The Middle Eastern panorama has been nothing but grim in the past months. But before letting the news seep into your sense of hope in the region, here are 5 facts you should remember:
1. Since the Arab Spring, everyone is starting something new. From the artistic to the environmental scene, individuals have recognized the power they hold to be agents of change. “There has been an effervescence of activity, and I don’t mean major investments or donor agencies, but the small things,” says social entrepreneur Betty Khoury. Sharine Atif agrees, as she witnesses many independent artists “rooting out of the mainstream industry” and funding their own companies. “The artistic scene is for the first time taken as serious business,” she says.
2. A new generation is on the way. While you are reading frustrating news about violence and confrontation, just at that same moment, inside the houses, the schools, and the buildings of MENA, a million tiny initiatives are struggling to build the next generation of changemakers: From alternative models of education like Educate-me or intercultural projects like Safarni, to mini cities exploring new ways to conceive the urban space, these NGOs may not reach the flashes of international cameras, but they sure know the future lies in redefining education.
3. Even though MENA is one of the poorest regions in the world, it is still surprising how crime rates are comparatively low. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) explains, there usually tends to be “a clear link between violent crime and development: crime hampers poor human and economic development which, in turn, fosters crime”. Take Latin America, a region that accounts for 30% of the world’s homicides. But as this map shows, the Middle East shows the lowest rates in homicide along with European countries, South Asia, Australia and Canada.
4. The world’s most flourishing entrepreneurial hubs are rooted in MENA. In a recent study conducted by Virgin, Cairo, Egypt and Taghazout, Morocco, have been ranked as best startup hubs in the world, which speaks eloquently about an entrepreneurial ecosystem that thrives not only with amazing accelerators but also smaller, independent initiatives like Noura’s. “There is everything to be done. It’s like an empty land full of opportunities: it may be hard but you can plant whatever you want and it will grow into something,” says Egyptian entrepreneur Louay Nasser.
5. And if the economy doesn’t provide the funds… solidarity does. Arabs have always been known for their solidarity with neighbors, which explains why crowd-funding is sizzling in the region. Last year, Beirut-based Zoomaal, the region’s premier crowd-funding platform, launched to provide a local venue for regional projects, and has successfully funded 33 projects since then.
So before the gloomy news takes its toll on your mood, take a look at #TheBiggerPicture.