E-commerce Sector to Boost Cosmetic and Skincare Market Growth


The global cosmetics and skincare market was valued at USD 129.23 billion in 2020, and is set to increase by USD 38 billion between 2020-2024, accelerating at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% during this forecast period

Beauty and e-commerce have historically gone hand-in-hand, making it easier for customers to purchase products online without having to step foot in a store, and for both luxury and drugstore brands to increase their outreach and market to potential customers.

The global cosmetics and skincare market was valued at USD 129.23 billion in 2020, and is set to increase by USD 38 billion between 2020-2024, accelerating at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% during this forecast period.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a lasting devastating impact on the beauty and cosmetics industry. Store closures due to strict lockdown measures globally have resulted in disastrous consequences, with sales decreasing by 60% – 70% from March to April 2020 on a global scale.

The flourishing e-commerce sector, however, is anticipated to once again boost market growth to pre-Covid levels. The pandemic shifted focus slightly away from cosmetics, with customers now looking to premium brands with a greater interest in skincare. This effect has helped premium skincare companies expand their market share and innovate, build digital appeal and prestige, and improve their credibility.

Dr Sabet Salahia CosmeSurge Jumeirah, says, “Companies have responded positively to the crisis by increasing production capacities and shifting focus to cater to immediate needs by offering hand sanitizers and cleaning agents. Research is showing that consumers now intend to spend more on skincare products, in lieu of traditional beauty and grooming products. We’re also now seeing a consumer base that is more knowledgeable than ever about skincare formulations, that is aware of ingredients and demands social and economic responsibility from the brands they purchase from.”

“Currently, there is an escalating demand for face creams, serums, sunscreens, and body lotions across the globe, as consumers learned to prioritize skincare over the various lockdowns when people were stuck at home. There are also many global ‘trends’ surrounding skincare, the most recent of which was the Korean skincare craze that pushed a lot of pre-pandemic sales. This increased demand for a flawless complexion is expected to have a positive impact on the market growth over the forecast period. “ he added.

Face creams, moisturizers, serums, and sheet masks are increasingly gaining popularity as both men and women continue to place a high premium on physical appearance and looking their best. Ease of access to knowledge online through Youtube, skincare blogs, and forums has also created awareness about easy-to-treat skin disorders, making it easier for customers to curate their own skincare routines. Eco-friendly consumers, such as those opting for animal cruelty-free, vegan, and plant-based skin care products make up a significant chunk of the skincare market.

The online distribution model has significantly re-shaped shopping habits of consumers, as this channel offers benefits such as doorstep delivery, easy payment methods, heavy discounts, and the availability of a wide range of products from anywhere in the world, on a single platform. Notable brands and distributors in the market are strategically launching e-commerce websites in large lucrative markets owing to rising internet penetration and a now largely digitalised mobile shopping consumer base. Skincare aficionados can expect to see more great skincare in the forecast period to come.

Mobile Payments

Mobile Payments in Africa Continue to Grow in Popularity, Proving Importance of Local Payment Methods

Mobile Payments

Mobile payments in sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to grow by over 60% in the next 5 years, showcasing that Local Payment Methods like these are key for more expansive e-commerce opportunities.


The total value of mobile money transactions in emerging markets is predicted to exceed $870 billion in 2026; this growth tendency can also be seen in sub-Saharan Africa, where mobile payments are expected to grow by over 60% in the next 5 years. Seen as one of prominent payment trends in emerging markets for 2022, the popularity of mobile payments is emphasizing the importance of Local Payment Methods, and could open up the African market to a number of global e-commerce opportunities.

Mobile payments as a Local Payment Method (LPM) appeared in the sub-Saharan region in the early 2000s with Safaricom, a Kenyan mobile network operator, offering one of the first mobile payment solutions. The importance of this LPM only grew with new players and more regional countries entering the space. While mobile payments were not automatically available to each sub-Saharan country, as some still lacked technical solutions, it has become a widely spread trend that continues appearing in more African countries.

Frank Breuss, CEO of Nikulipe, a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods to access Emerging and Fast-Growing Markets, notes that this payment trend has grown popular due to the particular circumstances sub-Saharan Africa is in.

“More than half of the African population remains without a traditional bank account even today, so solutions like mobile payments are most convenient for the region,” explains Breuss. “Mobile phones are widely available across the region, making mobile money payments the primary way for Africans to pay for goods and services like groceries, food delivery or taxi rides, or even utility bills.”

