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MENA Watch: Good days ahead for the region as startups raise USD 88.7 million

In terms of financing, the UAE continued to lead the MENA ecosystem, as its companies raised USD 65.6 million in 22 deals

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s startups raised USD 88.7 million in 37 agreements, representing a meagre 2% monthly increase in deal value. This year’s investment amount in February 2024 has decreased by 88% when compared to the same month the previous year.

In terms of financing, the UAE continued to lead the MENA ecosystem, as its companies raised USD 65.6 million in 22 deals, with the Flare Network receiving half of the funds.

With seven deals totalling USD 16.3 million, Saudi Arabian entrepreneurs raised the second most money, while only two Egyptian businesses brought in USD 4.6 million.

This month’s rising stars of the Web3 space are the companies that have received USD 39 million in three rounds, with Flare Network raising the most at USD 35 million.

Foodtech secured USD 21 million in two deals this month, with USD 12 million going toward The Cloud’s Series B round. This is a strong performance in terms of investment quantity. By contrast, six fintech businesses raised USD 6.9 million, and startups in the logistics space raised USD 5.4 million.

With 11 companies in the seed stage having raised a total of USD 25.5 million, investments in seed-stage firms are still very popular.

The business-to-consumer (B2C) sector received around USD 55 million through 16 transactions, while the business-to-business (B2B) sector received USD 18.4 million in funding for 17 businesses.

As usual, male-led companies have dominated the market, taking in almost 55% of all transaction value. In contrast, mixed-gender founders received 44.6% of the value, and female-led firms raised just 0.2%.

Fourteen firms in February 2024 failed to disclose the money they had raised. These consist of Boltable Studio, Hayi, Coino Live, Promenade, NoorNation, Bookr, PIESHIP, PhysioHome, AR Viewz, TextTeo AI, overwrite.ai, and CAI Concierge AI.

For their confidential rounds, Magpie Protocol and Groene Point were each given USD 1 million.

News From The Venture Capital Space

The creation of the Falcon Foundation in the United Arab Emirates and its intention to invest USD 300 million in the creation of open-source generative AI models, as well as the USD 5 million contribution made by Jordan’s Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund (ISSF) to the MENA-focused MSA Novo fund, in February 2024, indicated renewed activity in the venture capital space.

The UAE-based early-stage venture capital firm COTU Ventures also announced a USD 54 million initial fund. In contrast, the Lebanese venture capital firm Globivest, driven by women, has finished the second close of its first fund. Sawari Ventures, based in Egypt, recently declared its intention to open a USD 150 million fund with no specific date to assist Egyptian companies.

With USD 16.3 million in startup funding in February 2024—a 48.18% increase from January 2023—Saudi Arabia ranked second in the MENA area for this type of investment. This accomplishment shows the strength and room for expansion of the Saudi startup scene and confirms to foreign investors Saudi Arabia’s competence in high-tech innovation.

All businesses in the MENA area reportedly received USD 88.7 million in funding in total in February. The businesses in the United Arab Emirates topped the list with 22 investments totalling USD 65.6 million; however, more than half of that amount came from the USD 35 million that Flare Network raised. In Egypt, just two businesses have raised USD 4.6 million in total.

With businesses raising close to USD 40 million, the Web3 sector led the investment market this month. The food tech sector was also active, getting USD 21 million in two deals. Fintech and logistics startups, on the other hand, raised USD 6.9 million and USD 5.4 million, respectively. The majority of funding came from seed rounds, where 11 firms raised USD 25.5 million in total.

In addition to financial support, the Saudi government has continued to support the country’s economic diversification and the advancement of science, technology, and innovation through a range of initiatives, including the creation of innovation infrastructure, policy incentives, and high-tech conferences and summits.

All of these actions have significantly boosted the prosperity of the innovation ecosystem in 2023. With a total of USD 1.383 billion, up 33% from 2022, venture capital investments made in Saudi enterprises have once again crossed the USD 1 billion mark and reached a record. Additionally, as a result, Saudi Arabia will receive 52% of all Middle Eastern financing in 2023, as opposed to 30% in 2022.

The performance of Saudi startup funding indicates a massive market opportunity, particularly in high-tech areas where Chinese companies have been excelling, such as finance, e-commerce, digital health, and artificial intelligence.

Chinese startups can continue to be involved in this innovation ecosystem as long as the Saudi government promotes technological innovation and economic diversification in Vision 2030. This will support Chinese companies’ internationalisation strategies and enhance Sino-Saudi cooperation and exchanges in the field of science and technology innovation.

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