Africa Trade – Struggling to Trade Compliantly?

Africa Trade

Don’t worry, we’ve got your data needs covered.
Cedar Rose has been investigating companies in the Middle East and Africa for over 20 years. We not only have the largest, most comprehensive database on African companies (almost 5.8 million companies), we have linked people to people, companies to companies, and companies to people to ensure link analysis -even across borders.

Africa offers a great deal of potential as a market to trade into. That’s why China is heavily investing in African infrastructure projects. According to a recent report from Quartz news site, Chinese investments and contracts in sub-Saharan Africa alone totalled $299 billion from 2005 to 2018 and the investment is continuing. China is not the only country investing in this vast continent though. The majority of investments come from France, the Netherlands, USA and UK with Egypt receiving the highest foreign direct investment – totalling USD 6.8 Billion in 2018. Other major beneficiary countries have been South Africa, Congo, Morocco and Ethiopia.

So what is the attraction to invest in Africa?

The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement was signed by 54 African countries in March 2018, requiring members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, boosting inter-African trade. The agreement was expected to lead to the creation of a single continental market of more than 1.3 billion people, with a combined annual output of $2.2 trillion. It is hoped to boost intra-African trade by 33 per cent, leading to greater stability within.

The African continent is a huge land mass covering over 30 million square km – that is bigger than the USA, Canada and China put together. It actually covers 20% of the world’s land area and the population is almost the same as China alone so there is plenty of room for growth.

With an increasingly educated and growing population and a generally very low cost of living, Africa offers some great potential for companies requiring manpower. For example, Cairo and Algiers are approximately 30% cheaper to live in than Beijing and 13% cheaper than Delhi, hence the large number of companies setting up manufacturing plants on the continent.

Here are some of the hottest sectors at the moment:

  • Egypt – offshore gas reserves and new oil exploration and production projects, food (grains) and textiles.
  • South Africa – mining, petroleum refinery, food processing, ICT (information and communications technologies) and renewable energy initiatives.
  • Republic of Congo – (not to be confused with its neighbouring country, the Democratic Republic of Congo which has rich mineral reserves) the Republic, also known as Congo (Brazzaville) recently received USD 448.6 million in aid from the International Monetary Fund and has huge oil and gas reserves as well as iron ore.
  • Morocco – renewable energy, finance, automotive manufacturing and education.
  • Ethiopia – petroleum refinery, minerals, real estate, manufacturing including automotive and renewable energy.

Whenever you consider venturing into new markets, having accurate data is imperative. Traditionally, Africa has been a difficult place to gather data from and this has deterred investors and businesses from going ahead. But Cedar Rose has made efforts to close the data gaps and can really help if you need to know anything about an African business, director or shareholder in order to grow your business safely into the region. There are always risks associated with doing business, and with our boots on the ground and experienced researchers, we help to mitigate those risks for our customers around the world.

Our data is source graded, meaning that every data field within our database is date stamped and labelled with a reliability and trustworthiness score according to where it came from – because when conducting due diligence or investing large sums, only 100% trustworthy sources should be used to base decisions on – and there is a lot of less reliable data out there.

We are working through a fast track expansion plan to include more data for Africa within 2019, and to have as live a database as is possible for this region of the world very soon in order to support the leap from traditional data requirements to eIDV, eKYC, fintech, instant risk scoring and analysis.

Find out more by contacting Helen.Lambrou@cedar-rose.com today and join our growth into Africa.

Read more articles here.

Written by Christina Massaad, Managing Director

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

Cleaning Dirty Data Daily – The Importance of Data Cleaning

Data Cleaning

Operating since 1997, Cedar Rose is known to have the largest single cleaned database of analytically linked companies’, shareholders’ and directors’ information across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, available to our thousands of clients around the world. Data cleaning has always and will always be a priority to us.

No matter how data is gathered and collected, there will always be some level of error. Data in the real world, certainly in the regions we gather it from is mainly dirty: incomplete, disorganized, unstructured and inconsistent. Incomplete data stems from non-available data values when collected and different criteria between the time collected and the time analyzed. Examples of a lack of attribute values could be an incomplete address or incomplete translated company name. Original data contains errors such as typing, spelling, word transposition (e.g. number of premises or number of employees equal to -3, or even a Shareholder/ Manager who is 230 years old).

