MAGNiTT Intelligence: A new MENA unicorn is born amidst COVID-19, and more developments in April 2020

April 2020 has been a rather interesting month for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) startup ecosystem, especially given the current challenges. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has left the world in a difficult spot, the ecosystem witnessed a record high of $188M in total funding in April 2020, majorly attributable to EMPG’s $150M fundraise, led by OLX Group and existing shareholders in the company. With the investment, the company is now reportedly valued at $1 billion, becoming the latest unicorn in the MENA region.

Nonetheless, according to MAGNiTT’s April 2020 Dashboard, disclosed funding – excluding $100M+ mega rounds – dropped 39% from April 2019 to 2020, and number of investments saw a 65% drop from 49 deals in 2019 to just 17 deals in 2020.


In an effort to minimize the impacts of the current pandemic, multiple entities have either began initiatives to back up SMEs and communities affected by COVID-19, such as Kitopi and Talabat, where 1,000 meals are prepped in Kitopi kitchens and delivered by Talabat to communities in need, in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Police.

Moreover, the UAE startup Immensa, a 3D printing company specialized in the oil and gas industry, has switched to producing medical face shields to assist in combatting the coronavirus outbreak. Furthermore, numerous governmental institutions and bodies have provided economic support to startups and individuals affected by the pandemic.

“The last few weeks have been a challenging, yet fascinating time for all of us in MENA’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. Many startups have been seriously affected, and it is not yet clear what this means for venture funding and the fate of venture capital as an asset class in the region over the next few quarters” says Philip Bahoshy, MAGNiTT’s CEO, in his article Taking a Step Back to Move Forward: Insights on the Impact of COVID-19 on Venture Investments in MENA in 2020.

While some industries are seeing a significant decrease as the global economy struggles, sectors such as EdTech, HealthTech, Gaming & Entertainment, Cleaning & Sanitization, Fitness, and FinTech have either kept growing or maintained their revenue status from pre-COVID-19.

Coming to venture capital funding in the region, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) witnessed the highest number of investment deals in April 2020, followed by Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt. Moreover, the UAE also accounted for the lion’s share of total funding, while Saudi Arabia followed in second place with $7M in funding. This, and more, is covered in the April 2020 Dashboard.