Satya Nadella fine with Sam Altman rejoining OpenAI

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Monday indicated his openness to Sam Altman rejoining OpenAI, despite an earlier announcement that Altman would join Microsoft's artificial intelligence innovation division. Nadella is fine with either option, for, he thinks that the decision ultimately rests with the OpenAI board, management, and employees. The recent upheaval at OpenAI saw Altman's abrupt firing, leading to protests from employees and the resignation of OpenAI's president, Greg Brockman. Microsoft, a significant investor in OpenAI with a $13 billion stake, announced Altman's hiring, contributing to a surge in Microsoft's stock.However, reports surfaced suggesting Altman was contemplating a return to OpenAI. Nadella underscored Microsoft's commitment to both OpenAI and Altman, irrespective of the specific configuration. He expressed the desire for Altman and Brockman to find a suitable professional home. Nadella acknowledged the need for changes in governance at OpenAI, reflecting on the fluid leadership situation. While affirming Microsoft's commitment, he hinted at the necessity for adjustments in the organization's structure.In a separate interview on Kara Swisher's "On" podcast, Nadella was non-committal about Altman potentially becoming the CEO of Microsoft in the future. He emphasized the wealth of capable individuals who could assume the CEO role at Microsoft, maintaining a cautious stance on the matter. The unfolding events underscore the intricate dynamics between OpenAI, Microsoft, and the key figures involved, hinting at potential shifts in the landscape of AI and innovation.

Riyadh Air partners with Microsoft for aviation sustainability drive

Riyadh Air and Microsoft today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to drive innovation and sustainability across Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector. As part of the agreement, Riyadh Air has selected Microsoft’s trusted Azure cloud platform as its preferred platform for accelerating digital transformation and will leverage the highly secure, scalable, and reliable platform to improve operational efficiency and customer service.The announcement will see both organizations collaborating to leverage the potential of cutting-edge technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, copilot experiences, the Metaverse, and Virtual Reality to enhance Riyadh Air’s offerings, services, and operational models.Adam Boukadida, Chief Finance Officer, Riyadh Air, said: “We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Microsoft as we embark on an accelerated digital enablement journey to fuel the growth and innovation within the aviation industry. Leveraging the robust Microsoft Azure platform is just the beginning; we are poised to tap into the vast network of Microsoft partnerships and harness the remarkable AI capabilities offered through Microsoft’s comprehensive suite of services & solutions, empowering Riyadh Air to grow & thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape. By embracing Microsoft’s platform and solution capabilities, we aim to build a unique customer and employee experience and expedite our progress in achieving our sustainability targets.”Riyadh Air and Microsoft will also jointly establish a Centre of Excellence that will provide a structured framework for driving innovation and delivering substantial business benefits for both organizations. The partnership also sees both parties forming a dedicated board that will actively drive efforts in line with the Kingdom’s national sustainability agenda.Turki Badhris, Acting General Manager at Microsoft Arabia, said that the partnership is a perfect demonstration of Riyadh Air’s forward-thinking vision which leverages the power of cloud and AI to redefine innovation and sustainability in the aviation sector. “In adopting a cloud-first approach, Riyadh Air is paving the way for the creation of intelligent new solutions that will not only reimagine new ways of working and doing business but also revolutionize the experiences of its employees and customers.”Microsoft will also extend its technical expertise to Riyadh Air by offering guidance in architecture design, scalability, security reviews, and more. This support will empower Riyadh Air to make the most of their journey on Azure.Riyadh Air's digital and technology strategy also support its mission, aligned with the Kingdom's Vision 2030, to lead the aviation industry by transforming Saudi Arabia, given its unique strategic location, into a global aviation and trade hub.

