Analysis: Webinars and Virtual Events from The Middle East and Africa Part One by Richie Santosdiaz for The FinTech Times
Event Analysis Fintech Middle East & Africa Trending

Summer Event Highlights From the Middle East

Despite global travel restrictions and limitations on movement coupled with social distancing, many events in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region have still continued.

While the majority of events have moved online, it hasn’t stopped discussions on Fintech and financial services from continuing including:

Girl Code

girlcode were once of many events that happened virtually across the Middle East
girlcode were one of many noticeable events that happened virtually across the Middle East IMAGE SOURCE PROVIDED

One of the highlights in the region from earlier in the week included debates over the obstacles women in tech have to overcome. Gender imbalances in the technology industry remains a trending topic, yet opportunities in other departments are rapidly expanding. The panel brought emerging and seasoned professionals who will discuss pressing challenges that stand in the way of bridging the gender gap in tech-based roles. The session was moderated by Abdulla Almoayed – CEO & Founder of Tarabut Gateway.

Panelists included: Raja Al Mazrouei – Executive Vice President, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) – FinTech Hive; Dalal Buhejji – Director – Business Development – Financial services, Bahrain Economic Development Board; Hassan Sheikh – Head of marketing & Business development at SmartCrowd & Co-founder of sempro; Dr Sana AlFarid – Co-founder & CEO of Munfarid, VRXOne, Mulhimat & TelecommuteX.

Emirati Women’s Day and Developing a Strong and Vibrant VC Ecosystem in the Middle East – Abu Dhabi Global Market (AGDM)

Abu Dhabi Global Market (AGDM) is the flagship financial services hub of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They hosted two notable events. The first was around Emirati Women’s Day which was on the 28th August in the UAE. ADGM hosted an event that celebrated Emirati women and their achievements aiming to inspire and motivate female professionals in the community. Emirati Women’s Day was launched in 2015 by HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairperson of the General Women’s Union, President of the Family Development Foundation, and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood.

The second event was around VCs on the 3rd of August. ADGM hosted the live webcast session with prominent experts from VC Circle, Global Ventures, Shorooq Partners and VentureSouq, providing insights on the Middle East’s evolving startup investments and venture capital (VC) ecosystem. Key topics discussed included: The region’s requirements in terms of VC investments in the startup space; Understanding the current VC ecosystem – opportunities and challenges; Investments strategies based on various sectors such as fintech and medtech; Resources available through Mubadala, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), Hub71, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), ADNOC and other partners.

Smartpreneur 5.0 Competition Ceremony – Dubai

Back for its fifth annual cycle, the competition gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to become part of Dubai Government’s Strategy to elevate the city into a global platform for innovation-focused businesses. In line with the biggest event during this year Dubai Expo 2020, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry open the competition to technology startups who have solutions in the fields of Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity. Open to all entrepreneurs based or planning to move to the UAE, participants are required to submit their business ideas in line with these categories. The most recent ceremony announcing the winners was held at the end of August. The UAE’s new Minister of State for Entrepreneurship Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi delivered the keynote speech during the ceremony. Business concepts aligned with the Expo 2020 sub-themes of Mobility, Opportunity and Sustainability. The top 10 shortlisted startups have an opportunity to exhibit at Expo 2020 Dubai and the top 3 winners receive cash prizes, training, mentorship and additional benefits.

STEP Anywhere

STEP Anywhere happened virtually in August 2020
STEP Anywhere happened virtually in August 2020 IMAGE SOURCE STEP

STEP started out as a series of workshops and small gatherings, and over 9 years has grown to become the largest tech festival in Dubai. STEP Anywhere brought together a global audience of startups, investors, digital enthusiasts, brands, and more over 3 days online. STEP Anywhere’s first edition in 2020 featured 6 tracks of live talks and panels, workshops, various startup programming, exhibition and showcasing opportunities, and live entertainment.

The Fintech Times editorial director Mark Walker was part of a panel on fintech, following on from the Head of Middle East and Africa Richie Santosdiaz moderating a panel at STEP Conference in Dubai back in March around data as a service.

