Young Muslim Businesswoman with hijab working with laptop and doing financial report.

How New Platforms Help Women to Rejoin Work After a Career Break in the United Arab Emirates

Young Muslim Businesswoman with hijab working with laptop and doing financial report.

Margy Mommertz completed her contract role as an HR Director in a company in October 2023 and wanted to seek greater job stability. “I wanted to find my way into a full-time career with security in a stable company, and not contract work,” she says.

The transition should have been a smooth one — she has, after all, worked in the region for more than two decades — but what followed was a difficult period where Mommertz was greeted with deafening silence when she relentlessly applied for jobs, even though she matched the job requirements. “You don’t get any feedback in this market from many recruiters, which is terrible. You think, ‘Oh my goodness, I have applied for 100 jobs. Am I that useless?’ No, you are not, but it demotivates you.”

She feels that she struggled to find a job partly because she is over the age of 50. “Ageism is rife in the UAE and I was finding it difficult to compete with 40-year-olds in the market even though I was experienced and qualified,” she adds.

A friend suggested that she get in touch with Niki Mapouras-Hyder who had started the platform NMH last year to help women rejoin the workforce after a career break. The two started working together in January this year — there were one-on-one coaching and mentoring sessions, workshops and conversations that went beyond just dispensing career advice and focused on personal development to help her regain her confidence. “She gave me tools to boost my confidence, update my skills and made sure that I was aligned with the market again,” recalls Margy. They also identified networking events that Margy could attend to meet the right people.

She finally found her dream job and started work about four weeks ago. “I am loving it because I am getting to collaborate with people — people with my values and ethics, in a great work environment. I thought I had lost the knack but no, I haven’t. I am doing incredibly well,” she smiles.

Such platforms help women to re-enter the workforce by equipping them with new-age skills (like, for instance, using artificial intelligence at work), upskilling, polishing their interviewing skills and revamping their resumes. “I wanted to create a community and platform for women who had taken a career gap for whatever reason, where they could also help each other out,” explains Niki Mapouras-Hyder. “Sometimes, you might not be looking at the right places, so we will sit down and have a roadmap for how you are going to find your way back into the corporate world — what job-hunting you have done so far, what are the blockers that are there, and whether you need to refresh your skills or upskill yourself.”

A new job platform for women

Rejoin was launched last month by co-founders Ayshwarya Chari and Shraddha Barot Amariei. Its website invites CVs from women who want to start a new innings at the workplace after a career break — the CVs are uploaded by the team after a review process to ensure that the candidate is “presented in the best way possible”.

Each candidate’s profile includes vital information, like reasons for a career break, educational qualifications, work experience and expected salary, and, according to Chari, they have more than 75 CVs on the website. Having led small businesses themselves, the co-founders hope that the platform would be a ‘perfect marriage’ between candidates who are on the lookout for flexible jobs, and companies, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which offer such jobs. “The big corporates have returnship programmes in place, while SMEs don’t, but they are not resistant to the idea of hiring such candidates,” points out Amariei.

Being moms and entrepreneurs themselves, the duo wants to ensure that women have an equitable workplace. “A woman who has been out of the workforce for two years finds it difficult to get back for a number of reasons — for starters, if you apply for a job online, the algorithm that is in place would, very often, not even let employers see these CVs. And over time, the population here has increased by over 24 per cent, so there is a lot of competition,” explains Chari.

Amariei, who’s even lost out on projects during her pregnancies, explains that the idea is also to normalise conversations about school pick-ups and sick children at the workplace. “We consult with clients who are, sometimes, very senior male professionals, and we openly say that we need to step out or can’t make it for a meeting because my little one has been unwell or there is a PTA meeting that we need to go to. Thankfully, we have seen good results because they realise that it’s not affecting our performance in any way. In fact, a woman, especially a mother, has very little time to waste — she will come in, get the job done and leave.”

They are now in the middle of hiring an HR consultant and recruiter to stay in touch with companies and candidates, and have plans to launch skill-based training programmes and coffee sessions with candidates at their office space. When we spoke, they were also gearing up for their first official event at Female Fusion on April 25 to raise awareness about their platform among potential candidates and small business owners and help them to connect. “We also have great support from the British Chamber of Commerce and we will be doing a networking plus coaching event with them in May,” says Amariei.

A Bootcamp for mothers

Kutubna Cultural Center in Dubai held the first session of their brand new programme called ‘Mothers/Work’ on April 23, for mothers who want to return to work. The ‘bootcamp’ includes four sessions that are spread across this month and next month, and mothers can drop their children at the in-house play area before attending these sessions. “The main goal is for women to learn how to have the career they want and how to present their applications more effectively so that they can get interviews and ultimately, jobs,” explains founder and director, Shatha Almutawa.

“We will be looking at job announcements, Linkedin profiles, CVs, cover letters, resumes, and we will do some practice interviews as well where the women can get to know each other and give feedback,” she says, adding that Eman Al Yousuf, who oversees hiring and volunteer programmes at the Emirates Literature Foundation, is expected to be there at the last session of the bootcamp. Six women attended the first session. “The women can also look forward to working very closely with me… I will be talking about how we choose candidates at the centre and why we picked them,” says Almutawa, adding that she will conduct such programmes in the future depending on the demand.

Organising such programmes was not the primary goal of the centre — in fact, Almutawa started the centre last year to highlight Khaleeji authors and literature, music, art and culture through its workshops and bookshop. As the mother of a toddler, she was excited about hiring other mothers at the centre. “But when I did the interviews, they would say, ‘I’ve never worked and I’ve only taken care of my children’ or ‘I have no experience and I don’t know anything about work’. But we develop so many skills while taking care of our children and we need to recognise that we can be valuable members of the team that we could join.”

As someone who is in a position to hire people, Almutawa explains that a gap in one’s CV never bothers her as long as candidates are able to demonstrate an ability and willingness to learn new things and pick up new skills. “They should be able to explain what they can offer, and also be clear about the kind of position they need — it’s a matter of presenting what you can do,” she adds.

