By: All Africa
Under the Patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers His Excellency Mr. Saad Hariri
Beirut 29/03/2019 – On March 28, sixty-five semifinalist teams of MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition went through the second round of judging, where they had to pitch their startups, ideas, and social enterprises to a judging committee of investors and industry experts, who provided a fair and transparent evaluation for each team.
Before presenting to the judges, all semi finalists had gone to Amman, Jordan, on February 26-27 for a 2-day preparatory bootcamp training , learning the fundamentals of starting, running, and scaling a business in the Arab world.
Later during the day on March 28, semifinalist teams sat for two hours with mentors, who gave them guiding points on fundraising, enhancing user-acquisition, legal frameworks, marketing/branding, and social impact. After the mentorship activity, twenty-nine official finalists were publicly announced , and these finalists proceeded to the official competition line-up.
On March 29, the 29 finalists underwent one final round of judging (in front of another judging committee than the day before). At this point, the judging committee selected (without publicly announcing) the 9 winners of the competition, 3 winners for each track: Startups Track, Ideas Track, and Social Entrepreneurship Track.
Starting 2 PM on March 29, registration for the conference, held at Hilton Habtoor Grand (Sin Elfil), kicked off alongside the semi finalist's exhibition. During the exhibition, the entrepreneurs showcased their innovative projects and innovations to the public, allowing them to pitch and present their businesses in an open environment.
Afterward, the official conference kicked off with welcoming remarks from Hala Fadel (Chairperson of MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab), Ferid Belhaj (VP of The World Bank MENA), Nabil Itani (Chairman and General Manager of IDAL), and Minister of State for Information Technology Adel Afiouni representing his Excellency Mr. Saad Hariri.
The conference featured three discussion panels, titled: "Role of Governments in Fostering Growth of Digital Economies", "Building on AI in Education to Prepare Tomorrow's Workforce", and "The Role of Fintech in Advancing Digital Economies". The discussion panels brought speakers and action leaders from all over the world to share the latest on data, research, and industry trends.
Also, the conference featured a keynote address by Huma Abidi (Director of Machine Learning/Deep Learning Software Engineering at Intel Corp.) titled "How Deep Learning is Shifting Digital Economies". Moreover, MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Chair Hala Fadel had a fireside keynote chat with Prof. Charbel Farhat titled 'Vision For the Future of Aerospace: A New Transportation Landscape'.
Moreover, MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab launched its inaugural annual impact report, which aims to look the impact of Arab Startup Competition on job creation and Arab macroeconomy over the past 12 years. You can view the Impact Report here
Lastly, the presentation of the awards to the winners was done by Hala Fadel (MITEF Pan Arab), Emre Gurkan (Touch), Ferid Belhaj (The World Bank Group), Nabil Itani (IDAL), and a representative from Community Jameel as follows:
Commenting on the competition, Hala Fadel (Chairperson of MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab) said: "Our 150 semifinalists from 12 different countries, and many women among them show how entrepreneurs in our region will lead the way towards change. This year we published for the first time an impact report and our competition has contributed to the creation of 14,000 jobs in our region, contributed 415 million dollars to the Arab world's GDP, and shifted the mindset of thousands of Arabs. We are grateful to the many partners who supported this initiative."
Fady Jameel, President of Community Jameel International, said: "We are proud of our involvement for all twelve years of this competition, powering innovation, technology and hundreds of success stories and job opportunities in the Arab world. At today's final, we celebrate a new generation of young Arab entrepreneurs and creative talents, coming from the Arab world or living in Europe, Africa and South East Asia. We also commend the work of the MIT Enterprise Forum in conducting training and mentoring programs for entrepreneurs participating in the competition to build their skills and ability to manage their businesses."
"The Middle East and North Africa will have 300 million young people looking to enter the job market by 2050. We need to start now to address structural impediments to growth and implement policy reforms that would help integrate these young women and men into the labor markets and turn them into drivers of economic growth MENA," said Ferid Belhaj of the World Bank.