25 Jul

Entrepreneurship in Palestine…challenges and prospects

Students competingIn the recent years, because of   the growing political crisis in Palestine, livelihood deterioration, high rates in poverty (West Bank 21.3%, Gaza Strip 37.6%) and the low involvement in nascent businesses (3%), Palestine has not undergone any substantial improvements in entrepreneurship, shows the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). In other words, the Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rate until 2013 is around 10% which cannot help in driving the economy factors in the area. On the other hand, and according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate has been increasing to reach 20.3% in the west bank and 31% in Gaza reported in 2013. Moreover, the report shows that the highest unemployment rate was 41.1% among youth aged 20-24 years.The statistics above necessitate the need to spot the light on three points: 1) the role of education and mentorship in promoting entrepreneurship. 2) The available programs and initiatives that support the small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). 3) The prospects of the entrepreneurship in Palestine to contribute to the GDP. The current education system, –especially the primary and the secondary levels requires a fundamental shift toward providing the practical skills needed to dive into the private sector. The basic skills that could reform the education system to effectively produce successful entrepreneurs are –for example: business how-to-think skills, marketing strategies, project management and financial management in a learning situation based teaching platform. In addition, the universities are invited to design entrepreneurial-focused curricula to empower the culture of entrepreneurship and provide entrepreneurs with sharp skills needed to sustain their business ventures.

As a result, some Palestinian universities such as the Islamic University, Palestine Polytechnic University, Bethlehem University and recently Palestine Al Ahliya University started to introduce entrepreneurship as a credited course to its students.

Not less important than education, the mentorship and guidance are needed to turn the interesting ideas of the young entrepreneurs (e.g., talented students) into profitable and competitive business. The mentorship provides the thoughtful guidance, confidence promotion, and training on how to develop robust thriving business enterprises.

In the past few years, there has been an ongoing trend to initiate programs promoting the entrepreneurship and the incubation culture. For example, Intel Business Plan Contest, the Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition, the NEKITE, PICTI which initiated enormous programs such as (Intilaq, world summit mobile award, Palestine Innovation Initiative, Teamstart…etc). Furthermore, there have been several entrepreneurial activities and initiatives by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), microfinance institutions and some excellence centers at Palestinian universities (e.g., Said Khoury IT Center of Excellence at Al Quds University).  According to [2], in 2012 the Palestinian economy grew 6% despite of the political challenges thanks to the existence of such programs and ICT projects in particular.

Focus groupIn order to accelerate the entrepreneurial movement in Palestine, a healthy and thriving ecosystem must be nationally established and sustained. The ecosystem is expected to encompass all the elements the entrepreneurs need such as: personal enablers, business enablers, incubators, mentorship advisory system, financial enablers and environmental enablers. To achieve such a healthy ecosystem, some recommendations are presented:

  • Entrepreneurs need to be motivated and inspired as almost of them are deterred by the risks and threats associated with failing in their enterprises and this can be realized by a professional mentorship and success stories promotion.
  • Increase the number of incubators and accelerators: in Palestine because there are just 4 accelerators, namely a) EFE West Bank/Gaza b) Palestine Information and Communication Technology Incubator (PICTI) c) Young Entrepreneurs of Palestine (YEP) d) Palestine Investment Promotion Agency.
  • The Palestinian Authority and the private sector have to invest heavily in promoting the entrepreneurial culture in education by establishing a healthy platform in research and curriculum design.
  • Increase the number of entrepreneurship competitions and contests.
  • Promote the mobility schemes for more knowledge exchange and experience outsourcing between universities and entrepreneurship programs despite of the current political situation.

It takes courage in any country to be entrepreneur and innovative,  in Palestine may take more. By focusing on establishing a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, professional mentorship, entrepreneurship oriented education, and capital financing, many sustained achievements will take place and help improve the Palestinian economy toward an increasing GDP and deceasing unemployment rates.

Haitham Hijazi
Head of the computer center
Palestine Al Ahliya University College (PAUC)

 

 

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