Gaza’s entrepreneurs are rebuilding after 10 days of war
AbdelRahman Awad, founder of Clever Toys, stands among the rubble of his office building © 20/5/21, AbdelRahman Awad
Scenes of devastation and mounting deaths in Gaza and elsewhere have rocked the world. With a ceasefire now agreed, the death toll can be counted and the deceased buried.
Yet only now are Gazan entrepreneurs assessing the true damage of these attacks. The destruction of homes, offices, infrastructure and transport have devastating long-term and far-reaching consequences. With every startup, business and university destroyed, jobs, dreams and economic growth are lost. Yet the determination of entrepreneurs remains and they are ready to rebuild.
“In 10 days of bombing, Gaza has been brought back by 10 years.”
Business Development Manager at SPARK, and born and raised Gazan, Mohammed Skaik, said: “In 10 days of bombing, Gaza has been brought back by 10 years.” SPARK has been supporting entrepreneurs in the occupied Palestinian Territories since 2006 and in 2015 we joined forces with Al Fakhoora, a programme by Education Above All, to provide higher education scholarships for Palestinian youth. The latest attacks are obliterating decades of hard work, investment and job opportunities that have been built by young entrepreneurs.
Mohammed Abu Matar is a specialist in digital manufacturing and 3D printing. Despite the Israeli blockade making it difficult for Abu Matar to obtain materials and parts, he created his first printer in 2015, and co-founded Tashkeel3D. Recently, he has been cooperating with the Ministry of Health in Gaza to provide the struggling healthcare system with much needed equipment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company had also produced a tourniquet that is used by ambulance and emergency crews to prevent severe bleeding – a common cause of death in Gaza due to violence between Israel and Palestine.
Overnight, Abu Matar’s company and equipment were destroyed by shelling. With it, the jobs of many people employed by the company, huge financial investments lost and the vital goods they were producing. Also lost is the future potential for the company to grow to support more people with much-needed employment.
Similarly, AbdelRahman Awad, founder of Clever Toys, announced in a devastating Facebook post that the building where he developed, manufactured and stored his interactive, educational toys for children had been completely destroyed, and the jobs of five employees lost.
AbdelRahman said: “I began my entrepreneurial journey at the age of 20, and I’ve encountered many challenges and setbacks that have made me stronger each time…I received the news that Kahil’s building had been bombed and levelled with the ground, the building in which there is the effort of the years that I put in my Startup Clever Toys, which was born like a dream. I’ve always wanted to make a difference in society through it, as we create interactive educational toys for children in besieged Gaza using basic equipment. Can you imagine investing all of your energy and time over the past several years and having it all vanish in a single second?”
“This is not the first obstacle in my life. I will return much stronger.”
Gazans have not lost their hope and are harrowingly used to rebuilding their lives after this kind of destruction. AbdelRahman, founder of Clever Toys, said: “Tools and equipment have been destroyed, but the mind will continue to build, and the light will not be extinguished, because this is not the first obstacle in my life. This is my will and my dream to build my future, and I will return much stronger.”
Looking beyond the need for urgent aid and humanitarian assistance in the region, SPARK and the Sheikh Abdullah Al Nouri Charity Society are launching support for youth and entrepreneurs in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to help them rebuild their companies after this crisis ends. Basel Qandeel, Director of the Business and Technology Incubator (BTI) in Gaza, a local partner of SPARK, said: “As BTI, what we will do is to provide a working space for them [entrepreneurs] after the attack is ended, then we will try to communicate with donors and partners to seek a possibility of reconstructing and supporting those startups.”
Protests and demonstrations have taken place from Sydney to Kashmir, and #GazaUnderAttack has been trending across social media. The international community is ready to help, and SPARK is calling on all its supporters to contribute to the long-term rebuilding efforts, such as the reconstruction of businesses for the sake of thousands of future jobs for youth.