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Former Dubai banker is UAE nominee for $1m Startup World Cup final prize

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The two-day 35th World AI Show, the longest running event in artificial intelligence kicked off in style and ended with the UAE finalist chosen for the Startup World Cup in Dubai on Wednesday.

Affinsys, a startup running AI solutions for banks, telecom and insurance companies, won out of a shortlist of six yesterday after the jury took a live decision based on final pitches and voted for UAE’s representation among 60-plus countries from where the World Cup winner will receive $1 million funding.

Making the presentation and receiving the award was Aditya Bhagat, who co-founded the company three years back with friend and fellow banker Surya Prasad. “I am extremely honoured to get this reward,” said a beaming Bhagat immediately after. “We have been associated with the Dubai Future Program and also received many accolades and awards, so we are on the right track.

“We need 3-4 million of funding for our expansion programme and if all goes well in September (for the Startup World Cup final round), this will be a big help.”

Meanwhile, the day featured a lot of brainstorming on problems, solutions and what the future holds in various aspects of artificial intelligence. With delegates being served tea and refreshments by robotic machines doubling up as hostesses at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, attendees had a field day imbibing the latest trends and exploring future opportunities to collaborate.

The event started smoothly with the focus on AI in transport where speakers discussed ‘transforming cities to autonomous mode’ and everyone agreed that the challenges remain on ground outside of driverless cars or semi-automatic modes, than the vehicles themselves.

“Planes have been using auto-pilot technology for something like 70 years so we have come a long way,” said Seham El Behissy, former Renault general manager, digital and connected cars. “But on the road there are other elements and each one brings with it its own challenges. Then it is also about the data in real time, it has to be good, it depends on how the user is trained to use it and the user himself and then his interaction with other users.”

Aditya-Bhagat

Aditya Bhagat is a former banker and co-founder of Affinsys. Trescon Global

Author of research papers and an expert, El Behissy shared the dias with Dr Jassim Haji, president of International Group of Artificial Intelligence and who is working with road authorities in Bahrain and Angad Singh, the global director for innovation at Aramex.

AI with human touch

Noor Alnahhas, the CEO of nybl, another alumni of the Dubai Future Accelerators programme, gave the keynote speech and took the conversation beyond the day’s agenda on a thoughtful note.

“In the past, more was key to everything. If you wanted more oil, drill more. If you are hungry, produce more food … but now, it is less. If you want to save the climate, consume less of many things, we are trying to towards zero carbon footprints.

“If we can tie the development to betterment of human life, investment is not a question. Everyone here will talk about technology and their USPs. But it is important for all to think how to come together to make lives better. Like six weeks ago, we have collaborated with the International Humanitarian City how to deliver aid and relief items faster and better.”

Saeed Alhebsi, the advisor in the AI ministry of Human Resource and Emiratisation spoke about the UAE’s Fourth Industrial Revolution strategy framework.

CNN global director Rachele Peterson moderated a panel of experts on the use cases of AI, future implementation strategies of digital transformation, challenges in current practices and real-life examples on how the experts are solving them.

All had various focus areas to approach but many agreed that unless the masses do not buy-in on the prospects, the growth rate will be hampered. Yet, Wees Abraham of Elekron Ventures warned against jumping on to the AI bandwagon because others are. “Get a consultant, but you need to have someone in the team to own it otherwise you will be sold something you never need. Technology has to be your slave, not the other way around.”

Many speakers across different sessions touched on the positive impact of AI in the times of Covid-19. “Pandemic has changed how we look at productivity, no doubt,” said Amina Abdul Rahim, head of IT in the engineering office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Day Two of the WAIS will feature an awards ceremony to celebrate some of the achievers in the field. Those wishing to attend can walk in or register here.

Journalist for 25 years with leading publications in India and UAE such as The National, Mumbai Mirror, DNA, Indian Express and former Sports Editor of eIndia.com. Now managing editor of Headline.ae, part of MEMc (https://www.memc.co)

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DP World ILT20 Season 2: UAE’s top five performers

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The recently concluded DP World ILT20 Season 2 captured the attention of fans worldwide with its enthralling displays of athleticism and competitive cricket. However, beyond the fierce battles between international giants, this tournament provided a mega platform to unearth the burgeoning talent of UAE’s own cricketers.