Yandex Ads appoints Mohamed Mahmoud as Head of Client Partnerships and Data

Yandex Ads, a prominent global digital advertising company, has announced the appointment of Mohamed Mahmoud as the Head of Client Partnerships & Data for the Middle East and Africa (MEA). This strategic move underscores the company's commitment to expanding its presence in international markets.Yandex Ads is the digital advertising division of the renowned Russian search engine and web portal, Yandex.Mohamed Mahmoud brings a wealth of experience from his previous roles at companies like Microsoft, Huawei, Publicis, Dentsu, ConnectAds, and Petal Ads, where he played a pivotal role as the Head of Client Partnerships and Data for the MEA region. In this capacity, he formulated the organization's go-to-market strategy, cultivated the partnership team, and elevated the brand's visibility through innovative events, educational programs, workshops, and collaborative efforts. Furthermore, as the Data Management Lead at Choueiri Group, he significantly contributed to the enhancement of data product collection and categorization for various media teams across industries.Evgenii Pavlov, General Manager at Yandex Ads MEA, expressed enthusiasm about the appointment, stating: "We are delighted to welcome Mohamed to the Yandex Ads team. His extensive international experience and proven track record in the MEA region make him a valuable addition as we continue our global expansion. Mohamed's leadership and strategic vision align perfectly with our commitment to delivering cutting-edge advertising solutions. We look forward to leveraging his expertise to strengthen our client partnerships and data initiatives, driving innovation in the ever-evolving digital advertising landscape."Mohamed Mahmoud expressed gratitude and said: "I am honored to join Yandex Ads, a company renowned for setting global standards in digital advertising excellence. I am excited to apply my expertise in data-driven strategies to fuel innovation as we embark on our international expansion journey."

Microsoft and Majid Al Futtaim accelerate roadmap for digital transformation

Dubai: Microsoft expanded its long-term partnership with Majid Al Futtaim with a new strategic agreement that will enhance Majid Al Futtaim's operations across the retail, real estate, and entertainment sectors by utilizing Microsoft's robust suite of technologies and services.Both organizations will be working together on a number of strategic objectives that will leverage their strengths to enhance innovation, data monetization and capacity building. The partnership will also see them drive digital transformation through a Governed Innovation Hub, which will be led by a team of experienced professionals from both organizations. The Innovation Hub will focus on developing advanced applications that drive automation, enhanced customer experiences, and smart mall solutions. These applications will be powered by Microsoft’s Azure data analytics and AI capabilities, which will help Majid Al Futtaim to better understand its customers, optimize its operations, and create a more seamless and personalized shopping experience.“We are proud to have been a key partner in Majid Al Futtaim’s digital transformation journey for many years,” said Naim Yazbeck, General Manager, Microsoft UAE. “Our partnership will accelerate this journey even further, empowering Majid Al Futtaim’s employees to tackle new challenges, create new innovative customer experiences, and improve business efficiency. We are confident that this work will help pioneer new possibilities for the retail industry across the region and beyond.”Under the partnership agreement, both organizations will be jointly working on a Data Strategy aligned with Majid Al Futtaim’s business objectives to deliver actionable insights and transform decision making horizontally across functions and operating companies.“We are excited to embark on the next phase of our partnership with Microsoft. This alliance will not only enhance our digital capabilities, but also allow us to jointly explore and enter new markets in MENA,” said Mohamed Tolba, Senior Vice President, Majid Al Futtaim Global Solutions. “The partnership is a testament to our commitment to innovation and our belief that advanced technologies hold the key to future growth. We look forward to working with Microsoft to create new and innovative ways to better serve our customers and partners.”Under the agreement, the companies will jointly develop comprehensive end-to-end roadmaps for innovative products and solutions and foster specialized expertise, collaboration, and advanced practices in key digital domains like automation, data, AI, employee experience and others.To support Majid Al Futtaim in reducing its carbon footprint, Microsoft will also leverage various tools to enable compliance with sustainability standards. And in line with Microsoft’s mission of empowering today’s professionals for the workforce of tomorrow, the partnership will also see both sides setting up joint training programs, online courses, and certifications to upskill employees in areas like AI, cloud computing, and data analytics.

Du to drive digital transformation in the UAE supported by Microsoft

du, from Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft, aimed at transforming the digital landscape in the UAE by combining Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing capabilities du’s network capabilities. This collaboration, which was unveiled at GITEX Global 2023, will fuel innovation and drive digital transformation for businesses, while delivering cutting-edge solutions in AI, sustainability, and cybersecurity.Under the envisaged collaboration, du ICT will establish offerings, powered by Microsoft Azure, which will provide businesses with cutting-edge technologies to drive their digital transformation journey, fueling their growth and success.Commenting on the agreement, Fahad Al Hassawi, CEO of du, said: "We are delighted to go on this journey with Microsoft. Through this collaboration, we aim to leverage Microsoft's technology leadership to position ourselves as a major digital transformation provider in the UAE. By creating a offering specialized, AI driven services, we will empower businesses to embrace sustainability, AI, and advanced analytics, helping them thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape."Naim Yazbeck, General Manager at Microsoft UAE, added: "We look forward to working with du in their digital transformation journey. Our joint efforts will enable businesses in the UAE to harness the power of the cloud and drive innovation in AI, sustainability, and cybersecurity. By leveraging Microsoft Azure, together, we will equip organizations with the tools they need to achieve their strategic objectives and stay ahead in the digital era."This collaboration create a strong foundation for du’s own digital transformation. Microsoft's platform technologies and partner ecosystem capabilities will help du delight customers, attract top talent, and deliver optimal value for shareholders through business excellence and innovation.