Xpro India Limited to Set up its 1st Global Manufacturing Unit in Ras Al Khaimah with an Investment of Over AED 100 Million

Xpro India Limited, part of the Birla conglomerate and a producer of dielectric films used in capacitors, is establishing its first global manufacturing unit called Xpro Dielectric Films in Ras Al Khaimah. From being the first mover in dielectric film manufacture in India, this is a momentous step in the company’s strategy to expand its global footprint.

The greenfield project underway in Al Ghail Free Zone, Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ), represents an approximate initial investment of over AED 100 million and is expected to begin operations in the second quarter of 2025. The facility will produce 4,500 tons of dielectric films annually using state-of-the-art machinery. The investment will account for around 33% of the total capacity under Xpro’s umbrella, and create around 80  new jobs in the emirate.

Xpro’s Indian manufacturing facilities already meet about one-third of the domestic demand in India, and also export to western markets. The new facility will supply to markets in the USA, Europe, and the Far East, demonstrating Ras Al Khaimah and UAE’s robust international connectivity.

Xpro India Limited Chairman Sidharth Birla said “Our choice of Ras Al Khaimah for this expansion was significantly persuaded by its welcoming and forward-looking business climate, proximity to efficient transport hubs, and advanced infrastructure. We are optimistic about the long-term vision of our national leaders for multiplying economic and multi-faceted engagements between India and the UAE. The vision of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi for Ras Al Khaimah is pragmatic and dynamic, and based on a multi-faceted approach to economic diversification, sustainable development, and improving the quality of life for its people. It is extremely appealing. The UAE’s Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and its extensive network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are additional factors, allowing a unique opportunity to tap into new markets and expand our presence and market reach more effectively. We believe we have made an appropriate, informed choice for Ras Al Khaimah to shape our aspirations for a global position and recognition.”

Xpro India Limited Managing Director, and Xpro Dielectric Films Director, C. Bhaskar added, “Our choice of  Ras Al Khaimah also took into account positive feedback from existing companies in the emirate and our first-hand assessments. The ever-present support from the RAKEZ team from day one, and their quick responses and deep insight into business needs, has been vital in ensuring our smooth set-up.”

RAKEZ Group CEO Ramy Jallad said, “We, at RAKEZ, are delighted to welcome Xpro Dielectric Films to our thriving industrial community. The company’s decision to establish its manufacturing unit in Ras Al Khaimah highlights the strategic advantages our emirate offers global manufacturers. We are dedicated to providing a supportive business environment and comprehensive services that empower the success and growth of all our clients. We look forward to seeing the positive contributions Xpro will make to our dynamic business ecosystem.”

Cheerful remote worker calling on mobile creating project

Most Employees in the UAE Have a Second Job or Business, Expert Says

Cheerful remote worker calling on mobile creating project

In the UAE private sector, it is not uncommon for employees to have a side hustle. Recruitment experts said that it is important for employees and job-seekers to discuss this with potential employers during the interview process.

Kameron Hutchinson, recruitment director at Allsopp & Allsopp, advised job seekers to be upfront during interviews.

“You should research the employer you’re considering; if they have a strict policy that requires 100% of your time, that’s not the right employer for you,” Hutchinson told Khaleej Times.

Hutchinson noted that the key is to ensure that the full-time job remains the main focus.

“You should not be misleading during an interview. If you can give 100 per cent of what the employer requires and you have some time and energy left over to do something on the side, follow your passion and go for it,” he said.

When asked about how common it is for employers to have a second source of income in the UAE, Hutchinson noted that it is very common. He also noted that private sector policies are changing.

“It’s already happening — many corporates and firms are changing their policies to allow people to have something on the side other than their full-time job,” he said. “That’s why we love Dubai – you can do many things at once, you don’t have to be confined to one job.”

Hutchinson, a British expatriate, noted the mental difference between the UAE and his home country. “In the UK, the mentality is to have a 9-5 job, 30 days of annual leave and that’s it,” he said.

Hutchinson said that side hustles could include running an active social media brand that generates income from views or collaborations, without a full-time commitment.

“Some people need a full-time job to afford their passion on the side,” he explained.

Hutchinson also recommended building an effective relationship with your employer.

“If you show up to an interview and say ‘Hello, I want this job but I have a side hustle,’ the chances are that the employer won’t favour you,” he said.

“But if you have been giving your full performance, impressing the employer, and showing your true value, then you can have a discussion with them about it.”

Nicki Wilson, owner and managing director of Genie Recruitment, has noticed that having part-time jobs in addition to a full-time job is becoming more common, especially among younger Generation Z employees.

Wilson explains: “Especially Gen Z, they’re very interested in this. Most of them are very entrepreneurial. They like to advance their skills in different areas, and not be limited to one role.”

Wilson also called on employers to be open-minded.

“Employers who are ‘closed off’ to the idea of employees having side businesses or part-time work actually might be missing out on really great people.”

She believes that having a second job takes a lot of balance and organisational skills.

From Wilson’s perspective as a recruitment professional, this trend can be beneficial, as it allows employees to develop skills and contacts that complement their primary job.

She describes one of her employees who has a brownie business on the side. “This helps her stay connected to clients in the food and beverage industry that Genie Recruitment also serves,” she added

Wilson believes that as long as the second job does not significantly distract from the employee’s primary job duties, it can be a positive thing. Forward-thinking employers should accommodate, she added.

“If it’s not affecting your work and is not reducing your hours at your main job, that’s not a big problem,” Wilson said.

online shopping concept, businessman use smartphones and credit cards to purchase products from online stores and shop on the internet, ecommerce store, online business, convenience, competitive price

Payments Security: The Key to Winning Consumer Loyalty in MENA

online shopping concept, businessman use smartphones and credit cards to purchase products from online stores and shop on the internet, ecommerce store, online business, convenience, competitive price

The adoption of digital commerce in MENA has skyrocketed over the past few years. Countries that were once deeply attached to cash and physical transactions have shot to digital maturity in just a few years. According to Checkout.com’s 4th annual MENA e-commerce report, The State of Digital Commerce in MENA 2024, 91% of the region’s consumers have reported shopping e-commerce in the past two years. The number of people who shop online in MENA at least once per day has grown by 80% since 2020, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia leading the way with a staggering 90% increase.  

