Interview with BSC Monrovia: how is the business startup center doing during the Ebola crisis?

This month it was announced that TIME’s person of the year 2014 is the Ebola fighter. The Ebola outbreak of this year hit many in especially Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. But the affected countries are not defeated by the epidemic, as many local and international organizations have joined forces to fight the outbreak and improve the situation. One of these organizations is our partner the Business Startup Center Monrovia in Liberia. We spoke to William Reide Dennis II, Acting Director, to look back at the last months, to hear about what is going on at the moment and to look ahead at new promising opportunities. William, many people might think that things are currently on hold in Liberia, but the BSC Monrovia is actually really active and supports entrepreneurs in improving the situation together. How has the Ebola outbreak affected the work of the BSC Monrovia? It was around late July that the situation had become really terrible in Liberia; there were around 200 new Ebola cases each day, people fled the country and the economy went down. We tried to stay around and help, but were forced to shut down all of our activities. Additionally, we could not visit other business centers because at a certain point the government prohibited travelling to other regions. Then, international support started coming our way: doctors, experts, supplies and money were arriving in the country. Suddenly a lot was happening and we saw opportunities arising. That’s when we got together in August and asked ourselves: what can we do as a business center to support SMEs in this crisis and to...

Looking back at the Jordan Pitching Event 2013

On November 21 2013 the Jordan Pitching Event ‘Sharaka’ took place in Amman, Jordan. The event, organized with our partners Business Development Center (BDC) Jordan, Business Women Forum Palestine, Business and Technology Incubator Islamic University of Gaza and the Najjad Zeenni IT Center of Excellence of Birzeit University (Palestine), was aimed at matchmaking entrepreneurs with investors and others with an interest in business in Jordan or Palestine. In preparation of the event, the entrepreneurs received coaching and training by the partners. BiD Network advisors provided the Ready4Finance training to prepare the entrepreneurs for the pitching and attracting finance. There were also some more informal and social moments, such as a joint dinner, which provided the chance to connect and exchange experience. The event took place in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Amman. The evening started with a warm welcome by moderator Walid Faza and an inspiring speech by Paul van den IJssel, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Amman. In a short panel discussion, different investors shared their motivation and investment experience. After that it was time for the pitching rounds: 12 entrepreneurs from Jordan and Palestine had two minutes per person to pitch their businesses for the public, followed by a question round. At the networking cocktail that followed, 20 entrepreneurs from Jordan and Palestine had the chance to exhibit their businesses. The presented businesses operate in different sectors and range from ideas to start-ups and well-established businesses that are ready for an investment. Besides meeting the entrepreneurs at the ‘market place’, different investors made use of the opportunity to meet with the entrepreneurs in private, in order to discuss investment opportunities in their...

An Overview of Gaza’s ICT Labor Market [Report]

This article is published with the courtesy of Wamda. Please find the original article here. Gaza might not be the first place one associates with gender equality. Yet the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector may be leading the way; 31% of ICT professionals in Gaza are women, more than double that of non-ICT organizations, a new report from USAID and Mercy Corps reveals. The report, titled “Gaza Labor Market Needs Assessment for the Digital Economy”, surveyed 141 university graduates in Gaza with degrees in ICT,  to assess skill gaps and preferred tools in the sector. Some are highlighted here: In 2012, 32% of the labor force in Gaza was unemployed. In the first quarter of 2012, 47% of women were unemployed. At 58%, Gaza’s youth unemployment is more than double the regional average. In 2012, ICT contributed 0.56% to the real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of the West Bank, and a mere 0.02% to the real GDP growth of Gaza. In 2011, 41% of businesses with ICT tools in Gaza used computers, 34% used the internet, 12% did electronic transactions, and only 4% had websites. In the West Bank and Gaza in 2012, 17% of women participated in the labor force, compared to 68.7% of men. Women polled in the survey question the quality of their education for workforce preparation, as well as the market qualifications of their instructors. The report also details the use of specific ICT skills and tools, and gaps in ICT education and employment opportunities in Gaza, based on focus groups conducted with ICT school graduates, higher education institutions, and ICT companies. Download the full report here for a...

