Diana Hollmann

Best Idea(s) of 2010 from the MENA region

Editor’s Note: This post is one in a series on the Best Ideas of 2010 for the BoP. We asked the NextBillion staff writers and editors to share what they considered to be the year’s most impactful – or potentially impactful – concepts, startups or initiatives that came to fruition in 2010.

It is not easy to pinpoint what made the biggest impression on me this past year… The MENA region has seen several major and exciting events in the development through enterprise arena: Obama convened the Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit, Ashoka hosted the Arab World Social Innovation Forum, and Abraaj Capital set up the Celebration of Entrepreneurship. Among the many promising news bits were the launch of a primer on Social Entrepreneurship in the MENA region, the set-up of the Global Entrepreneurship Program by the Obama Administration to foster entrepreneurship in Muslim communities, and intermediaries and investors such as Endeavor, Acumen Fund and Riyada Enterprise Development launching and expanding their operations in the region.

Certainly great candidates for the “best idea 2010” are two new initiatives:

Idea 1: Wamda.com
Wamda (Arabic for “spark”) is an online platform that aims to inspire (through stories), empower (through information and news) and connect (through online networking and mentoring) entrepreneurs throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The platform is up and running – a great idea and worth following to gain deeper insight into what’s going on in that region.

Idea 2: Regional think tank on entrepreneurship
With the idea born and announced just about a month ago at the Celebration of Entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurship think tank is still in the planning. Hopefully in early 2011, we will know more about the what, how and when of the think tank as Abraaj Capital is working on furthering the concept. If it materializes from an idea into a real-life initiative, the think tank has the potential of helping to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship in the region. While some countries work on national SME strategies, a concerted effort and knowledge exchange across the region is missing. More than thirty of the leading entrepreneurial minds from across the region have already pledged their support.

The set-up of Wamda and the inception of a regional entrepreneurship think tank are both ideas from the region, for the region and both have the potential to make an important contribution to nurturing entrepreneurship and SME development. Let’s see what impact they will make in 2011 and beyond!

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