Solar Panels

Saudi Arabia Takes Rapid Steps to Export Solar Panels Worldwide

Solar Panels

Desert Technologies’ Chief Commercial Officer Eng. Majid Refae confirmed that Saudi Arabia is offering several programs that support Saudi manufacturers and facilitate the export of solar panels to all countries of the world.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Refae revealed that the Kingdom has set its priorities for green energy generation and is driving the sector’s companies and institutions towards achieving key goals while expanding and developing their businesses in the next stage.

On exporting solar panels, Refae said it was vital as it helps in increasing and creating more job opportunities in the Kingdom and contributes to growing Saudi Arabia’s GDP.

He reminded that the export of national products is one of the most important axes of Saudi Arabia’s national transformation plan, Kingdom Vision 2030.

In coordination with the Saudi Energy Ministry, Desert Technologies has plans to provide the needs of the Kingdom’s market. This includes building solar power plants with capacities greater than 2 megawatts for citizens and major consumers inside their facilities and homes.

Any surplus would be exported to the public electricity network in 2022.


Exporting Solar Panels:

The Kingdom has taken great strides in exporting solar panels through several programs that support Saudi manufacturers, such as the Saudi Export-Import Bank, the Saudi Development Fund, the National Companies Leadership Program.

“We, as a specialized company, have had the privilege of cooperating with the National Companies Leadership Program and the Import-Export Bank in signing agreements to export solar panels to Europe, Africa and the US,” Refae told Asharq Al-Awsat.


Positive Returns:

Besides generating more job opportunities for the Kingdom’s youth, exporting solar panels also contributes to growing Saudi Arabia’s GDP by focusing on export activity, which is one of the main objectives of Kingdom Vision 2030.

Moreover, the manufacture and export of solar panels helps advance the Saudi Green Initiative which brings together environmental protection, energy transformation and sustainability programs to work towards a green future.

Desert Technologies, the first Saudi factory and company to export solar panels, has been keen on being one of the main contributors to renewable energy projects, stressed Refae.

The company has developed a production line to manufacture solar panels with an accumulated capacity. This will contribute to making Desert Technologies one of the most important national factories for solar panels in the region.


Energy Ministry:

“Our plan is compatible with the Energy Ministry and works to provide the Kingdom’s market needs of solar energy products,” said Refae, noting that the Saudi market is one of the largest Arab markets in need of solar products.

“The residential sector in the Kingdom constitutes more than 50% of the market size,” noted Refae, adding that the demand is increasing with the rise of new cities such as Neom.

“We are working to contribute to the realization of plans aimed at expanding the use of solar energy at the commercial and residential levels,” affirmed Refae.


Saudi Made:

Refae pointed out that the “Saudi Made” program is a milestone for all Saudi manufacturers, as it reflects the ability of the Saudi product to compete with high quality.

“Saudi Made” builds a cooperative society linking several companies, whereby adequate support is provided to the public and private sectors. It also contributes to making the Kingdom’s goods and services a preferred and prominent option at the local and global levels.


Exporting Outside the Kingdom:

On foreign projects, Refae added that Desert Technologies had expanded its participation in the framework of supporting the “Saudi Made” program and increasing the volume of Saudi non-oil exports.

Its activities reached Greece, where it is currently supplying solar panels for renewable energy projects on one of the Greek islands with a capacity of 11 megawatts.

“The company has signed a commercial agreement with a US company to export solar panels to its projects in the US,” revealed Refae.

The deal puts Desert Technologies in a leading position in the US market and enhances its position in the field of producing and exporting solar panels at the international level.

And in April, Desert Technologies signed an agreement with the Swiss/German Group meeco to export its solar panels to Germany to implement several projects in the city of Lambsheim. Reaching out to new markets that hadn’t been reached before.


PwC Middle East Details Six Steps to Develop Sustainable Real Estate Markets in the Region in a New Report


To bridge the gap between high-performing Real Estate markets globally and those in the Middle East, PwC Middle East details six guiding principles for regulators in a new report titled Six Steps to Sustainability

Car Rental

Speeding Up the Car Rental Industry With a Customer-centric Marketplace: OneClickDrive

Car Rental

OneClickDrive is the UAE’s biggest car rental marketplace with more than 1300 verified listings. You can find every type or brand of car for hire in Dubai through the OneClickDrive website and mobile apps. We caught up with one of the founders – Vinay Pagarani – to know more about their exciting journey and impressive growth rate.

OneClickDrive is a platform that connects users directly to the listed car rental companies for the booking process. While other websites and apps allow online bookings and may charge additional fees (upfront or hidden), OneClickDrive is completely free of charge for its users. They don’t pay any commission, booking, or admin fees.

Customers can compare offers for every type of car and book one directly with the service provider. There are cars to suit all styles and budgets, from a convertible Ferrari and an exotic Rolls Royce to an economy Nissan Sunny and even a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV. Vinay Pagarani, Founder and Growth Manager, tells us more about the innovative firm.

“Build, collect feedback, and improve is our philosophy,” he begins. “We take user feedback and complaints very seriously. We have resolved 99% of issues. With our ever-growing experience of working with the local car rental market, we make sure to list only reputed car rental companies. In fact, we have delisted untoward partners in the past.”

It was in 2015 that OneClickDrive came into existence and this was at a time when the car rental industry was predominantly offline in Dubai. Most car sales relied on walk-in customers and outbound telesales marketing and Vinay tells us it was an arduous task to get people online and to adopt inbound marketing strategies. Yet the companies that initially partnered with OneClickDrive are still with the firm several years later.

