Sunday, March 26, 2023



Tunisia recovers 29 bodies after migrant vessels capsize

Rescued migrants look out to sea on the Geo Barents rescue ship, operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), as the ship makes its way to the Italian port of Bari, in the central Mediterranean Sea March 25, 2023. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi Image Credit: REUTERS Tunis: Tunisia’s coastguard said Sunday the bodies of 29 migrants from sub-Saharan African countries had been recovered after three vessels capsized, the latest in a string of such tragedies. A series of shipwrecks has left dozens of migrants dead and others missing in the country that serves as a key conduit for migrants seeking to reach nearby European shores. It comes after President Kais Saied made a speech last month, accusing sub-Saharan Africans of representing a demographic threat and causing a crime wave in Tunisia. The coastguard said in a statement Sunday that it had “rescued 11 illegal migrants of various African nationalities after their boats sank” off the central eastern coast, citing three separate sinkings. In one, a Tunisian fishing trawler recovered 19 bodies 58 kilometres off the coast after their boat capsized. A coastguard patrol off the coastal city of Mahdiya also recovered eight bodies and “rescued” 11 other migrants after their boat sank as it headed towards Italy. Fishing trawlers in Sfax meanwhile recovered two other bodies. Black migrants in the country have faced a spike in violence since Saied’s speech and hundreds have been living in the streets for weeks in increasingly desperate conditions. People fleeing poverty and violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, West Africa and other parts of the continent have for years used Tunisia as a springboard for often perilous attempts to reach safety and better lives in Europe. ‘Migratory wave’ The Italian island of Lampedusa is just 150 kilometres off the Tunisian coast, part of the Central Mediterranean route described by the United Nations as the most deadly in the world. Rome has pressured Tunisian authorities to rein in the flow of people, and has helped beef up the coastguard, which rights groups accuse of violence. Italy’s hard-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni warned Friday that Tunisia’s “serious financial problems” risked sparking a “migratory wave” towards Europe. She also confirmed plans for a mission to the North African country involving the Italian and French foreign ministers. Meloni echoed comments earlier in the week by Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, who warned Tunisia risks economic collapse that could trigger a new flow of migrants to Europe - fears Tunis has since dismissed. Since Saied’s speech, hundreds of migrants have been repatriated in flights organised by their embassies, but many say they fear going home and have called on the UN to organise evacuation flights to safe third countries. Tunisia is in the throes of a long-running socio-economic crisis, with spiralling inflation and persistently high joblessness, and Tunisians themselves make up a large proportion of the migrants travelling to Italian shores. The heavily indebted North African country is in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a $2-billion bailout package, but the talks have been stalled for months and there is no sign a deal is any closer. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Wednesday that unless they reach an agreement, “the economy risks falling off the deep end”.

Kurdish team visits Baghdad after Iraq wins dispute over oil exports

Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan sent a senior delegation to Baghdad on Sunday for talks over the long-standing issue of developing and exporting oil and gas resources, an Oil Ministry official said.The visit comes a day after Baghdad announced it had won an arbitration case at the International Chamber of Commerce and halted Kurdistan's unilateral oil exports through Turkey.Baghdad and Kurdistan have been at loggerheads over the right to develop and export natural resources from the region since 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime.The Kurds argue that the country's 2005 constitution gives them the right to sign agreements with oil companies and states without consulting Baghdad.Baghdad maintains that the region has no right to sign deals unilaterally and that exports must go through the state-run pipelines.The federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have held a series of talks in recent weeks to find a solution to the dispute. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani met Kurdish leaders including Masoud Barzani, the head of Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of two parties that share power in the region.Shortly after Saturday’s announcement, Mr Barzani said the discussions with Baghdad had “laid the groundwork for us to overcome the arbitration ruling today”.He said the team sent by Erbil to Baghdad on Sunday would build on the “goodwill” in talks with the central government.The Kurdistan delegation was holding technical discussions at the Oil Ministry on Sunday afternoon, an official told The National.Mr Al Sudani said earlier this month that the federal and KRG governments had reached a deal to deposit Kurdistan oil revenues in a bank account under Baghdad's supervision.In 2014, Baghdad filed a suit at the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, accusing Turkey of breaching the 1973 joint agreement by allowing the KRG to export oil through a pipeline to the port of Ceyhan.In defiance of Baghdad, Erbil and Ankara continued their co-operation in sending around 450,000 barrels a day to the international market.Excluding the output from Kurdistan, Iraq, Opec’s second largest producer, exports an average of 3.3 million barrels a day.On Saturday, Iraq stopped the export of 370,000 barrels from Kurdistan and 75,000 barrels from northern Kirkuk, Reuters reported.Several issues between Baghdad and Erbil surfaced after the 2003 invasion, including natural resources and control over disputed lands claimed by both sides.Updated: March 26, 2023, 12:08 PM