Here are the top five performers from UAE for the season:

1.Muhammad Waseem

The opening batter from the United Arab Emirates was the fourth highest run-getter this edition, with 321 runs in 12 matches at an impressive strike rate of 148. Providing an impetus at the top with his aggressive stroke play, Waseem’s exploits were crucial to the MI Emirates stellar campaign. The MI Emirates were the first team to secure their place in the play offs and subsequently went on to win the championship.

Waseem’s stand out knock of the season came against the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, where he struck an unbeaten 89 to ensure the MI Emirates would coast home with eight wickets in hand.

Waseem’s tournament exploits earned him the Blue Belt which came with a cash purse of $15,000 for being the most outstanding UAE player, second time in a row.

2.Alishan Sharafu

The top order batter for Abu Dhabi Knight Riders had a good season compiling 220 runs in the 11 innings he batted in, at a strike rate of 120. While his contributions played a significant role in his team’s qualification to the play-offs, his match winning knock of 82 not out from 47 deliveries against the Desert Vipers while chasing 155 was the fourth highest individual score in the tournament and also his best performance.

3.Muhammad Jawadullah

Returning to his second season with the Sharjah Warriors, the left arm pacer was one of the leading wicket takers for the Sharjah Warriors this season with 10 wickets in 8 matches. Although the team had a forgettable season finishing in last place, the 24-year-old was consistent with his lines and lengths. His best performance of the tournament was against the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders where he picked up 3 wickets for only 5 runs with an economy rate of 2.5 runs per over.

4.Zuhaib Zubair

The Gulf Giants’ Zuhaib Zubair was one of the best bowlers from the UAE this season.  In eight matches, the leg-spinner picked up 11 wickets with his leg breaks at an average of 16. He also logged some of the best figures of the tournament when he finished with 4/22 to power the Giants to a mammoth 79 run victory against the Sharjah Warriors.

5.Muhammad Rohid

The 21-year-old left arm quick from the MI Emirates impressed one and all with his bowling, picking up nine wickets in the 16 overs he’s bowled in the tournament. While he may not have been among the top wicket takers of the tournament, his bowling showed a lot of promise. His best performance came against the Desert Vipers where he picked three for 21 in three overs, accounting for the wickets of Alex Hales, Adam Hose and Azam Khan.

Special mention

Though UAE’s U19 captain Aayan Afzal Khan does not figure in the top 5 list, thanks to Muhammad Rohid pipping Aayan for the fifth spot, the 18-year-old left-arm spinner from the Gulf Giants is worthy of a mention for his fantastic bowling spells. He picked up six wickets in the seven innings he bowled including a spell of two wickets for eight runs in his three overs against the Dubai Capitals that helped his team defend a score of 126, winning the game by 19 runs.

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MI Emirates’ batting brilliance overpowers Dubai Capitals by 45 runs to emerge as DP World ILT20’s new champions

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MI Emirates’s run riot crafted by their skipper Nicholas Pooran and Andre Fletcher’s half centuries, which produced the highest total this season, blew away Dubai Capitals by 45 runs to emerge as the new champions of the DP World ILT20 Season 2.

In front of a packed Dubai International Stadium, Pooran scored a breezy unbeaten captain’s knock of 57 runs off 27 balls studded with six sixes and two boundaries. He was backed by Fletcher’s 53 off 37 balls, featuring four sixes and three boundaries. Openers Muhammad Waseem and his partner Kusal Perera contributed aggressively, with Waseem scoring 43 off 24 balls, including three boundaries and three sixes, and Perera adding 38 off 26 balls, with six boundaries, leading to a 77-run opening partnership and helping MI Emirates set a record score of 208 for 3 in 20 overs.

