State Ownership to Startup Rising: An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Middle East
MENA countries need to implement privatization in order to sustain their transitions toward more representative political systems and inclusive economic institutions.
Private ownership opens the door to entrepreneurship and innovation, expanding investment opportunities, creating jobs, and lifting wages.
Much has changed in the Middle East over the last twenty years. Israel’s economy has shifted to a more open and less socialist one, and average income is much higher. The Israeli government still controls much of the economy and subsidizes money-losing firms, but a vibrant tech sector is home for hundreds of innovative start-up firms.
Christopher Schroeder’s Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East gives a glimpse of what to expect as venture capital supports dozens, hundreds, then thousands of Middle East entrepreneurs from Turkey to Jordan, Lebanon, the UAE to Egypt and all the countries in turmoil in between.
Imagine the Middle East with tens of millions of people carrying hand-held computers. That’s not some distant utopian tech future but today in the Middle East. For the over 75 million people in Turkey, nearly 90% have cell phones. Other ME countries are shown below, and you can see the problem for Egypt. Cell phones network friends and relatives, speed business communication, and also allow access to news and information from the outside world.
The stories from Startup Rising paint an optimistic future for most of the Middle East. Israel already enjoys a dynamic tech sector, and now capital and expertise are surging through other Arab countries.
You can learn more about Startup Rising “looking inside” the book on Amazon. Plus there videos online with Christopher Schroeder, the author, telling his story. Here is a Google for Entrepreneurs video from December, 2013. About five minutes in, this Economist article is mentioned with its focus on “Startup Spring” in the Middle East. Here is excerpt from the Economist story:
The story sounds like a common one from Silicon Valley or Silicon Roundabout, London’s start-up district. But Ms Taher tells it in a café in Amman. She is just one of several hundred entrepreneurs, many of them women (see article), who have started online firms in Jordan’s capital in recent years, making it one of the Middle East’s leading start-up hubs. Even more surprising, such clusters (“ecosystems” in the lingo) have been popping up all over a region that is better known for armed conflict and political strife. Whether in Beirut, Cairo, Dubai, Riyadh or even Gaza City, small technology firms are multiplying, creating a sort of “start-up spring”. (Link to source.)
Here is a review of Schroeder’s book from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. And here is excerpt:
In 2001, when Save the Children wanted to launch a version of Junior Achievement in Jordan, they asked Salti to be country director of what they called “INJAZ Jordan,” or Jordan Achievement. Holding her freshly minted MBA from Northwestern, Salti accepted, eager to return home and make an impact. She later would found a regional INJAZ office to spread the model across fourteen countries in the Middle East.
INJAZ was one of the earliest “private public partnerships,” as they are commonly called today. Salti and her mother started with a USAID grant that matched contributions from local businesses, and chose schools in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. Their goal was to hold additional classes at the end of each day to not only supplement education, but also to focus on job-related skills and to push kids to think about entrepreneurship and develop their own ideas. Their first volunteers were friends and family, and they soon began to recruit local business leaders and their staffs to mentor and train local youth in after-school programs.
I met people from Junior Achievement in Jordan some years ago at the Junior Achievement International conference in San Antonio (and if I can find a picture from the event I’ll post it). More on Junior Achievement Middle East and North Africa on their JA website.
Here is segment from a Milken Institute panel with Christopher Schroeder.
So… lots of reasons to be optimistic. U.S. policy reforms could better support technology entrepreneurs across the Middle East, and reduce barriers that hamper funding of new enterprises, developing and marketing their products. Better policies would help create jobs boost growing technology firms. Finding broken or outdated U.S. policies and reforming them offers an opportunity for NCFCA debaters to promote peace and prosperity in the Middle East (plus crush their debate opponents along the way).