December 13, 2023

Destruction of Palestinian business ecosystem: Voices of entrepreneurs

On the 94th day of the war in Gaza, SPARK’s local partners and entrepreneurs share how the continued humanitarian disaster is crippling the resilience of the Palestinian entrepreneurial ecosystems, dashing hopes of a quick recovery after the war. 

Since 1948, Palestinians have experienced a series of wars and violent conflict, which have shaped the geographical and demographic landscape of the region, leaving no aspect of daily life untouched. 

With the ignition of the current war on October 7th, 2023, the devastating humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories is also decimating the entrepreneurial ecosystem, crippling the resilience of the population and dashing hopes for quick recovery after the war.

Suppressed development and near-blockade
The historic restrictions and suppressed development in the West Bank and the near-blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007 have led the Palestinian economy to operate well below its potential. Despite these significant obstacles to private sector development, growth and stability, the region has been home to a burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem that has, over time, created significant social dividends at the core of the Palestinian resilience. 

There are many active and successful interventions improving young people’s employability and technical skills through higher education, private sector companies and NGOs that stimulate startups and support them to access global markets, and innovative solutions within the digital technology, agriculture, freelancing and remote work sectors.

Right now, entrepreneurs and young individuals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are grappling with profound loss, emotional distress and fear amidst the ongoing escalations. Some of SPARK’s local partners and affected entrepreneurs have shared their perspectives on the present situation:

Voices of SPARK’s Palestinian partners and entrepreneurs
Rateb H. Rabi, Chief Executive Officer at Intersect Innovation Hub, a local partner of SPARK, said: “The tale of Palestine is one of more than just survival, it is a tale of resilience, innovation, and hope. As we bear witness to the strength and determination of Palestinian talents, it becomes a collective responsibility to ensure that their potential is not buried beneath the rubble of war. It’s a call to action, urging the world to extend a helping hand and empower these individuals to rebuild what the occupation has unjustly destroyed by investing in hope and resilience.”

Salah Al-Sadi, a Gazan entrepreneur, who has received support from SPARK to grow his enterprise. When the war began, he was in the United States for training, he shared his thoughts about the situation: “What we’ve built no longer matters; our priority is to preserve our lives and our families.” He emphasised the need for an immediate ceasefire. “I’ve been unable to contact my family for weeks due to the internet outage. This must end. We are human and deserve the world’s recognition of our right to live and move freely, like everyone else.”

One of SPARK’s local partners in Palestine, Majd Khalifeh, Co-Founder and CEO of Flow Accelerator, said: “As organisations and individuals, it is our responsibility to amplify the entrepreneurs’ stories, offer support within our means, and acknowledge the complexities they face. The entrepreneurs are currently in a phase of recalibration, assessing personal and professional priorities in the wake of the crisis. While the journey ahead is uncertain, their resilience signals a commitment to rise again. It is crucial that we stand beside them, offering support to rebuild, grow, and contribute to the collective strength of Gaza.”

Raya Fatayer and Mohammad Alnobani, the visionaries behind The Middle Frame in the West Bank, said: “With the ongoing war in Gaza, it’s hard for us to continue working. We are mentally and emotionally there with our friends and our nation. On the other hand, we need to confront the difficulties. We started advocating for our partners in Gaza, leveraging social media and media platforms to shed light on the current plight faced by entrepreneurs, amplifying their voices amid adversity.”

On the 94th day of the devastating war in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian youth find themselves navigating the harsh reality of survival. In the face of adversity, the stories of Palestinian entrepreneurs and business ecosystem supporters emerge as powerful symbols. SPARK continues to advocate for a permanent humanitarian ceasefire and we hope to soon support the reconstruction efforts necessary to support Palestinian civilians in rebuilding their lives, businesses and economy. 

In a mournful turn of events, we bear the unfortunate news that casts a shadow on the entrepreneurial community we’ve been spotlighting. SPARK is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Mahmoud Abu Shawish, the young co-founder of Torood and Mohsen Ahmed, the Co-Founder vermi land. Their loss is a stark reminder of the harsh reality daunting our participants and partners alike in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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