For two years, Reham Dibas wanted to launch a website to help students in the West Bank find dorms, but the young Palestinian didn’t know how to begin.
Dibas is well on her way with help from a network of locally run nonprofits called Education for Employment, which provides young people with the know-how to start their own businesses.
“The best thing about this program is that it showed us how to start from scratch, how to build a business plan,” Dibas said.
Entrepreneurship is flourishing in the Middle East, where nearly half the population is under 25 and youth unemployment hovers around 30 percent.
“If you can’t find a job, what are you going to do? You are going to start your own business, whether it is a little kiosk or an IT venture,” said Vincent DeSomma of AMIDEAST, another U.S.-based nonprofit that actively partners with young Arabs.
“There just isn’t enough of a public sector or an existing private sector to absorb all of these people, particularly the young people coming out of school,” he said.
Top Middle East executives surveyed by the London Business School in 2015 overwhelmingly described regional entrepreneurship growth as “steady, fast or very fast.”
But the road for entrepreneurs in the Middle East is often rocky. Among the hurdles they face is finding funds and investors to support startups.
Learning how to write an attractive business plan is key to gaining startup funds, said Ranya Saadawi of Education for Employment (EFE), the organization that is helping Dibas.
Beyond business plans, Saadawi said, EFE provides “physical kits” to entrepreneurs to launch their idea. “For mechanics, we will get them tools and help them find a place to rent out.”
An AMIDEAST program called Skills for Success provides women without university degrees the skills needed for jobs that are open in their communities.
These nonprofits also help budding small-business owners cut through bureaucracies by connecting them directly with government officials.
“Most of these people, without really knowing what a business plan is, they have already developed a business plan,” Saadawi said. “We are just giving them the terms and tools” to take the next step.