Recapping 2020: Government initiatives empowering the ecosystem

In our last recap of 2020, we're looking back on the region's key government initiatives that have and are continuing to help shape, encourage, and empower the ecosystem. Continued governmental support may be the key amidst the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic that is still very present in 2021. 

With that being said and not to start the year on a low, let's take a look at the uplifting environment that has been created for startups in the region!

Several of MENA's governments and leading players have taken the lead and encouraged entrepreneurship by placing foundations for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to network, turn their ideas into reality and embark upon their venture journey. They are also taking a proactive approach to push current entrepreneurs to think outside of their comfort zone, create a collaborative environment, and access packages to help them expand.

In a virtual meeting held in 2020 and led by HE. Khalfan Belhoul, Chair of the Dubai Future Council for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, our CEO and Founder Philip Bahoshy stressed the importance of supporting and empowering talents that are the core of the startup business. Philip highlighted some of the ways local governments (in the UAE) can support startups, including removal or delay of visa charges of hiring new staff, facilitating easy and free visa transfer between free zones, and a reduction on utility bills.

Discover five of MENA's key government initiatives, categorised by country, below. 

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The Bahrain Economic Development Board launched an initiative with GrowIN Portugal, a platform that helps entrepreneurs incorporate, fund, expand, and move their startups to Portugal.

The agreement was created to promote cooperation between the two organisations, specifically in relation to supporting startups globally during COVID-19 by connecting the two startup ecosystems. This will include arranging introductory meetings with key ecosystem stakeholders and promoting opportunities for developing the startup markets in both countries. 

Discover more than 190 Bahrain-based startups on MAGNiTT


In October, the European Union launched the EU-funded programme, Innovation for Enterprise Growth and Jobs - “Innovate Jordan”

Through the programme, the EU will invest €20M to promote new initiatives that can unlock entrepreneurship and innovation potential and enhance job creation and growth in the country. Together with the local private sector, the EU will help companies become more competitive in local and international markets, and support innovation opportunities to boost the digital economy.

Discover more than 550 Jordanian startups on MAGNiTT


Towards the top of the year, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) became the Ministry of Investment, led by former Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, the new Minister of Investment. SAGIA has focused on several areas of the startup ecosystem, including the signing of international VC firms to spur innovation and investment in the country. 

The change was welcomed far and wide, including in Russia. Kirill Dmitriev of the Russian Direct Investment Fund commented, “The Ministry of Investment will help Russia and Saudi Arabia reach the goal of increasing mutual investments outlined during the visit of the Russian president to the Kingdom last year. We are looking forward to working on new investment deals that will be mutually beneficial for both of our nations.”

Discover more than 1100 Saudi Arabian startups on MAGNiTT


1. In January of 2020, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that a new Dubai Future District was created, along with an initial fund of AED1B to support startups in the district. The Dubai Future District will connect the Emirates Towers with the Dubai World Trade Center and the DIFC, and will include a center for economic research, incubators, the newly established fund, and housing facilities for startup founders.

2. The Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai recently announced the Nasdaq Dubai Growth Market, which was built to support SMEs achieve the next phase of their expansion, by raising capital through an initial public offering (IPO). The initiative will allow fast-growing companies to achieve a streamlined and cost-effective listing on the region’s international exchange. H.H. Sheikh Hamdan believes this initiative will allow for growth across several sectors and create a supportive, collaborative environment for businesses to prosper.

Discover more than 2900 UAE-based startups on MAGNiTT

Did we miss anything? Connect with me and share your thoughts!

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