QIC launches car insurance offer for Ramadan

Qatar Insurance Company (QIC), the leading insurer in Qatar and the MENA region and the best digital insurance company in Qatar, announced the launch of its exclusive car insurance offer on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, which allows new motor customers to get three months of comprehensive car insurance for free. With this offer, every new customer who purchases a comprehensive car policy will get three months of comprehensive insurance for free, which means that the customer will benefit from a 12-month full insurance coverage for the price of just 9 months. QIC also provides flexible payment options when purchasing comprehensive car insurance policies, including the installment payment plan available in Qatar exclusively with QIC, to allow customers to pay their annual insurance premium in 12 monthly installments. Ongoing until April 30, QIC’s latest offer can be availed when buying the insurance policy in just 2 minutes through or when buying the insurance policy directly through one of the company’s branches in Qatar or through the company’s call center. Motorists wishing to switch their car insurance to QIC can also benefit from this special offer by visiting and obtaining a special promo code that allows them to get 3 free months when their current insurance expires. QIC’s Chief Operating Officer - Qatar Operations Ahmed Al Jarboey said: “Through this special offer, Qatar Insurance Company aims to allow larger segments of motorists in Qatar to get the best comprehensive insurance plans at the best prices, as we believe in the importance of this type of insurance and the ideal protection it provides for drivers and passengers against the various risks they may be exposed to on the roads. Customers can customise their comprehensive insurance policies depending on their driving needs, and I have no doubt that every new driver who will choose QIC this Ramadan will experience true customer care and the best digital services in Qatar.”

Tamatem Games tops Arabic mobile game market in MENA region — CEO – Jordan News | Latest News from Jordan, MENA

AMMAN — Jordan-based mobile game developer and publisher Tamatem Games has emerged as the top player in the Arabic language mobile game market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, CEO and Founder of Tamatem Games, Hussam Hammo told the Jordan News Agency, Petra.اضافة اعلانTamatem Games has published over 50 games since its inception in 2013, with a combined download count of over 150 million across its portfolio. Hammo stated that the company has over 1 million active users per month. Tamatem Games currently employs around 150 people, including 85 in Jordan, with offices in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and a new one soon to open in Cairo. The company aims to provide engaging games to the Arab market. ChallengesHammo highlighted the lack of qualified and skilled labor as one of the key challenges faced by the gaming industry in Jordan. There are no electronic gaming courses in Jordanian universities, so most people working in this profession have to learn on their own, he said.Attracting foreign labor is also a challenge, while weak marketing of the gaming industry is another hurdle. Hammo noted that most successful gaming companies in the Arab world are based in Jordan.According to Hammo, the salaries of game makers are lucrative, and internet courses are available for beginners. He urged the government to adopt new technology and ease regulations for entrepreneurs to attract investments, as in other countries.Future plans Tamatem Games is currently focused on developing and launching more games, expanding its business in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Arab Gulf countries, he said. The company is also interested in entering the esports and metaverse worlds. Esports involves mobility and playing at the same time, while the metaverse is the future of gaming, he said. Read more National newsJordan News

