Here’s an initiative that should interest the many North Africans and Lebanese who are studying at or have graduated from a French university or secondary school (grande école).
The Program to Help the Creation of Innovative Companies in the Mediterranean (Programme d’Aide à la Création d’Entreprises Innovantes en Méditerranée or PACEIM) is mentoring students and graduates from the French higher education system who want to create innovative companies in the southern and eastern Mediterranean.
During the 15-month incubation period, which will take place in both France and the entrepreneur’s home country, selected companies will get a logistic, technical, and financial aid up to €35,000 ($47,000 USD).
During its second edition in 2012, the program mentored 28 projects working in health, cosmetic, ICT, waste management, food, and environment fields.
Among them, Qleek especially is expected to make some noise. This startup, which has since join famous Parisian accelerator Le Camping, is developing Tapp, a small – but smart – lump of wood that allows users to synch their music, podcasts etc. to a TV in a user friendly way.
“It was a really, really good experience,” says founder Ismail Salhi, who is of Algerian origin. Not only did this program encourage him to hone his concept and business plan, but it also provided him with his first investment of €30,000 (divided into €25,000 for suppliers expenses, and €5,000 as a personal grant).
The experience was so positive that the young man, now joined by co-founders Johanna Hartzheim and Pierre-Rudolf Gerlach, decided to extend his incubation period until next April. “It worked so well, why stop now?” he asks.
On the surface, this program may seem like yet another initiative by European business types to exploit burgeoning economic opportunities in the region: it is led by the French Development Research Institute (the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, IRD), in partnership with more than 15 ministries, institutions, and innovation agencies in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and France.
But regardless of these concerns, this program helps entrepreneurs from the Arab world do business together and with France, as well as allowing them to take advantage of financial help and mentoring from both French and Arab diaspora entrepreneurs.
This is of utmost importance, according to Wamda contributor Samir Abdelkrim, who has written that the tech diaspora has a major role to play in developing the startup ecosystem of the Arab world as it plays the role of network and expertise facilitator.
The application deadline is February 14, 2014. For more information visit PACEIM’s website.