In response to evolving consumer demands, merchants across MENA are embarking on ambitious digitization journeys and adopting innovative payment strategies. As digital commerce moves beyond the early-adoption phase, the focus is shifting toward fine tuning performance. In doing so, strengthening payment security has become a top priority.

As innovation stimulates advancements in the payment industry, fraudsters don’t rest on laurels, further sophisticating their own scam methods and tricks. Furthermore, the very aspects of e-commerce that make it an enticing prospect for consumers – speed, convenience, and anonymity – also work in cybercriminals’ favor. Because the e-commerce ecosystem includes multiple stakeholders, the retailer, the customer, the processor, and the networks, fraudsters have multiple potential access points that they can exploit.

According to Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, General Manager – MENA at Checkout.com, ecommerce fraud can take many forms, such as criminals using stolen credit card numbers to make purchases, transaction replays, and chargeback fraud. The diverse and complex nature of e-commerce fraud emphasizes the importance of vigilance and secure practices merchants must adopt to avoid such incidents.  

But it’s not just the initial financial loss that merchants need to be concerned about. Falling prey to ecommerce fraud can damage customer trust and the company’s reputation. Alarmingly, 33% of MENA consumers say they have been a victim of payments fraud. According to The State of Digital Commerce in MENA 2024 report, safe and secure checkout is now a priority for 39% of MENA consumers. In contrast, in 2020, survey respondents placed the highest value on speedy delivery.

Furthermore, up to 30% of shoppers have said a single falsely declined payment- when a payment is declined despite the payee having sufficient funds in the account, would lead them to shop from a competitor’s website. With the cost of customer acquisition for e-commerce merchants having increased, a rise in falsely declined payments adds insult to injury. This makes high-performing acceptance solutions a matter of huge competitive importance in MENA.

To this point, it’s important to mention that the region also continues to see a relatively high number of false declined payments. According to Checkout.com’s latest report, 23% of respondents experienced a falsely declined payment in recent months. In today’s fast-paced digital economy, consumers are also less patient, less loyal, and more savvy than before.

Shoppers want to know their payment is being handled by a safe and reliable partner. The good news for merchants is that fortifying payments security is a much simpler task than dealing with widespread data breaches.

In this context, Abbondandolo outlines effective strategies that merchants in MENA can adopt to minimize payment fraud and false declines, thereby enhancing consumer trust and loyalty.

Choose a trusted partner

Partnering with a regulated payments service provider (PSP) that offers acquiring capabilities, advanced technology support, and comprehensive regional regulatory expertise can significantly bolster a business’s security measures against fraud. Regulated PSPs provide acceptance solutions that enhance payment processes through optimized messaging, routing, and retries, ensuring robust security and seamless transactions throughout. Furthermore, because fraudsters have no boundaries, partnering with a regulated global PSPs with local experience offers advanced technology solutions that include real-time fraud detection systems that are trained on detecting the most advanced global fraud scams and techniques. By analyzing transactional data in milliseconds, identifying suspicious patterns and behaviors that may indicate fraudulent activity.

By partnering with a regulated PSP that offers acquiring capabilities and advanced technology support, businesses can benefit from a holistic approach to fraud prevention and payment security.

Harness the power of embedded AI

Regional merchants are increasingly safeguarding their businesses from fraud by leveraging a combination of tools and machine learning. Advanced payment technology empower merchants to seamlessly integrate fraud detection solutions into their platforms, without requiring additional set up. Meanwhile, AI is now trained on billions of global transactions, with merchants benefitting from a global network effect that allows them to analyze vast amounts of data to detect patterns, anomalies and emerging fraud like never before.

Minimizing fraud and improving performance in payment processing are closely intertwined goals that can significantly impact a business’s bottom line and customer satisfaction. When a business effectively reduces fraud, it tends to experience several concurrent benefits that contribute to overall performance enhancement.

Our merchants in the region have been benefiting from a whole new level of payment performance with Intelligent Acceptance. This product combines advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, vast network data, and deep payment expertise to increase conversion and unlock untapped revenue. We have already recovered $1.1 billion of revenue, and increased acceptance rates on average by 2% for globally.

Make data work for you

Research conducted by Checkout.com alongside Oxford Economics found that $50.7 billion was lost due to false declines in recent years. Large data sets can empower merchants to track and respond to customer payment trends with laser accuracy in real-time. Here we have seen the great benefit from Intelligent Acceptance that draws on insights from these data sets to deliver a whole new level of payment performance, increasing conversion and unlocking untapped revenue, as well as Network Tokens that have helped our merchants achieve higher authorization rates, reduced fraud and allow businesses to offer an improved customer experience, while keeping customers data

Looking ahead, half of all shoppers in MENA anticipate an increase in their online spending over the next 12 months. Abbondandolo believes that MENA merchants still have significant untapped opportunity to combat fraud, reduce false declines and their overall payments costs, while increasing their revenue. As consumers increasingly embrace digital shopping and payments, optimizing every aspect of the ecommerce experience remains crucial for merchants to capitalize on this growing trend.

Saudi Arabia, Modern, international, Urban skyline and modern architecture

How Saudi Infrastructure Development Can Match the Tourism Boom

Saudi Arabia, Modern, international, Urban skyline and modern architecture

Whilst the pace of transformation in Saudi is evident, the tourism boom has upped the ante on the need for speed in developing giga projects and tourism destinations in Saudi

With Saudi Arabia setting a new goal to attract 150 million visitors over the next six years, having achieved ahead of schedule the target of ‘100 million visitors by 2030’, there is a need to increase the pace of developing giga projects and tourism destinations in the kingdom, a top official of Serco Middle East, has said.

The kingdom’s tourism sector is accelerating, and the announcement of major events like the Riyadh Expo 2030 and the bid to host the FIFA 2034 World Cup are just some of the examples that underscore how seriously Saudi is taking its commitment to opening its doors to international visitors, said Daniel MacGregor, Chief Growth Officer, Serco Middle East.

