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I had the pleasure of speaking on Twitter MENA’s panel at the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai in February. Moderated by Kinda Ibrahim, my copanelists (Iman Ben Chaibah and Heba AlSamt) and I were asked to discuss how the medium puts Arab women in a #PositionOfStrength. During the course of the one-hour discussion, I was also asked to talk about business leaders and the responsibility they have to encourage entrepreneurship in the region.
My response was that we are all, without exception, responsible for entrepreneurship in the MENA region. It is not only leaders of enterprise who should be tasked with the growth and support of what is arguably the most important mandate in this history of the Arab world- economic diversification and stability via the proliferation of the small to medium enterprise space. You and I are just as pivotal as the Chairman of any influential board in terms of making this economic vision a reality in the near future.
How can you help? Well, no matter your position or sector of employment, be you a founder of a fledgling startup or the CFO of a regional conglomerate, there are ways you can pitch in. Mentoring, speaking, or allowing for a job shadow, are just some ways that more senior members of our business community can help out. Juniors or those who are just starting out can volunteer to lend a hand at startup events- and in the process you gain valuable connections and insight into the ecosystem’s workings. This helps you as much as it helps the ecosystem.
Another easy -and perhaps the most significant- way of supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem is by acting in a customer capacity. Think about how much you are helping our homegrown small enterprises by spending your money there. Want to eat out? Choose a brand founded here, as there are lots of those in the F&B sector. Looking for a gift? Shop online with any one of the hundreds of e-commerce startups, or gift a subscription to the many useful box startup companies.
We share some of these ventures under the hashtag #EntMERecommends on both Twitter and Instagram. Are you looking for a staffing or freelancer solution? Be certain to visit the websites of regional companies first, because chances are they have what you’re looking for and they’re willing to bend over backwards to onboard regional clients.
I always try, as much as possible, to shop with local businesses. Over the holidays, I managed to get every single item on my gift list from a local entrepreneurial endeavor- many are listed under the hashtag I just mentioned. If all that still doesn’t sound like you, just choose Careem to taxi around town or Carpool Arabia for ridesharing options.
There is always a way to do your part for the ecosystem, and suggesting that it is not your responsibility is flat out wrong. After all, next year it could be your startup struggling to demonstrate customer traction, and you could be the one asking yourself why people don’t think local first.