Italy To Plug Migrant Flows From Tunisia With Aid

Italy wants a bailout for Tunisia as soon as possible. Sitting less than 300 kilometres across the water from the Arab country, it fears Tunisia’s social unrest and looming economic collapse will only further increase the stream of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to its shores.  “Tunisia urgently needs aid. We cannot waste time,” Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told Italian public radio on March 24th, Reuters reports. “We risk having tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people in the Mediterranean Sea who will be on the move.”  Since the country overthrew its ruling dictatorship in 2011 in the Arab Spring, it has been a chaotic democracy that now sits on the verge of economic collapse, as well. Negotiations for an IMF loan have stalled over President Kais Saied’s recent policies.  Elected in 2019, he dissolved parliament in July 2021, rewrote the country’s constitution to increase his presidential powers, and then held a referendum followed by parliamentary elections with a turnout of only 11%. In February of this year, he cracked down on his opposition in a series of arrests of politicians, labour union members, judges, and members of civil society.  Saied has scapegoated foreigners as well, both dignitaries and immigrants. He has criminalised contacts with foreign ambassadors—one of the charges his arrested opponents are facing. Following a wave of arrests of immigrants in February, he also made a speech saying the influx of sub-Saharan Africans is part of a plot to change the country’s demographics and culture. Widespread evictions of immigrants followed as landlords threw out foreign renters, fearing repercussions from the state if they did not. Many immigrants have returned to their homelands in the face of insecurity. Others are likely deciding to head to Europe.  The UN and Italian government officials believe the political crackdowns and anti-foreigner sentiment Saied is breeding are already pushing more migrants out of Tunisia and into the Mediterranean. More than 20,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s shores so far this year, compared to around 6,000 in the same period in 2022 and 2021, according to figures from the Italian government. Unofficial United Nations data estimates that 12,000 of those who have reached Italy this year came from Tunisia, compared to 1,300 in the same months of last year. This shows a shift in the primary launching point for migrants to Italy, which, until recently, was Libya. The EU has heavily funded Libya to prevent migrant crossings, leading to would-be migrants ending up stuck in the country under horrific conditions.  The UN’s figures also show that most of those coming from Tunisia are sub-Saharan Africans, primarily from Ivory Coast (3,223), followed by Guinea (2,906). Only 1,535 Tunisians had come to Italy so far this year. At the behest of Italy, the EU’s foreign relations and defence ministers added discussions about Tunisia to their March 20th council meeting. Following the meeting, Josep Borrell, foreign affairs commissioner, indicated that the ministers were considering intervening in the country: Tunisia is a neighbour, is a close partner and what happens there has an immediate impact on us. Not only because it increases migration flows, [but also] because it creates more instability and insecurity in the MENA region, in the Mediterranean … For us, it is imperative to avoid the economic and social collapse and to support [the] Tunisian people. We cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening there. He said he would be asking two members of the Foreign Affairs Council to “immediately” travel there to assess the situation: Everything has to be done quickly because the situation in Tunisia is very, very dangerous. If Tunisia collapses economically or socially, then we will be in a situation where new flows of migrants will come to Europe. We have to avoid this situation. At the meeting, the council also agreed to increase funding for the European Peace Facility, an off-budget pot of money used to provide aid to countries with security concerns. Many African countries are already receiving money from the fund.  But Saied and his government seem little interested in outside support. The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied in a statement to Borrell’s comments: The remarks made are disproportionate both in view of the well-established resilience of the Tunisian people throughout their history, and in relation to a migratory threat towards Europe from the south … These selective remarks continue to ignore any responsibility (of the EU) in the situation which prevailed in Tunisia and elsewhere, in particular since 2011 and until July 25, 2021.  The urgency of the situation is clear as both the Tunisian and Italian coastguards have rescued migrant dinghies in the last few days. 

