Visa launches initiative to support women entrepreneurs in Saudi … – Arab News
RIYADH: In a bid to support women-owned small businesses in Saudi Arabia, Visa has launched the second edition of its She’s Next initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority, also known as Monsha’at, and Arab National Bank.
The global advocacy program is part of Visa’s efforts to support the digitalization of women-owned businesses. It also features the launch of its first digitalization index for women-owned small and medium-sized businesses, which measures digital maturity using five key indicators: online presence, digital payments acceptance, payment security awareness, customer engagement, and customer retention, said a press release.
“We’re proud to bring the second edition of our successful global She’s Next program back to Saudi Arabia. We are grateful to our partners for their support in bringing this important initiative to women-owned businesses in the Kingdom,” said Ali Bailoun, Visa’s regional general manager for KSA, Bahrain, and Oman.
Since 2020, Visa has invested around $3 million in over 250 grants and coaching for women entrepreneurs through the program globally including in the US, Canada, India, Ireland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Morocco.
“Women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia require additional funding and support in today’s business landscape. The Women SMB Digitalization Index is a central theme of this year’s She’s Next initiative, reinforcing the critical importance of this shift, and showcasing the progress made by local women-owned businesses in joining the digital economy,” Bailoun added.
According to a survey conducted by the digital payments company, seven in 10 female business owners relied on their savings to start their businesses.
“If additional funds were available, they would invest in staff expansion, new technologies, and increased security measures,” it found.
Commenting on the launch of the program, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said: “We believe in the significant role of training and enablement for small businesses, particularly those owned by women. By providing resources and support for their growth, we can empower these entrepreneurs to not only succeed but to thrive in our economy. Visa’s commitment to this mission aligns with our own, and we are excited to work together towards a brighter future for small businesses in the region.”
The press release stated that women entrepreneurs from all industries and sectors in Saudi Arabia can apply to participate in the program until June 23. One winner will receive a grant of $50,000, a tailored program, and access to She’s Next Club resources such as a workshop library and community of entrepreneurs, it added.
Mohammed Alamro, general manager of entrepreneurship planning at Monsha’at, said: “Initiatives of this sort are propelling the next wave of innovative female entrepreneurs.”
Khalid Al-Rashed, head of retail at ANB, said that by collaborating with Visa the bank “acknowledges the critical role that small and medium-sized businesses play in driving the economic growth of the Kingdom.”
CAIRO: Speaking exclusively with Arab News, Nour Taher, CEO and founder of the company, said Intella has begun relocating its headquarters to the Kingdom after gaining massive traction in the country. 
The move is evidence of how Saudi Arabia is making strides in the field of artificial intelligence and positioning itself at the forefront of the AI revolution in the Middle East. 
“Saudi is becoming a hub for tech companies, and we plan on playing a core role in the Saudi tech ecosystem,” Taher said. 
“Saudi Arabia is currently our largest market with 70 percent of our business coming from there. We have just taken the decision to relocate our HQ there to better serve our existing clients and further expand our business. We are also inspired and aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030,” she added. 
Intella is one of the region’s leading deep tech companies that aspires to create Arabic-language AI technology that caters to a vast range of dialects.  
“Our mission is to capture voice data and convert it into text, which we then analyze and mine for valuable information,” Taher explained. 
AI-Powered products 
The company offers a wide range of products in the areas of voice transcribing, data mining, and AI-powered insight capturing. 
“Our unique advantage lies in our ability to amass vast datasets, which we continue to expand with every conversation captured. By harnessing the power of technology, we are able to reveal insights and patterns that might have been impossible to detect through traditional means,” she explained. 
Intella offers Intella Contact Center Intelligence, a transcribing then analyzing tool for call centers; Intella Surveys, a real-time insight-capturing tool for businesses; and Intella Voice, a multi-dialect Arabic voice transcriber which averages a 95.7 percent accuracy rate covering 25 dialects. 
“We transcribe different Saudi dialects such as Najdi, Hejazi, Gulf and Faifi with an accuracy exceeding 95 percent, even when multiple dialects are intertwined within the same conversation,” Taher explained. 
Opportunities Ahead 
Intella has already cemented its position in the Kingdom with a majority of its client base coming from Saudi Arabia as well as landing multiple partnerships. 
Taher explained that the company’s AI products are suited for contact centers, government bodies, businesses, media agencies, and educational institutions. 
