in the revenues that it will generate from its operation.

Another cable project is scheduled to be launched this year. This new undersea cable will replace the ‘Cadmus’ cable which links Lebanon to Cyprus. The project will be executed in partnership with the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta).

Besides ‘Cadmos’, Lebanon is currently connected to the outside world by the submarine cable ‘Alexandros’ which links the country to France through Cyprus.

According to Choucair, the 4G mobile network now covers 85 percent of the Lebanese territory and will become available in the remaining areas in the coming months. He said that the MoT is working with international companies to test the 5G service and assess its potential efficiency. 

The MoT is deploying exceptional efforts to complete the fiber optic project within two years and as a result the fiber optics network will cover the entire country, Choucair said.

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News

Facebook confirms to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra.

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Facebook has finally confirmed its plans to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra. As the previous reports suggested, Libra won’t be controlled by Facebook alone. The cyptocurrency is being launched by Libra Association, a governing body (being established not-for-profit organization) that has 27 founding members to oversee Libra and its development. Facebook will be having one vote, just like the other members. Some of the founding members include Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Booking Holdings, Uber, Lyft, Vodafone, and Andreessen Horowitz.

Libra according to a statement by Libra Association will be built on a “secure, scalable, and reliable blockchain” and unlike Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (that have become speculative assets); Libra will be stable and be backed by a reserve of assets designed to give it intrinsic value. The reserve will include bank deposits and short-term government securities of different stable international currencies (that have been stable) including US Dollar, Euro, British Pound, and Japanese Yen

While the currency has been created by Facebook, the Libra Association, commercial firms, and dozens of financial, non-profit companies will be carrying out decisions regarding the ongoing maintenance of the Libra platform. Each of these companies has contributed a minimum of $10 million to the venture. The company now has more than $10 million to contribute towards the new currency. Some of the major players involved are PayPal, eBay, Mastercard, and Coinbase. Ride-hailing startups such as Uber and Lyft, non-profit financial organizations such as Women’s World Banking, humanitarian aid group Mercy Corps, and micro-loan platform Kiva are also joining the Libra Association.

As claimed by Facebook, the foundation will have its headquarters in Geneva and it will function as an independent entity and will not be tied to governments and the company. In a report outlining how the new cryptocurrency would function, Facebook commented that it aims to foster more access to “better, cheaper, and open financial services.” To prevent the level of volatility, which is a common feature of the digital currency sphere, Libra has been tied to a combination of global assets. Facebook has developed the Libra currency using its blockchain technology to scale a large number of users quickly.

In a traditional cryptocurrency setting, anyone with computer access was allowed to run and secure the network. But in the case of the Libra blockchain, the access will initially be restricted to a select group of people who will be able to run the software which powers it and verify transactions.

Facebook hopes to launch the Libra platform in 2020 with approximately 100 members of the Libra Foundation. After the launch of the Libra network, Facebook and its affiliates will have the same privileges, commitments, and financial obligations like any other Founding Member. Libra will make use of the same anti-fraud and verification processes used by banks and credit cards and will use automated systems to detect fraudulent activities. Facebook also promised refunds to users if the Libra blockchain is hacked or Libra currencies are stolen from their digital wallets.

If you want to learn more about Blockchain technology and wish to start a career, then check out our Blockchain certifications. Our certifications will help you understand the core concepts of Blockchain and help you master the subject.

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LEARN MORE CATEGORIESBLOCKCHAINTAGSBITCOINBLOCKCHAINSCOINBASECRYPTOCURRENCYDIGITAL WALLETEBAYFACEBOOKFACEBOOK NEWSLIBRALIBRA BLOCKCHAINLIBRA CRYPTOCURRENCYLIBRA CURRENCIESLIBRA CURRENCYLIBRA NETWORKLIBRA VS BITCOINMARK ZUCKERBERGMASTERCARDPAYPAL

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Ogero trials Nokia Fixed Access Network Slicing virtualization solution to enhance its wholesale capabilities

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June 4, 2019

Beirut, Lebanon – Nokia announces that Ogero, Lebanon’s fixed network services provider and engine for the Ministry of Telecommunication, is among the first operators globally to commercially trial its Fixed Access Network Slicing (FANS).  The solution helps to solve the long-lasting challenge of fixed infrastructure sharing and enables Ogero to create several discrete network slices over its existing Fiber-to-the-home network in a fully programmable way.   Once deployed, Ogero will be able to provide customers with a virtual slice that looks, feels and operates just like a physical network.  The solution leverages Nokia’s market leading software-defined access portfolio with its cloud-native software platform Altiplano and SDN programmable Lightspan FX OLTs.

Ogero provides all the telecom network infrastructure in Lebanon covering more than 12,000 KM of laid fiber optics cables reaching over one million subscribers.   The trial demonstrates how Ogero can use slicing to maximize the usage of its fiber access infrastructure and provide a virtual portion to Mobile Operators, Data Service Providers (DSPs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) challenged with building their own networks.  The solution ensures fair competition and facilitates equal opportunities in the market.  With Nokia’s FANS solution, Ogero can give a slice of its fixed access network to a virtual network operator (VNO) along with full control and autonomy of the portion allocated to them. The VNOs will also be able to establish individual performance metrics for the network and services they deliver to customers

Network slicing will change the competitive landscape in Lebanon by unleashing new FTTH business opportunities for the private sector and enabling service providers to compete for subscriber value.  No longer locked into a single provider, end users will be able to choose the broadband provider that can deliver the best ultra-broadband service to meet their needs.

Imad Kreidieh, Chairman and CEO of Ogero said: “As a pioneer in this field, Nokia was one of the only vendors capable of providing Ogero with a mature and secure software-defined access solution that could effectively meet our unique requirements and timelines.  The successful trial demonstrated the power of their solution and its ability to create several virtual autonomous slices that we can offer to customers.  With Nokia’s solution, we’ll be able to better monetize our existing network investments and give customers a platform that allows them to develop new strategies and create service offerings that benefit their end-users”

Sandra Motley, president of Nokia’s Fixed Networks Business Group, said: “Virtual network slicing will become an important part of the fixed access industry going forward.  Network slicing gives service providers the right capabilities to innovate while unlocking the full business potential of fiber-to-the-home markets. Software-defined access networks will play a key role in revolutionizing conventional network infrastructure management models; helping to simplify operations and deliver better, lower cost services than previously possible.”

Did You Know

  • Nokia was actively involved in the work that led to the publication of the TR-370 standard on Fixed Access Network Sharing (FANS) by the Broadband Forum and was involved in the specification of the YANG modules that are used to achieve FANS. The open framework is based on standardized approaches that help to keep rules, lead times and integration efforts to a minimum — a key piece to the foundation needed to build next-generation open access networks.

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About Nokia

We create the technology to connect the world. We develop and deliver the industry’s only end-to-end portfolio of network equipment, software, services and licensing that is available globally. Our customers include communications service providers whose combined networks support 6.1 billion subscriptions, as well as enterprises in the private and public sector that use our network portfolio to increase productivity and enrich lives.

Through our research teams, including the world-renowned Nokia Bell Labs, we are leading the world to adopt end-to-end 5G networks that are faster, more secure and capable of revolutionizing lives, economies and societies. Nokia adheres to the highest ethical business standards as we create technology with social purpose, quality and integrity.  www.nokia.com

Media Inquiries:

Nokia

Communications

Phone:+358 10 448 4900

Email:press.services@nokia.com

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