With a collective GDP of $2.85 trillion, and a growing young, globally connected population, the Arab world ranks among the top ten largest economies and one of the most fruitful ones to invest in today. Consider this: in six years, internet penetration spiked 294% while mobile data traffic grew 107%. The experts agree: Middle Eastern citizens are more and more connected, entrepreneurial, and ready to set up in the technology scene.
“The rise of the digital economy has turned the region into the site of a remarkable market opportunity that, if tapped, would take it on an entirely new economic trajectory,” says Fadi Ghandour, founder and chairman of Aramex in a recent article. The region is booming with entrepreneurial ecosystems evolving from Dubai, to Cairo, to even war-torn Gaza, where Gaza Sky Geeks recently held their largest ever Startup Weekend event, amid Israel’s air strikes.
The new generation of Arab entrepreneurs, extremely tech-savvy and avid to innovate, have provided ingenious creations in globally trending fields such as digital content and e-commerce, but also rockier fields such as health, green energy, and education. Take Neftham, Tahrir Academy or SkillAcademy, the new MOOCS expanding opportunities for Arab youth to access education.
Souq.com is a clear example of how patient capital can fuel a thriving market. Founded in 2005, the company raised $150 million in financing, with the latest round valuing the company at over $500 million. “There will come a day when the next Alibabas will come from the Arab world,” Ghandour says.