15+ MENA accelerators launched in 2016 #Wamda2016

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Throughout 2016, the startup ecosystem for the Middle East and North Africa continued to grow as over 15 new accelerators opened their doors. This is almost a doubling of the eight that opened in 2015.

And more are coming, with two new accelerators already announced for 2017: YouTube Space Dubai and Flat6labs Beirut .

The good news is that they are evenly spread across the region, over nine countries.

The reasons behind a new opening

The objective leading to the creation of a new accelerator changes according to the nature of the founders and its location.

Often the organisation backing new accelerators invests in innovation in order to overcome some of the challenges that it is facing. For example, governments experiencing popular dissent or corporations facing tough competition will be much more likely to support new accelerators.

For instance, Saudi Arabia was heavily affected by the oil-sector recession. As a consequence, they launched Vision 2030, in order to diversify the Saudi economy, with the aim of reducing unemployment and discontent among the population. The creation of two new accelerators in Saudi Arabia can be seen as a direct result of needing to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit among the Saudis.

Better together than alone

MENA accelerators are often backed by a wide variety of public and private institutions.

Pressured by external issues these organisations decide to invest in the creation of accelerators. Interestingly they rarely act alone, in fact most of them engage in partnerships.

The creation of an accelerator is something that requires skills and resources that are often not to be found in the same organisation, as a result engaging in partnerships is a way for accelerators to be established. Almost all new accelerators launched in 2016 had at least one partnership.

International actors entering the game

Most founders or partners in MENA accelerators come from the region. However this year a considerable number of international actors, such as Amazon or Barclays, took part in the creation of regional accelerators.

The size of the MENA market, a young population, and the potential for growth, are attracting international corporations eager to invest in new opportunities. For example, in 2012 the mass media corporation Thomson Reuters acquired the MENA business intelligence and news company, Zawya.

Almost half of 2016’s new accelerators have at least one international partner, often an international corporation, such as GE and Emirates Group backing the aviation-oriented accelerator Intelak.

These organisations can offer their know-how and an international network, which is often lacking in the region.

The new accelerators

C5 Accelerate, Bahrain

AUC Venture Lab Fintech Accelerator | 1864 Accelerator, Egypt

Business Innovation Growth (BIG) |  University of Jordan Innovation Center (UJIC), Jordan

Elevate Accelerator, Lebanon

Emerging Business Factory | TechFinance Academy | NUMA Casablanca, Morocco

Wadi Accelerator, Oman

Taqadam |  9/10ths initiative, Saudi Arabia

Flat6labs, Tunisia

1776 | Intelak, UAE

Feature image via 1776.

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