Cut to the pandemic when walk-in customers completely vanished from the industry and OneClickDrive really came into its own. “We saw it as an opportunity in disguise and scaled up our digital marketing activities,” says Vinay. “Users found our partners’ fleet on OneClickDrive and booked with them instantaneously. A lot more companies came onboard soon after.”

“Among other things, User Experience is a prime factor we take into account,” elaborates Vinay. “Our website and app are constantly overhauled to deliver a better experience to our users. Feedback is collected on a regular basis and worked upon.”

Staff strive to stay constantly ahead of the game when it comes to the latest digital trends and are always exploring new avenues that can give OneClickDrive an edge over its competitors. In fact, OneClickDrive was the first to begin training its clients and their staff on not just using the platform but also about customer service and, to date, the firm regularly delivers inbound sales and communication training to ensure complete customer satisfaction each and every time.

The team at OneClickDrive is entirely capable, focused, and diverse. The culture is progressive yet flexible. “Together with an open plan office layout, we follow a flat hierarchy. Projects are assigned across teams so each one is up-to-date on developments and offers their two cents along the way,” Vinay shares.

Due to its hard work, diligence and devotion to customer care OneClickDrive was recently recognised in the MEA business Awards 2021 and named Best Car Rental Application Platform – Dubai, and Vinay has big plans for the future.

“We are working on a CRM SAAS for the car rental industry,” he enthuses. “One that’s closely aligned with the local UAE market and moving forward, as per international markets. This will catapult OneClickDrive to new heights in the region. Our main objective is to standardize the industry, streamline their operations and improve customer service.” “OneClickDrive is poised to expand globally. We hope to enter the European market as the Covid regulations are put at ease. While we already work with a number of companies online, local presence would speed things up.” The future looks promising for OneClickDrive, Vinay, and his team.

Download the OneClickDrive Car Rental Marketplace on your mobile phone: iOS App | Android App

For further information, please contact Vinay Pagarani or visit


Financial Services Companies Could Face Ransomware Vulnerabilities for Another Two Years


Organisations in the sector need an additional $2.61m and 29 new IT staff each to tackle the ‘vulnerability lag’ caused by COVID-led digital transformation, finds research from Veritas

The financial services sector is falling behind other industries when it comes to bridging the gap between the new technologies they have rapidly introduced to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, and the security measures required to protect them, according to research from Veritas Technologies, the global leader in enterprise data protection.

The Veritas Vulnerability Lag Report, surveyed 2,050 IT executives from the UAE and 18 other countries, including 245 respondents from the financial services sector. It discovered that companies in the financial services space were more likely to be struggling to keep pace with their security than those from most other sectors, with nearly half (48%) stating that their data security was lagging behind their digital transformation deployments. The average across all industries was 39%.


As a result, financial services companies are leaving themselves exposed to an increased risk of ransomware and other data loss incidents. The heightened threat to the sector is set to continue for another two years as organisations struggle to close the gap.

Johnny Karam, Managing Director & Vice President of International Emerging Region at Veritas Technologies, said: “In line with the UAE government’s ambitions to establish a strong digital economy, the UAE financial services sector has made significant strides in introducing new technologies and services to cater to evolving customer needs. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a curveball that no one could have seen coming, forcing organisations around the world to make transitions more rapidly than they anticipated. This has meant that the pace of security rollouts to protect this innovation has lagged behind, leaving them badly exposed to digital risk.

“In the UAE, we’re seeing businesses across all industries make strong progress with their data protection efforts. Unfortunately, the global financial services industry still has a long way to go. The good news is companies in this sector are beginning to redress the balance: 16% are confident that they will be able to close the gap this year.”

Financial services organisations that want to eliminate their vulnerability lag within 12 months would need to spend, on average, an additional $2.61m and hire 29 new members of IT staff. $2.61m is 5% more than the average required across all sectors, which may be disappointing news for IT leaders in the sector, given that they already typically spent 19% more than their peers on IT initiatives last year.

Financial services companies were also less likely to have the funds required to take action everywhere that their security was lagging. 43% of respondents in the financial sector said that they lacked the funds to close all of their gaps, compared to 28% of energy companies and just 25% in the public sector.


Expansion of cloud increases the risk of ransomware

Cloud environments are most at risk while this vulnerability lag persists: 82% of financial services respondents have implemented new cloud capabilities or expanded elements of their cloud infrastructure beyond their original plans because of the pandemic. With organisations having introduced an average of six new cloud services in the last twelve months alone, 54% of respondents said that they had gaps in their cloud protection strategy – more than any other area.

Responding to the global survey, three in five IT leaders at financial services organisations said that security risks have risen due to COVID-led digital transformation initiatives, with 44% specifying that the risk of ransomware attacks in particular, had increased.

Business operations have already suffered due to the vulnerability. 89% of financial services stated that their organisation had experienced downtime in the last 12 months, not least because, on average, financial services were the victims of 3.22 ransomware attacks which caused disruption and downtime to their businesses – this is nearly a third (32%) higher than the average across all sectors.

Karam said: “While the pressures that COVID-led digital transformation put on IT departments weren’t unique to the financial services sector, its position as a highly-attractive target to hackers may have meant that the industry has felt them more acutely. With hackers beating at the door, and limited resources to push them back, it can feel like the IT team is between a rock and a hard place. However, astute IT leaders are finding a third way: partnering with data protection providers that can minimise the admin burden of data protection through simplified tools leveraging AI and machine learning. Taking this approach can help financial organisations to accelerate their security rollouts and stop their protection infrastructure lagging behind their digital transformation.”