Serco provides services in areas of asset management, facilities maintenance and operations as well as core operational services such as security, cleaning, pest control and waste management.

The crux of the work that needs to be done is being ready for international tourists coming from new markets, with varied backgrounds and en masse to such events, must be completed ahead of the events themselves, said MacGregor.

MacGregor says why there is an urgent need for Saudi to accelerate the pace of infrastructure development, and how to cater for the tourism boom that lies ahead.

Preparations will need to include, for example, transformations to the airport infrastructure, which will function as the ‘shop window’ as it were, working as the gateway and delivering a vital first impression to millions of people as they first enter the country.

Whilst the pace of transformation in Saudi is evident, the tourism boom has upped the ante on the need for speed in developing giga projects and tourism destinations in Saudi.

The good news is that these areas, while set to cater to a diverse set of tourists needs – be that sport, entertainment or cultural experiences, also have their own distinct contributions to make to the kingdom’s economy and society.

NEOM, promises to be a hub for innovation; the Red Sea Development project is expected to contribute significantly to the kingdom’s GDP, creating thousands of jobs, and positioning Saudi Arabia as a top-tier sustainable travel destination.

Whilst the creation of King Salman Park highlights the 360-view that Saudi is taking towards its Vision 2030 progress, there needs to be a focus on creating green liveable spaces that contribute to the overall happiness of those who both live in Saudi and of course those who pass through as visitors.

To accelerate progress, the collaboration between the public and private sectors is vital. The government’s commitment to forging these partnerships is evident enough through the substantial investments and regulatory reforms that are being implemented, which are designed to facilitate business operations.

These collaborations are essential for injecting innovation, efficiency, and both global and local expertise into the tourism sector, ensuring that the developments are not only world-class but also sustainable and economically viable.

By working hand in hand, business has a major role to play in supporting the government to not only achieve their already ambitious tourism targets, but they can help the government set up Saudi for long-term future success on the tourism stage.

These developments are backed by reports from the Ministry of Interior at the recent UK Saudi Sustainable Infrastructure Summit that the kingdom is ‘more than halfway through’ the delivery of Vision 2030, with statements indicating that it is ‘ahead of schedule in all aspects of implementation.’  

Woman, grocery shopping and fruits choice, discount and sale or wholesale promotion for healthy food and basket. African customer in convenience store or supermarket

How South African Retailers Can Capitalise on the Cold Season

Woman, grocery shopping and fruits choice, discount and sale or wholesale promotion for healthy food and basket. African customer in convenience store or supermarket

For many retailers, winter is one of the weakest periods for retail trading in South Africa, however, a big data analysis commission by Capital Connect shows that retail sales tend to pick up in winter after the quiet autumn months.

Research conducted by the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) finds that retailers can profit by stocking up on pharmaceutical goods, winter clothing and certain foods and beverages.

This analysis breaks down performance of retail subsectors for winter 2024 as follows:


General dealers historically see a rise in winter sales compared to earlier parts of the year. They benefit from customers buying hot beverages like coffee, tea and hot chocolate; vegetables and meats for soups, stews and other hearty meals; clothing items like sleepwear, winter wear and warm children’s clothes; blankets and fleeces; cold and flu medicines and over-the-counter treatments; vitamins and immune boosters; and certain small appliances like heaters and toasters.


Food, beverage and tobacco specialised stores also generally experience some growth in the winter months compared to the first quarter of the year. Like general dealers, they benefit from sales of ingredients for hot beverages and nutritious, affordable winter meals.


Pharmaceutical, medical goods, cosmetics and toiletries dealers profit from the cold and flu season. Products that sell well include prescription medicines, cold and flu medicines, throat lozenges, skin creams and lotions, moisturisers, cough syrup, pain relievers, nasal spray, immune system boosters, clinic services and hair dryers.


Textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods dealers tend to underperform in winter months compared to other times of the year. Sales tend to pick up for thick socks, winter boots, hoodies, jerseys, sweatshirts, tick cloth trousers, long sleeve shirts, slippers, warm sleepwear, as well as ladies and children’s winter clothing. However, local retailers are losing out on sales to international brands.


Household furniture, appliances and equipment dealers experience little growth in the winter months compared to the first quarter of the year. But there are opportunities to drive sales of heaters, carpets, cookers, ovens, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, small kitchen appliances, toasters, grills, roasters and coffee machines.


Hardware, paint and glass dealers generally experience low growth in the winter months. The only products that are standing out as strong winter sellers are firewood, heaters, grillers and some DIY products.

Steven Heilbron, CEO of Capital Connect, says that retailers that want to grow and thrive need to maximise their opportunities during every season, even those that are traditionally quieter trading periods.

But to win market share at a time of the year when there aren’t many big holidays and when people are staying indoors, they’ll need to be innovative to move the needle.

Creative promotions and strategic stock purchases can give retailers an edge during winter.

Some ideas they can consider include:


Host winter-themed events such as cooking classes for winter recipes or wine tastings featuring robust red wines to boost sales within the supermarket and liquor verticals.

Develop winter-themed promotions with attractive deals on seasonal essentials like winter woollies and soup mixes.

Create bundles such as soup ingredients or flu-fighting kits to increase basket sizes.

Offer a warm refuge and create an enticing space for customers to linger by offering soups, hot chocolate and a fire or heater in your coffee shop or bistro.

Hands of two african individuals doing financial transaction with a point of sales POS terminal as Cash, Naira, Money or currency is exchanging hands

Why the Promise of a Cashless Society is Key to Unlocking the Nigerian Commerce Growth Opportunity

Hands of two african individuals doing financial transaction with a point of sales POS terminal as Cash, Naira, Money or currency is exchanging hands

By Justin Floyd, CEO of Redcloud


Under the current Nigerian Government policy, weekly cash withdrawals are limited to ₦500,000 (approx. $1,100) for individuals and ₦5,000,000 (approx. $11,000) for corporations.

