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BLJ Worldwide's second state-of-the-region report on technology industry confirms investment in mobility tech is key to a sustainable future in MENA

Monday, June 3, 2024/ Editor -  

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Exclusive insights from World Economic Forum's Professor Tarek Selim feature in 'MENA Tech 2024: Mapping the Technology Landscape' report, which explores the region's latest technological developments in sustainability, education, finance and media

Doha, Qatar, 3 June 2024: Global experts agree that technological innovation is the key enabler of a more sustainable future for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as part of a landmark new report published today.   

'MENA Tech 2024: Mapping the Technology Landscape' is the second annual offering from strategic communications agency BLJ Worldwide, headquartered in Doha. The only umbrella study of its kind in the region, it delves into the development of the technology industry across Arab countries in MENA in various sectors.

One of the highlights of this year's report is an exclusive new essay from World Economic Forum's Professor Tarek Selim: 'Smart Mobility in the MENA Region'. It outlines how such technology can not only solve urbanization issues but also improve the quality of life for many, whilst investment in smart mobility will help nations which are seeking to diversify their economies away from oil and gas. 

As well as climate tech, the report focuses on four key sectors: fintech, edtech, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the media industry. Thought leaders and entrepreneurs have highlighted AI and fintech as two of the fastest growing areas in the region. 

Iman Asante, General Manager, BLJ said: 'This year's report is the largest collection of thought leadership commentaries from a selection of the region's most eminent industry experts. From Generative AI and Arabic language, and the future of education in the rapidly evolving AI era, to MENA's growing appetite for decentralised finance, the report covers some of the most trending topics - all set against the backdrop of the region's accelerated  digital transformation.'

The report features notable contributors including Monaem Ben Lellahom, Founding Partner and Group CEO, Sustainable Square; Santiago Bañales, Managing Director of Iberdrola Innovation Middle East; Noha Shaker, co-founder of the Egyptian Fintech Association;  Indica Amarasinghe, Chapter Director, Startup Grind Qatar; Michael Webster, Executive Chairman of media intelligence platform, Telum Media; and Padmini Gupta, CEO of fintech Xare.

Justin Kerr-Stevens, CEO, BLJ Worldwide, said: 'Amid challenging global economic headwinds the region is experiencing strong growth as a result of its relentless focus on using technology to drive progress across all areas of the economy. In fact, the Middle East's digital economy is projected to grow 20% per year, taking its value to $780 billion by 2030 [Source]. Coupled with strong governmental support, the private sector is buoyant and we have a dynamic and vibrant startup ecosystem which is attracting interest from entrepreneurs around the world.'

'MENA Tech 2024: Mapping the Technology Landscape' also has a dedicated section that sheds light on the careers of female trailblazers in the region's technology sector, including Qatar's Thuraya Al Mulla - Arab Fintech Entrepreneur of the Year 2023 - and founder and CEO of fintech startup Receipts; and UAE-based Padmini Gupta, CEO of Xare. Gupta is an award-winning banker and a World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellow, who is now revolutionizing financial services for migrant workers worldwide. 

Where is the region headed in the next 10 years? 

Amongst the commentaries from other industry leaders in the region are:

1.       Dr Salim Al-Shuaili, Director, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technologies Projects Unit, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, Oman: 'AI will dramatically reshape the Middle East's tech landscape, driving innovation and digital transformation across sectors. It will drive urban development, personalised healthcare, enhance business productivity and enable workforce automation.' 

2.       Narayanan Ganapathy, co-founder of Bahrain-based fintech startup, Bambucorn: 'I expect to see the investment industry democratized to a great extent during the next decade. The crypto and decentralized finance sectors will start to take center stage, with a shift to consumers largely wanting to use web 3 solutions that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools.' 

3.       Alexander Wiedmer, Partner and Director, Rasmal Ventures LLC: 'As we stand on the precipice of 2025, the global community is at a tipping point and there can be no deceleration in its collective efforts to meet 2030's net zero targets. This is especially true for the MENA region, which has a historical and economic preoccupation in fossil fuels combined with a unique set of ecological vulnerabilities. Progress can only be achieved with continued and sustained investment in cutting-edge technologies which will facilitate a greener future.'

Tech and MENA's media landscape

Industry figures including Michael Webster, Executive Chairman of Telum Media, a media intelligence platform, and Dubai-based Kulmiye Tifow, director at media monitoring and analytics  provider, LexisNexis, have authored essays addressing the rise of AI-generated content in journalism and how deepfakes are prompting consumers to seek out high-quality trusted sources of news. 

'Where audiences are being bombarded by misinformation and fake images, amid the noise and sensationalism they're turning to genuinely credible media outlets - or tier one titles - where they know that the information they are getting is verified and authentic', says Tifow.

Webster believes that AI-generated news content could find a natural home in the MIddle East due to a young tech-savvy population, which consumes most of its news from a smartphone, bolstered by governments that have the means to invest heavily in the promotion and development of AI on a scale not replicated in other parts of the world. 


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