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WEF an opportunity to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship — stakeholders

By Dana Al Emam - May 18,2017 - Last updated at May 18,2017

AMMAN — The World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East and North Africa 2017 is an opportunity to discuss means of supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in the region, experts and entrepreneurs agreed on Thursday.

The WEF meeting, which will be held at the Dead Sea from May 19 to 21, will witness the participation of over 1,100 business and political leaders and representatives from civil society, international organisations, youth and the media from over 50 countries.

It will also feature 100 startups that are “shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, including 21 Jordanian startups, according to the WEF website, in order to engage in a dialogue with other stakeholders to improve the environment of innovation in the region and discuss possible mentorship opportunities.

Speaking at the WEF Open Forum session, which was held for the first time, stakeholders highlighted a direct connection between innovation and socioeconomic development.

Karim Kawar, general manager of Kawar Group, said there is a growing need for young people to create their own jobs, particularly in information technology, noting that many industrial and service jobs will disappear over the coming years, as artificial intelligence will replace humans.

He said the first steps towards creating an innovative business are the hardest, as innovators often face many obstacles that may cause repeated failures, but it is important to learn from ones’ mistakes and the mistakes of others.

Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation CEO, Valentina Qussisiya, noted that innovation is not exclusive to fields of science and technology, citing pioneering examples of social and cultural innovation in Jordan.

She noted that schools have the biggest role in harnessing innovation skills among students by exposing them to science, engineering and technology, as well as equipping them with critical and creative thinking skills, which will help them identify problems and find suitable solutions.

From Morocco, Khadija Idrissi Janati, CEO of KMK Group, agreed, adding that innovators and entrepreneurs must question everything and be ready to embrace change, as reform requires a state of mind that accepts change.

Commenting on the contributions of female innovators and entrepreneurs, she said both men and women bring to innovation, while the difference lies in the fact that women innovate out of a need to address daily life challenges. 

For his part, founder and CEO of Maysalward and chairman of the Jordan Gaming Task Force, Nour Khrais, said there are many challenges facing innovators, including the lack of investors with ideas commensurate to those of innovators.

While there is a” mismatch” between the outcomes of educational institutions and needs of the labour market, the “vagueness” of regulations contributes to creating a discouraging environment for new ideas and businesses, he added.

However, the most challenging issue for Khrais is the lack of communication between stakeholders, an issue that prevents the precise identification of problems and hinders efficient problem solving. 

Thus, opportunities like engaging entrepreneurs in direct discussion with WEF participants are important.

Faisal Hakki, CEO of Oasis500, said business accelerators and venture capital investor substantially contribute to the success of startups and innovative projects.

Along with capital funding, he cited knowledge and legislation as the other two components of the “trinity” for the success of emerging businesses, noting that the impact of educational reforms will become apparent over the coming decade.

Meanwhile, the biggest role lies in the legislative environment, Hakki said, underscoring a need for legislators and policymakers to think about  the future when it comes to entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Khadija Idrissi Janati said regulatory frameworks across the region must undergo reforms to encourage innovation and business creation, noting that further representation of youth in governments will help in this regard. 

Khaled Elahmad, a social media consultant and trainer, and social media manager at Zain Jordan, said social media platforms can help innovators and entrepreneurs find the right partners and supporters.

He said the virtual world has expanded the scope of communication in a manner that exceeds geographical location, noting that these instruments allow innovators to target customised audiences based on their needs.

 

In Jordan, there are 5.2 million Facebook accounts, some 400,000 Twitter accounts, some 260,000 Instagram accounts, some 560,000 LinkedIn users and around 6 million WhatsApp users that are active, according to Elahmad.

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