$50M fund launched to bring Chinese tech to the Middle East
Priya Wadhwa
What's the Deal

$50M fund launched to bring Chinese tech to the Middle East

MEC Ventures will look to unify Chinese and Middle Eastern capital and technology markets.

Al Salam Bank-Bahrain (ASBB) has partnered with China’s MSA Capital to launch a new $50 million fund to introduce technology from China to the Middle East.

The $50 million fund is formed under the name MEC Ventures. Using Bahrain as a gateway, the fund will invest in MENA-based opportunities to introduce Chinese technology and mobile-first business models. Sectors targeted by the fund include e-commerce, logistics, fintech, as well as the fourth industrial revolution technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing.

The fund will also look to improve the flow of capital and technology between the two regions. Using ASBB’s network in the Middle East, MSA Capital will support its portfolio companies — “which includes the sector leaders in most major technology verticals such as healthcare big data, gene sequencing, electric vehicles, food delivery, ride hailing, micro mobility, and cross boarder e-commerce” — to expand in the region by “enhancing their offerings, geographic reach and usage volumes, thereby exponentially enhancing value,” as per statement.

“Al Salam Bank-Bahrain is uniquely positioned to provide regional access to capital and investment opportunities in the ever-growing Mena market complementing MSA’s deep industry expertise," said the bank's group chief executive, Rafik Nayed.

"MEC Ventures will be an active participant in the regional venture capital landscape which only stands to grow by leveraging on cutting edge China-based technologies and expertise.”
Rafik Nayed, group CEO at Al Salam Bank-Bahrain

Ben Harburg, managing partner, MSA Capital, said, "The combination of high mobile penetration, high ARPU, and a large youth population, coupled with substantial market white space, evidenced by factors such as low ecommerce penetration levels and large unbanked populations, offer an ideal opportunity for investment. We believe that the Mena region is nearing an inflection point that can be accelerated through the adoption of Chinese-inspired mobile-first business models.

He further added, “We are proud to partner with Al Salam Bank-Bahrain to establish MEC Ventures, and see Bahrain as a hyper-efficient, user-friendly gateway to the Mena region, where we can collaborate with regulators, entrepreneurs, and strategic corporate partners to pilot new business models and serve as a hub for regional expansion."

Previously, Al Waha fund of funds, the investment vehicle owned by the Bahrain government's sovereign fund, Mumtalakat, raised their $100 million investment fund in 2018. In May this year, it was reported that they have already deployed over half of that capital. In October last month, they announced that they would invest in the $250 million fund by China’s MSA Capital. Overall, Bahrain and China have been developing stronger relations to strengthen their foothold in the Middle East business ecosystem.