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.

The organisers focused the event around three main themes:

  • Inspire. The number and variety of quality speakers sharing their entrepreneurial journeys, going against the norms of society and soothsayers of gloom to create new enterprises was magnificent for any young entrepreneur to hear. These were organised in what they called “Passion Corners”.
  • Empower. A considerable number of workshops were organised to achieve this. Mowgli had the pleasure of conducting a workshop, in which 95 individuals were able to be mentored and act as mentors within an hour. The buzz was incredible. The outcomes that all had benefited and would find a mentor. Separately some 60 mentors conducted some 500 mentoring sessions with aspiring entrepreneurs. Really powerful!!!!
  • The event was organised to connect, casual dress code, no stoppage for coffee, lunch or dinner, entertainment, SpotMe and a relaxed environment with all participants “giving” of themselves was palpable.

We were delighted to announce ground breaking alliances with:

As highlighted by an article written by Sultan Sooud Al Qassem, Nov. 14th 2010, ” A consensus was reached at the conference: the fragmented approach that Arab governments have taken will not be achieved”

The conclusion of the event was that a “think tank” on Entrepreneurship in the region was funded and formed. The challenge is immense, but at least the appetite has been whetted by this ground-breaking occasion.

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