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Saudi Arabia boasts higher women-in-tech startup rates than Europe: Research report

Saudi Arabia’s start-up rates for women in tech are higher than that of men, a research report published in April 2022 by Endeavor Insight found.

The report also found that the participation rate of women in the tech sector is higher than the European average.

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According to the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information, the participation rate of females in the tech sector stood at 28 percent in the third quarter of 2021, above the European average rate of 17.5 percent.

Saudi Arabia issued 139,754 new commercial licenses to women in 2021, marking one of the largest growth rates according to records.

The ministry reported a 112 percent increase in commercial registrations issued for women entrepreneurs in six years from 2015. In contrast, the report said that 65,912 commercial registrations were issued to female-owned businesses in 2015.

The research report credits most of the changes to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 framework, with key elements of private sector investment and talent-attraction and retention fueling the sector.

A key area of development for tech start-ups in progressing from a small company and scaling to firms with more than 50 employees, the report found.

“Saudi Arabia has the potential to become a regional hub for tech entrepreneurship in the Middle East if more companies reach scale,” research showed. Having more than 50 employees reportedly helps with resiliency in times of economic turmoil.

According to the same research report, 50 percent of the companies in tech were founded in the last five years.

The Ministry of Investment’s recent initiative to revamp the country’s legal system for foreign investors is also expected to result in an increase in international businesses by over 50 percent, according to reports.

Under the new law, both foreign and local investment will receive equal treatment as the Kingdom looks to diversify its economy from oil exportation. It will grant foreign investors the freedom to manage, sell, and dispose of their economic projects and own any necessary properties, ensuring smoother business operations.

It will also give both local and foreign investors the full support of all competent government authorities and ensure that both are subject to the same sectoral approval requirements for registration, licenses, and approvals for permits needed for specific economic activities or zones.

According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the percentage of the adult population involved in an entrepreneurial operation rose from 13.7 percent to 22.4 percent between 2016 and 2020.

The findings in the Endeavor Insight report are based on 70 interviews with tech entrepreneurs and more than 340 companies and their founders.

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Ruble rises toward 50 vs dollar, first time in more than seven years

The ruble rose on Wednesday to its strongest in more than seven years, driven higher by capital controls and weak demand inside Russia for foreign currency as it neared 50 against the dollar for the first time since May 2015.
The ruble has become the world’s best-performing currency this year, boosted by measures – including restrictions on Russian households withdrawing foreign currency savings – taken to shield Russia’s financial system from western sanctions imposed after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Proceeds from commodity exports, a sharp drop in imports, and month-end tax payments in rubles by export-oriented Russian firms are further factors behind the currency’s gains.
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At 0819 GMT, it was up more than 2.7 percent to 50.32 against the dollar on the Moscow Exchange after hitting 50.01.
“Despite the end of the tax payment period, we expect the dollar-ruble pair to stay near the lower boundary of our 50-52 target range,” Promsvyazbank said in a note.
Against the euro, the ruble added 3 percent to 52.91, climbing beyond 53 for the first time since April 2015.
Capital controls have also enabled the currency to shrug off what the White House and Moody’s credit agency said on Monday was the first default by Russia in more than a century on its international bonds.
The Kremlin, which has hard currency from oil and gas revenue to make the scheduled payments on the debt, has rejected the designation, calling it artificial and engineered by Western sanctions.
The strong ruble dents Russia’s income from selling commodities and other goods abroad for dollars and euros, and Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov said this month that industry would be more comfortable if it fell to between 70 to 80 against the dollar.
Many Russian companies, primarily non oil-and-gas exporters, are already suffering financially, said Evgeny Suvorov, economist at CentroCreditBank.
Just before Russia embarked on what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, the ruble traded near 80 to the dollar and 90 against the euro.
At that time, it traded in free-float mode and, unsupported by capital controls, got hammered due to fears of sanctions. On the stock market, the dollar-denominated RTS index rose 1.5 percent to 1,488.6 points.
The ruble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.9 percent lower at 2,387.4 points, pressured by ruble gains.
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Spain inflation soars to 37-year high