Microsoft unveils an AI-powered future at GITEX Global 2023

Microsoft is offering a glimpse into the AI-powered future of cities and workplaces at GITEX Global 2023, which opened at the Dubai World Trade Centre today. Under the show's theme "The Year to Imagine AI in Everything," Microsoft's will demonstrate how AI will revolutionize the way we live and work.Participating alongside 32 of its partners, Microsoft is showcasing the latest AI solutions and services designed to transform the region’s key industries - from government services to healthcare, education and financial services- and provide them a state-of-the-art platform from which to develop their own innovative technologies that suit their individual needs. Microsoft speakers will also be participating in workshops and talks around the responsible use of the new technologies. Demonstrating what government services of the future could look like, Microsoft has partnered with Kagool on building the ‘Citizen Companion’ – an AI-powered interface that seamlessly communicates with visitors in their native language and provides assistance on various government services such as renewing their driving license, applying for a UAE Golden Visa, or paying a traffic fine. Personal services are unlocked through residents’ Emirates IDs and save users time and effort and increasing governmental efficiencies by taking over administrative tasks that would have previously involved multiple journey’s to government offices.Speaking at the event, Naim Yazbeck, General Manager, Microsoft UAE, said that GITEX Global serves as an indispensable venue for collaboration, enabling companies like Microsoft to not only demonstrate their commitment to driving technological advancement but to also help shape the future of industries, economies, and societies. “We are witnessing the new era of digital transformation. AI has gone from being an abstract concept to revolutionizing industries and societies while shaping the digital world of tomorrow. At Microsoft, we believe that by empowering organizations of all sizes and industries to harness the power of AI responsibly, we can transform cities, reimagine workplaces, and ultimately, improve lives. GITEX Global 2023 is our stage to showcase these incredible possibilities, and we are thrilled to pioneer the potential for this technology to create a better, more connected future for all."Highlighting the synergy between the event's theme and Microsoft's mission to empower organizations and people to achieve more, Yazbeck said that 'The Year to Imagine AI in Everything' aligns with the company's commitment to democratizing access to AI. "Our goal is to empower organizations across the public and private sectors with cutting-edge tools and resources. We want to equip them to not only harness the transformative capabilities of AI, but to also create their own innovative applications, catalysing a paradigm shift within their respective industries and economies."Microsoft’s stand in Hall 7 will feature a dedicated booth for Xbox, in addition to a Surface Zone, Tech Talk arena, F&B stand, entertainment stage, and meeting room. Visitors at the VIP Demo Area can also have their picture taken at the stand before having it drawn by the AI Robotic Sketch Bot, which creates art in seconds using advanced AI and machine learning technology.

