For both the MENA startup and investor communities, the year 2020 has shown to be a year of fundamental transition. While the pandemic brought about an unprecedented economic recession, the demand for automation and digitization was no longer an option. Yet we have witnessed great resilience in regional companies that successfully shifted towards online activities.
Last month, Investera+ published the 2020 MENA Investment Report summarizing some of the expected investment trends that we might see in 2021. Here is our selection of industries that we are anticipating to gain momentum in 2021:
1. Financial Services – Fintech
The buzz over Fintech in the MENA region is here to stay in 2021 amid the ongoing pandemic. This year, regional countries that are focused on fintech are expected to continue innovating and fostering the ecosystem with hopes to see further regulatory structures, sandboxes, blockchain and cryptocurrency projects, and other initiatives to promote fintech’s infrastructure.
Also, as many fintech unicorns debuted in the region, 2021 could potentially see more and more fintech companies try to penetrate the market in the region as the demand for cashless payments, online banking and other financial services continue to grow.
Moreover, the world of wealth management is being transformed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and fintech. Finance applications are now effectively providing investment opportunities customized to the needs of people through the use of customer-centric algorithms and comprehensive datasets. The outbreak directed customers to turn to digital banking services and investment opportunities with strict stay-at-home orders that they would not have explored otherwise.
In the last few years, the cyber-attacks have immensely increased in the MENA region. Emerging industries and governmental high valued sectors are considered as the most attractive targets to hackers. Additionally, over the past 10 years, Internet users in the MENA region have increased dramatically with low cybersecurity awareness; as a result, the region’s cybersecurity attack rate has been extremely high. The need to upgrade the network infrastructure in order to meet all cyber threats is no longer an option.
As the region continues to flourish in digitization, there has been a remarkable increase in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and cybersecurity investments to maintain and protect the tech advancements that the region has witnessed over the past few years across diverse industries. These investments are crucial as developed industries are at tremendous risk of cyber attacks and hackers.
3. Healthcare Technologies
In the wake of the pandemic, visiting a doctor was not an accessible solution for many with remote treatment being the only solution. This drove significant improvements to healthcare services around the world, especially in the MENA region. Luckily, patients and doctors quickly grew accustomed to giving and receiving remote treatments. As for the industry in the region, we expect it to continue undergoing transformations to further adapt and cater to a more health-conscious population. Furthermore, in a very short period, the industry has proven to deliver successful telemedicine, remote treatments, and long-term care which plays a key role in driving investors to further invest and transform this sector.
The MENA region is gearing up for 5G faster than other regions worldwide, and while tech companies plan ahead for new business models that can be enabled with this super-fast connectivity, they will also face challenges in terms of security and investment. The spread of the Novel Coronavirus during 2020 has definitely slowed down the deployment of 5G not only in the region, but also around the whole world. During such times, the need for better connectivity has become crucial. But as the MENA region has broadly taken over the deployment of 5G, we are expecting to see the 5G to take over and improve many fields such as manufacturing, healthcare, and security.
Besides our selection of expected trending industries, Investera+’s report highlights other potential industries that investors are keeping an eye out for that we also believe will play a major role in the technological advancements of the region.
So, for the region to thrive across a diverse range of industries, we hope to see more enabling environments and frameworks that will make the MENA region a limitless house of innovation and startups that bring real value to the region’s technology ecosystem.