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WEF, International Finance Corporation to invite 100 regional start-ups

By JT - May 13,2017 - Last updated at May 13,2017

AMMAN — The World Economic Forum (WEF) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, have partnered to bring together 100 Arab start-ups that are “shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, according to a statement on the WEF website,.

The start-ups were selected in collaboration with leading experts and successful entrepreneurs operating in the region, a statement by the WEF organisers said. 

Representatives of the selected companies will meet 1,000 leaders of businesses, governments and civil society organisations at the WEF on the Middle East and North Africa, to be held at the Dead Sea between May 19 and 21. 

A vast majority of the selected start-ups are building their business model, products and services on new technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and satellite technology, the statement said. 

Pioneering a “generational transformation” in the region, these start-ups are at the same time serving basic needs such as transportation, communication or payment processing, according to the statement. 

Among the services these companies offer are the possibility to order food home-cooked by refugees, teach children how to code, get medical support online or make payments securely, the statement noted. 

In fact, many start-ups are closing region-specific gaps in services and products, for example by providing tele health services in Arabic, curating Arabic news sources, using GPS to guide product deliveries or facilitating hotel reservations made by phone when many users are not comfortable paying with credit cards online, the WEF statement continued. 

Investors in the region are eager to get involved, the statement added. 

“You can see the impact and ingenuity of Arab start-ups everywhere in the Arab world. We see impressive momentum and — with sovereign wealth funds and traditional family businesses — the emergence of a whole new type of venture capitalist. For me, this is the biggest underreported story in the region,” said Mirek Dusek, Head of Middle East and North Africa at the WEF.

Many of the businesses have been founded under the most challenging circumstances — including Arabic voice-recognition software developed in Syria, the first e-mobile wallet in Libya, a labour marketplace in Yemen and mobile games produced by a team in Gaza, the organisers said. 

“It’s refreshing to hear the stories of entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa who are talking about hope, opportunities and are creating jobs for young people,” said Philippe Le Houérou, IFC chief executive officer.

“The region needs peace and security. It also needs a vibrant private sector — with dynamic entrepreneurs leading the way — to help create inclusive and sustainable growth,” he added. 

With the full support and presence of Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania, this year marks the Forum’s ninth meeting in Jordan and the 16th meeting in the region. 

 

More than 1,000 business and political leaders and representatives from civil society, international organisations, youth and the media from over 50 countries will participate under the theme “Enabling a Generational Transformation”, the statement said.

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