UK's CMA approves Microsoft's acquisition of Activision

UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has approved the Microsoft deal to buy Activision without cloud gaming rights. In August this year Microsoft made a concession that would see Ubisoft, instead of Microsoft, buy Activision’s cloud gaming rights. This new deal will put the cloud streaming rights (outside the EEA) for all of Activision’s PC and console content produced over the next 15 years in the hands of a strong and independent competitor with ambitious plans to offer new ways of accessing that content.As a result of this concession, the CMA agreed to look afresh at the deal and launched a new investigation in August. That investigation has completed today with the CMA clearing this narrower transaction.The new deal will stop Microsoft from locking up competition in cloud gaming as this market takes off, preserving competitive prices and services for UK cloud gaming customers. It will allow Ubisoft to offer Activision’s content under any business model, including through multigame subscription services. It will also help to ensure that cloud gaming providers will be able to use non-Windows operating systems for Activision content, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA said:  The CMA is resolute in its determination to prevent mergers that harm competition and deliver bad outcomes for consumers and businesses.?We take our decisions free from political influence and we won’t be swayed by corporate lobbying.  We delivered a clear message to Microsoft that the deal would be blocked unless they comprehensively addressed our concerns and stuck to our guns on that.  With the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft, we’ve made sure Microsoft can’t have a stranglehold over this important and rapidly developing market. As cloud gaming grows, this intervention will ensure people get more competitive prices, better services and more choice. We are the only competition agency globally to have delivered this outcome.  But businesses and their advisors should be in no doubt that the tactics employed by Microsoft are no way to engage with the CMA.?Microsoft had the chance to restructure during our initial investigation but instead continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work. Dragging out proceedings in this way only wastes time and money.Martin Coleman, Chair of the Independent Panel who reviewed the original Microsoft deal, said:  Cloud gaming is an important new way for gamers to access games and this deal could have seriously undermined its potential development. On that we, the European Commission and the US Federal Trade Commission are in full agreement. Where we differ is on how we solve that problem. We rejected a solution put to us by the parties which would have left Microsoft with too much control.  We now have a new transaction in which the cloud distribution of Activision games, old and new, is taken away from Microsoft and put into the hands of Ubisoft, an independent party who is committed to widening access to the games.?That’s better for competition, better for consumers and better for economic growth.The decision In its original investigation, the CMA found Microsoft already held a strong position in relation to cloud gaming and blocked the deal. The sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft will prevent the distribution of important, popular content – including games such as Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft – from coming under the control of Microsoft in relation to cloud gaming. The restructured deal substantially addressed the concerns that the CMA had following its original investigation, which concluded earlier this year.  The CMA did identify limited residual concerns with the new deal, but Microsoft gave undertakings that will ensure that the terms of the sale of Activision’s rights to Ubisoft are enforceable by the CMA. The CMA consulted on these undertakings and is satisfied that this will provide the safety net needed to make sure this deal is properly implemented.

KPMG and Microsoft Collaborate on Innovative ESG Education Platform

KPMG, in collaboration with Microsoft and several prominent universities and institutions, has unveiled the KPMG ESG Academy, a scalable and adaptable learning platform designed to foster education and understanding of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) matters. This academy leverages the KPMG Learning Enablement and Analytics Platform, supported by Microsoft 365, Azure, Teams, and Microsoft Viva Learning, to deliver ESG-focused learning experiences within the workflow. The academy offers customizable content developed in collaboration with globally renowned ESG specialists from leading academic institutions and KPMG sustainability experts. It caters to various learning levels, from basic to advanced, enabling organizations to support their ESG initiatives effectively.The KPMG ESG Academy is a result of the extended global partnership between KPMG and Microsoft, aimed at accelerating digital solutions addressing ESG challenges. The platform is intended to help business leaders enhance their comprehension of ESG and navigate its evolving regulatory landscape for informed decision-making. With a strong commitment to innovation and sustainability, KPMG and Microsoft aim to consolidate ESG insights and information into a single platform to empower decision-makers.This initiative represents one of several digital solutions introduced by KPMG and Microsoft to assist businesses in their ESG journey. Earlier, the partnership introduced the KPMG Circularity Tracker, a solution facilitating a deeper understanding of ESG, automated data collection, and model-based calculations for circularity performance. The KPMG ESG Academy seeks to support decision-makers in Kuwait and beyond as they navigate the complexities of ESG and work towards building more sustainable and responsible businesses.