Breuss continues, adding that mobile phones in Africa are used in a very different way than they are in the US or Europe; they are often not based on monthly subscription models, but rather balances are topped up by purchasing prepaid airtime credits, that can be purchased at thousands of shops or agent-kiosks even in the most rural areas.

“This allows people, even those without a bank account or a credit card, to buy phone credits not just to make calls, but also to top-up their phone to pay local merchants for goods and services—logistically, it’s the simplest and most convenient LPM to use. Knowing all of this, understanding why mobile payments are popular in this region can, in turn, open up more global e-commerce opportunities for both international merchants and African shoppers, looking to shop more globally.”

Since much of Africa’s population has limited access to financial services, the continent is regarded as one of the world’s most attractive banking opportunities for developing the existing financial industry and introducing new products to improve financial accessibility. After previously disregarding mobile money’s target market in favor of Africans with higher income, Africa’s traditional banks are, too, looking into entering telecommunications territory. This move by local banking institutions indicates that the mobile payments market will continue growing in the upcoming years.

While mobile payment penetration varies from one sub-Saharan African country to another, at the end of 2020, 495 million people were using mobile services, which represents 46% of the region’s population. It is predicted that by 2025 this number will reach 615 million—equivalent to 50% of the region’s population. This shows that Local Payment Methods will remain an important part of not only sub-Saharan Africa’s but also fast-growing and emerging markets e-commerce growth.

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.”

blu Loyalty

The Customer Loyalty and Engagement Experts

blu Loyalty

blu Loyalty™ is a company that specialises in offering end-to-end customer loyalty and customer engagement solutions to all types of businesses. By using its existing platform, it helps its clients’ reach and engage with their customers in a much more effective and engaging way. This in turn helps businesses working with blu Loyalty™ to grow at a higher-than-normal rate. That makes blu Loyalty™ an invaluable partner for any kind of business or enterprise. Below, award winning CEO, Tony Gougassian shares his own experience, as well as the excellent progression of his game-changing organisation.


Recently, a plethora of organisations such as retail brands, major corporates, and banking organisations have increasingly begun to reward their customers. They all started off with a simple goal and vision in mind – that of success, recognition, and a reputation of being the best – and have now found a multitude of ways to connect with their audience as well as completely win them over. With loyalty schemes and programmes these organisations have been accelerating even quicker than before. But it isn’t so straightforward.


Loyalty programmes need to be inclusive, exciting, and compelling in order for customers to want a slice of the pie. If the loyalty scheme can provide something that customers simply cannot achieve or gain without returning time and time again, the customer is twice as likely to return for another taste. With the world as it is today, customers come and go quicker than the rise and set of the scorching sun. Acquiring new customers is time consuming, costly, and sometimes disheartening. However, blu Loyalty™ has a knack for it – it has plenty of experience, years of dedication, and deep rooted intellect at the very base of all its endeavours.


With regards to being a new business or enterprise, blu Loyalty™ wants to take the reigns and guide you so that you can experience its seasoned lessons and adopt them into the core of your organisation. With the financial climate being full of such pressure, start-ups can find it daunting and even scary when trying to locate their target audience, never mind gaining followers or customers that will stick around. But with blu Loyalty™ there’s something magic in the air – something that will enchant the consumer and make them feel truly special.


With the programmes that blu Loyalty™ offers, organisations will find it easy to gain new customers, as well as keeping them coming back for the foreseeable future. These connections cannot be replaced and they certainly can’t be broken. By staying current and by understanding data on trends, purchasing habits, and demands, blu Loyalty™ stays on track and changes with the times – with a remarkable future in the industry.


Based in Dubai, UAE, and founded in 2013, blu Loyalty™ is a fine example of a highly effective customer loyalty and customer engagement solutions supplier that provides an end-to-end comprehensive range of loyalty programmes.


Tony Gougassian, CEO of blu Loyalty™, gained much experience and expertise within the electronic payments industry. He has earned a respectable seat in the industry with his fine work in end-to-end customer engagement solutions and has become the backbone of the company. With experience working for Visa for 10 years, he built up a portfolio of aiding a large number of markets within the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries which fuelled his passion for loyalty-based market research and business-to-customer connection.


Tony had a deep vision of success that has led him on his path towards creating and leading blu Loyalty™. His tenacity and determination have resulted in a very bright future for this organisation as his first-hand knowledge propelled it from a small enterprise to the huge success that it is today.


Tony learned that to be successful in gaining and retaining customers it is of utmost importance that the customer feels heard and rewarded for returning. Understanding that this is essential, blu Loyalty™ offers its services to all businesses looking to make it in their industries. With experience watching commercial banks offering rewards for their credit card programmes, Tony quickly realised that this can be used across the board. With these highly valuable elements, blu Loyalty™ attaches value to the organisations that it works with via its suggestion of points-based programmes and cashback systems.