In reply, Capitals could muster only 163 for 7 in 20 overs with Trent Boult and Vijayakanth Viyaskanth bagging two wicket each. MI Emirates received the winners’ prize of a whopping $700,000 (USD) while the runners-up received $300,000 (USD).

Chasing the mammoth total, Capitals had it tough from the start with Emirates’ Akeal Hosein, who has been regularly striking in the first over, trapping Leus du Plooy leg before, resulting in a duck. Tom Abell, when on 7, was dropped by Dwayne Bravo at mid-off by Trent Boult, but was later caught by Pollard off Rohid Khan for 14. Banton and his skipper Sam Billing pushed the score to 63 when Banton got foxed by leg spinner Vijayakanth Viyaskanth to be stumped by Pooran for 35.

Sikandar Raza, who has played many match-winning knocks for Capitals, scored just 10 runs before hitting Viyaskanth to Waseem at deep mid-wicket. Capitals, faced with the challenge of scoring 100 runs in 41 balls, saw Waqar Salamkheil remove Billings stumped by Pooran for a fighting 40. Trent Boult then struck twice to remove Rovman Powell caught by Waseem at deep midwicket and clean bowl Jason Holder for 24 to ensure his team’s victory.

Earlier, Capitals won the toss and elected to bowl. MI Emirates’ opener Waseem started with a six over long-on off Scott Kuggeleijn, while his partner Kusal Perera played some flowing drives. The pair reached their half-century partnership in 3.3 overs, with Waseem hitting two boundaries and a six off Kuggeleijn in that over. By the end of the powerplay, MI Emirates had posted 72 runs. Waseem fell to Zahir Khan when he was seven short of his half-century, lifting Zahir Khan to Rovman Powell at mid-off.

Andre Fletcher maintained the run flow with Perera and steered the total to the 100-run mark in 10.5 overs. At the score of 102, Leus du Plooy pulled off a diving catch at deep mid-wicket to dismiss Perera, who attempted a slog sweep off Sikandar Raza, for 38.

Spinners Raza and Zahir Khan tried to strangle the run flow, but skipper Nicholas Pooran and Fletcher hit sixes off them. They put on a 50-run partnership in 28 balls and took the score past the 150-run mark in 15.5 overs. Another spectacular diving catch by Du Plooy at backward square leg to Fletcher’s top-edged pull ended the 56-run partnership.

Kieron Pollard joined Pooran, who smashed Jason Holder for 19 runs in the 18th over with two towering sixes and a boundary. With the score reading 177 for 3 and two more overs to go, the crowd got ready to cheer for the 200-run mark. Emirates achieved it off the fifth ball of the last over through a six from Pooran. This six also helped him reach his half-century in 26 balls. In the last five overs, Emirates hit 74 runs.

James Vince of Gulf Giants with 356 runs from 12 innings emerged the highest run-getter to win the Green Belt, while Waqar Salamkheil with 17 wickets was the highest wicket-taker and bagged the White Belt on better economy rate pipping Fazalhaq Farooqi, who too had 17 wickets. Muhammad Waseem won the Blue Belt for the best UAE player for the second year is succession. Sikandar Raza bagged the Red Belt for the Most Value Player. All of them pocketed USD 15,000 each. DP World Biggest six was awarded to Andre Fletcher while DP World Most 6s of the season was won by Nicholas Pooran. The Cycle Hub Catch of the season went to Sam Billings for his one-handed effort at the slip to dismiss Will Smeed in Match No2.

MI Emirates’ skipper Nicholas Pooran, after receiving the Player of the Match, hailed his openers for setting the stage for the victory. “Truly special to be the man of the match in the final. We spoke about having the right energy and attitude. I couldn’t have asked for a better start, they (openers) did the hard work, we just finished it off. It’s about understanding the situation and batting accordingly.”

Losing captain Sam Billings was sporting in his defeat and said: “Always regret when you lose. As captain, I’m go to bed thinking where it went wrong. But they were brilliant, Nicholas Pooran in that mood is very difficult to play against. Maybe they scored 20-25 runs too many. One of the best things about playing cricket in different places is experiencing different cultures. The UAE players have all been impressive. Really happy to see them improve.”