Intella won the Startup World Cup regional competition last February and will be heading to Silicon Valley to compete in the grand finale for a $1 million prize.
Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a cornerstone for AI development in the region, with multi-billion dollar investments and initiatives set to reshape the sector.
The Kingdom established the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority back in 2019 to drive national data and AI to transform the country as a leading data-driven economy.
Saudi Arabia has also set its sights on being ranked among the top 15 nations in AI by 2030.
“We have hundreds of active partnerships, in Saudi Arabia we are working very closely with governmental entities, consulting firms, tech companies, and contact centers. We have also secured global and regional partnerships with big tech companies like Huawei and Microsoft,” Taher stated. 
Taher believes that the Kingdom holds a massive opportunity for AI adoption. She stated that the company’s products were built for businesses and institutions to capture solutions and expand on them. 
“The most exciting part at Intella is that we’re not trying to build solutions alone. The first thing we’ve done when we built our model was avail it through API integration for other parties to integrate with and build on top of,” she said. 
“Saudi Arabia is becoming a tech hub and is attracting a lot of regional and global tech players, hence empowering everyone with accurate multi-dialect transcription could mean that every single conversation turns into meaningful insights,” she added. 
With Saudi Arabia opening to the world, Arabic speaking individuals are heading to the Kingdom to take hold of the opportunities presented by the trillion-dollar economy. “What’s interesting about the Saudi market for us is that Arabic is the main spoken language and even the expats in Saudi are predominantly Arab, so we believe the country is in line with our vision of bridging the gap between global AI advancements and the Arab-speaking world,” Taher emphasized. 
“We’ve also seen an increasing demand from Saudi media and podcast companies who are using our self-service platform to obtain transcripts for their voice content to boost their search engine optimization,” she added. 
Taher aims to position Intella as a market leader in the Saudi space as she stated that the company is actively hiring in Riyadh across a wide range of roles. 
“We are currently 29 and we’re expecting to double this year with the majority of the new hiring happening in our Saudi office,” she added. 
Operating a Software-as-a-Service business model, Intella has been profitable since its inception in 2021 but has been heavily investing in research and development, Taher claims. 
“We have already quadrupled last year’s revenue in the first 5 months of this year,” she said. 
In terms of funding, the company secured a $1 million investment last year through a funding round led by Hala Ventures, in addition to “wrapping up a larger round which will be announced soon,” Taher said. 
Furthermore, Intella won the Startup World Cup regional competition last February and will be heading to Silicon Valley to compete in the grand finale for a $1 million prize. 
Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a cornerstone for AI development in the region, with multi-billion dollar investments and initiatives set to reshape the sector. 
The Kingdom established the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority back in 2019 to drive national data and AI to transform the country as a leading data-driven economy.  
This includes the development of Saudi Arabia’s National Strategy for Data and AI, which was launched in 2020 with the aim of attracting $20 billion in investments for AI initiatives, training 20,000 data and AI specialists, and certifying 100,000 Saudi citizens in the sector by 2030. 
Moreover, Saudi Arabia has set its sights on being ranked among the top 15 nations in AI by 2030.  
Another major attraction is the Kingdom’s giga-project NEOM, intended to be a smart city powered by AI, machine learning, and other variations of advanced technology.
BENGALURU: US money market funds saw big inflows in the week to May 24 as investors favored safer bets ahead of a deadline for politicians to agree an increase in the country’s debt ceiling, according to Reuters.
According to Refinitiv Lipper data, US money market funds received a net $39.9 billion of inflows, the biggest week of net buying in four weeks.
US President Joe Biden and top congressional Republican Kevin McCarthy are closing in on a deal to raise the government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling for two years, a US official told Reuters, but time is running short.
The US Treasury estimates it will run out of funds within a week, and legislating any deal will take that down to the wire.
Meanwhile, riskier equity funds saw outflows for a ninth straight week, worth $1.79 billion.
Investors sold $1.06 billion from US equity value funds and $703 million from growth funds, respectively.
Meanwhile, sectoral equity funds remained in demand as they drew a net $335 million worth of inflows. Tech and consumer discretionary sectors received a net $420 million and $289 million, respectively.
On the other hand, US bond funds attracted a fourth week of inflows, worth about $4.22 billion.
Government bond funds received $2.43 billion in a fifth straight week of net buying.