Cash is a uniquely expensive and inconvenient way to do business. However, shifting to a world of cashless payments is easier said than done, as many policymakers have discovered to their cost. The Nigerian Government is taking unprecedented steps to reduce the economic reliance on cash and promote digitally-driven commerce. Will its gamble pay off?

Along with Sweden and India, Nigeria has moved ahead of other countries in its efforts to reduce the reliance on cash to make commerce flow and drive economic growth. Most notably, in late 2022, the Government announced a cap on weekly cash withdrawals for both individuals and corporations, with punitive fees levied for those straying above the limits.

Since then, it has also announced a new domestic card scheme to rival foreign cards like Mastercard and Visa and further encourage digital payments. Of course, the perceived rush to change business and consumer behaviour has met with understandable resistance in some quarters. Cash reserves of the country’s newly redesigned paper currency have run low, while the traditional banking infrastructure has come under strain, resulting in markedly slower settlement times. Despite the growing domestic concerns, however, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has largely resisted efforts to slow down the pace of its economic transformation.

Why over-reliance on cash is a barrier to growth

Cash may have been around since the time of the Mesopotamian shekel over 5000 years ago, but its utility is dwindling for the modern economy. Compared to many digital payment solutions, cash is slow, cumbersome and unreliable. A reliance on cash remains a major barrier to growth in ambitious, high-potential markets like Nigeria: it makes volume business difficult, and cross-border, open commerce impossible. It prevents the accumulation of working capital to facilitate growth. It also comes with significant risks – everything from robbery to fire and flood.

Most pertinently, it is typically the smaller retailers and merchants who carry the steepest cost for being forced to trade in cash. Cash needs complex reconciliation by hand; transactions are slow and insecure, while capital is tied up rather than being used productively.

No wonder policymakers are pushing for digital payments – particularly given that microbusinesses and entrepreneurs present such a huge untapped growth opportunity for the domestic economy.

The latest in a series of cashless interventions

Under the current Nigerian Government policy, weekly cash withdrawals are limited to ₦500,000 (approx. $1,100) for individuals and ₦5,000,000 (approx. $11,000) for corporations. Individuals that breach these limits must pay a fee of 3%, with a 5% fee levied on corporations. The CBN has also limited daily withdrawals, part of a broader suite of measures dating back to 2012 designed to promote the domestic use of digital payments –in particular, the adoption of the country’s digital currency, the eNaira, but also internet banking, mobile banking apps and cards.

The Nigerian authorities have made their rationale clear – embracing digital payments boosts growth, reduces corruption, promotes financial inclusion and facilitates remittances. At the launch of the project, the CBN explained that, “An efficient and modern payment system is positively correlated with economic development, and is a key enabler for economic growth.”

The B2B distribution problem

However, despite undeniable progress, there continues to be an over-reliance of cash across the B2B retail distribution chain in Nigeria. There are a number of reasons: some large brands are reluctant to change a model that has worked well for them and kept out smaller challengers, while some of the bigger distributors have no incentive to change a system that allows them to control the relationship between brands and merchants – and charge fat margins to do so.

Unfortunately, this reliance on cash doesn’t work well for merchants, for consumers, or for all of the many brands and distributors who want to compete on a level playing field – an ‘open commerce’ system. Cash-based distribution invariably limits choice and pushes up prices. It makes accurate sales data and customer insights harder to come by, limiting the efficacy of local markets in matching supply with demand.

Even where brands have attempted to move away from using cash across their Nigerian distribution operations, they’ve done so by building proprietary, closed-garden digital ecosystems – creating a single online home for buying their products, but not for buying anyone else’s. This approach misunderstands how retailers and distributors want to operate. They’re already dealing with multiple brands every week and so if they’re going to be incentivised away from continuing to use cash, it has to be with the promise of a fundamentally better digital solution – for example, an open commerce marketplace where they can buy a wider range of products to suit their local customers’ needs.

Delivering value throughout the distribution chain

Digital payments present a clear pathway to growth for small Nigerian retailers and merchants. They provide far better visibility on all retail transactions, allowing for better stock management, they create verifiable trading data that can improve a merchant’s ability to access working capital via banks and financial services providers and, of course, they offer immediate reconciliation.

What’s more, allowing local retailers and merchants to go cashless has a significant positive effect throughout the distribution chain, allowing brands and their distributors far greater transparency into what is selling, where there may be untapped demand, how to price goods more effectively, and more besides. This is open commerce in action.

And with some open commerce platforms, it’s even possible to trade digitally without any reliance on the traditional banking establishment, with retailers uploading their existing cash at local collection points, giving them the digital currency they need to keep on purchasing without any delays in settlement time.

If the Nigerian Government gets its way, the distribution chain will be forced to digitise over the next few years. Alongside this, what’s needed now is greater market education, nudging progressive brands, distributors and retailers towards open commerce technologies rather than locking themselves into digital versions of their current, constraining relationships. AfricaBusiness.com.

Hidden GEMs: Africa’s Frontier Markets Have Further to Run

African economies have rebounded in recent months. A combination of developments underpins this shift in fortunes. Key among these, ongoing fiscal and FX market reforms in the region’s economies – as policymakers have risen to the challenges posed by constrained debt market access.

Thys Louw, Emerging Market Fixed Income Portfolio Manager, Ninety One: “In the likes of Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, and Côte d’Ivoire, we’ve seen significant reforms. Although Africa is not out of the woods given the balance-sheet pain inflicted by several crises over the past few years, it’s firmly on the road to recovery, with debt balances currently seeing the most pronounced deleveraging since the early 2000’s.”

Economies across the African continent continue to attract bi-and multilateral support, and markets that had been most worrisome for investors – those seemingly stuck amid debt restructuring disagreements between creditors – have made significant progress in resolving these issues. Examples here include Ghana: authorities and official creditors have agreed a memorandum of understanding on the external debt restructuring, paving the way for the Eurobond restructuring to be finalised. Meanwhile in Zambia, bondholders accepted a proposed deal to swap three current bonds into two new longer-maturity bonds (issued on 11 June) – the country has exited default status and earned an upgrade to its outlook to stable (by Moody’s).