Annex Investments Is On the Lookout for Promising Early-stage MENA Startups In Need of Funding and Business Support

With the MENA ecosystem seeing more investment activity than ever before, with exits like those of Careem, Anghami, and swvl making headlines more frequently, a lot of eyes have been opened to the region, especially as one with great untapped potential.

For Ahmed Nasser Al Nowais, who has been an entrepreneur in the UAE since the age of 16, the potential has always been there. Investing in tech and non-tech companies and going on to be a chair member at many prominent boards, committees and associations, he has built a repertoire of expertise and knowledge that he consolidated into one, concentrated effort: Annex Investments.

As one of the few truly privately-owned investor entities in the UAE, Annex Investments has also set out to act as an agent to multinational companies to help ease their entry into the MENA market, to stimulate the local ecosystem and lead to the next generation of “conglomerates, and scaleups,” Kareem Anabtawi, Chief Investment Officer (CIO) at Annex Investments, tells the Abu Dhabi SME Hub.

“We want founders to dream big and think they can be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, rather than selling to them,” he continues. “That is our role as early players and heavy movers in this ecosystem: to help assist both investors and founders.”

Currently, Annex is funneling its efforts into two avenues:

  • creating a venture builder for startups at the Pre-Seed stage, and going on to support them all the way to Series A;
  • deploying funds across promising MENA startups in a sector-agnostic manner.

“We’ve now allocated funds that will go into the MENA region,” Anabtawi explains. “We work on a deal-by-deal basis, finding deals where we believe the startup is of high quality and innovative, and where we can act as a strategic investor, where we can add value by opening doors, making the connections necessary, and providing advisory and mentorship for the journey of the startup. That’s essentially the investment mandate we follow. We’re sector-agnostic. We look across all of MENA.”


A shifting investment landscape

Looking back a decade or so at the existing investment landscape in the UAE, Anabtawi traces back an interesting journey of expedited progress and development.

“When we first started, there wasn’t really an investor scene in the venture capital in the region whatsoever,” he notes. “We were early movers into this space, before a lot of other people were. Essentially, we noticed that once Careem and Souq had exited is when everyone started to see the legitimacy of the [UAE and MENA ecosystem].”

“We believe that back then, there was an extremely small amount of deal flow within tech in the region. Because of the surge that came following [the Careem exit], we are starting to see now that the market is maturing with a lot of new regional and international investors entering. We’re seeing more and more quality deal flow. It’s not fully mature, yet, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.”

But the mere exit of Careem and other unicorns was just the culmination of the years-long efforts led by the UAE government to make doing business in the country easy and intuitive, Al Nowais explains. In his opinion, if government entities had not innovated and revamped elements like license registration, company laws, fee processes, and all the other aspects of setting up a business, the ecosystem “would never have matured” to this stage.

He explains that it was the combined effort of government regulatory support, in addition to improved self-education among investors in the region that helped produce the favourable environment that birthed success stories like those of Careem and others, and created the conductive investment environment we see today.


Fostering the culture of private investing 

While the UAE startup ecosystem is no stranger to publicly-owned investment entities, as the UAE government is historically known to pump a lot of strategic capital into the market, the number of fully-private investor organizations has slowly been ramping up over the years.

As one of these entities, Anabtawi hopes that Annex Investments’ efforts will help bolster the culture of angel investing in the country and region, to encourage more private investors to take the leap.

“I think this is played on two fronts. One is with the startups and the founders. And the second is with the investors.

“As Annex Investments, it is our responsibility to help foster this tech ecosystem and to do so we need to first educate investors about what we are doing, how they can join in, how they can add value, how we can work to open doors to assist these startups and allow SMEs in the region to flourish.”

“Secondly, it comes up on the startup’s end. For example, how can we introduce X fintech company to the right banks, so that they can get the rates that allow them to assist the consumer, or have the access in the first place to these banks so that they can operate?”

“[Overall, it’s about] making sure we’re assisting SMEs as much as possible to no longer be considered an SME at the end of the day. We want to grow these startups to become large

conglomerates and maintain value for the region. We don’t want every startup in [MENA] to exit into an international [market, where] control and value become lost and the region [misses out on the value].”


Startups: It’s not all about the money

While the Annex Investments team is always on the lookout for exciting startups that are looking for support, it is important to remember that most investors are looking to build a relationship with their beneficiaries, rather than simply using them as an investment vehicle.

Anabtawi frames it this way:

“As an investor, would you prefer if a startup comes to you over-subscribed, yet still wants you to be a part of their round, because they know you can offer them certain strategic support and advice, or would you prefer a startup come your way simply asking for money and nothing else?”

[The startup in the first example,] those are the people we look for. The people that don’t need our money, but our value add, and that’s how we know that our money will be in safe hands.”

In terms of improving a founder’s chances at receiving funding, Anabtawi advises, “Be prepared, do your homework, know the investor, what they like, what they invest in, and where and how they can add value. Make sure this is already within your pitch.”

“We don’t believe in just bringing in a cheque and praying for returns. We like to come in, add value, be involved. [Founders should] encourage our involvement, mentorship, and know exactly what they want from us.”

Economic Recovery

Post-COVID-19 Recovery and Economic Transformation Will Be Increasingly Service-Sector-Led

Economic Recovery

Kenya has a very dynamic private sector, with a relatively high entry rate of new firms, in comparison to other countries with similar levels of per capita income.