By using schemes such as these, customers become increasingly keener and more engaged with earning more points and cash back. Tony found that credit card companies that didn’t provide these kinds of rewards didn’t do as well in retaining their customer-base. In fact, they lost customers more regularly. These customers would eventually end up going with another credit card company or commercial bank because they were aware of the other rewards that were on offer elsewhere.


blu Loyalty™ introduces ways to meet the needs of the consumer for card issuers large and small. Beginning with a simple ‘plug and play’ loyalty programme – a comprehensive and competitive approach that would include technology applications such as a loyalty management system, customer loyalty portal, and customer loyalty mobile application alongside the loyalty value proposition – blu Loyalty™ introduces an avenue that leads towards long-lasting relationships and success for all.


From the dawn of blu Loyalty™ – to this very day – there has been a huge paradigm shift for loyalty schemes across the modern corporate ecosystem. This ‘plug and play’ programme has not only become beneficial to credit card issuers, but it has become entirely relevant, advantageous, and valuable to all businesses who would like to understand and make use of insightful data throughout consumer trends. All in all, these loyalty programmes have become increasingly more popular and have become the primary tool in the new digital age – for customer data collection and consumer engagement solutions around the globe.


Social media, digital communication, online marketing, and retailing have all led to the ability for businesses to gather invaluable insights into consumer trends and the desires of consumers. With access to this analytical data, businesses are more able to fine tune their products, plans and loyalty programmes to suit the consumer – leading to more returning customers and satisfied individuals. This is entirely crucial to the health and wellbeing of every business and blu Loyalty™ is well aware of this – which is exactly why it offers its services. By providing its clients with the means to attract and keep more customers, it has created an attractive and irresistible name for itself in the customer loyalty and engagement industry. Incomes, lifestyle, and behavioural consumer trends will always have an impact on purchasing habits as well as customer loyalty – blu Loyalty™ is no stranger to this fact. By helping businesses to gain more insight into purchasing habits and other analytics, it has the means to make a huge impact on its client.


To this date, blu Loyalty™ works within nine markets across the Middle East and Africa. It has plans to expand globally in the near future. With its widening scope of services and programmes – including gamification, customer analytics and interaction, automated marketing and engagement tools – blu Loyalty™ has much to share with its clients so that they may flourish just as much as it has.


By building such a sophisticated and intelligent global platform, blu Loyalty™ has truly embarked on a noble yet inspiring journey with no signs of slowing down. With its AI assistance – for data analytics – blu Loyalty™ has the greatest tool to truly understand the consumer. As it specialises in all things consumer related – such as loyalty programmes, customer engagement, and analytics – it is offering a service that will inevitably positively alter the trajectory of any business.


For business enquiries contact Tony Gougassian at Blu Analytics DMCC via

CEO, Tony Gougassian
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.
Global Economy Recovery

Finance, Digital Economy Key to Driving Growth of ASEAN Markets: Industry Experts

Global Economy Recovery

Finance and digital economy are key pillars that will drive the reform agenda of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and support the region’s economic growth in the coming decades, industry experts speaking at the Global Business Forum ASEAN in Dubai said today.

Organised by Dubai Chamber under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the two-day forum explores investment and trade opportunities emerging across ASEAN markets, and positions Dubai as a global gateway for ASEAN companies.

Outlining priorities of ASEAN countries, a session titled Financing Growth brought together Stephen Moss, Regional Chief Executive Officer for the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (MENAT) at HSBC, based in the UAE, and Winfried Wicklein, Deputy Director General for the Southeast Asia at Asian Development Bank, based in the Philippines, both of whom joined the discussion remotely.

“The pandemic undoubtedly had a disruptive impact on the economy and adversely affected growth in South-East Asia, with the region registering a 4% contraction last year – its deepest in the last decade,” said Winfried Wicklein. “The good news is that we are expecting the region to bounce back with growth of more than 3% in 2022 and 5% in 2023. The economic recovery has been driven to a great extent by the bounce-back in the agricultural sector, as many of those who lost their jobs in tourism headed to agriculture.”

Wicklein went on to list four strategies that are necessary to lead the region’s recovery in the period ahead: “First, there is strengthening social protections, especially for vulnerable groups. Then strategy number two is to enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN’s business environment in order to attract further investments, including investment in human capital to build a competitive workforce and economy.”