Connect Ads by Aleph and Digital Turbine forge MENA partnership

Dubai: Announcing an exclusive collaboration between Aleph's Connect Ads, a leading digital media house, and MENA's top-notch advertising solutions provider, along with Digital Turbine, the trailblazer in linking the mobile ecosystem through innovative encounters. Together, they join forces to introduce top-tier mobile advertising solutions to esteemed agencies and brands in the MENA region.Under this partnership, Connect Ads by Aleph will exclusively handle all advertising sales and account management activities in the region, representing Digital Turbine's interests.Having been a pioneer in the MENA region's digital media landscape since 2001, Connect Ads, a subsidiary of Aleph Group, has established itself as a global enabler of digital advertising, facilitating connections between thousands of advertisers in over 130 emerging markets and the world's premier digital platforms.In this collaboration, Connect Ads by Aleph will empower regional clients to tap into the potentials of rewarded video advertising in mobile games, leveraging Digital Turbine's influential position in the global arena.Moreover, advertisers will be able to leverage DT's advanced solutions to enhance engagement, attention, and brand outcomes significantly.Notably, DT's Dynamic End Card offers immersive, mobile-first experiences with interactive full-screen executions, allowing users to explore brand offerings after watching the ad to completion.The interactive in-video experience boasts powerful graphic technologies and interactive video ad encounters, enriching the gaming experience for mobile gamers without being intrusive.The region's biggest players in the digital industry consistently choose Connect Ads when venturing into MENA. Connect Ads has spearheaded and nurtured the digital advertising ventures of major tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Spotify, LinkedIn, Shazam, TikTok, Speakol, Huawei Ads, Criteo, among many others.Currently, Connect Ads by Aleph is the preferred partner for more than 24 digital media, AdTech, and big data giants.Mohamed El-Mehairy, Group CEO of Connect Ads by Aleph, stated, "Our vision and strategy are centered around bringing value to our region, catering to both users and advertisers alike. We are delighted to have gained the trust of yet another world-class platform."He further praised Digital Turbine as an exceptional platform, capable of accelerating mobile growth and consumer engagement, thereby connecting brands with a broader audience across various devices.Connect Ads' advertising activities are meticulously measurable in terms of their effectiveness.Digital Turbine's advertising platform integrates seamlessly with leading measurement partners such as Moat, DV, and IAS, while excelling in attention results, as proven by collaborations with Lumen, Amplified Intelligence, Nielsen, and Kantar.DT's video ads not only seize users' attention but also retain it for an extended duration. A study with attention measurement leader Amplified Intelligence revealed that DT ads outperformed its peers by over 10X in terms of attention.On average, viewers actively engage with DT ads for a combined 22 seconds, a remarkable contrast to the mere 1.6 seconds for mobile web video ads and 2.5 seconds for social video ads.DT's ad experience utilizes a dynamic end-card format, further enhancing its ability to captivate user attention and foster engagement through full-screen video and audio experiences.DT's acclaimed Creative Lab specializes in crafting and optimizing mobile-based creative content that captivates audiences through sight, sound, and motion.

Microsoft brings latest innovations in cloud, data & AI to COMEX 2023

Muscat:  Microsoft is participating in COMEX as the official Innovation Partner, where it will demonstrate industry-leading technological innovations and highlight the key role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in the successful digital transformation journeys of governments and businesses.Held at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre in Muscat, Microsoft’s booth at COMEX reflects the company’s commitment to supporting the accelerated adoption of technology amongst individuals, organizations, and across key sectors in line with Oman Vision 2040’s goal to transition the nation into a knowledge-based community.“The Sultanate of Oman is setting up necessary infrastructure to accelerate economic diversification and introduce a series of digital innovations across vital sectors”, said Sheikh Saif Hilal Al Hosni, Country Manager, Microsoft Oman and Bahrain. “AI is a defining technology of our time, and we are optimistic about what AI can do for industries and the society in the Sultanate. Microsoft has long been a trusted partner in digital change across The Sultanate of Oman; and at this year’s COMEX, we shall devote ourselves to helping delegates get ready for AI and make it work.”COMEX serves as an opportunity for regional IT stakeholders to network with other innovators and share use case stories, allowing each to strengthen their own digital transformation programmes. Microsoft’s focus on AI readiness will further strengthen best practices and ensure that all delegates can return to their organisations with value-adding knowledge. Microsoft’s stand will feature 5 partners including Netways, PWC, Cypher Learning, Noventiq, and IITC (International Information Technology Co.); the Company’s experts will be participating in the COMEX International Conference discussing various topics such as E-services, Cybersecurity and Healthcare and Data & AI.Through the Azure platform, the intelligent Microsoft Cloud offers public and private enterprises the ability to deliver new business models and boost the speed of innovation and time to market. Microsoft’s AI technologies are protected by industry-leading security measures and include advanced analytics, natural-language-processing, cognitive services, and IoT field-connection services. These technologies can connect the entire business, from the physical to the virtual.