These firms do face challenges in terms of scaling up – most firms in Kenya are small, largely based in Nairobi, and operate in the informal sector, according to the latest Kenya Economic Update Edition 24: From Recovery to Better Jobs. Kenya has over 138,000 formal establishments, and 7.4 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Among formal firms, only 3% have 50 or more employees, and only 1% of firms have 150 or more employees. The majority of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), 94%, are unlicensed micro firms with fewer than five employees. Nairobi hosts 36% of formal firms and 14% of MSMEs. The services sector dominates the firm landscape with 84% of formal firms and 83% of MSMEs in the services sector.

“Improving conditions in Kenya to support the ability of new firms to scale up and innovate is important to support the creation of better jobs at a large scale,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. “When firms reach a critical mass, and are able to access larger markets, use technology, and expand exports, this results in increased productivity, better-quality jobs, and higher standards of living for large parts of the population.”


Services sector leads in job creation

The report finds that, prior to the onset of the pandemic, Kenya’s job creation was concentrated in the services sector. For instance, the number of formal firms in the retail sector increased fivefold – from around 700 in 2013 to 3,500 in 2018. This outpaced the growth of formal firms in the manufacturing sector, the number of which roughly doubled over this period, from 336 to 714.

With services driving job creation, Kenya is exhibiting a new pattern of economic transformation that is emerging in Africa, and which may differ from the manufacturing-led transformation of East Asia and many high-income economies. The growth in digital technology could enable some service sub-sectors to replicate features of the manufacturing sector that enable scale, innovation, and spillovers that are important for long-term development and job creation.

The services sector can be divided into four groups of sub-sectors based on their ability to enable scale, innovation, and spillovers: the global innovator services (ICT, finance, and professional activities); the skill-intensive social services (education and health); the low-skilled tradable services (transportation and storage, accommodation and food services, and wholesale trade); and the low-skilled domestic services (retail trade and personal services,). Low-skilled services currently dominate employment in Kenya. Low-skilled domestic services accounted for over half of all service sector employment, and the low-skilled tradable sub-sectors for one-quarter, in 2019.

The good news for Kenya: Prior to the pandemic, Kenya saw strong growth in employment among the higher-skilled services sub-sectors. Employment in the global innovator sub-sectors grew by 10% between 2015/16 and 2019, largely led by the finance and insurance sub-sectors. Employment in the skill-intensive social subsector, i.e. education and health, increased by an even larger 23%.

“Kenya’s fintech success story highlights how global innovator services can be a source of job creation, reduce poverty and benefit the broader economy,” said Ramya Sundaram, Senior Economist, World Bank. “With appropriate investment in trade, technology and training, Kenya will be able to create jobs for people at all skill levels, ensuring that growth benefits everyone.”


The pandemic’s impact on the job market

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very large impact on the labor market and some of the scarring will have longer-term implications. Workers lost jobs and moved into agriculture to survive. The services sectors, and urban areas were worst affected. The share of employment in services declined by 7 percentage points, reversing almost all the gains since 2005. Agriculture absorbed 1.6 million additional workers, increasing its share of employment from 47% to 54% in one year. Unemployment increased in urban areas, while employment increased in rural areas. In addition to contemporary effects, human capital losses during the pandemic can have significant intergenerational consequences, including through the productivity of future generations.  The incipient rebound in employment in more recent months suggest that, with appropriate measures, Kenya could recover and surpass these losses.


Way forward for job creation

Key takeaways from the report:

  • To recover fully from the pandemic and to create more jobs over the longer term, there is a need to orient policies consistently towards supporting a thriving private sector.
  • The main challenges facing Kenya are three-fold: (1) creating conditions that support firms in entering the market, in scaling up, and in innovating through the creation of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems; (2) reversing the losses in jobs during the pandemic in sectors such as global innovator services and skill-intensive social services to help increase the availability of better-quality jobs over the long-term; and (3) raising demand for jobs in labor intensive, lower skill sectors, including through linkages to the more skill-intensive sectors.
  • Creating conditions that support firm entry, scale-up, and innovation can be done through supporting greater access to finance, reducing barriers to technology adoption, supporting development of entrepreneurial eco-systems in lagging regions, and providing business development services to help improve firm capabilities and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Creating conditions to support the growth of firms and jobs in the services sector (among other sectors) and exploiting its linkages with the rest of the economy involves the 3Ts: (i) trade: lowering barriers to trade – particularly in services; (ii) technology: expanding access to digital technologies, and updating the regulatory framework to address new features of data and digital business models; and (iii) training: improving training and skills development among the current and future workforce to enable faster adoption of technology, as well as better socio-emotional and interpersonal skills that are especially important in some services.
  • Raising demand for jobs in labor intensive, lower skill sectors, helps support all segments of the population in attaining a higher standard of living. Cross-cutting reforms such as enabling a stable business environment and improving access to both physical and digital infrastructure can benefit all firms, across all sectors. For example, with appropriate investment in physical infrastructure, better roads, and so on, the tourism sector has great potential to further benefit the Kenyan economy and continue creating jobs for low-skilled labor.
UAE Mall

93% of UAE Businesses Concerned About a Ransomware Attack This Upcoming Holiday Season

UAE Mall

Research highlights disconnect between perceived threat and preparedness that results in longer incident response cycles and increased revenue losses

Cybereason, the leader in operation-centric attack protection, today published a global study of 1,200+ security professionals at organizations that have previously suffered a successful ransomware attack on a holiday or weekend. The study highlights the disconnect between organizational risk and preparedness.

The report, titled Organizations at Risk: Ransomware Attackers Don’t Take Holidays, found that the vast majority of security professionals in the UAE (93%) expressed high concern about imminent ransomware attacks. In spite of this concern, there seems to be a disconnect between the risk ransomware poses to organizations during these off-hour periods and their preparedness — in terms of personnel and technology — to respond, moving into the holiday season.