Sikandar Raza who won the most valuable player award said: “Quite a proud and humbling moment for me. It has been a journey, it is the reward for a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and pain. I just want to say thank you to all those who have prayed for me in these last two years, especially during my illness. I like to be in the position where the skipper can bank on me to bowl four overs every time. Thirteen wickets in the tournament feels like the hard work is coming through; we can only get better.”

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Africa Finance Corporation and SkyPower Global to start work for DR Congo’s energy needs

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Renewable energy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is set to get a significant boost as Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and SkyPower Global have come decided to come together for the first phase of the latter’s Green Giant project in the country.

This 200MW Phase 1 is a crucial step in realising the landmark 1,000MW Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed between SkyPower and the DRC’s state-owned utility, Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL).

The partnership creates a formidable force in the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions for the continent in the fight against climate change. The venture will leverage SkyPower’s unparallelled global experience in developing large-scale solar projects and AFC’s proven track record of successfully de-risking and distributing capital for well-structured power and other infrastructure projects across Africa.

Coming in the wake of COP28, this agreement underscores both organisations’ dedication to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly emphasising the critical role of partnerships in accelerating renewable energy adoption and addressing the escalating climate crisis.

The DRC Green Giant project, heralded by the signing of the initial PPA with SNEL, marked a historic commitment from the DRC government to enhance electrification rates through renewable energy partnerships. President Félix Tshisekedi’s strategic vision targets a significant boost to the nation’s clean energy output, contributing to a projected US$2.3 billion stimulus to the DRC’s GDP and the creation of approximately 30,000 job years.

The Joint Development Agreement is set to catalyse the construction of the first 200MW phase of the project, with all necessary approvals secured and land allocation completed, ensuring a swift transition to development stage and the commencement of construction by 2025.

“Partnering with SkyPower, an institution known for their decades of global expertise in large-scale solar projects, is well aligned with our mission to advance energy access on the continent through renewable energy,” said Amadou Wadda, Senior Director of Project Development and Technical Solutions at AFC, the continent’s leading infrastructure solutions provider.

“Through this collaboration, we aim to contribute significantly to rapid industrialisation, local job creation, sustainable economic growth and a pragmatic transition to net zero in DRC and Africa as a whole.

Kerry Adler, President & Chief Executive Officer of SkyPower, highlighted AFC’s leadership role and its commitment to fast-tracking the deployment of essential energy projects as crucial to leveraging solar energy to spur economic development, create job opportunities, and tackle climate change effectively. “Partnering with AFC exemplifies a concerted effort toward realizing the ambitious goals set by forward-looking countries such as the DRC, aiming for a brighter, more sustainable future for everyone,” Adler noted. “This agreement underlines AFC’s pivotal contribution to promoting renewable energy solutions and both AFC and SkyPower’s unwavering commitment and dedication to ensuring a greener, more resilient world.”

SkyPower Global stands at the forefront of utility-scale solar energy project development and project ownership around the world, boasting over 20 years of operational history. The company is supported by a highly experienced team, collectively holding more than 1600 years of expertise in power, empowerment, and significant infrastructure initiatives. SkyPower has diligently developed an extensive pipeline of projects exceeding 10GW, which are at diverse stages of development, construction, and operation. This broad pipeline demonstrates SkyPower’s strong commitment to and expertise in the renewable energy sector, with projects set for implementation in strategic locations like the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia in the near future.

SkyPower has developed over 30 utility-scale solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) currently in operation across the globe and contracts, amounting to more than USD $60 billion in long-term renewable energy sales to leading utilities and government partners worldwide. Adding to its robust profile, SkyPower is majority-owned by CIM Group, a community-focused real estate and infrastructure owner, operator, lender, and developer. Since its inception in 1994, CIM Group has been committed to creating value in its projects and making a positive impact on the lives of people in communities across the Americas. Through its efforts, CIM Group has delivered more than $60 billion in essential real estate and infrastructure projects, furthering SkyPower’s mission to transform the energy landscape and enhance community well-being through sustainable development.

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