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Changing Face of Middle East Economy: Rise of Women Entrepreneurs

Latest data has shown that if Silicon Valley was its own state, it would be the second richest country in the world in terms of per-person GDP, trailing just after oil-producing Qatar.

However, there is one aspect of development where the U.S. home to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations is lagging behind the Arab world – the number of start-ups founded or led by women.

Between 1972 and 2018, the number of women-owned businesses around the word increased a dramatic 31 times, a research study commissioned by American Express last year showed. It grew from 402,000, or 4.6 percent of all firms, to 12.3 million, or 40 percent of all business ventures.

The tide of women entrepreneurs is rising at a time when the Arab world is experiencing fast technological and demographic changes, known as the demographic “youth bulge,” a common phenomenon in many developing countries.

According to Salah Hassan, Professor of Marketing and Brand Management at the George Washington University’s School of Business, new data from the Arab world is particularly encouraging.

During a panel discussion on empowering Arab women entrepreneurs that was held by Arab-American Business and Professional Association on Thursday, Hassan said some of the highest ranked entrepreneurial ecosystems of the region include the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He noted that 34 to 57 percent of STEM graduates in Arab countries are women, which is higher than in the U.S. or European universities.

However, less developed Arab countries, like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Lebanon, are also seeing women’s expansion into global markets as active innovators and business leaders, according to Doaa Taha, chair of ADC Women’s Empowerment Forum.

“Traditional jobs are insufficient and disappearing ever more, but the good news is that changing nature of technologies can be harnessed by entrepreneurs, including women, to create alternative sources of income,” Taha said during the event.

Malikah Alturki, organizational development consultant, argued that the most critical task at hand is changing mindsets of Arab women to support entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurship educators focus on the development of the entrepreneurial technical skills of entrepreneurs as an important factor in the success of entrepreneurs,” Alturki said.

“What matters most for Arab women, however, is an individual mentoring and coaching to change their whole perspective about economic life: overcoming the fear of failure, developing resilience, and encouraging risk-taking, autonomy of action, and self-efficacy,” she added.

 

This story was originally posted in The Global Post on April 26th, 2019

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