The Human Element

An indicator of the disconnect between the perceived risk and preparedness is that 39% of respondents in the UAE attributed the previous successful holiday ransomware attack to not having the right cybersecurity coverage plan or because the company was only operating a skeleton crew.

This has unfortunately meant that often times cybersecurity professionals have had to put off personal engagements and weekend plans in order to respond to the attacks — 90% of UAE respondents indicated they have missed a holiday or weekend activity because of a ransomware attack.


Technology Issues

On the technology front, 65% of UAE respondents (16% higher than the global average) said a ransomware attack against their organization was successful because they did not have the right security solutions in place. Most concerning was the fact that just 44% reported having an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solution in place. As EDR is a foundational building block of a robust cybersecurity posture, this is particularly alarming.


Organizational Impact

This lack of preparedness for ransomware attacks on weekends and holidays has a significant impact on victim organizations, with 60% of UAE respondents saying it resulted in longer periods to assess the scope of an attack, 58% reporting they required more time to mount an effective response and 46% indicating they required a longer period to fully recover from the attack.

Interestingly, 23% of UAE respondents (twice the global average) reported their organizations suffered revenue losses as a direct result. This research validates the assumption that it takes longer to assess, mitigate, remediate and recover from a ransomware attack over a holiday or weekend.

“Ransomware attackers don’t take time off for holidays. The most disruptive ransomware attacks in 2021 have occurred over weekends and during major holidays when attackers know they have the advantage over targeted organizations,” said Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Cybereason, Lior Div. “This research proves out the fact that organizations are not adequately prepared and need to take additional steps to assure they have the right people, processes and technologies in place so they can effectively respond to ransomware attacks and protect their critical assets.”


Learning from past mistakes

There are some positives to be taken away from the research — findings indicate that UAE organizations have acknowledged the need to enhance their cybersecurity defense and ensure they have the right technology, resources and strategy in place to avoid being hit by an attack during the upcoming holiday season. 77% of respondents stated that their organizations would be adding new technology, 60% are building a more robust contingency plan and 50% planning to increase cybersecurity staff cover over the holidays.

Hybrid Walking

How a Hybrid Strategy Promotes Inclusivity and Equity of Experience

Hybrid Walking

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated workplace trends that had been slowly germinating for years. Chief among them as we look to the future is the reality that distributed work is here to stay

Through the early weeks of the pandemic, organizations and employees alike struggled with the sudden shift to remote work. But a year after the initial lockdowns, business leaders have warmed to the idea that their people could stay productive away from the office—at least for part of the week. Up to 70 percent of organizations are planning for at least some portion of their workforce continuing to work from home.  Research from Harvard Business School confirms this, with more than 81 percent of office workers saying that they do not see themselves returning to the post-COVID office five days a week.  

 Several approaches to distributed work have emerged, from the “binary strategy” (in which organizations view employees as either office workers or remote workers) to the “remote-first strategy” (in which working from home becomes every employee’s primary mode). The fastest-growing approach—and the one we feel has the potential to help most organizations thrive in this new reality—is one in which most employees exercise autonomy in choosing from a broad array of options both within and beyond the office for where they’ll work on a given day.

This so-called “hybrid strategy” presents organizations with an opportunity to holistically address the needs of a highly diverse workforce with a focus on equity of experience. This means considering the needs of remote team members as well as their colleagues in the office. A myriad of factors can affect an individual’s productivity and engagement—everything from work styles, location of colleagues, and project deadlines to home office conditions, parenting responsibilities, and physical/sensory needs. And these factors are not fixed; they can change from day to day or week to week.

This so-called “hybrid strategy” presents organizations with an opportunity to holistically address the needs of a highly diverse workforce with a focus on equity of experience.

By trusting employees to make choices based on their daily tasks and preferences—with support whether they choose to come into the office or work from home—organizations can reshape the office into a sought-after destination for those social and cultural connections that cannot be recreated virtually.


From substantial expense to competitive edge

Reorienting office space around three activities not supported elsewhere

Even before the pandemic, offices were struggling to consistently support people and their work. For many organizations, the physical office didn’t keep pace: It was often generic and too densely planned, while deprioritizing remote work. However, when given a choice, many employees had already begun working from home, coworking spaces, cafés, or elsewhere. As we look to the future, we see an opportunity to reorient the office so that workers feel less anchored to it and more buoyed by it, as facilities focus on hosting experiences that the isolation of the pandemic robbed from us all.

As we look to the future, we see an opportunity to reorient the office so that workers feel less anchored to it and more buoyed by it, as facilities focus on hosting experiences that the isolation of the pandemic robbed from us all.

What can organizations do to make their spaces more desirable as on-demand destinations for employees newly empowered to work anywhere? From data provided by more than 19,000 users of Herman Miller’s WFH Ergonomic Assessment tool 3  and other sources, we have identified three core experiences that the office is uniquely positioned to support. At Herman Miller, we’re focused on helping customers evolve existing environments with products and settings specifically designed with these experiences in mind.


Three core experiences best supported by the office

Community socialization

While most of us have found virtual ways to maintain a sense of connection to our closest friends and family over the past year, our “weak ties” were largely lost. This outer circle of acquaintances—whether that’s the building concierge who is on a first-name basis with everyone, or the coworker from another department with whom you like to make small talk—is vital to an individual’s social health. 4  Building these relationships is also critical for establishing and maintaining culture—and helping people feel a sense of purpose and belonging. By providing areas that encourage people to interact with their extended networks, your office can help reestablish these connections.

