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A Look Into MENA’s Future Silicon Valley

MENA is slowly becoming a platform for all-things tech-based, some are calling it the next Silicon Valley. As we can see, many companies are starting to pop into view within the start-up sector. This progress is slowly developing with an increase in start-ups within the region, according to Go-gulf, about 64 percent of working-age respondents would rather have their own business, while 70 percent took the first steps to establish a business in the last 5 years.

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If we look at data from the World Bank Group, we can see the amount of progress the entrepreneur ecosystem has in the MENA region. Countries like UAE has around 20,597 new limited liability company with a business density of 29.69 in 2016.

These figures are also well supported if we see the number of start-up communities in the MENA region. With organisations like MAGNiTT, a MENA-centric online community connecting start-ups. Other supporters of this scene include WAMDA, a platform of programs in the hopes of accelerating the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

So we can clearly see a support system for this sector, the question is though, who is becoming the Silicon Valley of the MENA region? Here are the candidates.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

UAE is definitely the number one on the list when it comes to a potential Silicon Valley. With most start-ups and companies shifting to Dubai to conduct business, it really is becoming the ultimate business hub. According to Step Feed, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce reported that 8,000 new companies had registered in the first half of 2016.

UAE, especially Dubai, functions as a great breeding ground in terms of entrepreneurs and start-ups. This is mostly supported by the ease in regulations and political and economic stability.

UAE is highly known for its free-trade zones, where Dubai has most of these zones. These zones are now home to around 10,000 companies. These zones provide many benefits when it comes to running your business. Here are some of those benefits the free-zone entitles:

• No personal income or personal gain tax

• No corporate taxes

• No duties on import or export

• 100 percent of repatriation of capital and profits

• Liberal labour laws

• No currency restrictions

• Free transfer or funds

UAE is also supported by the fact that it is very diverse, with people from different backgrounds and cultures and a majority of the population being expatriates. This creates a hub where people can easily network and easily get connected with people from different countries and opportunities.

This situation makes it a conducive playground for tech companies, not only from small companies, but even MENA-based tech giants are settling their companies in UAE, such as Lenovo. Lenovo has even launched its own incubator program for its own business, so we can see even big business are joining the start-up scene.

Jordan

Jordan, the small country that is placed in a land-lock of countries. Most people might have questions about this country being stuck between some politically unstable countries, however, it is this strategic position that makes this country one that is easy to reach in terms of business.

Jordan’s political system can be defined as quite stable, it is also not that difficult to start a business there, seeing the thriving business scene in Jordan. Jordan is now receiving more funds from the World Bank to support the entrepreneur ecosystem. There are also plenty of incubators to support this scene, such as the Oasis500 and ZINC, two innovative spaces located in Amman built for entrepreneurs to brainstorm and network. In mid-2017, the World Bank announced the Innovative Start-ups Fund Project to support over 200 start-ups.

The government seems to be increasing their efforts for the entrepreneur scene as one of Jordan’s speciality and clear power industry.

Lebanon

Lebanon is also a talked-about candidate in this industry, being also quite famous for their start-up industry and the technology sector. Despite the political instability, Lebanon seems to be thriving in the start-up sector. According to WAMDA, 38 percent of MENA’s 100 start-up founders are from Lebanon and Jordan, while only 16 percent of start-ups are headquartered there.

So Lebanon might fall behind with UAE, as most businesses are transferring there, however, a lot of the brains are coming from Lebanon. In fact, Lebanon launched a USD 400 million package four years ago to encourage lending from banks. So Lebanon is on the way towards a big entrepreneur economy.

Verdict

In conclusion, MENA is definitely in a progressive development when it comes to the entrepreneurial sector, and yes, it definitely potentially may be the next Silicon Valley. In terms of countries though, UAE is definitely the winner at the moment. With countless of companies moving their base into Dubai, it really is becoming the next Silicon Valley of the MENA region.

This article was sourced from Think Progress, the official Lenovo blog.

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