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Global architecture for startups.

Summary: The World Economic Forum's meeting on the Middle East and North Africa convened on April 6-7 at the Dead Sea in Jordan, where it acted as a collaborative platform among more than 1,000 key leaders from government, business and civil society to discuss the regional agenda for inclusive growth, social advancement and sustainable development.

The World Economic Forum's meeting on the Middle East and North Africa convened on April 6-7 at the Dead Sea in Jordan, where it acted as a collaborative platform among more than 1,000 key leaders from government, business and civil society to discuss the regional agenda for inclusive growth, social advancement and sustainable development. Based on the WEF's expertise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an action-oriented dialogue was conducted on the most pressing challenges, the future economies and impact of technological waves at the regional and national levels.

As per the forum's report on "Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution," technologies have impacted all aspects of our lives such as, and not limited to, health, transportation, communication, production, distribution and energy. Thus, "globalization 4.0 will be shaped by a combination of governance decisions and technological developments" to meet the interlinkages between societal needs and technology.

The combination between public policies and corporate norms and values is imperative to cope with emerging technologies. This is considered a step forward from the public private partnerships to new synergies in the governance systems between the public and private sectors. Moreover, the report laid down parameters for a process of reflection and dialogue about the meaning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the transformations of international cooperation and domestic governance.

The forum also focused on creating a platform for Arab startups to interact and engage with international and regional leaders and discuss the future of their industries and how to add value to society. One hundred Arab startups shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2019 were selected by the WEF, in collaboration with the Bahrain Economic Development Board, to attend the forum.

The "Start-up Ecosystem in the Arab World" report was prepared by MAGNiTT in preparation for the forum. It gives an overview of the startup deals and investments in 2018. Some $903 million was invested across 404 deals in 2018, constituting a rise of 31 percent in total funding and an increase of 13 percent in the number of deals compared to the previous year. In 2018, female-founded start-ups accounted for 72 deals and $90 million in total funding, the highest number of such deals in recorded history. Jordan, the UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are the countries that have the largest number of startups.

Seven Lebanese startups were selected among the 100 Arab startups, with the Lebanese expert Hala Fadel among the selection committee. Despite the financial and political challenges Lebanon is facing, it is witnessing the establishment of startups and small and medium enterprise initiatives that will impact our economic progress in the short and long term.

The destination of startups is no longer limited to national or regional boundaries since the largest number of investors in Arab startups don't necessary have their headquarters in the region.

There is a positive approach in Lebanon toward the startup community, and there are still some policy and legislative actions that need to be taken to create an enabling environment.

On top of these measures is access to credit and risk policy toward startups and SMEs. Risk is the whole philosophy of investment, and if we decide to take more risk with our startup initiatives, this sector will flourish and have a positive impact on our socio-economic status. Investing in startups is not only an economic decision, it must also be seen as a social stability and citizens' empowerment policy.

The WEF's endeavor to start serious policy discussions around the Fourth Industrial Revolution should encourage us to learn from international experiences and understand that the knowledge-based economy and startup domains are fundamental investments in the future of our society.

Hiba Huneini is manager of the youth and civic engagement program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. Email her at hiba.h@hariri-foundation.org.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Apr 10, 2019
Words:715
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