The 2022 Wrap-Up: MENA Trials and Prospects

The 2022 Wrap-Up: MENA Trials and Prospects

We sum up some of our major themes and stories of last year, as opportunities for reflection heading into the new one:

The year 2022 was filled with unequivocal lessons and unexplored potential around MENA’s innovation and entrepreneurial worlds.

Naturally, emerging markets are positioned to bear the ripple effects of changes happening on a global front and strenuous economic conditions. However, certain intricacies in the makings of MENA allowed many sectors and businesses to take leading and rather pioneering roles amidst global turmoils – especially in the GCC. For us at AstroLabs, it’s been a busy year working on building markets and accelerating transformations in some of the most promising emerging sectors. 

In 2022, we also started sharing some of our market insight and on-ground business sentiment with you all; in efforts to build open-sourced knowledge platforms around our local markets. Over the past year, we’ve helped numerous private organizations run their internal digital and data transformations across industries, worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and founders on unlocking business potentials, and welcomed teams from all over the world to relentless markets in MENA. 

Today, we sum up some of our major themes and stories of 2022 as opportunities for reflection heading into the new one:

A Tech crash or an innovation conundrum? 

Last year we reflected on the journey of Tech companies in MENA and around the world, from the great resignation pre-pandemic to a post-pandemic layoff frenzy. Many reflections have been made on the matter since then, including the cost of living and global inflation putting strain on production and demand values, to the sudden hesitation of major investors as the economy takes a dip. 

We’ve seen some major layoffs across MENA’s tech scenes, including the daunting devaluation of one major tech startup a year after it listed on NASDAQ, yet the way forward seems to have discernable alternatives in the region as opposed to a saturated global market. If we start from the premise that innovation and technology are the ability to do more with less.

While departments, operations, and markets were shut down over the past year, we observe that the tech talents and technologies are still there, and the key is to truly adopt innovation moving forward. Suppose the predicament of inflated valuations and bloated investments put companies on a path of doing more with much more. In that case, adopting real innovation and smart technology will be the counter solution.

One company stands out in building the infrastructure to make that happen. We covered UAE-based nybl’s journey in empowering MENA-based companies with plug-and-play solutions that can turn every department into a data hub. Interestingly enough, to truly unlock the potential of data, the team underwent its own internal transformation and shared with us on-ground insight on instilling data culture in your SaaS team

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Corporates leap for sweeping innovation

The overall sentiment around the region last year, especially in the GCC, is that government policy is adamant about spearheading innovation & technology as the next generational leap. We detailed how Saudi Arabia is globalizing its local technology sectors, empowering local talent while immensely reforming its business infrastructure to invite global players with immense potential to the local makings of the Kingdom. 

Local corporate players across markets have also taken the initiative to open up their innovation ecosystems and introduce fresh talent and technologies into the business mix. From a flagship accelerator program, Majid Al Futtaim invites 14 top-tier startups to integrate into its business ecosystems across MENA, to the many internal innovation programs we’ve executed in fintech, gaming, eCommerce and retail sectors over the past year, we’ve been delighted with a renewed hunger for innovation from players that stand the test of time.

While the economy is passing through cataclysmic transformations, consumer trends have been changing rapidly, and big players rushing to keep up with the tides. Our CEO, Roland Daher, reflects on the gradual and arduous growth of the MENA corporate innovation scenes, where for over a decade, the perception around corporate innovation has been shifting from Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Survival.

Industry backbones and unsung heroes 

Last year, both the UAE and KSA reported positive growth indicators in the economic contribution and job creation of non-oil sectors. This comes amidst a supported and proactive effort to diversify economies and decrease oil dependency. At the heart of this diversification, however, lies overlooked sectors that have made their way on top of investment mandates. 

We assimilated an exclusive deep dive into how gaming in Saudi is transforming from an undervalued pastime to a multi-billion dollar industry that is set to catalyze the evolution of the Kingdom’s economy and social fabrics. While the gaming sector in Saudi Arabia shows extreme promise in its socioeconomic contribution, we’ve been observing a keen progression and invaluable investments in various industries, including construction, information technology, luxury, and retail. 

While the eyes are on industries of disruption and digitization, private and public enablers have acknowledged SMEs as turnkey protagonists in spearheading the advancement of future-forward businesses and diversified economies. A year after the pandemic accelerated the digital adoption of MSMEs across the region, prospects of digitization are proving to be far beyond consumer access and financial benefit.

Today, we start the first quarter of what is set to be yet another equally, if not further, eventful year, where technology, entrepreneurship, and opportunity stand as the largest global challenges the emerging markets have seen in modern times. 

Stay ahead of the tide. Expand your team to the GCC today.