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Chinese firm gives MENA the digital edge

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-12-24 10:17

Egypt's pavilion at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Nov 5, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

Mobile net label OneMena offers many apps for 490 million users in the region

CAIRO-The offices of OneMena in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, look like a beehive.

The Chinese mobile internet company employs dozens of Egyptian and Chinese workers. They are busy going back and forth from one room to another or sitting on their desks with their faces nailed to desktop computers and laptops.

They have been working with Beijing-based OneMena for a while now. The firm has been providing smartphone internet applications targeting 490 million Arabic-speaking users in the Middle East and North Africa or MENA region.

"We're very popular in the Middle East because we have several interesting Arabic applications used by more than 40 million users in the region, besides our popular games," said Ma Qiang, the company's regional manager.

OneMena has two bureaus in China and branches in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is seeking to further expand in the Arab region.

The company's slogan is to "let Arabic people enjoy the same convenient internet life as China."

Among OneMena's applications are Hayaa (Life), which it claims is the No 1 female health app in the Arab world, and Tefly Life (My Child's Life) that helps Arab mothers take care of their children.

Anawin (News Headlines) is another app that filters news headlines based on the users' preferences using data mining and intelligent recommendations, while KooraCafe (Soccer Cafe) app provides soccer news and livestreaming from all over the world.

"I work on KooraCafe app. It has been running for a year-and-a-half and it has about 100,000 daily active users," Hu Wei, a Chinese employee in his 30s, said.

"I learn more about internet technology from our team in China and convey it here to my Egyptian colleagues."

Hu noted that KooraCafe attracted a massive traffic during Egypt's match with Saudi Arabia in the 2018 World Cup. The number of users who watched the match through the app reached about 30,000 within two hours.

At a nearby desk, his Egyptian colleague Mahmoud Saleh was working on the content of some news reports for Anawin app and discussing some relevant points with other team members.

"Anawin is generally concerned with news in the fields of politics, economy, sports, arts, celebrities, et cetera. The app has more than 500,000 downloads so far, with more than 100,000 active users," he said.

Saleh said the Egyptian employees learned a lot from the Chinese expertise in digital media and mobile apps that are not so advanced in Egypt.

"It's a new and unique experience that helped me a lot and we hope to see such a market of mobile internet business in Egypt."

OneMena's Cairo branch has some 50 Egyptian and 100 Chinese employees and the company invested more than $5 million in Egypt alone since it started in 2016, according to Huang Tiangu, head of the apps department in OneMena.

"Mobile internet technology is not very common in Egypt and most of the technical operations in One-Mena are run by Chinese. But I believe that internet technology will develop fast in Egypt in the near future," Huang said.

He stressed the friendship ties and comprehensive strategic partnerships between China and many Arab states provided Chinese companies greater opportunities to invest in the Arab world.

Another product of OneMena's Cairo branch is the Arabic version of China Weekly News magazine, which is affiliated to a China-based magazine published in eight languages.

"Egyptian-Chinese relations are strong and historical, which is greatly reflected in their journalism and media cooperation, part of which is the China Weekly News magazine," said Medhat Emam, editor-in-chief of the magazine's Arabic version published in Cairo.

Emam said that the Sino-Egyptian media cooperation is very important, due to the growing numbers of Chinese factories and companies operating in Egypt and the increasing number of Egyptian people learning the Chinese language.

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