Fintech & Healthtech investments in Dubai and India explored

The impact of current economic changes on the investment ecosystem in fintech and healthtech in India and in Dubai was extensively discussed at a webinar organised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry end of August, according to a release from the Emirates News Agency. The release also mentioned that Sameer Nawani, Chief Representative of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce’s International Office in Mumbai, explained that digitisation and growth in technology are bringing about big changes in financial services and healthcare systems. The UAE accounted for 60 per cent of funding for startups in the Middle East and in the North Africa region in the first half of 2020 while India was among the top three startup centres despite a decline in funding for startups in India in the same period. Others who spoke at the webinar were Salman Jaffrey, Chief Business Development Officer of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Hamzeh Kolaghassi, Founder of Maia Exchange, a global private exchange based at DIFC, Anuj Golecha, co-founder of Venture Catalysts, one of India’s top ten angel investors and Ashwin Raguraman, co-founder of Bharat Innovation Fund, an early-stage venture capital firm investing in globally competitive, early-stage deep-tech startups.

Dubai FDI reaches out to investors in America in technology, healthcare and logistics via webinars

The Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), an agency of Dubai Economy, connected virtually with potential investors and partners from America to present opportunities in Dubai’s technology, healthcare and logistics sectors, according to the Dubai Media Office. The technology webinar was hosted by the US Consulate General, Dubai; US Commercial Service, Florida; and Enterprise Florida. Participants were welcomed by the US Consul General in Dubai, Philip Frayne, and the webinar was moderated by Christian Koschil of US Commercial Service of the US Department of Commerce. The initiative was supported by the US-UAE Business Council. The healthcare and logistics webinars were organised by law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP and the US-UAE Business Council and brought together multiple government and corporate stakeholders in these sectors.

A virtual roundtable hosted by The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Secretariat General (GCC) on the opportunities, challenges and role of Fintechs in the Arabian Gulf region during the COVID-19 crisis

There was a virtual roundtable that was hosted by the GCC. The discussion was moderated by Firas Al-Lawati, Head of Fintech at the Central Bank of Oman. Panelists included Head of Fintech and Innovation at the Central Bank of Bahrain, Ms. Yasmeen Al-Sharaf; Abu Dhabi Global Market Fintech Committee Member, Mohammad Shalloh; CEO of Thawani, Majid Al-Ameri; and CEO of Tap Payments, Ali Abulhasan. The panelists discussed how the pandemic accelerated the evolution of doing business online in the region.

Gulf Capital SME Insights Live – Surviving the digital pivot – How will SMEs perceive technology post the pandemic?

This event took place on the 25th of August and outlined the approach for small and medium-size businesses when they look for appropriate technologies to help them be more efficient and to be able to integrate with the market and their clients. Key discussion points included: Why technological transformation is more critical for SMEs than enterprises; Redesigning services for the new normal; What is the value that tech hubs provide startups, helping them pivot and learn from the experience?; Going digital: Tools and tricks that can be applied to enable SMEs to reach their target audience. Panellists included: Alvaro Abella, Managing Director, Gulf Capital; Jeremy Shorter, Startup Programme Lead, StartAD; Pedro Pereira, Director, Innovation Adoption and Impact, SAP EMEA South and Richard Thompson, Editorial Director, MEED.

The last ‘Gulf Capital SME Insights Summit’ just took place on September 9, 2020, culminating the successful webinar series, which provided access for SMEs to resources and experts on critical topics following the current financial climate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Decoding the Future of Money – Banking Without Banks Webinar

EROE, a boutique business transformation consultancy based in Dubai and San Francisco, recently hosted a webinar on 8th September called “Decoding the Future of Money – Banking Without Banks” together with leading specialists from McKinsey, Securrency, Tarabut Gateway and Bosa Advisors. EROE’s series of webinars Business Transformation Explained continues to shed light on the important subjects across vital industries in the region. Part of a 3 episodes webinar set to decode the future of money, the edition Banking Without Banks is drawing together global and regional experts in the financial industry.


  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

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