Team collaboration

In the prevailing model of workplace design, individual workstations are “owned” or assigned, and group spaces are shared. But organizations looking to seed spontaneous socialization and concerted collaboration need to flip this to more of a neighborhood model. In this model, team space is owned, while individual spaces are shared within it. When workplaces practice neighborhooding in this way, they better accommodate longer-term collaboration while also creating opportunities for those spur-of-the-moment chats that cannot be scheduled via videoconference.

Individual focus

The past year has stressed our homes in many ways, with spare bedrooms called into duty as classrooms, gyms, offices, or all the above. And for those of us without a room to spare, the realities of children, roommates, or extended family have made it difficult to even find a corner to work in—let alone actually finding focus. For these individuals, a return to the physical office can provide a respite for concentration and focused work, given the right spatial setup.


Returning office workers will bring new expectations for user control to the workplace

Technology has been reshaping work for decades, but it took a virus to change the office landscape overnight. In the early months of the pandemic, many organizations focused on adapting their spaces to provide safer work environments and limit the spread of COVID-19. However, organizations are now turning their attention to broader perspectives on employee well-being. Our view is that to be effective, this shift must emphasize adaptability in a deeper sense.

In the past, a workplace setting was considered “flexible” if it could be reconfigured for different uses by a facilities or maintenance team. As organizations plan their return-to-work strategies, however, the power to adapt a space needs to rest with the people working within it.

Change is always expected whenever any workplace moves from construction to post-occupancy. That said, it has never been tougher for organizations to plan for these changes than now, as employees return from this prolonged experience of working from home. We believe that shifting investments toward furnishings and tools that fit into existing floorplates can optimize space to embrace change. These kinds of adaptable solutions will meet rising expectations for autonomy, choice, and user control.


Key Insights

Examine a hybrid approach to workplace strategy

As workers return to the office, many will want to continue to exercise the freedom to work from home at least part-time. Support for that choice should be a key component of every go-forward workplace strategy. Organizations that embrace distributed work in a manner consistent with their culture will ultimately empower their employees with a robust set of choices to create positive, healthy work experiences. Companies can benefit from nurturing a sense of autonomy among their people, as an equitable and inclusive experience is essential for tapping into the productivity of a highly diverse workforce.

Embrace the unique role of the office

The office must prove its value to employees in this new era of autonomy. To do so, office design must focus on those functions that haven’t been successfully supported during this extended work-from-home experiment: establishing and maintaining social culture, supporting longer-duration team activities, and providing spaces for focused work. Ultimately, these changes will make the office more desirable and inclusive.

Empower people with the tools to reshape spaces

To remain a relevant part of the post-pandemic work experience, the office must move beyond flexibility to truly become adaptable. The distinction is subtle but important. When spaces are flexible, they can be reconfigured by a facilities team to support a range of activities. When they are adaptable, they provide a level of individual control, inviting the people who use a space to reshape it around their needs in the moment.

Air Cargo

Air Cargo, Up 9.1% in September, Capacity Remains Constrained

Air Cargo

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released September 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that demand continued to be well above pre-crisis levels and that capacity constraints persist.  

As comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons below are to September 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 9.1% compared to September 2019 (9.4% for international operations).
  • Capacity remains constrained at 8.9% below pre-COVID-19 levels (September 2019) (-12% for international operations).

Several factors impacting global air cargo demand should be noted:

  • Supply chain disruptions and the resulting delivery delays have led to long supplier delivery times. This typically means manufacturers use air transport, which is quicker, to recover time lost during the production process. The September global Supplier Delivery Time Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was at 36, values below 50 are favorable for air cargo.
  • The September new export orders component and manufacturing output component of the PMIs have deteriorated from levels in previous month but remain in favorable territory. Manufacturing activity continued to expand at a global level but, there was contraction in emerging economies.
  • The inventory-to-sales ratio remains low ahead of the peak year-end retail events such as Single’s Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is positive for air cargo, however further capacity constraints put this at risk.
  • The cost-competitiveness of air cargo relative to that of container shipping remains favorable. Pre-crisis, the average price to move air cargo was 12.5 times more expensive than sea shipping. In September 2021 it was only three times more expensive.

“Air cargo demand grew 9.1% in September compared to pre-COVID levels. There is a benefit from supply chain congestion as manufacturers turn to air transport for speed. But severe capacity constraints continue to limit the ability of air cargo to absorb extra demand. If not addressed, bottlenecks in the supply chain will slow the economic recovery from COVID-19. Governments must act to relieve pressure on global supply chains and improve their overall resilience,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. 

To relieve supply chain disruptions, including those highlighted by the US on supply chain resilience on the sidelines of last weekend’s G20 Summit, IATA is calling on governments to:

  • Ensure that air crew operations are not hindered by COVID-19 restrictions designed for air travelers.
  • Implement the commitments governments made at the ICAO High Level Conference on COVID-19 to restore international connectivity. This will ramp-up vital cargo capacity with “belly” space.
  • Provide innovative policy incentives to address labor shortages where they exist.


September Regional Performance

Asia-Pacific airlines saw their international air cargo volumes increase 4.5% in September 2021 compared to the same month in 2019.This was a slowdown in demand compared to the previous month’s 5.1% expansion. Demand is being affected by slowing manufacturing activity in China. International capacity is significantly constrained in the region, down 18.2% vs. September 2019. Looking forward, the decision by some countries in the region to lift travel restrictions should provide a boost for capacity.

