State-of-the-art tool reveals concerted action and investment from regional governments to nurture innovation in six entrepreneurship ecosystems

WASHINGTON, DC February 7, 2022 – Today, the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East launched the Middle East Entrepreneurship Program Tracker in partnership with Imagine Labs. The new interactive tracker maps out the organizations that regional governments have founded, funded, or partnered with to support entrepreneurs, startups, and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The cutting-edge visualization allows users to explore networks nurturing innovation in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and features 312 programs and initiatives offered by 122 organizations across six ecosystems.

“Government support is a critical component of entrepreneurship ecosystem development. We will track how these programs develop over time to glean insight into which are the most impactful, and craft policy recommendations accordingly,” said Amjad Ahmad, Director and Resident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative.

Government support is a critical component of entrepreneurship ecosystem development. We will track how these programs develop over time to glean insight into which are the most impactful, and craft policy recommendations accordingly.

Amjad Ahmad, Director and Resident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council’s empowerME Initiative

This tool is geared towards aspiring and established entrepreneurs looking to take their business to the next level, startups and SMEs in need of targeted government services, policymakers aiming to spur innovation, and investors seeking a deeper understanding of these six ecosystems. Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are seeking—to differing degrees—to create jobs for their rapidly growing youth populations and to diversify their economies due to the global shift away from fossil fuels. The tracker maps out each country’s strategic approach. The five content filters enable users to make inter-country and cross-country comparisons of program beneficiaries, sectors of interest, stages of investment, and available services.

Findings from the Tracker reveal that regional governments have identified two beneficiary groups in particular need of support: 18 organizations offer programming targeted at youth, and 14 organizations have designed initiatives for women. Opportunities offered to sector-specific startups and SMEs reflect the growing importance of digitization for Middle East businesses: 33 organizations aim to support technology startups, with an emphasis on Financial Services/Fintech (14), Healthcare/Healthtech (11), and Agriculture/Agritech (8). Other key findings show that seed funding is the most widely available stage of funding for entrepreneurs and business owners (offered by 15 organizations), who can also apply to participate in a wide array of incubators (17) and accelerators (29).

The empowerME Initiative will update the tracker on an ongoing basis as the six ecosystems develop and plans to add additional categories of analysis. Feedback on this project is encouraged and can be sent to Atlantic Council empowerME Assistant Director Allison Holle at [email protected].

About empowerME

The empowerME Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East is shaping solutions to empower entrepreneurs, women, and the private sector and building influential coalitions to drive regional economic integration, prosperity, and job creation.

The research team behind the Tracker includes Atlantic Council empowerME Assistant Director Allison Holle, Atlantic Council empowerME Project Assistant Hezha Barzani, and Atlantic Council Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs Project Assistant Yaseen Rashed.

Follow their work on Twitter at @ACMideast and connect with them using #ACempowerME.

About Imagine Labs

Imagine Labs, a leading communications and technology agency, is helping brands across the world deliver value to their customers through insight driven creativity and technology innovations.

To know more about their work, please visit https://imaginelabs.me/ or follow them on LinkedIn.

Related Experts: Amjad Ahmad, Allison Holle, and Hezha Barzani