French technology companies plan to expand their presence in the Middle East and North Africa in an attempt to tap the multibillion-dollar security market that is expected to increase in line with the economic growth of the region.
"We are new to this region, but the prospects are very interesting because of security concerns, whether physical or cyber. It's a great opportunity to talk to businesses," Herve Le Devehat, chief executive of cyber security company KeoPass, told The National at the event.
"We are off to a good start and we received a lot of interest. There are lots of choices – from integrators, traders and end users – for us to have a presence," Mr Le Devehat said.
The UAE is an attractive market for French players in the security sector. According to the UAE's National Cybersecurity Strategy, the market in the Emirates is worth $490 million, while the wider Mena region is estimated to be worth $4.9 billion.
It is also an opportunity to develop the capabilities of more than 40,000 cyber security professionals and encourage students in the UAE to pursue a career in the field.
The French delegation at Intersec includes companies from cyber security, fire protection, security systems, access controls, technical equipment and protective clothing.
The government of Europe's third-largest economy is investing €1 billion ($272bn) specifically to deal with cyber attacks, with nearly 1,000 academic researchers assigned full-time to cyber security topics.
By 2025, its national strategy in this area aims to triple the sector's revenues from €7.3bn to €25bn, double the number of jobs from 37,000 to 75,000, and create three unicorns – start-ups with a valuation of more tan $1bn – in cyber security.
Revenue in the Middle East's commercial security market was forecast to reach $1.8bn in 2021 and jump 28 per cent to $2.3bn by 2026, driven mainly by increasing commercial activities, growing economic stability and substantial growth in the construction industry, according to Intersec, which cited research from 6Wresearch.
"If you experience a severe cyber attack, it’s a big problem; your production can be stopped and you can’t serve your clients, so you will be forced to cancel your transactions," Karine Sauvez, commercial director of Upfront Technologies, told The National.
The Paris cyber security company, already present in African markets, is looking to push into the Middle East. Ms Sauvez said they are targeting the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Upfront is particularly concerned with phishing, a type of cyber attack that involves fake emails that appear to come from a reputable source with the aim of securing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
"Phishing is a really big problem, it’s as easy as sending an attractive e-mail. People work from home so they are more vulnerable to cyber attacks, so it’s an important field to secure," said Charles Edouard Perrillat, a marketing officer at Upfront.
Last November, eight French start-ups displayed artificial intelligence-powered innovations in Dubai, including a digital representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa that comes to life and can interact with passers-by.