Endeavor Jordan and Strategy& Middle East (formerly Booz & Company), part of the PwC network held a joint event on Sunday, July 8, at the Sheraton Amman, on the problems of scaling up small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. There was a specific focus on Jordan, with a discussion about how to build a supportive entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem.
Walid Tahabsem, Endeavor Jordan’s chairman welcomed guests by saying: “With this presentation and discussion we hope to kick-start a national dialogue on the importance of accelerating the growth of scale-ups, which create quality jobs and generate high wages, and thus contribute to sustainable economic growth.”
The event started with a joint presentation by Alice Klat, Director of the Ideation Center, the leading think tank for Strategy& Middle East, and Melissa Rizk, Fellow with the Ideation Center, on the entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem across the region, and the challenges involved in scaling up.
Klat said: “The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region has vastly improved over the last 15 years, with governments in the MENA region increasing their focus on entrepreneurship programs and policies. Yet the ecosystem for scale-ups, which are SMEs with the potential to create a highest economic impact, has not developed. In particular, Jordanian scale-ups need access to customers, markets, and finance, along with a more predictable regulatory environment.”
The presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Endeavor Jordan’s Managing Director, Reem Goussous. The panel featured H.E. Dr. Mohamed al-Jafari, Director General of the Jordan Loan Guarantee Corporation; Nashat Masri, Founder, and Partner of Foursan Group; Nadim Kayyali, Partner, Sanad Law Group in Association with Eversheds Sutherland; and Endeavor entrepreneurs Yousef Shamoun, co-founder & CEO of ZenHR Solutions, the holding company of Akhtaboot, and Yousef Wadi, Founder of Nestrom.
The panel discussed the main external challenges facing scale-ups such as the future of access to finance in Jordan; the regulatory and legislative changes needed to make it easier for companies to start, operate, and then scale up. It also examined the problems of accessing talent at all levels, and the expenses related to hiring and firing employees, along with internal challenges for scale-ups such as governance, managing finances, and human resources.
The panel identified the importance of having a “champion” that would take the lead in supporting the growth of scale-ups in Jordan, and the significance of public-private partnership to advocate for this agenda.
The session was attended by representatives of the government, donors, international organizations active in supporting SMEs, and a number of investors and sectoral institutions, entrepreneurs and key players in the entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem in Jordan.