Celebration of Entrepreneurship – Dubai, 8th and 9th November 2010

Having spent 44 years of my life living and working in the Middle East, I am used to the desert…….. In 2008, we launched the Mowgli Foundation. Through our exposure in the Middle East, we recognised the enormous challenge that the region faced with requiring to create up to 100 million jobs in the coming ten-year period and as a result chose to focus our efforts upon this part of the world. We wish to spark a revolution by mentoring entrepreneurs in targeted Middle Eastern countries, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Our initial soundings which took place in 2008 and early 2009 was that purely lip service was being paid by governments, companies and NGO to meet the challenge – a desert!

We commenced in 2009 sowing seeds by launching our pilot programme in Jordan/Palestine, culminating to date in our supporting 28 entrepreneurs in this country, and then programmes in Lebanon (16 entrepreneurs) and Syria (14 entrepreneurs). Whilst awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship was heightened by the financial crisis of 2008/2009, still the level of apathy towards taking action and forming collaborative efforts to meet this huge challenge were muted. Mowgli continued to try and find people, organisations who shared our vision. Through a cold call to Abraaj Capital (www.abraaj.com) some six months ago, it was clear that we had met an organisation that shared our vision – our “oasis”. Over the subsequent months, we have engaged in such positive discussions on how various stakeholders can form partnerships and develop the capability to support structure entrepreneurship in the Middle East. When Abraaj Capital first shared their concept of an event to launch their Riyada Enterprise Development Fund and an ecosystem to support this ultimately called Wamda (www.wamda.com), we realised that this was going to be special, but we had no idea how special.

The event that was planned was initially pitching for some 500 attendees, when it was finally held, just under 2,500 attendees were present with a considerable number turned away. What did Abraaj achieve through a most wonderful event? I find great difficulty putting it into appropriate words due to the energy, enthusiasm, excitement and emotion exhibited over these two days.

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