External fund flows have returned

Although the ‘higher-for-longer’ interest rates backdrop means external flows into the region’s debt markets are somewhat below what we anticipated at start of year, the picture remains encouraging. In January, Côte d’Ivoire issued US$2.6 billion of new debt in the primary market, with the issuance of two Eurobonds oversubscribed. In February, Benin issued US$750 million, which was closely followed by Kenya issuing US$3 billion of new debt – half in local currency and half in US dollars. Both country’s issuances were well received, with strong foreign participation in the Kenya local auction. More recently, Senegal issued a US$750 million US dollar bond by private placement, highlighting the confidence in its emerging oil and gas economy under new leadership. It is clear that global asset allocators are reembracing the opportunity set.

Hard currency markets have rebounded

The improved appetite for risk has provided a particularly strong boost to African high-yield hard currency debt markets, as reflected in double-digit returns from some previously distressed markets, such as Zambia and Ghana, returning 23% and 17% respectively year to date, as of end May 2024. Egypt has also been an outperformer in Africa hard currency, returning over 23% over the same period. Egypt has been a favoured name among investors in Africa; after the significant rally, returns on the country’s hard currency debt are likely to be driven more by (still high) carry than further spread compression. That said, Egypt should still benefit from tailwinds if it stays the course and sees through reforms. Similarly, in other African hard currency debt markets, the large risk premia that was apparent at the start of the year in the more idiosyncratic reform-driven stories has diminished somewhat. However, pockets of value and attractive carry can still be found in the likes of Kenya and Nigeria, as well as in Ghana where we expect returns to be boosted when restructuring is finalised. Additionally, values remains in euro-denominated debt issued by some West African countries; these include Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin, where in each case, we expect positive credit-rating dynamics.

Local market opportunities to watch

While frontier credit has rallied, frontier local currency debt is still compelling.

Louw continues: “Better external and domestic conditions, combined with very high nominal yields and cheap currency valuations, are likely to support larger pockets of African local debt.”

Furthermore, local currency frontier market exposure can provide useful portfolio benefits, including significant diversification from its relatively low correlation to the broader emerging market debt universe and to US rates. This is a particularly valuable in the context of heightened election-related uncertainty facing investors over the coming months.

Additionally, there is some interesting alpha capture potential in this highly diverse investment universe. For example, the Egyptian pound- where the recent devaluation has created attractive valuations, with the country’s improving external balances likely to provide further support. Elsewhere, the recent sell-off in the Nigerian naira seems too aggressive, and with the central bank moving in right direction implementing rate hikes to tackle inflation, the currency looks compelling. In the local rates market, it is worthwhile looking at Kenya, where real (inflation-adjusted) yields are attractive, and the Kenyan shilling also seems well placed due to the fiscal and monetary tightening seen by policymakers.

In contrast, we are increasingly cautious on Uganda’s debt, given a deteriorating fiscal and external outlook, combined with an overvalued exchange rate. We are also wary of hard currency issuers such as Cameroon and Ethiopia; despite “cheap valuations” we have concerns around authorities’ commitment to reform and lingering socio-political risks.

Louw concludes: “Impressive policymaking in the face of adversity is paying off in many African economies. That has fed through into a significant recovery in this important component of the frontier-market opportunity set. A selective approach to investing will always be key in this complex and diverse investment universe, but this is a story that has further to run, especially in the local currency segment.

Maritime Officer Piloting Vessel with Advanced Radar

Why Nigeria’s Maritime Surveillance Systems Need To Deepen Integration

Maritime Officer Piloting Vessel with Advanced Radar

Nigeria will benefit much more if all agencies of government can synergise seamlessly

The Nigerian maritime sector has different surveillance systems that monitor activities in order to checkmate illegal operations and enhance security. In this report, TOLA ADENUBI looks at why the two major platforms, C4i and Falcon Eye, need to deepen collaboration.

With the level of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and the Nigerian waters in the recent past, the need to monitor activities within the maritime domain led to the launch of satellite surveillance systems by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy.

While the sector has benefitted immensely from the launch of the two satellite surveillance systems, the absence of collaboration between these two surveillance systems has led to gaps in the recent past and calls for deeper integration.

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NIMASA surveillance system

The surveillance system being operated by NIMASA is called the NIMASA Command Control Computer Communication Information System, otherwise referred to as C4i System.

The NIMASA C4i centre, with manpower composition from all security services in Nigeria, is the central nerve for the Deep Blue Project with the use of modern technology to achieve security information sharing real time amongst all the Deep Blue assets which include special mission vessels, helicopters, aircraft, fast intervention vessels and specially purpose-built armoured vehicles.

The C4i is the central nerve serving as the base for situational intelligence gathering, synchronising situational security reports on land, air and the maritime domain in Nigeria and analysing the same in real time for the Deep Blue Project.

Navy surveillance system

The Nigerian Navy surveillance system is called the Falcon Eye System. The Falcon Eye system is a state-of-the-art surveillance facility that incorporates various sensors located along the nation’s enormous coastline, such as radars, long range electro optic systems with thermal or night vision capability, automatic identification system receivers, weather stations and marine very high frequency (VHF) radios for communication.

The integration of these sensors into the Falcon Eye system generates a real-time situational awareness of the activities of vessels in Nigerian maritime domain and some selected parts in the Gulf of Guinea.

Call for collaboration

There have been calls in the recent past for the two surveillance system to collaborate and not work at cross-purposes, with the Minister of State for Defence, Honourable Bello Matawalle, highlighting this recently during his tour of the C4i System in Lagos.

During his visit, Matawalle stated that the Federal Government is committed to deepening the integration of the operations of the NIMASA C4i system and the Falcon Eye system for optimal security of the Nigerian maritime space.

Matawalle said Nigeria will benefit much more if all agencies of government can synergise seamlessly and improve information sharing among one another for the benefit of the country. He called for enhanced synergy between the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA, especially with the C4i system and the Falcon Eye, which are platforms that will massively complement each other.