“The third strategy is maintaining the ongoing digital transformation in order to generate jobs and income,” he continued. “And finally, there is ensuring that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green.”

For his part, Stephen Moss asserted that interest in ASEAN from the Middle East is at an all-time high, citing several reasons for this development. “First, if we look at ASEAN as one entity, it would be the third-largest economy in Asia and fifth-largest in the world; the region is also expected to become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2030. It sits right in the middle of two of the world’s largest trade agreements – the CPTPP and RCEP.”

“Furthermore, exports from ASEAN are valued at over USD1.3 trillion – a figure that is expected to more than double to USD2.8 trillion by 2025, making ASEAN the world’s fastest-growing trade bloc,” he continued. “In terms of digital adoption, ASEAN already has one of the world’s most digitally enabled populations, with 40 million additional internet users reported in 2020 alone. The total number of users is expected to rise from 130 million to 300 million by 2030. This is not to mention the dynamic population, 35% of which are under 20 years old – a population that is fast moving into the middle class.

“Given all of this, we can see why investors from the Middle East are increasingly looking East towards ASEAN,” Moss concluded.

In the second session, ‘ASEAN’s Digital Landscape,’ Dr Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer ADDO AI, a global artificial intelligence and big data firm that headquartered in Singapore and with clients and employees located in the Middle East, Asia and the US, discussed how digitalisation was underpinning the recovery from the pandemic.

She highlighted the ‘e-Conomy Southeast Asia (SEA) Report – Roaring 20s: The SEA Digital Decade,’ published by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company in 2021, that revealed that 40 million new internet users came online this year, bringing the internet penetration in South East Asia to 75%, with eight out of 10 of these users having purchased something online at least once.

“Not only are people in ASEAN using digital more than ever before they are using it more frequently than ever before. It is not only the scale of penetration but also the depth of penetration as more and more digital services are added. That has risen to a sense of the digital decade for ASEAN – 2020 to 2030,” she said.

“One in three of these customers think that we would not have survived without these digital services – e-commerce, transport and food, and then to financial services and travel. As it matures, it comes to education and health-tech. We have seen great examples of how people are now, using more than four digital services than they were doing before the pandemic – food and grocery delivery have gone up the most, but digital merchants for all the centres are merging,” she added.

“The net positive impact that digitisation has on the country as a whole, benefitting both end users as well as the merchants and suppliers, range from job creation to business opportunities. More than 83% SME survey say it has created more jobs and if it weren’t for digital their revenues would have declined. In fact, six in 10 of them have said they would like to maintain the use of digital supply chain financing and consumer financing as the next thing to explore. What we are seeing is that we are in a position now to move beyond just consumer services to helping small businesses,” she continued.

Dr Khanna concluded by highlighting that in her base of Singapore, startups raised $11.2bn in the first nine months of 2021 – more than double raised in the whole of 2020.

“Singapore has made a great deal of effort to attract ASEAN unicorns. The country is one of the top investment destinations in south East Asia, from where family offices and investment offices, sovereign wealth funds can have a channel and exposure to all the growing startups, billion dollar value startups, across ASEAN. This is the opportunity that we see in both ASEAN and the Middle East as well, a flourishing of digital services,” she said.

GBF ASEAN forms part of Dubai Chamber’s flagship Global Business Forum series, which was launched in 2013 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to provide Dubai’s business community with new opportunities and strengthen the emirate’s position as a dynamic global business hub. GBF ASEAN represents the latest in the programme, which also has GBF Africa and GBF LATAM under its umbrella.

Smart Shopping

UAE Residents Prefer Automation in Their Homes & for Online Shopping

Smart Shopping

YouGov’s latest technology report reveals the industries and institutions where consumers show enthusiasm for automation as well as the areas where they oppose it.

The whitepaper titled International Technology Report 2021 explores sentiments and perceptions towards AI across 17 geographies and 19,000 consumers, and aims to help public and private sector organisations plan, while acknowledging and empathizing with human aspirations and concerns.

The data shows beliefs about the impact of automation on society skew more towards positive feelings among UAE residents. About three in ten (30%) consumers in UAE stated ‘Acceptance’ as the word to describe their feeling towards AI & automation, and almost a similar proportion chose optimism, hope and excitement (28% each). Comparatively, less than one in five respondents in the country feel skeptical (18%) towards AI or chose words like fear (18%), confusion (19%) and unnecessary (15%) to describe their feelings towards automation.  