QF’s HBKU Press Promotes Arabic Research Globally

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) The Peninsula Doha: While English is widely recognised as the world's lingua franca, Qatar Foundation is committed to promoting and preserving the Arabic language by publishing research in globally indexed journals on – an online platform hosted by Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press.“There are many scholars in the region who are not bilingual, whose disciplines are taught in Arabic and whose research and scholarly writings are mainly in their mother tongue,” explains Dr. Rima Isaifan, Head of Academic and Journals Publishing at the Qatar Foundation (QF) publishing house Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press). In her four years at HBKU Press, Dr. Isaifan has spearheaded the establishment of several bilingual research journals, as well as one Arabic-only journal – the Arabian Journal of Scientific Research (AJSR) in partnership with the Arab Scientific Community Organization – on “We created Arabic academic journals to cater to Arab researchers in the region whose research is published in Arabic in full. HBKU Press then develops the title and abstract into English to have it globally indexed and accessed by anyone around the world. By following universal academic publishing standards but providing the opportunity to publish in one's native language, we're allowing Arab research from the MENA and Gulf region to transcend national boundaries and enhance research impact.” Dr. Isaifan is a pioneer in the promotion of the Arabic scientific language. She states that continuously developing and preserving the Arabic scientific lexicon is a top priority. “We emphasise the use of scientific terminology with the correct context that reflects the meaning in the Arabic language. This does not mean we translate work, rather we develop to and from the original language to ensurecomprehension. In this way we are constantly promoting, preserving, and developing scientific Arabic language terms to the highest standard.” Dr. Hussain Aziz Saleh,a professor at Damascus University and the former General Director of Higher Commission for Scientific Research in Syria, chose to publish with HBKU Press in the AJSR for these very reasons. “I was keen to publish with HBKU Press because AJSR has become a leading journal since its establishment and it forms the basis for a database in the Arabic language that Arab researchers desperately need,” he says. Professor Saleh explains how, even during the development of abstracts into or from Arabic, attention is given to finding the proper word choice to contextualize the implied meaning by the researcher for the reader. “Think of the term 'smart city'which if you translate literally, the term in Arabic is more akin to 'clever city' which belies the intended meaning. Smartness means how ingenuity can be used positively to deal with intractable problems in an effective and efficient manner, and this is the main goal of the smart city.When academic publishers rely on literal translations, they are not providing clarity and context – the cornerstones of good research. “The work that HBKU Press is doing in terms of Arabic research and protecting the Arabic scientific lexicon is extremely important, it facilitates the method of scientific communication and cooperation between all scientific and service agencies in the Arab countries.” His article, originally written in Arabic, titled An integrated disaster risk management plan of cultural heritage: A case study in the Syrian coastal region, and published in AJSR, has the highest number of views at approximately 20,000 abstract views and 15,000 downloads.

NEOM Launches ‘Seven Senses’ Accelerator to Support Entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s futuristic city of NEOM launched a new accelerator program, Seven Senses, to support entrepreneurship in the NEOM and Tabuk regions. Launched by NEOM’s Social Responsibility Department, the program is designed to help SMEs, creative craftsmen, freelancers, and innovative businesses capable of bringing about change in the two regions. Starting today and until May 14, the Seven Senses accelerator will receive applications from entrepreneurs and innovators who want to participate in an intensive two-day entrepreneurial boot camp that begins on May 28. During the boot camp, 150 entrepreneurs will learn several essential skills, including the basics of successful business, understanding customers, and how to pitch their companies to investors. Participants will also get to present their proposals to a panel of experts in order to earn their seats in the accelerator program, which will run virtually for 10 weeks—from May to August. The Seven Senses accelerator program ends with a trial day in Tabuk, where participants present their projects and products. Entrepreneurs who successfully complete the program will get priority access to entrepreneurial opportunities in NEOM and get to take advantage of the available investment opportunities. According to Meshari Al-Mutairi, Executive Director of Government Affairs at NEOM, “The idea of ​​​​the NEOM accelerator program ‘Seven Senses,’ which was designed after extensive studies of the market reality, came to support entrepreneurs and owners of emerging companies in the regions of NEOM and Tabuk, through scientific and practical paths that contribute to developing their capabilities.” The accelerator program is open to all sectors but particularly encourages individuals skilled in perfumery, pottery, jewelry, clothing, and skin care who are looking to build their own brand; freelancers in food service, new media, arts and culture, and public service; and SMEs in arts and culture, tourism, public service, food service, new media, and contracting. The Seven Senses accelerator program will be followed by the launch of an educational training platform in Arabic under the supervision of local and international entrepreneurship experts. You can apply to NEOM’s Seven Senses accelerator program through their website. Post Views: 77

