UNWTO launches startup competition for women entrepreneurs

Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - UNWTO has launched a new Startup Competition to support women tourism tech entrepreneurs and innovators across the Middle East.Announced at Biban 2023, Saudi Arabia’s largest SME conference, the Women in Tech Startup Competition: Middle East, will further advance UNWTO’s work to make tourism a pillar of women’s empowerment. The initiative gives innovators the chance to compete for enhanced capacity building and visibility. Finalists in each category will join the UNWTO Innovation Network, giving them access to the UNWTO Member States network, mentorship programs and to UNWTO scholarship opportunities.UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, says: “Tourism startups have the power and agility to transform the sector in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Tourism startups are also leading the way in advancing women empowerment, in the Middle East and globally, and UNWTO is delighted to support the region’s best innovators and digital entrepreneurs.”Who can apply?Startups must be led, owned or managed by women residing in any of the following countries: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.Idea Stage, Early Stage or Series A startups with a minimum viable product or idea that is ready to be developed and funded.Have a full-time team, a tested pilot and business plan.Be scalable with potential for international growth.Startups must also belong to at least one of the following categories:Social Impact: For startups that focus on technology in wellness, health, urban development, rural development, sustainability, and education with cross-cutting benefits with tourism.Tourism and Travel Experience: Startups focusing on the food and beverage, transportation and accommodation, travel, and retail industries to participate.Future Tech: Startups that leverage fintech, AI, AR/VR, cryptocurrency, Internet of Things, blockchain technology, digital twinning and the Metaverse.Events and Community: Startups focused on social and messaging platforms, e-sports and gaming platforms, community-based applications, events-related platforms, and education technology.Applications close at the end of July 2023 and the winners will be announced at the Tourism Tech Adventure (TTA), to be held on World Tourism Day (27 September Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).Startups can apply at: UNWTO Women in Tech Startup Competition: Middle EastUNWTO and InnovationSince 2018, UNWTO’s IEI department has launched more than 21 startup competitions and innovation challenges, covering over 150 countries around the world. With over 10,000 participants and more than US$214 million in funding, UNWTO continues its efforts to support digitalization and innovation in line with the global entrepreneurship ecosystem. Tourism has the opportunity to improve inclusiveness, local community development, and resource efficiency by leveraging innovation and digital advancements.

Saudi Arabia makes major leap forward in women’s entrepreneurship

Saudi Arabia: There are many more women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia today than there were six years ago, according to the Prince Mohammed Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship (MBSC).According to Dr. Muhammad Azam Roomi, who spoke at the Fifth Gulf Businesswomen Forum in Jeddah, women across Saudi Arabia have become major contributors to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, placing the Kingdom fourth among the top countries in entrepreneurship.Held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Emir of Makkah, the forum was organized by the Federation of the Gulf Cooperation Council Chambers (FGCCC), the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC), and the Jeddah Chamber. More than 500 GCC and Arab dignitaries attended the forum, titled Gulf Women: Between Empowerment and Leadership.In a session titled Women’s Entrepreneurship Development in Saudi Arabia: The Results of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2016-2022), Prof. Roomi, who teaches entrepreneurship at MBSC and heads the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s team in Saudi Arabia, went over the GEM’s 2020-2021 report, which was released by the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha'at) and MBSC. The report covers the Kingdom’s new policies towards women, including their right to full business enterprise ownership.The Kingdom has come a long way in its mission to increase women’s national workforce representation, said Dr. Roomi, who has been writing the annual report since 2017. Thanks to bold initiatives that have created more employment opportunities for women, provided them with new funding avenues, and facilitated a number of new networking events, women’s representation had risen from 22 percent in 2019 to 31 percent in 2021.Dr. Roomi attributed the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial boom to the government’s awareness programs that have motivated more women to start businesses than ever before. Networking events such as the Biban forum have helped women from across the country showcase their business acumen. They have also found a great amount of support from various exhibitions and performance-based awards. The GEM report, he added, contains ample evidence to support the positive impact that these initiatives have had. It helps build a greater understanding of the traits and attributes of women’s entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, functioning as a study of effective policymaking and socioeconomic program design.The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor relies on 13 indicators to assess entrepreneurship in a given country, including that country’s financial environment, legislative priorities, bureaucracy and taxation in government legislation, the level and quality of government programs for entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurship across educational levels.The Gulf Businesswomen Forum is an international platform through which entrepreneurial women from GCC countries can express their aspirations, show off their plans to grow and expand their enterprises to become significant contributors to economic growth, and showcase their entrepreneurial and innovative achievements. It also aims to identity hurdles that may hinder entrepreneurial women’s quest to succeed, highlight investment opportunities in and for entrepreneurial enterprises, and showcase the success stories of GCC women.