He said, “I am delighted at what I have seen at NIMASA C4i centre and our goal is to see how it can be integrated with the Falcon Eye of the Nigeria Navy because all we need is to secure our maritime domain, therefore, the Navy and NIMASA must work together to create the desired maritime environment for a prosperous maritime economy.

“We want them to work together and to be integrated so that they will be communicating with each other. If the Falcon Eye and C4i are communicating effectively, our maritime space will be devoid of security challenges and this will boost the courage of both local and foreign investors in the sector.”

In his remarks, Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Dayo Mobereola, expressed delight at the minister’s visit, stating that effective synchronisation of the NIMASA C4i and the Falcon Eye of the Nigerian Navy will add to the strides of the Federal Government in reaping the benefits of the blue economy.

The NIMASA DG, who was represented by the agency’s Executive Director, Operations, Engr. Fatai Adeyemi, said improved information sharing between NIMASA and Navy will enhance capability of the security agencies in curbing maritime crimes in Nigerian waters.

“We are glad to receive the Minister of State, Defence at NIMASA C4i today. This is simply a show of commitment of this administration to effective collaboration amongst all organs of government to achieve a common goal and in this instance, maritime security.

“You heard what the minister said about integrating the C4i with the Falcon Eye. I believe that is a step in the right direction. And I am sure by the time that this is done, it is going to give us a more secure marine environment,” he said.

‘Working in isolation creates security lapses, spurs rivalry’

The C4i and the Falcon Eye have mostly operated independent of each other since inception, with both systems sometimes not sharing information with each other, which often leads to security gaps within the nation’s maritime space.

“It is important that the Falcon Eye and the C4i talk to each other every minute. If this is happening, then Nigeria’s maritime space will be better secure. The era where both systems operate independently of each other is not good for the country because this often leads to hoarding of information from each other.

“When both systems are not in sync, they tend to want to start competing with each other and this is not good for our maritime space. We need both systems not to see each other as rivals but as one body working for the same purpose.

“Criminals are always out to exploit gaps in security operations to carry out their nefarious activities. When both systems hoard intelligence because they want to outwit each other, then it gives room for criminals to perpetrate their evil deeds.

“If both surveillance systems start communicating, the improvement in maritime security that Nigeria has recorded in recent past will further increase and the nation will be the beneficiary of such collaboration. It will even cost the nation less to monitor her maritime space when both systems are communicating,” a maritime security expert and former Senior Special Assistant on Maritime Affairs to the Presidency, Mr Gbenga Leke Oyewole, told the Nigerian Tribune.

Commercial jet plane flying above Dubai city

UAE Committed to Reducing Carbon Emissions in Aviation Sector

Commercial jet plane flying above Dubai city

In the path of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, sustainable aviation fuel and alternative fuels have risen to prominence as central topics in discussions, meetings, and international conferences concerning the future of the aviation industry.

Recognised as key solutions for reducing carbon emissions in the sector, it has garnered significant attention and debate.

The 80th Annual General Meeting (AGM) & World Air Transport Summit 2024, hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai last week, addressed ways to promote, accelerate, and incentivize the global increase in sustainable aviation fuel production.

Estimates by IATA suggest that the anticipated traffic of the industry in 2050 would likely generate 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon emissions if fueled by traditional jet kerosene. To achieve net-zero emissions, it is projected that 65 percent of the total emissions reductions will need to be accomplished using Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF. This would equate to more than 360 million tonness (450 billion liters) of SAF annually by 2050, sourced from every available sustainable feedstock.

During its participation in the AGM, the General Civil Aviation Authority ((GCAA) affirmed the UAE’s commitment to supporting international cooperation efforts in this field to ensure tangible progress.

Maryam Ali AlBalooshi, Environment Manager at GCAA and Vice Chair of the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), explained that alternative aviation fuel has become a key priority on the government agenda of the UAE. She noted that the country has taken several serious and deliberate steps to develop an enabling environment for the production of clean, sustainable, and low-carbon fuels for aviation.

The UAE is keen on adopting and supporting all initiatives that serve this direction internationally, believing that international cooperation is essential to achieve a real turning point in the production and operation curve of the civil aviation sector globally.

In this context, Al Balooshi elaborated on the UAE’s adoption of the Sustainable Aviation Market (SAM 2025) initiative, which the country plans to organise next year in conjunction with hosting the 4th ICAO Global Implementation Support Symposium in 2025. This market will function as a pivotal accelerator for increasing global production of sustainable aviation fuel and low-carbon fuels. Its primary objective is to provide an environmental platform facilitating communication among project developers, funders, banks, small and medium-sized enterprises, and other stakeholders.

According to figures published on the ICAO website, international efforts to enhance the production of SAF are making continuous progress, as shown in the data below:

  • 122 airports distributing SAF
  • 53 billion litres under offtake agreements
  • 313 Announced Facilities for SAF and LCAF
  • 42 feedstocks recognized under ICAO CORSIA
  • 23 Stakeholder Action Groups
Orange Engage for Change

Orange Middle East and Africa Strengthens its Social and Environmental Commitment by Involving its Employees Through the Engage for Change Program

Orange Engage for Change

For several years now, Orange Middle East and Africa (OMEA) (www.Orange.com) has been taking concrete action to reduce its environmental impact. Today, it is employees who are taking over by getting directly involved in various ecological initiatives on International Environment Day, as part of the new Orange Engage for Change program.

OMEA and its employees are reaffirming their ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) by launching the Orange Engage for Change platform. This initiative aims to have a positive impact on society and the environment, while strengthening team cohesion.

A collective commitment for a lasting impact

Climatic events, societal upheavals and changing work patterns have created a pressing need for reference points and meaning among citizens, and our employees are no exception. We firmly believe that employee engagement is an essential key to meeting these challenges. The Orange Engage for Change program enables each employee to devote three working days a year to projects with a societal impact.

A platform to mobilize and inspire

Orange Engage for Change is a web platform that provides a space for discovering, sharing and getting involved in societal projects. It is accessible to all Orange Group employees to volunteer, and to the general public for a better understanding of our commitments. This multi-country initiative draws on the programs of the Orange Foundation and the Orange Digital Centers network, offering a structured framework, a solid infrastructure and varied opportunities to support and develop volunteer actions with our committed employees.