Data can also be inconsistent and duplicated; containing incompatibility in codes or names (e.g. Company Name: “XXX Company LTD” or “XXX Company Limited” could be considered one registered entity although in the latter case the legal form is Joint Stock Company which is not reflected correctly in the name). The lack of compatibility is mainly between the different data fields. Inconsistent and duplicate data, as in the example above, comes from different data sources merged together or non-uniform naming conventions.

These types of mistakes can result from human error, poor recording software, or incomplete control over the type of data imported. Before processing the data for analysis or use, error-prevention strategies should be implemented to reduce common errors as much as possible, and to ensure that data is accurate, valid and consistent.

Maintaining an excellent quality database is essential for our company to ensure accuracy in our credit and due diligence reports. In our data warehouse, currently containing more than 12 million companies and more than 23 million individuals, data cleaning is a major part of the extract, transform and load (ETL) process. Data cleansing (also known as data cleaning or scrubbing) is the process of spotting and rectifying inaccurate or corrupt data.  Incomplete, inaccurate or irrelevant data is identified and then either replaced, modified or deleted.

Also worth noting that all our data is date stamped and graded. Our clients can now check the date of each data field in addition to its source grading. In recent years, Cedar Rose has implemented a system for the grading and evaluation of the source reliability, as well as of the information and intelligence credibility of the majority of our data. This grading is invaluable to our subscribers and due diligence clients who can then calculate which data they can rely on 100% and which has less reliability (eg; data from third parties, assumed to be correct but not verified).

No matter what sector you are working in, from public health to extractive industries to education, you can have access to our cleaned and linked database of companies, directors and shareholders via our website at www.cedar-rose.com, via API or by a CRiS subscription.

For further information, please contact Hannah King or Nicole Konstantinou to arrange a demonstration of CRiS, or go to our website to search and download or order a fresh investigation on your client today.

Visit our newsroom for more relevant news!

Written By Elissa Ghosn, Data Analyst

 

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

API – An Insight into Data-Sharing in the 21st Century

API

Application Programme Interface, or as most know it, API, has revolutionised the way the world operates and has provided efficiency beyond belief. The inherit design of this application software acts as the backbone of modern connectivity, providing and utilising efficiency, reliability and speed. API provides alternative means to achieve outcomes, meet demands and diversifies the way Business-to-Business (B2B) operations are carried out. Astonishingly, according to TechCrunch, Salesforce generates 50% of its revenue via API, eBay nearly 60% and Expedia an unrivalled 90%. This relatively new concept, a technological marvel, has gone further than most would have imagined. It is important to understand the principles and benefits of APIs and what they can, or already do for your company.

The What
API, on the surface, is complex software with a lot of technical jargon attached to the matter. However, after understanding the practicalities and the fundamentals of Application Programme Interfaces, it becomes more evident what they intend in doing.  In layman’s terms, APIs allow one piece of software to make use of the functionality or data of another. API functionality’s main purpose revolves around B2B activity. This machine to machine interface can transfer data, in real time, and provide an array of instant possibilities and efficiencies. Importantly, APIs help create seamless networks in order to improve value transfer with suppliers/vendors, clients, partners and employees.

Incredibly, since this innovation become available in 2005, the last 14 years has shown an astonishing rise in usage, illustrating how necessary and important the day-to-day use of APIs are. Below is a table of the growth of Web APIs submitted to the ProgrammableWeb directory from 2005-2018.

API Growth

The Benefits
APIs have the functional capacity to perform a multitude of tasks that can be utilised from business to business. From sharing data and processes to real-time results, APIs are a heavily relied upon software. In a nutshell, an API can help create seamless networks that improve value transfer with clients, suppliers and more. Additionally, some core benefits are:

  1. Ease of Access – In order to provide the best customer service you want to make life as easy as possible for your clients. Well, APIs can enhance the user experience and save time making your customers jump through hoops of login forms, order forms and alike. If an API is set up for your end user, integrated into their application, you are essentially removing any barriers from them using your service. This may just generate a long-term client and a happy one at that.
  2. Innovative – In some cases it is possible for API providers to incorporate functionality that end-users have adopted and extended themselves. Through traditional web applications and user experience you have pre-determined how your service is to be used. However, via API, flexibility and innovation may open up a variety of other means for your users to engage in. This could create whole new industries and verticals that you could service.
  3. On-Demand – The real-time applications of APIs provide a platform in which your users can utilise the most efficient of services. An automation of requests and responses will eradicate any roadblocks in traditional service. Your business will be digitalised and primed to scale with the functionalities that an API has to offer.
  4. Customer Analytics – Streamlining a focus on services you provide can allow your company to more directly analyse and enhance to better suit your users. User experience may depend on how the users interact with applications and time may be overspent scrutinising these fine details, rather than working on the actual services that you provide. Streamlining your focus would enable you to understand exactly what your customer’s want, allowing you to better plan your business’s strategic road map.