In UAE, almost three in ten (29%) consumers feel AI will have a “more positive than negative” impact on the society. However, this number increases to 44% among those who claim to be well informed about the technology, highlighting a positive correlation between knowledge and positive perceptions about AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now a part of our everyday existence and has impacted many sectors of our lives. On a personal level, UAE consumers are generally comfortable with automation in most life areas except a few. They are comfortable with AI in their homes (54%), for shopping (53%), manufacturing (51%), mobility (47%) and travel (43%), but prefer humans-led approach in areas such as education, medical consultation and government policies. 

When asked about the industries that will be more profoundly impacted by AI, about two in five consumers in UAE think that the manufacturing industry (41%) will have the greatest impact followed by communications (39%), banking & financial services (38%), transport and mobility (36%) and education (32%).

Finally, when we look at the entities that people trust with the developing ethical automated solutions, we find that consumers across the globe are more likely to put their trust in big, established companies over small ones, and the private sector more than the public sphere.

Among UAE residents, even though the big technology companies (46%) are trusted the most with this responsibility, the trust in government is also high and is above the global average (33% vs 16%). 

On the other hand, trust in non-government public serving entities and foreign governments is the least in the country (18% each). Therefore, building trust and credibility will be crucial for institutions to reinforce positive consumer sentiment.

Food Buffet

Jumeirah Group Makes Ten New Appointments to Bolster Culinary Expansion

Food Buffet

Exceptional new talent to join Jumeirah Group and elevate the dining experience across its iconic beachfront properties


United Arab Emirates, Dubai : Jumeirah Group, the global luxury hospitality company and a member of Dubai Holding, has announced a raft of new appointments as the expansion of its world-class culinary portfolio ramps up.

Following the earlier announcement of 13 new and re-imagined concepts set to open over the next two months, the innovative new chefs and mixologists will further strengthen the Jumeirah Restaurants team and support in transforming the Group’s stunning beachfront into a vibrant culinary hotspot.

Mr. Jose Silva, Chief Executive Officer of Jumeirah Group, said: “Exceptional dining is a core focus for Jumeirah Group and central to our expansion. At the heart of this is the recruitment of high calibre and well-known chefs to strengthen the incredible collection of restaurants and bars in our portfolio and enhance the guest experience.We are immensely proud to have a world-class line-up of talent joining our Jumeirah Restaurants team, who will no doubt help make the launch of our enhanced and new restaurant concepts a resounding success.”  

At the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Chef Saverio Sbaragli takes on the role of Head Chef at Al Muntaha, bringing Michelin star expertise in French fine-dining cuisine with Italian influences, to create one of Dubai’s most authentic and exquisite culinary experiences. Chef Tom Koll also joins the world-famous hotel as Executive Pastry Chef, showcasing his in-depth industry knowledge and Michelin starred experience to bring guests new and reimagined offerings. Chef Andrea Migliaccio steps into the role of Executive Chef at Al Mahara, joining from Capri Palace Jumeirah’s Michelin starred restaurants L’Olivo and Il Riccio. He will enhance the menu with his modern re-interpretation of seafood gastronomy as part of its reinvention as a decadent ‘fish club’. Rounding off the new team is acclaimed mixologist Thibault Mequignon as Bar Manager of glittering nightspot Gilt, which will transform into a beverage apothecary. Having worked in some of the world’s best bars across London and Paris, Mequignon will serve up a world-class selection of innovative drinks.

At Jumeirah Al Naseem, Chef Marco Acquaroli joins Rockfish as the Executive Sous Chef, with over 10 years of experience in Michelin starred restaurants across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Remy Marquignon also joins the team as Sous Chef, bringing his invaluable Michelin star experience to the role.  At Rockfish, Acquaroli and Marquignon create exquisite delicacies that are reflective in every dish brought to the table, transporting guests to the coasts of Italy. Stepping into the role of Pastry Chef for the hotel is Chef Julien Jacob, bringing over 16 years of experience in the art of pastry and baking techniques to serve an exceptional selection of desserts across the hotel’s restaurants and lounges.

Heading up the F&B operations at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, Charles-Antoine Chaudron joins as Director of F&B. Having previously worked at luxury hotels across France and England, including the Peninsula Paris, Chaudron will oversee and strengthen the hotel’s existing and upcoming culinary offerings. At Zheng He’s, Chef Wong Lian You takes on the role of Executive Chef where he will bring to life the reimagined Dubai institution, with the best of traditional Chinese flavours and handcrafted Dim Sum.

Taking on the role as Outlet Manager of Pierchic, one of the UAE coastline’s most distinctive dining destinations located at Jumeirah Al Qasr, is Andrea Gerli. Gerli brings over eight years of hospitality experience in the Middle East and Europe to the role where he will oversee the daily operations.    