KLab, Rwanda’s First Innovation Hub

This article is published with the courtesy of PC Tech Magazine. Please find the original article here. Founded in June of 2012, kLab came about through a confluence of ideas and role-players and  is the landlocked country’s first dedicated innovation hub and a key figure in the march to becoming a force in the ICT sector. kLab has around 80 members with roughly 30 to 40 members using the space on a daily basis. Membership is free and divided into three categories, namely tenants, mentors and guests. In order to become a tenant, a prospective member must be working on a project and submit an online application which is followed up with a presentation pitch in front of a selection committee and other tenants. “Individuals and key players in the private sector came together and felt it was needed to have this sort of space where people could come to work on their ideas and have an opportunity to commercialise them. They drafted a proposal and plan and then set about recruiting the relevant partners,” explains Claude Migisha K., general manager at kLab. “The ICT Chamber approached The Rwanda Development Board (RDB-Information Technology), the government organ in charge of implementing and coordinating Rwanda’s ICT sector activities, which was very keen to partner. Through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funding, we set up the hub,” says Migisha. Migisha had earlier posted on the kLab blog about the expectations while joining the innovation hub: “When coming to kLab, there is one thing in mind, a space to think and collaborate. My expectation in the space was to find people that could work within...

Lancering Online Portal Ondernemeninontwikkelingslanden.nl

Unieke samenwerking bedrijfsleven en ontwikkelingsorganisaties Tijdens de Week van de Ondernemer, op 10 april as. lanceren de Minister voor Buitenlandse Handel en Ontwikkelingssamenwerking Lilianne Ploumen, de voorzitter van MKB-Nederland Hans Biesheuvel en directeur Partos Alexander Kohnstamm OndernemenInOntwikkelingslanden.nl. Deze online portal is bedoeld voor Nederlandse ondernemers die zaken willen doen in opkomende markten in ontwikkelingslanden. De site bundelt kennis en expertise die Nederland rijk is als het gaat om zaken doen in landen als Ethiopië, Bangladesh en Colombia. Om de portal te realiseren werken overheden, ontwikkelingsorganisaties en brancheorganisaties gericht op ondernemers intensief met elkaar samen.   Kansen & bedreigingen Vanuit de gedachte dat een samenwerking tussen ontwikkelingssamenwerking en het bedrijfsleven direct bijdraagt aan inclusieve economische groei, hebben Partos en VNO-NCW/MKB-Nederland in het najaar van 2011 het initiatief genomen voor OndernemeninOntwikkelingslanden.nl. “Natuurlijk zitten er soms haken en ogen aan het ondernemen in deze markten. Maar de kansen zijn er groot en de lokale kosten doorgaans laag. Bovendien staan de deuren vaak wagenwijd open voor het Nederlandse bedrijfsleven. Dit komt door de vaak lange ontwikkelingsrelaties die veel van deze landen hebben met ons. Het is belangrijk dat we naast de investeringen in sociale sectoren ook duurzame economische ontwikkeling stimuleren. Dat is in ieders belang: voor mensen daar maar ook voor ondernemers hier!” aldus Alexander Kohnstamm. OndernemenInOntwikkelingslanden.nl OndernemenInOntwikkelingslanden.nl helpt Nederlandse ondernemers beter voorbereid ontwikkelingsmarkten te betreden. De portal bestaat uit een aantal pijlers. Een daarvan is de overdracht van kennis en informatie over kansen, mogelijkheden, maar ook de risico’s van ondernemen in ontwikkelingslanden. Het gaat daarbij om informatie van aangesloten kennishouders waaronder Agentschap NL en diverse Nederlandse ontwikkelingsorganisaties. Een andere grote pijler is de...

Africa’s ICT investment landscape: where to look next?

This article was originally published on How We Made It In Africa on March 27, 2013. Please find the original article here. ICT in Africa is a blooming industry with its own set of unique opportunities and challenges. In the past decade, the growth of Africa’s mobile industry is considered to be one of the continent’s successes in development and technology. Services like M-Pesa have been innovative in developing solutions for an African context, offering mobile banking and money transfers where many remain unbanked. According to a recent report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), ICT in Africa remains an attractive business area. While it is true that most of the investment in this sector has been directed towards mobile and related applications, recently the focus has been on international submarine cables and developing broadband access on the continent. The mobile industry – growth slowing but investment opportunities remain AfDB estimates that the continent’s mobile industry contributes US$56 billion to the regional economy, around 3.5% of total GDP. Today the sector is competitive, with most markets now having at least three operators, which drives down prices for consumers and increases penetration. However, AfDB predicts that this industry will continue to grow, though profitability is declining. One of the reasons for this is due to the expanding coverage to underserved rural areas as operators look to acquire new subscribers at low-income levels. “The extreme pricing pressure and regulatory risks will affect the investment environment in the future,” stated AfDB’s report. “Poor road infrastructure that makes it expensive to transport equipment to set up mobile towers, and a dependence on diesel generators to power...