Inflation in Spain has soared to a 37-year high, reaching double digits due to rising energy and food prices, official data showed Wednesday.
Inflation has soared worldwide as economies have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed commodity prices higher.
Consumer prices in Spain accelerated to 10.2 percent in June on an annual basis, up from 8.7 percent in the previous month and the highest since April 1985, according to the National Statistics Institute.
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The rise is mainly due to increases in fuel and food prices, but the institute also noted a hike in prices in the hospitality sector in one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Core inflation, which is seasonally adjusted and excludes energy, jumped to 5.5 percent in June compared to 4.9 percent in the previous month – the highest since August 1993.
The European Central Bank plans to hike interest rates for the first time in more than a decade in July in efforts to tame inflation in the eurozone.
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Purpose-led, customer-centric strategies to fore in Saudi banking sector: KPMG report

Banks that more grounded in communities, serving the real economy and leveraging a customer-centric approach are best-positioned to succeed, according to a top financial expert.
Ovais Shahab, Head of Financial Services at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, made this observation during the launch of their latest ‘Banking perspectives: Saudi Arabia 2022’ publication, titled “Purpose-led banking.”
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The report emphasizes the evolving landscape in the Kingdom’s financial services sector and with a consolidated analysis of the latest available financial performance of the 10 Tadawul-listed banks.
The third edition of this annual flagship publication focuses on the theme of purpose-led banking, encompassing the developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations and customer-centric perspectives that are underpinning boardroom discussions.
The publication covers current themes in the banking industry that the firm’s financial services team has observed segmented into four streams; People-centered banking, Governance and compliance, Transformational technologies, and Enabling excellence – providing perspectives to address current challenges and opportunities.
“Driven in part by the disruptive technologies from outside and within the financial services sector, we see a major sea change to how banks operate in value-based banking,” said Shahab.

Encourage money-saving habits

One of the primary objectives of the Kingdom’s Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) is to promote and enable financial planning by driving the expansion of savings products, strengthening the savings ecosystem, as well as enhancing financial literacy.
Commercial banks have created new savings products as a response to some of the ambitious targets set by the FSDP which were to increase the total amount held in savings products and increase the variety of savings products.
“Partnerships with communities and local businesses to create sustainable savings programs and development projects, is the future of social banking in Saudi Arabia,” Shahab stated.
Banks will be required to look beyond loans and think of ways to support beneficiaries and the community. For example, banks need to understand their beneficiaries, their needs and business opportunities, partner with them through sustainable funding models. Such purpose-led businesses will be increasingly in demand as organizations gravitate towards sustainable growth.

Sturdy performance

The publication has further analysed that Saudi Arabia’s banking sector’s results for the first quarter of 2022 (Q1), reflected a sturdy industry performance, highlighting a year-on-year (YoY) increase in net profit by 22.83 percent. Total assets of the banking industry have also increased by 3.75 percent as compared to December 31, 2021.
At the close of 2021, the banking industry showed a resurgence after severe impact of the COVID-19 the pandemic was passed, with an increase in profit of 40.15 percent. Expected credit loss (ECL) charge declined by 11.47 percent year-on-year in Q1 2022.
Meanwhile, total customer deposits reported modest growth of 3.90 percent since December 31, 2021, indicating clearly that the liquidity has not been a challenge to date.

SAMA driving change

“SAMA has been a proponent of change and development in the financial sector, in line with the objectives of FSDP, by taking new players in the financial sector under its wing and embracing a positive attitude towards new technology to usher banking into the future,” commented Khalil Al Sedais, Office Managing Partner – Riyadh at KPMG in Saudi Arabia.
Banks are responding to this shift and to the requirements of the government to achieve greater economic development, while considering the threats and opportunities permeating an evolving technological and risk environment.
With the imminent launch of the SAMA Open Banking framework, with now three open banking FinTechs permitted into its Sandbox, yet another step in the evolution of the banking industry is being set. This will increase demand for cloud solutions as key enabler for both open and digital banking.
“The outlook for the banking sector looks promising, owing to product innovation and conscious efforts on deploying digital solutions for improving efficiencies. Moreover, the entry of the new digital banks that are gearing up for innovative and customer-centric products will bring more liquidity in the banking system and enhance economic activity,” Shahab concluded.

Read more: SAMA launches Fintech Saudi initiative to enable financial technology sector

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