Lastly, Sebastien Torres joins Jumeirah Beach Hotel as Executive Chef. Torres has had operational oversight of a variety of specialty restaurants ranging from brasserie style to fine dining establishments with two Michelin stars. At Dubai’s family favourite hotel, he is set to elevate the culinary experience across the new and existing outlets.

City skyline at sunset with lines connecting the buildings

Big Data, Big City Transformations: Transport and Well-Being

City skyline at sunset with lines connecting the buildings

As the world changes, so do our priorities. We are now needing to place human needs before technical needs when designing urban areas for the future. Sustainability is at the heart of these considerations as we look to include green spaces, utilise big data effectively, and introduce efficient travel. Technology is central to these ideas, particularly for the use of big data in smart cities.

In today’s society, governments and leaders are given a plethora of insights and data that improve how we live. Gathering such rich and useful information about built-up areas like cities is not only efficient and relatively quick but can work towards providing the best living conditions for residents as well as the environment and other species that inhabit it.


What are smart cities?

Smart cities are a relatively new concept that use technology to gather data and insights to improve services and solve problems. Cities only account for two per cent of our planet’s total surface area. However, data from the UN reports that cities will house 68 per cent of the global population by 2050. The need for cities that can safely house a high population creates challenges like mobility issues, traffic congestion, and pollution, among many more we already face in our everyday lives.

Smart cities can help solve societal challenges we are facing from an ever-increasing human population. City data provides an in-depth and accurate look into what we need without breaching earth’s ecological boundaries.


Successful smart cities

Amsterdam was one of the first smart cities, using data to ensure the city’s roads, housing, services, and quality of life continue to improve. The city manages all this while becoming more sustainable to avoid air pollution too.

Plus, the city is making use of a unique asset to gather data – its bridges. Amsterdam has more bridges than any other city in the world at 1,800 in total. These bridges can communicate information to other infrastructures in order to optimise travel – the MX3D bridge is equipped with sensors to visualise information about traffic on bridges, the neighbourhood, environment, and its structural integrity. Maintenance will automatically be alerted when it needs work on it. It can even communicate with traffic lights to change timing to reduce congestion when it’s busy.


Efficient transport

Railways have always been key spaces within cities and maintain connectivity between neighbourhoods. Trains are the optimum mode of transport in busy cities and will continue to be in the future – for example, transport in London would be near enough impossible without the intricate underground and overground train system. With a population expected to reach around 10 billion by 2050, smart rail systems will be needed more than ever to evolve with the rapidly growing urbanisation.

In today’s world, smart trains use data for passenger information systems to inform on live news, connecting information, time tables, as well as real-time data to inform engineers of predictive maintenance to keep services running smoothly and regulate trains. Machine-to-machine communication with input from the cloud enables passengers to seek the fastest route and find out which trains are the busiest, keeping footfall smooth and reducing congestion in built-up areas.


Dubai’s new ways of travel

Dubai’s pollution is hitting high levels, risking vulnerable groups like young children, older people, pregnant mothers, and the ill. This is contributed to by the high number of personal vehicles emitting noxious pollution as well as heavy-duty vehicles.

Last year, Dubai engineered an entirely new transport system to the city, named Sky Pods.

These will travel alongside the Dubai Metro, transporting two to five people around set routes to meet their mobility targets.

Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, the director-general and chairman of the RTA, commented: “The signing of the agreement is part of RTA’s efforts to deploy autonomous transit means in line with the Dubai Self-Driving Transport Strategy aimed at diverting 25 per cent of total mobility journeys in Dubai to autonomous transit means by 2030.”

Similarly, the city is looking for ways to cut down rush hour for commuters. The new Virgin Hyperloop took its first travellers in November last year and can travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes, transporting 10,000 passengers each hour both ways.


Integrating green spaces

Recent research suggests that while we should integrate technological features into our cities, a lot of focus needs to be shifted towards environmental sustainability.

Smart cities are also being designed for public health and well-being. Satellites can identify how much greenery exists in a city and areas to improve. This can enhance air quality and support ecosystems as well as offer pedestrians places to wind down and relax in nature. Smart parks can ensure lawns and plants are watered in response to weather changes, making plant maintenance an automated process.

These considerations are becoming increasingly important. For example, in the UK, 54,000 acres of green space were turned into artificial surfaces between 2006 and 2012, which is equivalent to an area twice as large as the city of Liverpool.


The technology involved in smart cities can not only help transportation and efficiency but improve the quality of life and emotional well-being of those who live among it.