Cedar Rose’s Availability
Cedar Rose has always taken pride in being one of the most innovative and up-to-date companies in its field. Thus, we heavily endorse the use of APIs to provide a bespoke service to our clients on a daily basis. As we offer data all around the world to a wide array of clients at all hours of the day, we need to make sure that we have accessible services for the greater benefit of everyone. Henceforward, we have enhanced our API capabilities to allow for instant services for credit reporting, risk assessments, due diligence and electronic identity verification. We believe that our customers deserve the best, and when you need critical data for urgent decision-making matters, we can provide you with the relevant data-transfer in a fast, streamlined and secure approach.

Visit www.cedar-rose.com today to see how we can help you.

Written By Jack Evangelides, Marketing Assistant

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

Waste Not Want Not – The UAE Fuel Initiative

Waste Not UAE

On an international scale the world is becoming more environmentally conscious, acknowledging the past failures that have caused global warming and unwarranted extreme weather. In reaction to rising environmental concerns, the UAE has adopted a new initiative that, essentially, turns waste into fuel. The United Arab Emirates are leading the way forward with their sustainable ideas and making positive strides for a cleaner, brighter future. RDF, Refuse Derived Fuel, is the product that will make all of this happen. Additionally, this streamlined focus on eco-friendliness, alternative energy and sustainability goes hand-in-hand with the upcoming 2020 Dubai Expo, which centres on the very same values.

Set in Stone
Two UAE-based contractors, Besix Concessions & Assets and TG ECO Holding have recently inked the deal to develop and operate a RDF facility in Umm Al Quwain. The construction of the facility will begin operations in December 2019 with expectations to open by April 2020. Moreover, the RDF facility hopes to start receiving waste by September 2020 and begin full operations to convert this alternative energy to practical use.

This sustainable project is set to cost an estimate of $40 million and to be co-financed by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The benefits from this initiative have incredible potential and scalable possibilities, not only for the UAE but for the Middle East and even on a global scale. The expected outcome of the RDF facility is to be able to receive 1000 tons of waste per day, gathered from households. With this in mind, the Refuse Derived Fuel scheme will approximately divert 90% of household waste from landfills.

“Emirates RDF contributes to the UAE’s strategic objective of landfill diversion of least 75 percent by 2021 and it helps cement plants in decreasing their use of fossil fuels.” -Nico de Koning, project manager of Besix Concessions & Assets Middle East and general manager of Emirates RDF

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy is a hot topic of the 21st century, and, especially, within the last 5 years. An alternative energy source, in combination with a reduction in waste can potentially be a revolutionary factor and a turning point for civilisation. RDF is to begin operations and will be implemented in cement factories as an alternative fuel. This, therefore, means that it will partially replace traditional energy consumptions through the use of gas or coal. The signing ceremony was accredited highly, with climate change ministers present and the director of the Crown Prince’s court of Abu Dhabi. The plans for this initiative have been finalised and the green light has been given, now we wait to see what sustainable implications this may have within the UAE.

“It contributes to the UAE realizing its ambitious sustainability goals and it helps cement plants decreasing their use of fossil fuels.” -Nico de Koning, project manager of Besix Concessions & Assets Middle East and general manager of Emirates RDF

Get Involved – With Cedar Rose

Cedar Rose is an established business intelligence company with over 20 years of experience and specialises in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. We want to help you get involved with great initiatives such as the waste alternative energy, RDF, which the two contractors are forming. So how can we help? We can provide an extensive amount of data on companies and individuals that may help you form the right partnership, merger or help mitigate risks to keep business healthy and sustainable. As your business grows, so does the threat of risk, when you order a Cedar Rose company credit report, or due diligence investigation, you can eradicate any unwarranted potentials. Conduct healthy business with Cedar Rose.

Going Green
As a company we take great pride in making changes to sustain the environment, no matter how big or how small. We are sponsors of the Lets Make Cyprus Green organisation that promote eco-friendliness throughout Cyprus and we actively participate in their events in our fight against climate change.

What’s your country or company doing to help the environment?

Interested in more articles? Check out Saudi Arabia’s new initiative here.