QDB, Microsoft Qatar partner to foster innovation, accelerate startups and SMEs

Doha: Entrepreneurs and innovators in Qatar will now have access to a wide range of technologies and tools to propel their success thanks to a new partnership between Qatar Development Bank and Microsoft. The partnership aims to accelerate the digital transformation of startups and SMEs and to foster innovation as part of QDB’s integrated efforts to bolster the local entrepreneurship ecosystem and talent pool as well as Qatar’s position as a regional innovation and technology hub.The partnership will enable SMEs to benefit from emerging technologies, leveraging Microsoft Cloud to improve performance, boost productivity, reduce costs, and develop innovative solutions.The initiative will also provide SMEs with the opportunity to build their digital skills through the Microsoft Learn platform, which equips entrepreneurs, leaders and employees with the necessary skills to leverage cloud technology to accelerate digital transformation and achieve growth in a knowledge-based economy.Startups under Qatar Development Bank’s umbrella will also now have access to Microsoft’s Founders Hub, a platform that brings together people, knowledge, and technology to help founders solve challenges in every stage of their ambitious journey.Microsoft will also offer access to learning tools to enable entrepreneurs and startups to leverage cloud technology such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and the Internet of Things to launch a successful business.Commenting on this partnership, Mr. Abdulrahman Hesham Al Sowaidi, Acting CEO of QDB said: “This partnership provides access to an advanced set of digital platforms, and guarantees the readiness of our innovators and startups to pursue aspirations that fall in line with our goals of developing Qatar's entrepreneurship ecosystem and strengthening the country's position as a center for innovation and technological excellence.”Lana Khalaf, General Manager, Microsoft Qatar, expressed her enthusiasm about the partnership with Qatar Development Bank which aligns with the company’s investments to empower in the startups and SMEs ecosystem in Qatar. She said, "Startups and SMEs play a pivotal role in accelerating Qatar’s digital economy and its position as an innovation hub for investment. Through this initiative, businesses will have access to the latest cloud technologies and digital skills needed to achieve their business goals and contribute to Qatar’s economic growth and development. This partnership supports our efforts to be the preferred and trusted partner for cloud innovation for all sectors of the economy in Qatar."QDB’s partnership with Microsoft is the latest in a series of initiatives to bolster capacity development and build a diversified entrepreneurship ecosystem that drives economic development.

AEG partners with Microsoft and Crayon to revolutionize SWIFT infrastructure

Dubai: Allied Engineering Group (AEG), the largest SWIFT service bureau globally, has announced its collaboration with Microsoft and Crayon to bring tailored and compliant solutions to financial service institutions (FSIs) that are migrating their SWIFT infrastructure to the cloud. Through this partnership, AEG will publish its 10 SWIFT-related proprietary solutions on the Azure Marketplace, extending them as a managed service to FSIs across the Middle East and Africa (MEA)."We believe that this partnership represents the best strategic move for banks, as it addresses the current needs of the banking sector," said Dr. Mohamed Sadek, Group CEO of AEG. "Our tailored solutions on Azure will provide financial service institutions with the flexibility, scalability, and security they need to migrate their SWIFT infrastructure to the cloud while ensuring compliance with SWIFT CSCF regulations and guidelines. By leveraging Azure's advanced capabilities, we are enabling banks to focus on their core objectives and access limitless possibilities for the future."Through this partnership, and leveraging Azure's advanced capabilities, AEG is providing its customers with the freedom to offer their services as a flexible managed service. This, in turn, empowers FSI to expand their reach and optimize their operations, while simultaneously helping AEG expand its presence in the UAE."We are excited to collaborate with Allied Engineering Group and Crayon to provide tailored and compliant solutions for financial service institutions migrating SWIFT infrastructure to the cloud.”, said Naim Yazbeck, General Manager, Microsoft UAE. “By leveraging Azure's secure and scalable platform, we are enabling AEG to offer its customers greater flexibility and cost savings, while maintaining compliance with SWIFT CSCF regulations and guidelines. This relationship is a testament to Microsoft's commitment to supporting the digital transformation of the financial service industry in the UAE and Middle East and Africa at large.""We are proud of our partnership with Microsoft and AEG, which exemplifies the transformative power of combining world-class technology, industry expertise, and strategic vision," said Ziad Rizk, CEO of Crayon Middle East & Africa. "By leveraging our deep Microsoft Cloud knowledge, our robust partner ecosystem, and our extensive market reach, we are committed to supporting AEG's ground-breaking efforts in revolutionizing the SWIFT infrastructure for financial service institutions across the Middle East and Africa. Together, we are pioneering the future of digital finance and cultivating exceptional experiences for organizations and customers alike."The initiative is part of AEG's commitment to providing its customers with compliant, tailored solutions that meet their specific needs. It also marks a significant step towards transforming payments across MEA using Azure solutions.