North American carriers posted a 19.3% increase in international cargo volumes in September 2021 compared to September 2019. New export orders and demand for faster shipping times are underpinning the North American performance. International capacity was down 4.0% compared to September 2019, a slight improvement from the previous month.

European carriers saw a 5.3% increase in international cargo volumes in September 2021 compared to the same month in 2019. This was on a par with August’s performance (5.6%). Demand was strongest on the large North Atlantic trade lane (up 6.9% vs September 2019). Performance on other routes was weaker. Manufacturing activity, orders and long supplier delivery times remain favorable to air cargo demand. International capacity was down 13.5% on September 2019.

Middle Eastern carriers experienced a 17.6% rise in international cargo volumes in September 2021 versus September 2019, an improvement compared to the previous month (14.7%). International capacity was down 4% compared to September 2019.

Latin American carriers reported a decline of 17.1% in international cargo volumes in September compared to the 2019 period, which was the weakest performance of all regions. This was also slightly worse than the previous month (a 14.5% fall). Capacity in September was down 20.9% on pre-crisis levels, an improvement from August, which was down 24.2% on the same month in 2019.  

African airlines’ saw international cargo volumes increase by 34.6% in September, the largest increase of all regions for the ninth consecutive month. Seasonally adjusted volumes are now 20% above pre-crisis 2019 levels but have been trending sideways for the past six months. International capacity was 6.9% higher than pre-crisis levels, the only region in positive territory, albeit on small volumes.

IT Cloud

New Report Reveals 86% of Middle East IT Leaders Agree Remote Working Compromises Business Networks

IT Cloud

Even though 93% of Middle East technology leaders are confident on visibility into IoT devices of remote workers, 91% believe their organisation’s approach to IoT security needs improvement

Palo Alto Networks, the global cybersecurity leader, today released their second annual The Connected Enterprise: Internet of Things (IoT) Security Report 2021, research conducted by global technology market research firm Vanson Bourne, which shows that 86% of Middle East IT leaders (global average: 81%) have agreed that the shift to remote working during the pandemic has led to an increased risk and vulnerability from unsecured IoT devices on their organisation’s business networks.

While 93% of Middle East IT decision makers (global average: 85%) have enough visibility into IoT devices of their remote workers that connect to the corporate network, the report shows that 91% of Middle East IT Leaders believe their organisation’s approach to IoT security requires improvement. Although 100% of the respondents surveyed in the Middle East have a specific IoT security strategy in place, many difficult-to-secure personal IoT devices are increasingly being connected to corporate networks by remote workers, creating new opportunities for hackers to infiltrate organisations to launch ransomware attacks, steal data and launch crypto jacking operations. Security incidents are defined as an event that may indicate an attack on an organisation’s network.

COVID-19 has impacted organisations greatly, and 91% of Middle East IT organisations have seen a rise in the number of connected devices on their organisation’s network in the past year, including devices such as baby monitors, pet feeders and gym equipment leaving organisations vulnerable to attacks. Top devices that Middle East IT leaders have spotted within their networks are connected pet devices (37%), kitchen devices (36%) and sports equipment (35%).

Haider Pasha, Senior Director and Chief Security Officer at Palo Alto Networks, Middle East and Africa (MEA) said: “As work-from-home models are being normalised amongst many organisations in the Middle East, it is important for security teams to have visibility into all of the IoT devices being connected on corporate networks. Organisations in the Middle East have great confidence in their visibility of the IoT devices connecting to their network totaling up to 82%, which is a big jump from last year’s 72%.”

“During the pandemic, organisations were forced to rapidly scale their remote work infrastructure to ensure business continuity. With employees working from home, having the right cybersecurity strategy in place became critical. According to our research, all the Middle East IT leaders who were surveyed have a specific IoT strategy in place, to help them manage their networks more efficiently. Pasha added. “It is crucial for organisations to follow IoT security best practices at all times, these include: having real-time visibility of devices on a network, monitoring them continuously to identify abnormal behaviour and segmenting IT and IoT devices on separate networks. Additionally, enterprises need to ensure that they are promoting cybersecurity awareness and educating their employees on security best practices on an ongoing basis, in order to maximise impact and minimise the chance for cyberattacks to take place, in both professional and/or personal environments”.


Key data of the second annual IoT survey in the Middle East (UAE & Saudi Arabia)

  • 86% of Middle East IT Leaders Agree Remote Working Has Led to an Increased Risk from Unsecured Devices on their Organisation’s Network
  • 93% of Middle East decision makers have enough visibility into IoT devices of their remote workers that connect to the corporate network
  • 91% of Middle East IT Leaders believe their organisation’s approach to IoT security requires improvement
  • 100% of the respondents surveyed in the Middle East have a specific IoT security strategy in place
  • 91% of Middle East IT organisations have seen a rise in the number of connected devices on their organisation’s network in the past year
Climate Crisis

How to Reduce the Human Toll of Climate Crises in Africa

Climate Crisis

By Amadou Diallo, Regional Disaster Risk Financing Coordinator, Crisis Anticipation and Risk Financing at Start Network

According to research and evidence collected by ARC, every one US dollar spent on early intervention through this insurance mechanism saves US$4.5 spent after a crisis unfolds.

It is this logic which lies behind the innovation of insuring against climate disasters such as droughts. In July 2019 Start Network and the government of Senegal each purchased an insurance policy to protect against drought. The ARC is a ground-breaking insurance mechanism designed to help African Union member states resist and recover from the ravages of extreme weather events.

The 2019 policy was premised on the basis that if rainfall levels dropped below a pre-defined threshold, Start Network members and the government of Senegal would receive insurance payouts enabling early intervention to coordinate actions to protect communities at risk. As ARC’s analysis shows, such early intervention costs roughly a quarter of what post-event interventions would cost, but more importantly massively reduces the humanitarian cost.