Written By Jack Evangelides, Marketing Assistant 

Sourced Image: Pixabay

 

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

Trade Reference – Ending Late Payment Culture One Rating at a Time

Trade Reference

A trade reference is a trader’s opinion on the creditworthiness of another trader in the same trade. It should come from a business to business supplier with whom the firm is dealing with on a credit account basis. When applying for trade credit, the customer is asked to provide contact details for trade references in order for the supplier to get feedback about the experience of other suppliers in working with this client. 

Trade Reference in Cedar Rose Company Credit Reports
In the Middle East and North Africa, it is well known that there is a lack of available data with regards to actual payment history. In addition to this, companies in most MENA countries are not required to file financial statements which make credit analysis more challenging.

At Cedar Rose, for years, while compiling a Company Credit Report, suppliers have been contacted and asked to complete a trade reference questionnaire providing an opinion based on their experience with the company being investigated. The information is inserted in the system and constitutes a part of the payment history of the company. The data is assigned a quantitative measure and is included in the CR Score which is a credit risk scorecard and proprietary scoring model developed by Cedar Rose to evaluate a business risk level with a set of statistical indicators.

Cedar Rose Trade Rate Initiative
In late 2018, Cedar Rose has introduced the Trade Rate Scheme so business owners and credit managers can anonymously share their collective voice and have their say on late payments through a scoring system. Allowing companies to rate their customers’ payment performance online is both fundamental and lacking within the credit sector. This initiative aims to provide a more efficient and robust credit reporting service. By joining forces, business people around the world can help each other to make better informed choices about whether or not to extend credit and on which terms.

It’s very simple to participate in this initiative and there is no cost at all. Just search for the company on Cedar Rose website and click on “Trade Rate” to add your rating on the simple form – it takes less than two minutes of your time. Your rating will trigger is to freshly investigate your customer so after 15 days; an updated Company Credit Report will be available on our website at a discounted price for you to download.

In case the company you wish to rate is not available on our website yet, please email me on cynthia.gebeily@cedar-rose.com and I’ll make sure we add it to our database and let you know when the download and Trade Rate options are available.

Have you seen our article on AI?

Written By Cynthia Gebeily, Head of Credit Reporting

 

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

CYPRUS COMPANY WINS PRESTIGIOUS CREDIT AWARD

Cyprus Award Win

CYPRUS COMPANY WINS PRESTIGIOUS CREDIT AWARD

Cyprus company; Cedar Rose International, whose headquarters have been based in Limassol since 2007 were awarded Credit Information Provider of the Year – Commercial Credit at a prestigious awards ceremony in London’s Grosvenor Hotel on 16th May, 2019. The event, Credit Awards 2019 sponsored by Experian, recognised the best in the Credit industry from around the world. Cedar Rose was represented at the event by Mrs Cynthia Gebeily CICP, Head of Credit Reporting, who manages the company’s research and development centre in Beirut, Lebanon. The award was presented to Mrs Gebeily by British TV personality Jimmy Carr and Jonathan Baum, Chief Credit Officer of Lloyds Banking Group at a lavish gala dinner ceremony held in the ballroom where Queen Elizabeth II learned to ice skate. The organisers of the awards, Credit Strategy, were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the industry’s most respected awards programme. According to Credit Strategy, a Credit Award is a symbol of achievement and a veritable endorsement of success as judged by an independent judging panel, all hand selected titans of the industry, who have continuously and relentlessly worked to ensure that each decision is fair and impartial.

Managing Director, Christina Massaad, said “We are delighted and honoured to receive the award for Credit Information Provider of the Year – Commercial Credit, especially against such tough competition. Our teams in Cyprus and Lebanon work really hard throughout the year to offer the best quality credit reporting and due diligence services and they truly deserve this recognition of their efforts. I am very proud of everyone at Cedar Rose and it means a lot to know that a company based in Cyprus and Lebanon was judged to be the best in the industry by such a well-respected panel of judges in the United Kingdom.”

Cedar Rose was initially established in the UK in 1997 and is owned by Lebanese businessman, Antoun Massaad who is very well-known in his adopted home city of Limassol, and his British wife Christina. In 2004 the company set up offices in Lebanon and following the 2006 war in Lebanon when the couple fled with their family to Cyprus, the Limassol headquarters were established. The business intelligence company has been winning awards since 1998, and last year Cedar Rose was the Cyprus National winner in the Digital Technology category of the European Business Awards. What differentiates Cedar Rose from other Credit Information providers is their use of the latest technology to translate, standardise and analyse data from the most difficult to reach countries, their strong and highly qualified research and analysis team who add a manual overview to the reports provided; as well as their particular expertise in the Middle East and African regions. MENA is widely recognised as one of the most difficult regions to conduct business intelligence, though Cedar Rose has also been providing due diligence on people and companies for the MENA countries for more than 20 years. The company now provides global coverage for many of their services.

