Start-ups across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region raised a total of $3.98 billion in 2023, up by 1% from the previous year.

The funds, which include debt financing, were raised in 498 deals, according to a report by Wamda and Digital Digest.

Excluding the debt rounds, the total funds raised by start-ups in the region reached $2.2 billion across 488 deals, down by 36% from the $3.45 billion raised in 2022 across 786 deals. The number of deals also posted a 38% decline.

The value of debt financing for start-ups in 2023, however, went up by 256% to $1.77 billion.

In December 2023 alone, 60 start-ups raised a record $1.15 billion, a staggering 825% increase over a year earlier.

However, a huge chunk of the funds was raised by UAE-founded and Saudi Arabia-headquartered FinTech Tabby, which secured $700 million from J.P. Morgan, ahead of its planned initial public offering (IPO).

Excluding Tabby’s $700 million debt financing, the total amount raised by start-ups in MENA in December 2023 stood at $456 million, still an 18% increase from November 2023 and a 253% jump from a year ago.

Deals made last month were mostly concentrated in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

(Writing by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Brinda Darasha)