Concrete actions for real impact

The platform offers environmental and social initiatives, solidly backed by the active commitment of our employees. Throughout the day on June 5, a number of local initiatives are being organized across our region to demonstrate the concrete impact of this platform. In Mali, for example, a team of 200 Orange employee volunteers is taking part in the reforestation of an urban park dedicated to children by planting 1,000 trees, while in Côte d’Ivoire, 43 kilometers from Abidjan, 30 hectares in the Azaguié forest will be reforested thanks to 150 employees. These examples symbolize Orange’s commitment to supporting local projects that strengthen social ties and protect the environment.

Jérôme Hénique, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa: “The launch of Orange Engage for Change symbolizes our deep commitment to corporate social responsibility. By empowering our employees to get directly involved in positive impact projects, we are contributing to the sustainable development of communities in the countries where we operate.”

Asma Ennaifer, Executive Director of CSR and Communications at Orange Middle East and Africa and Secretary General of the Orange Digital Center Foundation adds: “This platform is a powerful tool for uniting our teams around shared values. Every initiative, every action taken by our employees demonstrates our collective ability to bring about significant change. We’re proud to see this commitment come to fruition and to witness the positive impact it generates.”

With Orange Engage for Change, Orange gets closer to people by investing in and actively supporting local initiatives in favor of inclusion and the environment.

To find out more about the Orange Engage for Change platform and the social projects deployed by the Orange Group, log on to EngageForChange.Orange.com. Discover the testimonials of beneficiaries and employee volunteers, and join us in this social adventure.

Modern buildings in Saudi Arabia and important landmarks

127 Firms Move Regional HQs to Saudi Arabia in 1Q 2024, Recording a Giant Leap of 477%

Modern buildings in Saudi Arabia and important landmarks

As many as 127 international companies have relocated their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia during the first quarter of 2024. These figures showed a giant leap of 477 percent compared to the same period in 2023. This confirms that the local market continues to attract these headquarters looking for most attractive and favorable investment environment in the Kingdom.

The efforts of the Saudi Ministry of Investment focused on providing a safe and more competitive investment environment, and working to develop investment systems and procedures with its partners from government agencies, in order to complement the legislative and regulatory structure, as legislation plays a decisive role in enhancing the environment and attracting capital to the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia initiated new tax incentives for multinational companies for moving their regional headquarters that aim to determine the provisions related to the tax incentives granted. These include a 30-year exemption on corporate income tax and withholding tax related to headquarters activities, alongside exclusive discounts and comprehensive support services such as relocation, concierge, facilitation, and professional advice. This initiative marks a pivotal shift in Riyadh’s global economic role, reinforcing Saudi Arabia’s vision to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

According to a recent report issued by the Ministry of Investment, it was able to address 34 of the challenges facing investors, whether legislative or procedural, an increase of 89 percent, compared to the first quarter of last year. It also dealt with 445 applications for an investor visit visa, which is granted to investors from outside the Kingdom to enable them to visit the country and explore investment opportunities there.

The ministry has provided more than 58,000 services through its electronic platform, an increase of 29 percent over the same period in 2023, while the provision of advisory services through comprehensive service centers increased to represent 40 percent of the total services provided.

The Saudi market witnessed the completion of 64 investment deals in the first quarter of this year, of which innovation and entrepreneurship accounted for the largest share in terms of number due to investors’ interest in this activity with about 34 deals, followed by sports with approximately 12 deals. The United States ranked first in terms of closed deals, with about 11 deals while the United Kingdom came second with about 5, and it was followed by the UAE and Singapore with 3 deals each, and the rest were distributed among 6 other countries.

The ministry issued 3,157 licenses in the first quarter of 2024, an increase of 93 percent compared to 1,637 licenses in the same period of the previous year after excluding licenses issued under the campaign to rectify the status of violators of the Anti-Commercial Concealment Law, while the total investment licenses issued reached 3,197 licenses in this period.

In general, most of the investment licenses issued were concentrated in construction activity, manufacturing industries, professional, educational and technical activities, information and communications, accommodation and food services and activities, wholesale and retail trade, and vehicle repair, and the number of licenses issued in these activities constitutes about 81.8 percent of the total.

Real estate activity has the highest growth in investment licenses issued during the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period last year, with a growth rate of 253.3 percent, followed by professional, educational, and technical activities, agriculture, forestry, and fishing, at 141.5 percent and 129.4 percent respectively.

Given the legal status of the companies that issued investment licenses in the first quarter, the number of licenses for single-person limited liability companies reached approximately 2,112 licenses. Limited liability companies recorded 754 licenses, while the rest of the 331 licenses were distributed among other types of companies.

Egypt was the topper in terms of the number of investment licenses issued with 950 licenses, followed by Yemen with 346, then India with 321 licenses, while Syria and Pakistan came in fourth and fifth place with 180 and 159 licenses respectively.

The report revealed that foreign direct investment flows into the Kingdom increased by 32.2 percent on an annual basis in the fourth quarter of last year, while the balance of foreign direct investment in this period witnessed a growth of 1.7 percent. According to the report, the Kingdom achieved advanced positions in a number of international indicators for the years 2023 and 2024, as it ranked first in both the indicators of total venture investment and the index of confidence in the government, as well as the consumer confidence index for investment. It ranked second in both the Consumer Confidence Index and the Global Competitiveness Index in Cybersecurity.

The Ministry of Investment, in coordination with other government agencies, plays a fundamental role in promoting investment and attracting investors through organizing and participating in a number of events, as it organized and participated in 13 local and international events during the first quarter of 2024, in various fields, such as the real estate sector, industry, sports, technology, and mining.

The report highlighted investment in the Kingdom’s coastal tourism, which combines luxury, the natural beauty of the islands, and distinctive cultural landmarks, by providing a group of exclusive and unique experiences for tourists coming from different parts of the world.