Contact: helen.lambrou@cedar-rose.com for more information, or call +357 25 346630    

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

Math, Artificial Intelligence and Data – A Whole New World

Math - Machine Learning

Traditionally, a love for math used to be associated with someone you would call a ‘nerd’, however, technologically revelations have proven math to be a fundamental concept in the 21st century. In our data-driven world, companies and corporations are all using math, formulas and computations to ensure optimal efficiency. Without the use of math, there would no artificial intelligence (AI) and no computer science, we would be stuck in a world of slower and more mistake-prone business. Math, AI and automation provide solutions to time-consuming and complex problems where humans would be much less efficient in resolving. So what is the connection between math and AI?

How and where is Math used in Artificial Intelligence?  
Some of the fundamental topics that math holds for machine learning are:

  • Linear Algebra
  • Calculus
  • Probability
  • Optimisation
    • Heuristics
    • Iterative Methods

These areas of math each contain a multitude of further, and much needed, topics to fully understand machine learning. We may not realise, but every day we face examples of AI where math has contributed highly towards. From the most menial of examples such as sending certain emails to spam or, on the other end of the spectrum, self-driving cars, AI and machine learning is all around us.

“The need for remedial math seems widespread enough that even a simple Google search for ‘calculus and artificial intelligence’ turns up a bunch of blogs and additional courses on how to understand the math underlying these assignments.” Forbes, 2019

Math - AI - Data

A few years ago, Apple’s Siri and Tesla’s self-driving cars were something unthinkable or impossible to have. Today, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are unlocking capabilities everywhere around the world; businesses are learning to use new technologies to create intelligent products, personalised experiences, and smarter business functions. What are some examples of artificial intelligence in business?

Business AI
The world is becoming faster, smarter, more complex and more efficient, and we owe a big part of this to artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, which all derives from math. Let’s have a look into the everyday AI applications that is commonplace for businesses:

  1. Spam filters,
  2. Personal Assistants (Siri/Cortana/Google),
  3. Automated online chat responses,
  4. Automated insights – used from collated data from a company
  5. Smart searches – according to an individual’s history
  6. Product recommendations,
  7. Fraud detection,
  8. Personalised news feeds,
  9. Language recognition,
  10. Ad targeting.

These are only a few applications of AI that we experience in our day-to-day routines. The evolution and application of math to AI has been an incredible phenomenon and it continues to enhance every day. So the main question is:

Are you using Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence to add value to your business?

Here at Cedar Rose we have used both Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to help us process, translate, transliterate, organise, standardise and analyse large amounts of data. It is our love of mathematics, our close attention to detail and our drive to be the best that keep us ahead of the game.
Finally, for Nerds everywhere now is our time to shine!

Have you seen our latest article on fraud?

Written By Angelique Assaf, Data Strategist

Sourced Image: Freepik

 

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

TAQA Takeover – The Schlumberger Acquisition, Saudi Vision 2030

TAQA Takeover

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is undergoing mass transformations in the oil industry. Recent events have seen Saudi Arabia’s Industrialisation and Energy Services Company – TAQA – acquire onshore drilling rigs throughout MENA which were previously owned by Schlumberger. This large operation sees the acquisition of rigs from Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan and Iraq, and amounts to a significant $415 million. TAQA believes this acquisition aligns with the core ethos of Saudi’s 2030 vision, envisaging economic and infrastructural growth. Saudi Arabia have much depended on oil that practically fuels its economy, this acquisition will bring a more robust and stable outlook to the country with hope to generate further income and achieve prosperity.

The Logistics
TAQA’s triumphant acquisition, instigated via their drilling subsidiary Arabian Drilling Company (ADC), will seek to operate a fleet of 58 onshore rigs and 9 offshore rigs across MENA. This investment in growth will generate steady income for the country and provide employment opportunities for an estimate of 6,000 employees across the firm. This acquisition is in respect to TAQA’s 2021 strategy of becoming a leading regional oilfield services and equipment company. This pan-regional drilling powerhouse will unlock value and drive growth in Saudi Arabia. Their growth-driven strategy is reflected in 3 pillars:

  • To create value through expanding into new markets and strengthening their current position,
  • Maintain current value via keeping up-to-date and current with new technologies and by providing optimum services for their clients,
  • Striving for efficiency in relation to safety, reliability and competiveness.

