Bahrain’s Al Waha Fund of Funds has announced a substantial investment in Beijing-based MSA Capital – its first investment in a Chinese fund.

MSA Capital, the most active Chinese fund in the Gulf, plans to use Bahrain as its “hub for regional expansion”. It will work closely with regulators, entrepreneurs and strategic corporate partners to connect growing companies in the region with capital and best practices in China.

The funding injection is the latest announced by Al Waha, which was launched in 2018 to drive greater venture capital investment across the Middle East. The organisation provides market access for international organisations looking to invest in the region, as well as for portfolio companies looking to expand. The addition of MSA Capital to Al Waha’s portfolio is the latest sign of growing Chinese interest in the region.

The $250 million Chinese fund has already made 10 investments in the Gulf region over the past year, and has facilitated exchanges for Chinese and Bahraini entrepreneurs. It has also helped Middle Eastern companies pivot their business models to more closely reflect the latest innovative approaches in the Far East. The firm now plans to build collaborations to include more students and large corporates, as well as investors from both countries for future exchanges.

Al Waha’s investment further solidifies historic economic ties between Bahrain and China, which have been active since diplomatic relations were established 30 years ago. Total non-oil goods traded between the two countries more than doubled between 2009 and 2017.

Areije Al Shakar, Fund Director at Al Waha Fund of Funds, said: “Al Waha has developed into a strategic as well as a financial partner to funds, as demonstrated by our investment in MSA Capital.

“Both China and Bahrain offer a substantial pool of tech talent, startup capital and digitally minded consumers, so the scope for further building this relationship is substantial.

“The Kingdom has acted as a bridge between East and West for thousands of years, but in today’s increasingly digital world the synergies and opportunities are greater than ever before”.

Ben Harburg, Managing Partner of MSA Capital, said: “We believe the Gulf is at an inflection point due to an influx of seasoned talent, capital, and technology adoption. Chinese pioneered mobile-focused business models, both for enterprise and consumers, are best positioned to provide a roadmap for entrepreneurs in the region.

“We see Bahrain as a hyper-efficient, user-friendly gateway to the Gulf, where we can collaborate with regulators, entrepreneurs, and strategic corporate partners to pilot new business models and serve as a hub for regional expansion.”

Bahrain offers an innovative and stable startup ecosystem that enables entrepreneurs to grow their ideas amid an atmosphere of pro-business regulation and strong public-private partnerships. With its unique positioning and connectivity to other Gulf countries, as well as a truly multicultural society that welcomes more than 160 nationalities, the Kingdom is the ideal destination for Eastern and Western businesses to converge.

Al Waha Fund of Funds has so far deployed investment to a range of venture capitalists, including BECO Capital, Middle East Venture Partners, 500 Startups, and European fund manager Finch Capital. This is a key part of the drive to pool capital from East and West to better bridge markets. This is essential for Middle East businesses to scale, and critical to turning the Gulf from a consumer of innovation to a driver of innovation.

© Press Release 2019

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