Startup Funding in the MENA Region

his year’s 50 Most-Funded Startups In MENA have raised nearly $3 billion in total funding, with the top 10 alone amassing $1.9 billion.

The U.A.E. dominates the list, with 22 startups securing nearly $1.8 billion combined—over 60% of the list’s total funding. It is followed by Saudi Arabia, which is home to 12 startups that raised a total of $520.4 million, while Egypt’s seven entries raised a total of $248.6 million.

Fintech and e-commerce are the most represented sectors, with 13 and 11 entries, but food-tech firms have raised the most money, with $874.9 million in total funding. This is largely thanks to cloud-kitchen operator, Kitopi, which tops this year’s ranking after bagging $804 million. Agri-tech business Pure Harvest Smart Farms is second with $272 million in total funding. Subscription video-on-demand service STARZPLAY and Fintech platform tabby came third and fourth, with $150 million and $130 million, respectively.

Buy-now-pay-later platform Tamara is the highest funded in Saudi Arabia having raised $116 million, while e-commerce player MaxAB is Egypt’s most funded startup with $62.5 million in total funding. The 2022 list includes 30 newcomers, such as North African ride-hailing and delivery startup Yassir and fintech firm PostPay.

Arab sovereign wealth funds had a healthy investor appetite in 2021. Sanabil Investments, wholly owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund (PIF), poured capital into Sary and Foodics, whereas the U.A.E.’s Mubadala Investment company backed tabby and Sarwa.

Mergers and acquisitions also heated up in 2021. Swvl agreed to merge with U.S.-based SPAC Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, making it a publicly-listed company and the first $1.5 billion unicorn from the Middle East to be listed on Nasdaq. Egypt-based Fintech Halan raised $120 million in 2021, entering into a share swap agreement with MNT BV, a Netherlands corporation. And U.S. operator of delivery kitchens, logistics, and proximity hubs, REEF Technology Inc, acquired the U.A.E.’s cloud kitchen startup iKcon for an undisclosed amount.

According to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021, the MENA region had four emerging ecosystems in the world’s top 100 emerging ecosystems in 2021—including Dubai, Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. The study indicates that the total number of late-stage funding rounds in MENA almost doubled in the last five years, while the total late-stage funding amount has also doubled.