Million dollar scheme launches to boost the Palestinian startup community

Million dollar scheme launches to boost the Palestinian startup community

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees and Silatech have announced a partnership in a project aiming to empower Palestinian entrepreneurs.

Teaming up with Silatech, a Qatar-based program which promotes entrepreneurship in the region, UNRWA is reaching out to young Palestinian entrepreneurs with a startup loan project.

Palestinian entrepreneurs, like many of their peers the world over, can’t start a business without a loan, and can’t get a loan without experience. Silatech and UNRWA are making things a little easier for a select group of entrepreneurs through ‘Mubadarati’ (which literally means ‘Initiatives’) – a project which will provide entrepreneurs with the financing necessary to get their startups off the ground.

Silatech is ensuring a reduced risk by offering participants a partial loan guarantee.

With capital coming in from UNRWA’s microfinance program, as well as the partial guarantee financed by Silatech, Palestine’s quiet startup community could get a much needed boost.

Mubadarati is a first for the Middle East as a whole, in terms of Silatech’s loan guarantee, but is not the first major investment we’ve seen in Palestine’s tech industry. At the end of 2010, Google announced its intention make a million dollar investment.

More recently, the Sadara Fund launched in Palestine, the country’s first venture capital fund with $28 million worth of investments to make. At the time, the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA) announced that there are more than 300 Palestinian IT companies operating, employing around 3,200 people.

The Palestinian startup ecosystem has a long way to go, but with initiatives from the likes of Google, Sadara and now UNRWA and Silatech, we can hope to see some entrepreneurial success stories begin to emerge.

Bazinga, a Ramallah based organization is also playing a small but significant role in providing Palestinian entrepreneurs with a space that encourages growth and networking. It aims to provide the small Palestinian startup community with a coworking space, mentorships, workshops and more.

Speaking about the Mubadarati project, Silatech CEO Tarik Yousef said, “Through this partnership, Silatech and UNRWA will help unlock opportunities for young Palestinian entrepreneurs to finance their own businesses, develop their entrepreneurial skills, and create new employment opportunities both for themselves and others.”

Peter Ford, Representative of the Commissioner-General of UNRWA added, “This initiative responds to the desire and demand of youth throughout the region to end their exclusion. Both UNRWA and Silatech are committed to policies of economic empowerment and financial inclusion that will enable Palestinian youth to play their full economic and social role in the societies in which they live and work.”

Update: Bazinga is no longer operational. 

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