MENA’s Most Significant Startup Initiatives in 2020

MENA’s Most Significant Startup Initiatives in 2020

MENA’s startup ecosystem witnessed the launch of numerous initiatives aimed at facilitating the work of startups and helping them find opportunities for growth and expansion. The year has been strenuous on entrepreneurs with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, governments, banks, and other institutions have introduced laws, programs, and schemes to support entrepreneurs.

NASDAQ Dubai Growth Market 

Dubai’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan, announced the launch of the Nasdaq Dubai Growth Market. Its aim is to help SMEs reach the next phase of growth, by raising capital through an initial public offering (IPO).

Foreign Ownership Laws in the UAE

The new law allows foreign nationals to own 100% of companies within the onshore jurisdiction of the UAE, which previously required 51% Emirati ownership to do business outside of UAE free zones. The law became effective on December 1, 2020.

Iraq’s First Angel Investor Network

IAIN the network launched by KAPITA is the first attempt at an institutionalized investment vehicle for Iraqi startups. The network is sponsored by the German Government through GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation) and is technically supported by the World Bank.

4Afrika Initiative 

Cairo Angels partnered with Microsoft to launch its fundraising consultancy for early and growth-stage startups in the Middle East and Africa. Additionally, it provides advisory services and support from building financial models and preparing a detailed financial plan to finalizing conditions with investors.

Bahrain and Portugal’s Partnership to Support Startups 

The Bahrain Economic Development Board launched an initiative with GrowIN Portugal, to help entrepreneurs incorporate, fund and expand their startups during the Corona pandemic.

Oman Innovation Lab 

Oman Arab Bank launched the Innovation Lab in the Sultanate, to help provide innovative solutions to develop the local fintech ecosystem and enhance local talent. The Innovation Lab will host a myriad of opportunities by providing access to one-to-one mentoring, specialized workshops, and industry experts for local students, OAB staff and local, regional, and international fintech companies.

Saudi’s Instant Work Visas for Entrepreneurs 

The Saudi government introduced a scheme whereby immediate work visas are granted to entrepreneurs who establish their businesses in the Kingdom. This is part of the government’s efforts to boost non-oil private sector growth and create jobs.

Womentum Program

Standard Chartered UAE in partnership with Womena launched a program to support women-led startups in the Middle East, in various sectors. The Accelerator helps women founders get funding, experience, and a network of women entrepreneurs.

Boost with Facebook

A training program launched by Startups Without Borders in cooperation with Facebook, to support 1550 entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa. The program provides virtual sessions on digital marketing and relating skills to SME owners in the MENA region who have migrated from their countries of origin and have set up a startup business or an initiative in the Middle East or Europe. 

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