Middle East Startup Investment Nears USD 1 Billion in 2017

Ashoka ChangemakerXchange and SAP Name 20 Middle East Innovators as Part of UAE Year of Giving

 Mawada Project in UAE Supports Youth Community Service Learning

In line with the UAE’s Year of Giving, and Middle East startup support approaching USD 1 billion in 2017, one of the world’s leading entrepreneur platforms has selected 20 Middle East innovators to drive global best practices.

At the first-ever ChangemakerXchange Summit for entrepreneurs from across the Middle East, sponsored by social entrepreneurship platform Ashoka and digital transformation enabler SAP, 20 entrepreneurs were selected to receive access to fundraising, resources, and mentorship at a regional and global level. At the event, 18 regional entrepreneurs attended, while two additional Syrian entrepreneurs were also selected as Changemakers but could not attend.

Showing the strong business potential for entrepreneurs, startup investment in the Middle East and North Africa will near USD 1 billion in 2017, according to the World Economic Forum.

“Dubai and the UAE are global hubs for entrepreneurs and startups. In line with the UAE’s Year of Giving and making a difference in people’s lives, Ashoka and SAP are dedicated to supporting UAE-based and Middle East entrepreneurs in enhancing their business networks. These UAE startups are set to to take their transformational projects to the next level and make a positive impact on society,” said Tayfun Topkoc, Managing Director of SAP UAE and Oman.

In the UAE, Noha Mahdi’s The Mawada Project offers community service learning programs for children aged 9-18, and has touched the lives of more than 500 people.

“Becoming an Ashoka ChangemakerXchange alumna is helping my coordination with fellow Changemakers in using education to support youth development across the Middle East, and build empathy and goodwill,” said Noha Mahdi, Founder of The Mawada Project.

Regional Entrepreneurs Take Projects to the Next Level

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Alaqil’s Saudi Antibiotics Integrated Regulatory Program (SAIR) medical research program is partnering with leading universities to research anti-microbial resistance.

“By joining Ashoka ChangemakerXchange, I’ll be able to bring together the global healthcare community to fight anti-microbial resistance, optimize healthcare budgets, and enhance citizen health,” said Mohammed Alaqil, Founder of the Saudi Antibiotics Integrated Regulatory Program.

In Egypt, Dahlia Elorabi’s Baladini program supports rural woman in producing healthy food.

“As a Changemaker, I’ll be able to scale up Baladini’s support for Egyptian farmers to grow nutritious food, their economic participation, and cross-cultural exchange,” said Dahlia Elorabi, Project Manager at Baladini.

For people with disabilities in Pakistan, Tanzila Khan’s Creative Alley promotes talent and capacity building through arts and culture activities and social events. In Pakistan, Madeeha Raza became a Changemaker for the women-empowerment program Women Through Film, Azeem Hamid’s Independent Theatre Pakistan and Saad Hamid’s School of Skills support youth development.

“Through the ChangemakerXchange program, I’ll be able to collaborate with regional organizations to promote people with disabilities’ hidden potential in the creative arts and help them reach their dreams,” said Tanzila Khan, Founder of Creative Alley.

Three Lebanese participants are now global ChangemakerXchange alumni: Nour El Assaad, whose No Label project empowers people against bullying, Hadi Fathallah, whose Recyclo provides a digital recycling program, and Layal Jebran, with the Moubarmij Arabic technology e-learning platform.

In Jordan, Nour Al Alajouni’s Matar Project supports blind people, and Afnan Ali’s Eureka Tech Academy supports tech entrepreneurs. In Palestine, Tariq Assidi’s Jalees project provides books to low-income families; and Shyrine Ziadeh’s Ramallah Ballet Center uses dance for empowerment.

Among projects in Egypt, Abdulrahman Nassar’s Eco Travel Egypt promotes environmentally-sustainable travel, and Alyaa Nour’s Jereed program turns palm waste into high-quality furniture.

Additional Middle East Changemakers include Ahmed Alaali’s The Hive robotics hackerspace in Bahrain, and Zanyar Salih’s Gift a Life project educates Iraqis on organ donation.

The Summit was facilitated by Greta Rossi from Italy, whose Akasha Innovation supports young changemakers; Tariq Al Olaimy from Bahrain, whose 3BL Associates think tank accelerates sustainable development, and Raphaëlle Ayach from Egypt, whose Safarni fosters global citizens.