touch, the leading mobile telecommunications and data operator in Lebanon, managed by Zain Group, announced the launch of the 12th edition of the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, spearheaded by the MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Pan Arab. During a press conference held at Le Gray Hotel in Beirut, details of the annual competition designed to support and celebrate startups in the Arab world were given, including an update on the US$160,000 worth of prizes on offer.
The press event was held in the presence of His Excellency Minister of Telecommunications Jamal Al-Jarrah; Emre Gurkan, Chief Executive Officer of touch; Saroj Kumar Jha, Regional Director for the Mashreq at World Bank Group; and Hala Fadel, Chairperson of MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab, in addition to regional and local media outlets. A panel discussion comprising of Emre Gurkan, Hala Fadel, Saroj Jha, and Mouhamad Rabah of Beirut Digital District was hosted during the press conference and covered issues related to nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship in Lebanon.
touch is a long-standing supporter of innovators in Lebanon and of the competition itself, having earlier this year launched the touch Innovation Program (TIP) to raise the profile of entrepreneurs and support their endeavors.
Additional partners to this year's MITEF Arab Startup Competition include Community Jameel, a social enterprise organization that operates a wide range of initiatives that promote and contribute towards positive social change and economic sustainability. World Bank Group also supports the initiative, with the competition being held in collaboration with Beirut Digital District (BDD), a built community dedicated to creating a hub for the digital and creative industries in Lebanon, and Roland Berger, a global strategy consulting firm headquartered in Munich. Careem, a leading ride-hailing app in MENA also supports the competition.
touch's Chief Executive Officer, Emre Gurkan commented, "As a key provider of ICT solutions in Lebanon cooperating closely with the Telecom Ministry, it is our responsibility to develop the startup ecosystem domestically and elevate Lebanon to becoming a leading digital innovator in the region. Our partnership with MITEF stems from Zain Group's digital lifestyle strategy and is aligned with our Corporate Sustainability Program, "Positive touch", which also supports the United Nations Sustainability Development Goal number nine, focused on the development of industry, innovation and infrastructure."
The MITEF Arab Startup Competition has evolved into an annual event and is considered a platform that allows young entrepreneurs across the Middle East to showcase, test and develop their creative and innovative ideas. Each year, the competition incorporates three tracks: The Ideas track, the Startups track and the Social Entrepreneurship track, with cumulative cash prizes amounting to US$160,000. The teams that qualify for the semi-finals will participate in a series of preparatory activities that include training sessions, mentorship, coaching, and workshops.
Commenting on the launch of the Arab Startup Competition, Hala Fadel, Chair of the board of MITEF Pan Arab said: "The Arab Startup Competition, our flagship program, is a unique platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their business model and to build large networks in and outside of the Arab region. Throughout the last twelve years, we have seen a growing Arab startup scene, with an increasing number of entrepreneurs applying for this particular competition, who not only want to launch a business but who want to stand out from the crowd. I am confident we will receive many more top-tier applicants this year! Thanks to Community Jameel, our longtime partner, and other strategic partners over the years, we offer Arab entrepreneurs, through this program, cash prizes, learning tools to move forward, and entry point to investors and other supporters."