Resilience is the ability for individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt and grow despite stresses and shocks. From the impacts of climate change, to an increase of refugees, cities across the Middle East and North Africa face a growing number of environmental, social and economic obstacles. Thee challenges require certain resilience to work on, the kind of resilience that maybe only women have.


Women in MENA

In spite of having significant education, women in Middle East and North Africa are much less likely to have full-time employment than women in other regions. Women face many obstacles to employment, as indicated by the high female unemployment rates. However, for the women who overcome these barriers, the results are inspiring. Female-owned businesses account for just 13% of the businesses in the region.

“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

Nevertheless, women’s entrepreneurship in MENA isn’t reaching its full potential. Female entrepreneurs should take on a greater role than in the past, creating more and better jobs, diversifying economies into modern sectors, and empowering other women.


What is WeMENA?

WeMENA is a business model competition that was found by the World Bank and YouNoodle, a technology company focused on external innovation through startup engagement.

“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,” said 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.”

Through a business model challenge, WeMENA accelerates innovative solutions by women that will help eight cities across the Middle East and North Africa build resilience and better adapt to regional socio-economic vulnerabilities and better cope with climate change. 

WeMENA aims to foster business by being a bridge between private sector investors, university tutors, and global mentors for the women who participate.

Phase 1 of the program, which kicked off on Jan 2015, and 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.

Phase 2 expanded 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 women-led companies. Through in-person workshops and webinars, WeMena formally trains semifinalists in business skills, design-thinking, resilience-thinking, networking and pitching to investors.


What Is Offered By WeMENA

Top 3 winners get share of $150,000 USD cash prizes and also mentoring with leading industry experts, networking with other entrepreneurs in the region, training from leading universities.


How Can You Join

The WeMENA Business Model Challenge is looking for women who are seeking investment and support to introduce their idea or solution into the market. You can compete in the competition either as individuals, as a team, or on behalf of a legal entity. Participants applying on behalf of the legal entity must prove they have partial or full ownership of the business model they propose.

At the Grand Finale event finalists will be able to present their business ideas in front of a panel of judges, entrepreneurs, investors, and World Bank employees.

Applicants from around the world may participate, but the solutions proposed must apply principles of resilience-thinking and must address issues in the following cities:, Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo, Casablanca, Ramallah or Tunis. WeMena doesn’t limit the contest, so don’t limit your ideas.

To learn more, visit WeMENA’s website, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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