Female entrepreneur and founder of Voyaj, Yasmine El Baggari, joins the effort to accelerate innovation and create a pipeline of bankable projects for investors looking for responsible investment opportunities in the MENA region
SAN FRANCISCO – The World Bank and YouNoodle, a technology company focused on external innovation through startup engagement, today announced the launch of Phase 2 of WeMENA (Women for Resilience Program). Focused on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the program is a business model competition designed to kick-start innovation while supporting female entrepreneurs. The program will work on training hundreds of women entrepreneurs to create sustainable solutions that reduce regional vulnerabilities and better cope with climate change, while making them more resilient to natural, social, and economic shocks. Top finalists will be awarded a portion of the $150,000 pool to start up or expand their businesses. Female innovators interested in entering the competition can find more information by logging on to: www.we-mena.org.
“The MENA region is ripe with innovation and many women in the area are leading the effort to develop ideas that will help to sustain local economies and create responsible investment opportunities for investors,” Olivier Lavinal, advisor to the Vice President for the MENA Region at World Bank, said.
“By building sustainable innovation ecosystems, MENA countries can make substantial steps towards a knowledge based economy and become a global player in the technology and innovation ecosystem. This program will help to ensure that these efforts work toward continued idea generation and investment in this region,” continued Torsten Kolind, CEO of YouNoodle.
Yasmine El Baggari, founder of Voyaj and an entrepreneur in the region, has also partnered with YouNoodle as an ‘on the ground’ ambassador.
“Some of the most common issues in MENA’s urban areas, such as electricity cuts and other energy shortages, water scarcity, and intermittent flooding become an obstacle to everyday life,” said El Baggari. “With the help of this program, women in the region will be able to provide private sector solutions to these challenges, and in doing so create jobs, economic prosperity and a more equitable society.”
Phase 1 of the program, which kicked off on Jan 2015, accelerated 60 women-led startups in three different cities (Cairo, Beirut and Djibouti), trained nine semi-finalists in the IE Business School, and awarded $55,000 in grants to the three finalists at the final pitch competition. Today kicks off Phase 2, which will expand the reach of the program to eight different cities across the region (Beirut, Byblos, Ramallah, Amman, Cairo, Alexandria, Tunis and Casablanca), accelerate hundreds of women-owned and -led companies, and through in-person workshops and webinars, formally train dozens of semifinalists in business skills, design-thinking, resilience-thinking, networking and pitching to investors.
At the Grand Finale event in April, finalists will present their business ideas in front of a panel of judges, entrepreneurs, investors, and World Bank colleagues. The team behind the program is committed to ensuring hard capital and growth opportunities are secured during and after the event.