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CAPITAL MARKETS

After a banner year for Middle East IPOs, VC is the big opportunity

Noor Sweid, founder of Global Ventures – a young Dubai-based venture capital fund with $200 million of AuM – sees company founders with great businesses starved of finance.

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Investment bankers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) were insulated from the collapse in deal-making that hit developed markets in 2022.

Equity capital markets bankers enjoyed their busiest first nine months of any year since 2008, with billion-dollar IPOs from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, such as the $6.1 billion offering for Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and the $1.36 billion debut for Nahdi Medical Co, in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier stage, private equity capital formation is harder to track, but this has been increasing too, with $2.5 billion in venture capital investment in 2021, a record year.

However, Noor Sweid, founder and managing partner of Dubai-based Global Ventures, points out that in a region with 1.5 billion people, half of them under 30, that is not a big number, being equivalent in the heyday to just one large Series-B funding round for a US tech unicorn.

There are 700 million people in Africa without access to electricity. We are not going to build traditional energy infrastructure. It will be solar-powered micro-grids and the software enabling that
Noor Sweid, Global Ventures

The good news for venture investors in the region is that while private capital became a cheap commodity in developed markets, it remained relatively scarce in MENA, a region with a curious mix of 40% unemployment but also a highly educated workforce familiar with cutting-edge technology.

This