TAQA’s values are aligned with Saudi’s 2030 vision which bolsters the country’s position of achieving their vision.

“This acquisition is fully aligned with Saudi Vision 2030. It unlocks value and drives growth across our entire value chain through a more integrated regional approach, while positioning a leading Saudi company as a global player. The transaction also follows on from ADC’s accelerated expansion activity in 2018 when 16 rigs were commissioned to support the growth of Saudi Aramco. This new combination clearly demonstrates that TAQA and ADC are delivering on their transformation and growth strategies, and further strengthens what is already a long-standing and trusted partnership between TAQA and Schlumberger. We look forward to supporting ADC in the next phase of its expansion and have full confidence that this will benefit all stakeholders, most notably our regional clients.” – Azzam Shalabi, CEO, TAQA and chairman of the ADC board

This much awaited acquisition is set to take place in the second half of 2019, post-regulatory approvals, and will aim to generate revenue, employment opportunities and sustainability. ADC has recently undergone other expansions from as early as 2018 where the company saw an increase in 16 rigs to support the growth of Saudi Aramco. It is evident that ADC, subsidiary to TAQA, is taking an accelerated, progressive and prosperous path. ADC traditionally has a history of innovation, efficiency and safety throughout its 55 years of operations.

Strive for Excellence
Acquisitions and mergers require meticulous due diligence research to make sure you mitigate any potential risks. No matter the size of the merger, if counterparties are not investigated correctly and thoroughly the effects could be costly on your business. Cedar Rose specialises in business intelligence, such as due diligence investigations, especially throughout the MENA region. Know the company and individuals (such as directors and shareholders) you are dealing with beforehand, be aware of their associations to other entities or organisations, ensure all paperwork is in order and remain compliant. Contact our Client Services team on info@cedar-rose.com with your particular requirements.

Head on over to our newsroom for more invigorating articles. 

Written By Jack Evangelides, Marketing Assistant

Sourced Image Freepik

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

Guide to doing Business in the Middle East – Tips, Tricks and More

guide to MENA

Cedar Rose has been active in the Middle East now for over 20 years, instigating business, gathering data and setting-up one of our offices in Lebanon. This article aims to provide an in-depth guide of how you can enact business in the same region. The Middle East is a vast region which has been, in recent years, both highly prosperous and sometimes unpredictably risky, but opportunities abound for those prepared with the right information. More and more companies each day are looking to this region for new business. However, it is not advisable to dive in without knowing how deep the water is. It is important to learn the facts, to understand the issues that can arise and to be prepared.

Let’s get down to business
It is no secret that extracting data and information from the Middle East is no easy task – there is a widespread culture of privacy. From factors such as decentralised data sources, free zone jurisdictions, language obstacles and a lack of advanced technology; there are hefty barriers that need to be worked around in order to have access to the right kind of information and statistical data to be successful in the region. Although the Middle East is a developing and dynamic hub for investments, it necessary to prepare yourself with the right knowledge that can optimise your decision-making for the better. This region has always attracted foreign business – partly due to low taxation – and relies heavily on imports because of a lack of diversity in local raw materials. So, opportunities abound, but what do you need to know to instigate business within the Middle East? Follow this step-by-step guide that may help you mitigate risks.

1. Know the Country

The Middle East spans over numerous territories and nations collectively. These countries, in order of population size, traditionally include Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. In some definitions, the small island of Cyprus is also included. The political situation within the region can be volatile and there are often extreme tensions, if not wars between one or more countries, civil wars between factions or formidable tribal disagreements as well as equally strong alliances. It may be wise to have a guide with you whilst you navigate around a country, to help you get to where you need to be. Judging the region as a whole is naïve as there are vast differences between economies and infrastructure, as well as GDP from country to country. Qatar, for example, has a GDP per capita in advance of $70,000 whereas in Yemen it is less than $600, so studying the particular market of interest is wise.

2. Know the Language

The Middle East is, perhaps, the most linguistically diverse region on the planet with more than 60 languages spoken, some of which include Arabic, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew and Kurdish. Therefore, instigating business may raise language barriers which would require expert translators in order to mitigate the risk of misinformation. However, language barriers shouldn’t stop you from a great potential business opportunity, so it would be wise to do your due diligence on the area you wish to enact business and find solutions to any potential language restrictions. Overall, English and/or French are widely spoken as second languages by locals within most countries of the Middle East and due to the large population of foreign nationals working and residing in the region; English has become widely accepted as the predominant business language. Arabic is widely spoken, but the dialects vary enormously from country to country so whilst the written language is the same, the spoken language may be difficult to understand, between one country and another.