Microsoft for Startups graduates third cohort of B2B tech startups from GrowthX

Microsoft for Startups Middle East, in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), today graduated the latest cohort of tech startups from its GrowthX Accelerator program. The conclusion of the cohort was celebrated during a Demo Day event, hosted at Abu Dhabi’s financial centre, Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), with attendees including startup founders, government officials, investors, business leaders and stakeholders from the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem. Run as part of a strategic partnership between ADIO and Microsoft for Startups, GrowthX is specifically designed to empower growth-stage B2B startups ranging primarily from Seed to Series A stages to grow and scale in Abu Dhabi. The program features weekly sessions from Microsoft experts, as well as regional and global leaders in business and technology. The 12 startups in this cohort hail from across the Middle East, Turkey and Pakistan, and are developing solutions in E-commerce, EdTech, Fintech, HRtech, and Insurtech. The companies in this cohort are Fortyguard, Ilmversity, Klickit, MonSpark, Pisano, Poilabs, Raabtaa, Supercommerce, Vita Virtues, Xina AI, Edraak Systems, and Pay Caps. Eng. Abdulla Abdul Aziz AlShamsi, Acting Director General at ADIO, said, “The rapid pace of digital transformation is an opportunity to continually find new technological solutions to global challenges. The GrowthX Accelerator is a proven platform to identify and empower innovative startups to achieve scale and impact. We congratulate all the graduates on completing this program and look forward to seeing how they leverage the tools gained to accelerate their growth and enhance the regional startup landscape.” Naim Yazbeck, General Manager, Microsoft UAE, said, “It has been both inspiring and encouraging to witness the growth and development of each of the startups enrolled into this cohort. They’ve leveraged every opportunity to maximize the potential of their offerings, enhance their skillsets and embrace the support and resources available to empower them to grow and scale their businesses. Together with ADIO, we are proud to have empowered another incredible cohort of startups to showcase their innovative ideas and develop them into real-world solutions, that will strengthen the regional ecosystem and develop our digital economy.” Investment in tech startups across the UAE and the Middle East continues to grow exponentially as demand for new, creative, and innovative products and solutions continues to rise. Over the past year, venture capital funding in MENA reached $2.6 billion, 138% more than in 2020, according to MAGNiTT. Startups in the UAE accounted for?26% of all deals?closed across MENA and?45% of all funding?raised across?the region in 2021.The GrowthX Accelerator helps startups develop their offerings and unlock new opportunities for success. The 10-week program offers a variety of group and one-on-one virtual sessions and training on enterprise sales, technical readiness, investor readiness, and customer engagement tactics. Participating startups also work closely with Microsoft to co-create technology solutions that address real challenges facing organizations in the region, and receive support from regional partners including legal assistance from Clara. Following the conclusion of the program, the startups will also work closely with Masdar City, a GrowthX program partner, who will support the graduating cohort in obtaining business licences and establish operations in Abu Dhabi. The Masdar City Free Zone hosts more than 1,000 companies that benefit from the city’s unique ecosystem of education, R&D, technology startups, incubators, and corporates.Including the recently concluded cohort, the GrowthX Accelerator has graduated a total of 48 startups since its inception in 2021. To learn more about the Microsoft for Startups GrowthX Accelerator program, click here.