On the successful expiration of the first insurance policy against drought risk in Senegal, Start Network is announcing its renewal for the 2021 – 2022 season.  

Such policies shift the risk from farmers to financiers. Nearly half of all emergency multilateral food assistance to Africa is to assist with climate related disasters. While taking out insurance on the vagaries of weather is today common practice, it is not so on a national level and certainly not drought coverage – due to cultural barriers sometimes but often to financial and economic constraints at household level. What we are doing is an innovation for the African continent as we allow through a macro -insurance mechanism to protect people beyond certain exposure to the drought risk that ultimately leads to aggravated consequences in food insecurity levels and affects the most vulnerable communities.


Underwriting has answers to drought

The ultimate goal has to be for more and more African Union member states to take out their own insurance policies which would transfer the highest possible risk coverage. In parts of Africa, droughts are chronic and their effects on the population are profound. Having Senegal’s government take the initiative in this respect is an extremely positive signal to the rest of the continent.  

In the case of a disaster, assistance typically only becomes available three months after the event. By then, you are primarily addressing the impact of the disaster, such as malnutrition, livelihood loss, and other negative consequences. The success of interventions are therefore dependent on the timing of when aid can be delivered. Start Network and ODI research, on UN appeals, suggests that at least 55% of funding went to crises that are somewhat predictable, yet less than 1% of funding for these crises was released based on pre-agreed triggers and plans.

The science of underwriting is able to quantify the likelihood of underperforming rainfall based on years of data and its impact on the incomes of local rural communities. Trigger points are set at which payouts would be made.

The ’trigger’ is based on the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index developed by the UN’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation). This, correlated against satellite rainfall data calculates an estimated number of people likely to be impacted by food insecurity.

ARC Replica Senegal is run in a partnership between the Start Network, the Government of Senegal, and African Risk Capacity (ARC), and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German Development Bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW).


NGO lessons learned

Throughout 2020, six Start Network members – Action Against Hunger, Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision – worked alongside the Government of Senegal to deliver assistance to 355,000 Senegalese ahead of a severe large-scale drought. The agencies’ support came in the form of enriched flour and cash transfers. This enabled families to protect livestock and other valuable assets and avoid resorting to skipping meals or sending children to work instead of going to school.  

By acting earlier we can mitigate the impact of crises on communities at risk. For example in Senegal, through a disaster risk finance project which released an insurance pay-out ahead of predicted drought, 98% of children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were able to maintain 2 meals a day over the project period -we know that this is more cost-effective then allowing people’s nutritional status to degrade until they require a nutrition intervention.  

The programme allowed us to have discussions with all partners at an early stage. It makes a big difference to have pre agreed standard operating procedures in place. It compares favourably to the traditional disaster response, wherein time is typically short as one is constantly ‘fighting fires’ on all fronts.  

This is why, this year, Start Network will be launching a scalable infrastructure called the Start Financing Facility to arrange pre-positioned funds using global best practice on risk pooling and layering, to ensure they are used to maximum efficiency. The Start Financing Facility builds upon years of our anticipation experience. It will put local voices at the centre and equip frontline humanitarian responders with the tools needed to be prepared and financially prepared for crises.

Digital Technology

The Circuit of Success!

Digital Technology

The world of technology has transformed the way in which we live but ensuring that this technology is made of the highest quality products falls to top-tier manufacturers. We take a look at the team from RayMing Technology Co Ltd, to see how their work affects people all around the world, and the steps they have taken to ensure their own long-term success.

The role of printed circuit boards (PCBs) within our lives has become an accepted fact, but few actually understand what they do, and why they are vital to maintain the high standards of our modern lifestyle. PCBs have a wealth of potential built into them, able to support and connect various electronic components. These pieces of technology are used in nearly all electronic products, with their design being easily automated for mass manufacture.

RayMing is one of China’s leading PCB assembly manufacturers, offering complete PCB assembly services in Shenzhen. What sets the team apart, however, is the team’s ability to adapt their comprehensive service offering to match the specific needs of individual clients. They can offer a turn-key, or partial turn-key, service that does everything expected of them. For a full turn-key offering, the team takes control of the entire production process, adapting carefully to meet their client’s unique requirements.

This involves the manufacturing of PCBs, procuring the correct components all of which are 100% original, completing stringent PCBA Testing to guarantee they are up to scratch as well as ensuring continuous monitoring of quality and final assembly. This level of attention can be applied to whatever part of the process a client might want for a partial turn-key solution, where the customer can provide the PCBs and certain components, and the remaining parts will be handled by the team at RayMing.

The role of PCBs is now laid into the very fabric of how we live, so industries around the world turn to RayMing for the team’s assurance of high standards and quality. The firm is in high demand from the medical and military sectors as they search for long-lasting and reliable solutions for their own technical developments. The importance of a solution that goes above and beyond is not lost on the team at RayMing, which is why they take such pride in the work they do.

The success of RayMing comes from the team’s incredible commitment to the core values of being uncompromising in integrity, honesty and fairness, inspiring each other in their important work and creating an environment that is as safe as possible for the workforce. This has created a workplace that is incredibly productive, always looking forward and is secure even through the challenges of an international pandemic. Having the ability to trust in a team like this to deliver high quality products has made a real difference to organisations around the world.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the importance of PCBs is not going away, and that the high quality of what is on offer from RayMing really sets the standard by which everyone should be operating. We celebrate the team’s tremendous success in the industry and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

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