Dubai: DIFC Introduces Venture Building Platform to Support Growth of Startups

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the global financial centre in the MENA and South Asia region, officially announced the launch of its venture building programme, ‘DIFC Launchpad’. The initiative seeks to develop a strong venture building model “that promotes the growth of innovative start-ups and scale-ups in the region.” Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the UAE, and President of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), said “that Dubai continues to consolidate its position as a global hub for innovation and FinTech and a major destination for talent and entrepreneurship.” Guided by the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, they seek “to reinforce Dubai’s status as a leading platform for innovative ventures from around the world, and establish the city as the capital of the digital economy, Sheikh Maktoum said.” He stated: “The launch of ‘DIFC Launchpad’ is set to further attract innovative companies and enhance the emirate’s appeal as a city that supports business growth and success. The launch of the platform also serves as an important step towards realising the objectives of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33, which aims to double the size of Dubai’s economy and consolidate its position as one of the world’s top four financial centre’s over the next decade. It also supports efforts to realise DIFC’s 2030 strategy to catalyse new job creation and economic development in both the financial and non-financial services industry.” The inaugural event was “attended by His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, and a host of dignitaries, business leaders and partners.” The ‘DIFC Launchpad’ program “expects to support the launch of more than 200 new ventures, with over 100 of them being scale-ups that will collectively create over 8,000 new jobs and attract over $544 million (AED2 billion) in venture capital, he noted.” The event drew “focus to the significant role that FinTech and Innovation firms play in Dubai’s economy, and how DIFC and its partners are contributing to the sector’s growth. DIFC FinTech and Innovation firms raised over $600 million (AED2.2 billion) in 2022 alone, making it the fastest-growing sector in DIFC.” A total of 291 new FinTech and Innovation firms had “joined DIFC last year, representing a 36 per cent increase year-on-year, taking the total to 686.” With ‘DIFC Launchpad’, Dubai is well positioned “to become the global hub for venture building, and the program is expected to have a far-reaching impact on the region’s economic growth.” AbdulAziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of Mashreq, said: ‘DIFC Launchpad’ represents an incredible opportunity for us to come together to help catalyse the digital transformation of the financial sector here in the UAE and around the world. Through our contributions to SME development, and as a leading proponent of open banking, we recognise the importance of collaboration and are committed to helping others realise their potential and to unleashing the spirit of enterprise. We very much look forward to working with our corporate partners at ‘DIFC Launchpad’, and to nurturing new ideas and emerging talent.” Essa Kazim said: “We are thrilled to officially launch ‘DIFC Launchpad’ with our partners, an initiative that is aligned with DIFC’s broader 2030 strategy to drive growth of innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. DIFC is providing a unique platform for its partners to access global networks, expertise, funding, mentorship and a range of other resources, that will help them to succeed through ‘DIFC Launchpad’. We are excited to see the impact that this platform will have in supporting the next generation of FinTech and Innovation companies and driving economic growth in Dubai and beyond.” A highlight of the event was also “the announcement of the ‘DIFC Venture Studio Regulations’, the world’s first legislative framework for venture building.” The new regulations will “facilitate the ease of doing business within the venture studio model and help create a tailored ecosystem for venture building, entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors.” Arif Amiri, CEO, DIFC, commented: “Innovation is at the centre of transformative change. The DIFC Launchpad presents a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs, venture studios and corporations from around the world to access the support and resources they need to grow and succeed, powered by DIFC Innovation Hub. DIFC Launchpad is creating a platform that leverages our unique position in the ecosystem to help members identify and structure impactful partnerships, investments, and co-creation opportunities.” The ‘DIFC Launchpad’ program is “supported by multinational experts specialised in new venture creation, corporate innovation and emerging technologies, who will be working closely with DIFC’s investor bases and corporate partners Mashreq, Mastercard and Commercial Bank of Dubai to create and launch the next generation of global FinTech start-ups in Dubai.” To scale venture building activities “across a range of verticals, ‘DIFC Launchpad’ attracted some of the world’s leading venture studios to Dubai including R/GA Ventures, Antler, BIM Ventures, and Futurelabs.” The Career Development Centre “at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford is the Talent Partner of ‘DIFC Launchpad’.: This pioneering talent bridge “between Oxford and Dubai will connect ‘DIFC Launchpad’ members with the world-class talent and expertise that exist within Saïd Business School. The partnership will further accelerate Dubai’s position as global, inclusive and forward-thinking talent hub.”

STG closes oversubscribed Fund VII at $4.2bn

STG, a private equity firm focused on investing in software and software-enabled technology services businesses, has held the final closing of STG VII (Fund VII) with total capital commitments of $4.2 billion, including approximately $4.0 billion of limited partner commitments.  Fund VII, which is STG’s largest fund to date at more than double the size of its predecessor, attracted strong support from both existing investors and an expanded base of new investors globally. Fund VII was oversubscribed at its hard cap, successfully completing the fundraise above its $3 billion target in under five months.

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