US corporate and high yield funds also drew $1.72 billion and $677 million of inflows, respectively, but inflation protected funds suffered a sixth weekly outflow of $565 million.
RIYADH: US-based destination marketing company Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau is exploring partnerships in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to create and develop tourist-friendly locations. 
Speaking to Arab News in Riyadh, Julie Wagner, CEO of BHCVB, said: “We are here to see all the new developments in Riyadh, as Saudi Arabia has been making a lot of inroads in creating a tourism-friendly destination.” 
Wagner has found many new luxury developments in the capital modeled on opulent projects developed in Beverly Hills, prompting her to say: “We came here because people understand what’s going on in Beverly Hills, and the region certainly knows who we are.” 
A byword for elegance and glamor, Beverly Hills has long been the destination for discerning travelers from the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. 
Wagner is also bullish on luxury travel in the Kingdom and its ongoing cultural and economic transformation. 
“The ability to customize luxury is very important because many cultures have different lifestyles. So, you must focus on each of their lifestyles every step of the way and create experiences that are relevant to them,” she added. 
But she stressed the most crucial part of destination marketing is respecting the host country’s culture.  
“There must be a fine line when travelers come to a destination. For instance, when I come to visit Riyadh, I have to honor the things here, and that’s part of why I like to come here because there are so many things that are very different from where I am, and I want to experience those things and be a part of that,” she said. 
The company has partnered with the region’s leading experts to curate a luxury travel forum in Riyadh to bring tourism thought leaders and facilitate networking opportunities. 
The capital city is also set to witness a surge in hotels due to an increase in big-ticket sporting and entertainment events to be hosted in the metropolis, including the flagship Riyadh Expo 2030. 
In a sign of the sector’s growth, Riyadh Season 2022, the state-sponsored annual entertainment and sports festival, hosted 10 million visitors in less than three months of its launch on Oct. 21 last year.  
The city has also been a sought-after destination for major events such as formula car racing and WWE wrestling matches, besides hosting the seven-side FIFA Club World Cup in December 2023 and the Asian Games in 2034.
LONDON: Oil prices ticked up on Friday as the market weighed conflicting messages on supply from Russia and Saudi Arabia ahead of the next policy meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+.
Brent crude was up 77 cents, or 1 percent, at $77.03 a barrel at 13:42 p.m., while US West Texas Intermediate rose 96 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $72.79 a barrel.
Benchmarks settled more than $2 per barrel lower on Thursday, after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak played down the prospect of further OPEC+ production cuts at its meeting in Vienna on June 4.
Both prices were still poised to post a second week of gains of slightly less than 1 percent. A deal to raise the US debt ceiling, which appears in sight, would likely boost oil prices.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that energy prices were approaching “economically justified” levels, also indicating there could be no immediate change to the group’s production policy.
Their remarks contrasted with comments this week from Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman warning short sellers to “watch out.”
Some investors interpreted that as a signal OPEC+ could consider further output cuts.
Worries of weaker-than-expected demand growth globally also weighed on investor outlook ahead of an expected rise in the second half of the year, especially from China.
Meanwhile, bets on falling oil prices are on the rise.
The dollar has strengthened this month against a basket of major peers, making dollar-denominated commodities such as oil more expensive for those holding other currencies.
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and Iraq on Thursday signed a raft of agreements to boost economic cooperation and develop a special economic zone.
The deals were signed during the fifth session of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council in Jeddah.
The two sides agreed to identify economic opportunities to boost bilateral trade and investments in various sectors.
Following the session, Saudi Commerce Minister Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi said the meeting was an affirmation of the brotherly relations between the two countries and aimed to strengthen the strategic partnership.
Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Ali Tamim, who is also the planning minister, said Baghdad wants the joint council to succeed in its missions and achieve its goals.
The ministers praised the growth of trade between the two countries, which reached $1.5 billion in 2022.
Both officials agreed to enhance trade ties by effectively utilizing the newly opened Arar Port and expediting the opening of the Jumaimah border crossing.
A Saudi-Iraqi Economic Forum was also held on the sidelines of the coordination council meeting. The event was attended by more than 300 businessmen from the two countries.
The chairman of the Saudi-Iraqi Business Council, Mohammed Alkhorayef, said the Kingdom aims to raise exports to Iraq to $10 billion over the next five years.


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