3. Know the Technology

Depending on where your company originates from, there is a high possibility that there will be technological differences. Although the Middle East has recently seen a technological uproar, there are many nations in the region that still lack ‘common’ technologies. Whether it is automated border control systems on entry of a country or the requirement for manual submissions (in person) of tax documentation, it is important to understand what to expect. Not all countries in the region have VoIP, fast, reliable internet or even 24 hour electricity, whilst others are leaps ahead.Limitations in technology can halt business and be a major blockade for any success; therefore, it is important to assess the situation before diving in.

4. Know the Culture

Cultural differences may be a big factor in whether you land that deal, merge with that company or complete that agreement that you so desperately need. For example, understanding the difference in working weeks, it’s common for western countries to work a traditional Monday-Friday, 9am – 5pm. However, this is usually not the case for the Middle East, so it is necessary for communication and transparency to understand your client’s working culture. Many companies in the region do not work Friday or Saturday, but they do work on Sundays. Others may close for lunch from 1pm to 3pm or have different summer and winter hours. Many government departments do not open at all in the afternoons.

Additionally, religion plays a big part in this region with certain holidays or customs that different nations respect; it will be beneficial to pre-emptively know what these are so you do not get caught up in confusion. Communication is one of the biggest factors in business, having strong connections and transparency can help with business. However, customs may vary in the Middle East, from greetings to hospitality expectations, understanding this may help your business perform better in certain regions. Face-to-face visits require a lot more preparation in order to successfully navigate your business in the Middle East; moreover, visits ‘in person’ are highly appreciated throughout this region.

5. Know the Corruption Landscape

Corruption exists in all countries in some form or other, but you only need to glance at the map on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index to see that the Middle East has a very high perceived level of corruption. Corrupt practices are commonplace in many countries and it is wise to use a reputable and highly recommended accountant and auditor to help keep your company on the right side of the law when conducting day to day business. So as not to tarnish your company’s reputation by trading or partnering with known or perceived offenders – and these may well be accountants, lawyers, highly successful business people or government officials – it is always wise to conduct reputational due diligence.

Regional Experts – Cedar Rose
In order to utilise what the Middle East has to offer it is smart to use a company that has experience within the region and the know-how that can generate opportunities and guide your business to success.

Cedar Rose has been in operation in the Middle East for over 20 years, established originally in the UK and now residing in Cyprus and Lebanon and can guide you to success. Whether you need company credit reports or more in-depth due diligence or reputational investigations, Cedar Rose can provide high quality data and reports that can help you instigate business. Our experience and knowledge will help you mitigate risks within the region and our “boots on the ground” approach can guide you in the right direction.

The Middle East offers a myriad of opportunities for great business, but it may require stepping out of your comfort zone to a complete new region and culture.

Check out www.cedar-rose.com today and see how you can utilise our services for the Middle East or give us a call on +357 25 346630 to discuss your particular requirements.

Enjoy our guide? Why not have a look at the importance of company credit reports 

Written By Jack Evangelides, Marketing Assistant

 

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***

Data Reliability – Is the data in my credit report up-to-date?

Data Reliability

The reliability and freshness of the data contained within is of fundamental importance when investing in a business credit report, especially if you are buying in bulk through a package or subscription.
However, there are fundamental differences between the availability of commercial data in the developed world and that in developing countries, so it is wise to ensure you are aware of potential pitfalls when purchasing international reports.

The composition of a robust business credit reports relies on five overriding factors:

Firstly, the origin of the basic  registration and activity data, for example: whether it has   been extracted from official sources or collated from other less reliable  sources  such as business directories, social media  or the subject’s website. Not every country has commercial registration data available online and if it is online it may be in the local language and may not be free of charge to access.

Secondly, the date the data was last updated is crucial. Whether it has been updated within 24 months, six months or was a fresh investigation will make a huge difference. It is advisable for the data to be as updated as possible, especially when you’re dealing with extending large amounts  of  credit;  but  registry  information  is usually only updated annually or even less frequently in many countries.

Financial statements add great depth of knowledge to a credit report but these are not available in several countries, simply because filing of accounts is not a legal requirement. In any case, it should always be noted that accounts, even if available, are merely an assessment of the previous year or quarter.