Microsoft announces its participation as a strategic Principal Sponsor of COP27

Microsoft, together with Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced its role as a Strategic Principal Sponsor of the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27). The United Nations conference, to be hosted in Sharm-El Sheikh from November 6-18, 2022, provides a platform for world leaders, businesses, and citizens to come together to discuss their role in mitigating the escalating climate crisis. Through its COP27 partnership, Microsoft aims to help people and organizations understand and harness the transformative power of technology to set and achieve new and impactful?climate goals.? During the signing ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices in Cairo, Microsoft Egypt General Manager, Mirna Arif, commented, “We believe in the transformative power of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties and are proud to again play a key role in this year’s event.?We applaud the efforts of the Egyptian government, under President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in prioritizing climate change as part of Egypt Vision 2030. Technology will provide answers to many of today’s most pressing climate challenges, and COP27 is an opportunity for the public and private sectors to collaborate on climate solutions to accelerate progress in Egypt and across the wider region.” Organizations of all types, sizes, and sectors will need to fundamentally transform their operations to meet the new sustainability imperative. Regardless of where companies are on their journeys, Microsoft is?dedicated to being of help. Microsoft Vice Chair and President, Brad Smith, added, “The world needs to move faster and COP27 will provide an important forum to move from pledges to progress. We are proud to partner with the Egyptian government and support this urgent effort." H.E?COP27 President-Designate, Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt pointed out that the Egyptian presidency is actively engaging with leading companies like Microsoft and other stakeholders to speed up climate action. Egypt’s government believes in the innovative power of the private sector to tackle climate challenges and in their ability to influence their immediate stakeholders, including suppliers, investors, employers, and partners to make an outsized impact on climate change. Ambassador Ashraf Ibrahim, General Coordinator for organizational and financial aspects of the conference?welcomed Microsoft as a Principal Partner of COP27. He emphasized the important role played by the international private sector in promoting sustainable business models and supporting the agreed climate goals. Ambassador Ashraf Ibrahim highlighted the contributions provided by Microsoft on the road to the conference in Sharm-El-Sheikh and looked forward to the continuation of this support leading up to an impactful COP. Microsoft has been working to become more sustainable for more than a decade. In 2020, the company announced an ambitious commitment and detailed plan to be carbon negative by 2030 and to remove from the environment all the carbon it had emitted since its founding by 2050. The company has built on this pledge by adding commitments to be water positive by 2030, zero waste by 2030, and to protect ecosystems by developing a Planetary Computer. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Chief Sustainability Officer for Microsoft Middle East and Africa, Sherif Tawfik noted that COP is the place where the world comes together for climate change conversation and action. “We are committed to playing our part and look forward to working together with Egypt on this year’s COP to help expedite the world’s transition to a more economically and environmentally sustainable future for us all,” he added. “We’re now taking our experiences from the last ten years and using them to help build a more sustainable future together and enable governments, customers, and partners in the region to achieve their own goals. During COP27, these same learnings will be applied to help tackle the extraordinary challenge ahead of us all,” concludes Tawfik.

Majid Al Futtaim Retail forms a strategic partnership with Microsoft

Microsoft today announced that Majid Al Futtaim Retail - operator of the Carrefour retail brand across 16 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia - has transformed its financial planning and analysis (FP&A) capabilities through the power of the trusted, intelligent, versatile Microsoft Azure Data Platform. Majid Al Futtaim Retail’s finance team leveraged Azure Analytics Platform to fully automate financial and operational reporting and create a single source of truth for decision-makers.Majid Al Futtaim Retail faced the significant challenge of data silos. Waiting periods for reports were long, as data had to be manually extracted and modified using Excel. Reporting needs of the organization were subsequently skewed depending upon which function had requested information.Through Azure Synapse and PowerBI, Majid Al Futtaim Retail was able to fully automate its financial and operational reporting, eliminating human intervention. The transition enabled faster, deeper insights for stakeholders. While creating a unified view of the business for all division leaders, Majid Al Futtaim Retail’s automation of Excel reporting has saved a calculated annual minimum of 6,530 labour-hours. The company now intends to incorporate Microsoft Azure Machine Learning into its technology mix, to drive AI use cases within its finance function.By increasing efficiencies in finance, Majid Al Futtaim Retail was able to significantly accelerate its digital transformation journey. Additionally, the organisation’s new information ecosystem allows its commercial team to gain insights in seconds, through a few clicks, from more than 35 million records of daily data.“Our aim was to have the finance function reinvent itself and create a holistic information ecosystem that serves all our processes and people,” said Rahul Bhandari, Chief Financial Officer at Majid Al Futtaim Retail. “We were able to accelerate the digitisation of our performance data management, and the results speak for itself. Our automated reporting and analysis are now available on the go and allow faster access to actionable intelligence. We have been able to unify our KPIs and consolidate data financial, commercial, operational and industrial data points to give us holistic views of our business.” “The modernisation of Majid Al Futtaim Retail’s finance data platform will serve as a reference point for every finance team that still struggles with siloed data systems and manual reporting,” said Tariq Halawani, Executive Director, Enterprise Solutions at Microsoft UAE. "Through the power of the Azure Data Platform, hosted in our UAE data centres, Majid Al Futtaim Retail was able to build a solution with customised and controlled access to all types of data, thereby democratising data access across the organisation.”