Tech startups in the Middle East and North Africa secured $650 million in investment across 270 deals in 2017, with the U.A.E. accounting for 33% of the share of investors and number of deals, according to a new report.

Entitled The State of Digital Investments in MENA (2013-2017), the new report was released this week by ArabNet, an events, media and research company focused on regional entrepreneurship, in partnership with Dubai SME.

“The U.A.E. continues to be the entrepreneurial hub in the Middle East region, representing the largest number of deals, investors and funding,” said Omar Christidis, founder and CEO of ArabNet.

The findings are based on data collected from 52 investors and accelerators in the region, specifically in the U.A.E., Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia and Bahrain.

According to the report, around 40 new funds launched per year between 2015 and 2016, while about 30 new funds launched between 2016 and 2017. Investors in the U.A.E, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan account for 70% of the entire funding landscape—with a third of all investors based in the U.A.E. That said, Lebanon is emerging as a new funding hub, having slowly grown its overall investor share from 7% to 13% between 2013 and 2017. Last year Lebanon was responsible for a quarter of all new funds.

The research showed that early-stage funds made up 47% of the regional investor community, with the rest comprising of growth funds. Venture capital accounted for a quarter of all investors, with the most widespread investor type being accelerators. Meanwhile, the fastest growing segment of the investor community over the past five years has been corporate investors.

The Middle East and North Africa’s investor landscape is uneven, with the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and Lebanon home to nearly all of the region’s growth capital funds. Meanwhile Egypt, which has plenty of early-stage investors, lacks growth capital. On the flip side, Kuwait displays healthy growth-stage funding, yet lacks early-stage funds.

As far as deals go, the U.A.E. was home to 298 investments into tech startups over the past five years, far outpacing its regional neighbors. In that same timespan, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Jordan averaged 155 deals per country. When analyzing the value of investments by ticket-size, early-stage deals are the most common. 

Last year, 76% of all dollars invested in the region went into the U.A.E., with investments in Careem and StarzPlay Arabia alone representing 78% of all capital invested.


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