Saudi Arabia

Swizz Beatz Launch of Good Intentions – A New Global Creative- Consultancy to Be Headquarted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom has engaged the agency to make Saudi Arabia the new travel, art, and culture destination. The first project will be unveiled in Jeddah during the F1 Saudi Formula Grand Prix.

Grammy® award-winning producer, Kasseem Dean, also known as Swizz Beatz, alongside award-winning strategist Noor Taher, announced Good Intentions’ official launch, their global creative consultancy headquartered in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Swizz Beatz has an extensive track record producing some of the most iconic music in history and creatively directing some of the largest brands in the world, consistently pushing borders and disrupting industries with creations like the global television phenomena, Verzuz, and the world’s largest art fair, No Commissions. With a portfolio that includes top-tier companies like AMEX, Aston Martin, Disney, Reebok, Monster Electronics, and Zenith Watches, Kasseem has successfully innovated the way brands, and stories are perceived worldwide.

A recent Harvard graduate and one of the most prominent art collectors in the world, Kasseem is expanding his expertise cross-culturally to collaborate and amplify the future of art, entertainment, and business. With a long history tied to the Middle East, Swizz has focused his attention on bridging, building, and curating experiences to share with the rest of the world.

Co-founded with long-time friend & collaborator – Saudi native Noor Taher, brings her inherent understanding of the Saudi culture and history of mediating and brokering deals from abroad to the region. Her experience entails working with world-renowned multinational corporations, institutions, and brands like The Louvre, Cash & Rocket, Aston Martin, and Nike in addition to sharing a mutual track record of successful projects & IPs with Swizz. Years in the making, Noor and Swizz have always wanted to build what they like to call a “creative voltron” of the best-in-class creatives working with the philosophy to make history, propel the youth forward, and educate people around the world.

Because of the duo’s rare insight, knowledge, access, and strategic collaborations with top creatives across multiple industries, Good Intentions acts as a cultural gatekeeper to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, helping curate and culturally integrate art, music, film, entertainment, tourism, and technology through the developing and rapidly growing country. Good Intentions’ network, coupled with their on-ground presence in Saudi Arabia, will provide experiential, participatory, and innovative ways to engage key audiences across the country.

Good Intentions acts as a cross-cultural integrator for the future of Saudi Arabia. Together, Good Intentions and critical partners in the Kingdom will induce a purposeful knowledge exchange system to level up and push creative forces ushering in a renaissance to shape a better future for generations to come.

The initial project the agency worked on was designing the art and cultural experience of the highly anticipated Jeddah Art Promenade located in the coastal city of Jeddah. The project will be unveiled during the first-ever Saudi Formula Grand Prix (December 3rd-5th), bringing the world’s fastest street circuit to life. Over a dozen art installations from four world-renowned artists – Studio Drift, Javid Jah, Kwest, and Janet Echelman will be on display. The curatorial strategy aims to reflect imminent symbols of the majestic town of Jeddah. Gorgeous hues from the corals of the red sea, poetic verses from iconic stories of Saudi, and the expansive horizon were all sources of inspiration when selecting the pieces. The visual journey will prove to be an experience like no other, in a venue the world has never seen. Artists will share their personal take on how the city of Jeddah has inspired their creations, making each installation that much more meaningful throughout the promenade.

Working with Beatz and Taher to bring their vision to life are larger than life producers of immersive environments with specialty in gaming, live and virtual concerts & broadcast events, XR, architectural, and beyond – Far Right Productions. The producers have designed the ambitious sets for Kanye West’s 2007 Glow in the Dark Tour as well as his Watch the Throne Tour with Jay-Z. Future, Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Fortnite World Cup, Epic Games and more superstars make up the rest of their clientele. Swizz & Noor engaged them to take this project to the next level, relentlessly executing the production of the cultural and art exhibits on ground and online with an immersive virtual world allowing for visitors from all around the world to experience the entire Jeddah Art Promenade.

Leading on curation for the project is national award-winning Curator and Producer of Public Art for the project, Umbereen Inayet. Inayet has an extensive background with over 15 years of coordinating and commissioning public art pieces and installations that connect multiple generations to interact with. Umbereen has been an Artistic Producer for Nuit Blanche Toronto one of the largest free contemporary art events in North America for over a decade working on projects with multidisciplinary artists, curators and studios including Ai Weiwei, Bill Viola, Creative Time, John Akomfrah, Philip Beesley, Krista Kim, Director X, Drake, Floria Sigismondi, HXOUSE, Sean Brown, Daniel Arsham, eL Seed and JR.

