February 26, 2024

Driving Innovation in MENA: Highlights from the 2nd Regional Stakeholders Event

The Second Regional Stakeholders Event, held on February 20th and 21st, 2024 in Tunis, was a pivotal step in fostering regional collaboration on entrepreneurship and innovation policies in the MENA region. This event, the second edition under the EU-funded ‘From Innovation to Creation’ programme, brought together key players from startup and innovation ecosystems to promote best practices and support startup growth.

Taking place at the Acropole Hotel in Tunis, the Second Regional Stakeholders Event convened approximately 100 attendees, including SPARK’s partner organisations from the startup and innovation ecosystems of Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Tunisia. Over two days, participants engaged in insightful discussions, attended workshops focused on best practices in startup policies, and leveraged networking opportunities to foster collaboration and growth.

“There is too much unemployment among youth in our regions. And small and medium sized businesses are failing to grow due to traditional operations and limited financial resources. The SMEs, representing the majority of all enterprises, in fact of the whole workforce, are crucial job creators contributing to innovation, growth and stability in our regions. That’s why we are here.” said Simon van Melick, CEO of Stichting SPARK, during his keynote address.

Keynote speeches were also given by representatives from the Smart Tunisian Technoparks, the European Union Delegation to Tunisia and IACE. They emphasized their support for this distinctive initiative, which bring together diverse stakeholders from ecosystems to complement ongoing governmental and international efforts.

Simon van Melick, Stichting SPARK
Vladimir Rojanski, EU Delegation to Tunisia
Sofien Hmissi, Smart Tunisian Technoparks
Majdi Hassen, IACE

The day was filled with engaging panel discussions covering topics such as innovation policy implementation on regional and national levels, supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in underserved areas, and exploring trade opportunities for highly innovative startups.

Key insights from panel discussions included:

  • Tunisia’s legislative framework for startup development in Africa, emphasising the Startup Act and collaborative ecosystems.
  • Challenges faced by startups, including gaps in support, scarcity of venture capital funding, and currency-related obstacles.
  • Strategies for supporting entrepreneurship in underserved areas, such as education in entrepreneurship, regional initiatives, and empowerment through mentorship and networks.
  • Opportunities and challenges in accessing international markets for startups, including the importance of regulatory alignment and collaboration between governments and startups.
Panel Discussion: Innovation Policy Implementation on Regional & National Levels
Panel Discussion: From the (Inter)National to the Local - Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Underserved Areas
Panel Discussion: Trade Opportunities and Market Access for Highly Innovative Startups
Startups supported under 'From Innovation to Creation' programme presented their challenges and ideas for startup growth

The second day focused on interactive workshops and presentations aimed at formulating policies, sharing best practices, and pitching policy suggestions developed during the workshops.

Participants engaged in policy formulation workshops, identifying major challenges within their innovation ecosystems and developing policy suggestions to address them. Best practices workshops showcased exemplary initiatives in the MENA region and EU zone and policies in innovation and startup support, emphasising collaboration, adaptive initiatives, and problem-solving approaches.

Policy pitching sessions provided an opportunity for working groups to present their policy suggestions, fostering feedback, discussion, and potential refinement of proposed policies.

The second day featured best practice workshops in startup policies
Partner organisations formulated policy suggestions to improve the legal framework in their respective countries

The Second Regional Stakeholders Event served as a dynamic platform for stakeholders to exchange ideas, collaborate on policy initiatives, and lay the groundwork for fostering innovation-driven growth in the region. By bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise, the event contributed to strengthening the innovation ecosystems of Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Tunisia, paving the way for future collaboration and impact in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation.