Tuesday, 7 July 2015

MENA Scorpion Economies:
A Sting in the Tale!

And there is one hell of an unexpected story, for many, here:

MENA, the acronym referring to the Middle East and North Africa region, includes 16 emerging nation-states all in a different gear; all with different problems to solve; yet all with have one thing in common: to innovate and progress their societies and cultures where each citizen may live a good quality, safe and happy life.

Considering the upheavals, hostilities, political revolutions and often dispassion between some MENA nations, you might think at this point that it going to be a while – a long while – before the regions joins the GigaMarket Olympics. But have faith; you never known what might emerge sooner rather than later

I will start with Israel; a young nation founded just over six decades ago. Back then, it was little more than a desolate country with no access to natural resources and very little agriculture; with more than half of the land arid desert. But 65 years on, the Israelis have turned their country into an oasis of discovery, technology and innovation; a strategic infrastructure development that matches world-class standards.

Back in 2010 Israel joined the growing number of advanced market economies by OECD benchmarks. And considering Israel's lack of natural resources over the last half a century, this has been achieved via Israeli ingenuity and wits.

This relatively young nation has fast developing high-end technology and service provision ranging across sophisticated electronics, advanced biomedical equipment, breakthrough genetic analysis, meta-chemicals, integrated solar-power systems, nanotechnology research, advanced software algorithms and telecommunication systems.

There are a notable number of cultural and commercial initiatives that begins to make sense of the Israeli transformation. For example, the percentage of Israelis engaged in scientific discovery; and the investment in R&D in relation to GDP, are amongst the highest in the world.

Then there is the fact that the Israeli economy is ranked as the world's most durable economy in the face of the 2008 calamity. The Bank of Israel was ranked first among central banks for its efficient functioning. In fact, it is interesting that Israel, even before the 2008 crises, had policies in place that buffered off the pressure of banks to appropriate large sums of public money; plus, decoupling the banking depository and investment banking activities!
In recent years, record figures in foreign investment totalled $13 billion. And while Israel's total external debt is ~40 percent of GDP since 2001; it has now a net lender in terms of external debt, which as of June 2012[update] stood at a significant surplus of $60 billion.

Investment in business incubators and focus on high-technology innovation has attracted much attention from the Venture Capital (VC) world. Around 70 active VC funds (14 international) have set up in Israel. Between 1991 and 2000, Israel's annual venture-capital expenditure rose nearly 60-fold, from a mere $58 million to $3.3 billion. Information-technology revenues rose from $1.6 billion to $12.5 billion in that time; setting a straight investment course for the future.

Today, Israel leads the world in the share of its growth accredited to high-tech ventures. On the order of 70 percent in fact. Recent figures show that the total VC investment in high-tech ventures alone stands at $100 billion in 2012, when many nation-states suffer shear investment hardship.

Israel has excellent trade agreements with much of the world. The European Union, United States, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Jordan, Egypt and became the first non-Latin-American country to sign a free trade agreement with the Mercosur trade bloc.

Two-way trade between the USA and Israel totalled some $24.5 billion in 2010 alone, doubling from 1997. Israel's chief exports to America comprises of integrated circuits, printing machinery, telecoms equipment to name just a few. In regional terms, the European Union is the top destination. Israel exported goods totalling $5 billion to the EU between October 2011 and January 2012. Exports to the Far East came in at $3.1 billion at that time.

So now, to business! I find that Israel has a surprising number of innovative technological businesses considering its youth and the scenes with see on the late evening news.

One of my specialities: Rapid Manufacturing. Israeli 3D printer maker Objet, mergered with American 3D printer producer Stratasys. Now a $1.4 billion company with headquarters in Minnesota and Israel. Founded by Israeli printing engineer, the company has about 440 employees, more than half of whom work in Israel.

Next, Disk-on-Key, developed by M-Systems, a company founded by three Israelis. A digital data storage device launched back 2000; since then the little gadget is as ubiquitous worldwide as post-it notes. PC World has called the device one of the world's top 10 gadgets in the last 50 years. Now M-Systems is part of SanDisk; who seem to be very happy indeed.

PrimeSense transformed human interfacing with digital devices with haptic and gesture reconviction technologies. By seeing in 3D, control interfacing went from physical games controllers to dynamic hands free and body gesture. Today the Tel Aviv company is the leading business provider of low-cost, high-performance 3D machine vision technologies for Kinetic gaming systems.

Intel was one of the first hypernationals to land in Haifa, Israel. Constructing a chip design house in 1974. Today Intel Israel employs 7,800 people, and has its headquarters for wireless technology R&D there. The famous (if you are an engineer) ‘8088 processor Centrino’ and the ‘SandyBridge’ owe their birth right there. In 2011, Intel Israel's exports maxed at $2.2 billion.

The Java platform inside Amazon's best-selling Kindle is Jewish! Sun Computing, now part of Oracle, developed the platform to run the software in a new e-book reader. Sun handed the project on to its Israeli R&D office in Herzliya, and the rest is history. Amazon is now the undisputed leader in the e-reader category.

 And surprise, surprise! Facebook is being given a Facelift in Israel! A small firm called Shaker has invented an award-winning virtual bar application. The Facebook app recreates social experiences online, allowing people to socialize and meet around mutual friends with shared interests. Recently Shaker has raised more than $17 million in financing from investors. A now winning the prestigious Startup Battlefield contest held at TechCrunch
Disrupt USA. Take a look out for the NBA Basketball Arena Interface!

I like this one. Developed by Wizcom Technologies ‘Quicktionary’ a portable electronic pen that can scan printed text and immediately translate it word for word into other languages. The translation is displayed on an LCD screen and kept in the memory so that it can be transferred to a computer.

So in sum, Israel has the third highest number of patents and the highest number of startups per capita, worldwide. So it may be seen that Israel has become one of the leading contenders in terms of high-tech Hyperinnovation, attracting global giants to its shores.

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