UAE grants long-term visas to 100 most promising Arab start-ups

World Economic Forum and the Bahrain Economic Development Board select top start-ups from the MENA region
UAE grants long-term visas to 100 most promising Arab start-ups
Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation.
By Sam Bridge
Sat 06 Apr 2019 05:00 PM

The UAE Government has announced it is granting long-term visas for the top 100 start-ups shaping the fourth industrial revolution.

The 100 Arab start-ups were selected at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, held in Jordan, which started on Saturday.

The announcement of the five-year visas was made during the participation of Abdulla bin Touq, secretary general of the UAE Cabinet, and Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation.

"The UAE is a global incubator for emerging innovations. Our innovation-friendly legislative structure is essential for start-up companies," said bin Touq.

"This collaboration with the World Economic Forum to grant long-term visas to the top 100 Arab start-ups reflects our commitment to facilitate businesses, create an attractive and encouraging environment for growth, and underline the UAE's position as a global destination for talents," he added.

The start-ups will also have a chance to team up with Area 2071 in Dubai which serves as a gateway and a platform to design the future, through encouraging creativity, fostering talents as well as attracting local and global partnerships.

According to World Economic Forum, nearly 20 percent of Arab world's 100 most promising start-ups are based in the UAE.

The World Economic Forum and the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) selected the 100 most promising Arab start-ups of 2019.

The initiative aims to further integrate the Arab world's most promising start-up entrepreneurs into a national and regional dialogue on pressing challenges.

Among the selected start-ups are the world’s first halal investment platform (Wahed, UAE); a biotech company that uses camel milk to develop antibodies (MonoJo, Jordan); a platform to meet fellow football players and book pitches (Malaem, Bahrain); a production company shaping its country’s cultural landscape (Akkasa, Oman); the first coding booth camps for the Arab world (Coded, Kuwait); and a company conducting a range of mapping including that of cultural heritage sites with autonomous drones (FalconViz, Saudi Arabia).

The initiative also welcomed back start-ups selected in 2017, including Elves (Egypt), an AI concierge service; Daraty (Syria), a toolkit for children to learn electronics; and Careem (UAE), the Arab world’s first unicorn company recently sold for $3.1 billion.

With a 31 percent increase in investments compared to 2017, a new record was reached for regional start-up funding last year, according to data from Magnitt.

Foreign investment remained stable in 2018 with 30 percent from outside the Arab world, while fintech took over e-commerce as the top industry as a result of an 8 percent increase in deals since 2017.

“The Arab world will need its private sector to address youth unemployment, the current skills gap for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the inclusion of women in the workforce,” said Mirek Dusek, deputy head of the Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs, member of the executive committee, World Economic Forum.

"Start-ups, and the entrepreneurs building them, are key to a strategic public-private dialogue on these issues and to creating corresponding new opportunities in society," Dusek added.

Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive of the EDB, said: “Across the Middle East, entrepreneurs are devising increasingly innovative ways to tackle the evolving societal challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with novel applications of technology.

"These efforts need to be encouraged, recognized and supported by investors, business leaders and policy-makers. The 100 Arab start-ups initiative is not just a platform for recognizing promise but a way to bring great minds together to discuss the limitless possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the next breakthroughs that the regional ecosystem can deliver."

For the full list, click here.

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