The vision, according to Beatz, “is each of the artworks in the exhibit present a reverence for life forces immersed in natural wonders. Encouraging you to take flight, the works present a place for connection to oneself and this earth, discovering endless possibilities and the potential to find a new inner voice and compass within.”

“Being from here, this project is very close to my heart – Saudi is at the forefront of pioneering a creative evolution through so many different mediums. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented creativity & innovation, we are here to make it happen in the most meaningful way possible” Noor shares.

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.

South Africa Energy

South Africa: Transitioning from Coal Reliance to Gas Power Generation

South Africa Energy

With Africa’s energy transition comprising an overarching discussion point at African Energy Week (AEW) 2021 in Cape Town, the platform session on transitioning from coal reliance to gas power generation in South Africa provided African stakeholders with the opportunity to establish their own strategies to drive the transition.


Taking place on Wednesday, the country spotlight on South Africa’s energy mix provided a consolidated view of the challenges and opportunities within the country’s energy transition. Panel participants included representatives from South Africa’s top energy organizations including the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy; Africa Director Risk Advisory Service Eurasia Group; CEF; Sasol; PetroSA; TotalEnergies – South Africa; the Strategic Fuel Fund; CGS; Nersa; and GE Gas Power. With a mandate to promote the role of natural gas in South Africa’s energy mix, recognizing the benefits the resource brings regarding power generation, the panel session offered an African perspective on coal, natural gas, and the continent’s energy transition.

“Gas should play quite a significant role in a just energy transition in South Africa,” stated Akash Latchman, Senior Vice President for Gas Sourcing and Operations for Sasol, adding that, “To unleash the potential of gas is critical in alleviating energy poverty in South Africa.”

“Every time there is a discussion surrounding the just energy transition, various technologies are considered in its permutations, with clean coal technologies being noticeably excluded,” noted Dr. Tshepo Mokoka, Group COO for the CEF, who acknowledged that, “If you are well-endowed as a country with a resource, there is an opportunity to develop clean technologies in relation to coal. What needs to be looked at are the socioeconomic implications that this conversion has.”

Africa is faced with a two-pronged challenge, the first of which is the continent’s significant energy crisis – in which over 600 million people currently lack access to electricity and over 900 million lack access to clean cooking – and the second, the global climate crisis. While western nations are opting for the immediate end to fossil fuel utilisation, oil and gas is critical for Africa if the continent is to address energy poverty. At the South African panel discussion, participants emphasised how natural gas has emerged as the ideal solution to both of these challenges. Representing the ideal transitionary resource, as well as a readily available resource, gas may be the solution the country, and continent, needs to accelerate its energy transition and meet domestic demand.

Adewale Feyemi, Managing Director for TotalEnergies South Africa, noted that, “In South Africa, there is a need for energy, and what role is gas going to play?” Noting its decarbonizing potential, he added that, “Gas is going to be part of the transition. Being a good ally for renewables, we are committed to making sure that these resources are brought to shore as early as possible, and we need to work closely and collaborate with the [relevant] authorities.”

“Once we have gas in the country, from gas-to-power projects, we can ignite other industries to start using gas,” added Dennis Seemala, HOD of Electricity Licensing, Compliance, and Dispute Resolution for Nersa.

While South Africa struggles with ongoing electricity challenges, the utilization of natural gas as a power generation source offers newfound benefits for both the country and the wider region. The significant resources available in southern African nations – the most notable being Mozambique with over 180 trillion cubic feet of reserves in the Rovuma Basin alone – have established new opportunities for gas-to-power in the region.

Already, there exists cross-border infrastructure whereby South Africa can make use of Mozambique’s resources, which, coupled with recent discoveries made in 2019 offshore South Africa, are positioning the country as a natural gas powerhouse. As the continent makes moves to transition to a green economy, natural gas is undoubtedly the best resource for addressing energy poverty while mitigating climate change. Resources in key areas including Senegal, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, and many more, provide a critical opportunity for the continent to accelerate socio-economic growth and clean energy expansion. With the recent implementation of the African Continent Free Trade Agreement in January 2021, opportunities for enhanced cross border trade have opened up trade, liberalized markets, and incentivized the continental utilization of natural gas.

“There’s a bigger role for gas to play,” noted Vuyelwa Mahanyele, Regional Sales Director for GE Gas and Power, stating that, “In terms of the role gas is going to play around the transition, it is important that we bring everyone along the value chain. There’s an entire value chain downstream where there is the expectation of beneficiation around that chain. As we transition to a lower carbon economy, gas is going to play an incredible role in partnership with renewables.”