The next important factor is perhaps surprisingly the original language of the data. Misinterpretation    or    incorrect    translation of crucial information can lead to errors in correct identification of a company, or overlook important links to other companies, directors or shareholders because of mistranslation that may affect the overall risk analysis. Correct matching of international standards such as activity codes (UKSIC/NACE) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is essential for the data to be transferred automatically into various formats around the globe – especially important if receiving credit reports via API or CRM (system to system applications).

Lastly, an informed and accurate credit opinion is a key factor which relies on all of the above.

Consequently, due to the variety of factors that a reliable automated instantly available credit report should contain, we must recognise the differences in the developed world with data availability from developing countries.

MIDDLE EAST
In the Middle East as well as other regions there are strict limitations on non-publicly available information that can be lawfully obtained. One of the more serious barriers to data accessibility is the practice of offshore registration and free- zone entities. The latter concept is evident in the Middle East, and, more specifically, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). When a company registers with free-zone authorities, they may well be seeking the higher degree of secrecy that these zones can offer. Through legal protection of ownership rights, free-zone jurisdictions uphold strict limitations increasing the difficulty to draw data on these companies. Free zones offer complete confidentiality, where beneficial owners are offered anonymity and guaranteed no disclosure of Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) to local authorities. The UAE contains over 100 free trade zones, each with their own laws and jurisdictions. Free-zone companies, in this respect, parallel with offshore companies, especially in the sense that they are not subject to federal commercial law and are considered outside the country’s jurisdiction.

There are other obstacles too. In Egypt, for example – home to around 100 million people and reportedly one of the fastest growing economies in the Middle East company registration data is still held on hand written paper registers or in PDF files; not even digitised let alone structured, so bringing this data online is a slow and laborious process. Obtaining copies of corporate records involves sending someone in person to find and photograph the correct page, so knowing the commercial register number or the date of incorporation in advance is mandatory.

OVER EXPECTATIONS
Automated data has revolutionised the business intelligence scene, providing fast, efficient and reliable data at the click of a button. However, have we taken for granted the efficiency of automated data in the developed world? Do our over-expectations of this automated data blind side us to the harsh realities in developing countries?

Automated data throughout the developed world allows companies to make practical assessments of companies in a timely manner. Company registration data may be instantly updated via data feeds or system applications (APIs), so if the registered address, company directors, shareholders, activities, legal status or financial status change this will automatically update in your credit report download, subscription or credit file. There is also a culture of information sharing through trade references and filing of financial statements, as well as easy open access to mortgage charges and insolvencies.

So how does automated data in the developing countries compare? The scoring system is based from 0-100 and takes into account all available data from official sources according to OpenCorporates which is tackling the excruciatingly difficult task of bringing company registration data for the whole world online. Data fields that generate these scores include: freely searchable, freely available, director’s information, accounts information, shareholder information and licensing (open or not). We can take the first comparison, between the UK and the UAE, and assess that the UK – through Companies House – provides much more access to company data from official or free sources than the UAE. This is due to many reasons including the free-zone entities, but also a regional and historical culture of privacy. We must remember also, that the UAE in its current form is not yet 50 years old and while technology is advanced, bureaucratic processes are still lagging behind the UK and financial filing is only required for publicly listed companies.

Commonly throughout the Middle East commercial registration data is not centralised, not structured and often only available on official sites in Arabic or the local language.

Data Graph

THE WAY FORWARD
At present, until more data is made available   to credit reference agencies automatically and instantly worldwide, a freshly investigated credit report should always be the best route way to receive the most up-to-date and reliable information.

Yet when you conduct business with developing countries there are some extra measures that may need to be taken. It is important to use an experienced credit agency that understands the region and has the expertise to acquire and translate data from the correct sources. If using a local agency, ensure they divulge the date of the data fields provided. When relying on automated credit risk scores, be confident that there is enough information provided in the report for an assessment to be accurate or ask your credit reference agency which quantitative and qualitative factors they use in their risk analysis to be sure they provide accurate scoring.

While there are still vast differences in the way data is collected, there are also innovative companies that are leaps ahead of the local governments making the best use of technology and working extremely hard to close the information gap to bring the world’s credit data online.

This article was published by CICM in their Credit Management Magazine. 

Head on over to our newsroom for more invigorating articles. 

Written By Christina Massaad, Managing Director

Sourced Image: CICM

*** The sole purpose of the article above is to generate public discussion, it has no intention to constitute legal advice. ***