Afterwards, we had a frank chat with him where he explained that “the knowledge economy is the future,” noting that it is important for startups in the Arab world, especially in the tech sector, to realize that copying and pasting a model may be ok, but you have to innovate to make your startup relevant to the region.
By observing trends in developed economies, Ghandour explains that we can get a sense for what will happen in the Middle East and North Africa as the ecosystem develops. “What happens there will happen here,” he says, “but with a twist.”
He also stresses the importance of local innovations; “We don’t want to be only a consumer society, because a lot of the knowledge industry needs to be generated here.”
“Entrepreneurs are the creators of future jobs, and there is a high unemployment rate among all youth in the Arab, and that’s the biggest danger for stability in the Arab world – bigger than any other danger. But we’re not doing enough about it,” he explains. It is thus incumbent upon governments to enable entrepreneurship through easier business regulations, stronger broadband infrastructure, free trade in the region, and a freer movement of peoples between countries.
Ghandour adds that governments need to foster competition instead of protectionism to release entrepreneurs to innovate and build better products and services for consumers. “Small and medium-sized enterprises need to be encouraged,” he says, “Access to capital, access to knowledge, access to networks is where the future lies.”