As countries from Spain to South Africa continue to reel from high youth unemployment, growing numbers of young people are taking a different route to the workplace: They're creating their own jobs by starting new companies. In the short term, the aspiring entrepreneurs gain experience; in the long run, these new businesses will ideally create more jobs in local markets.
Nowhere is the potential for start-ups more crucial than in the Middle East: In the ILO’s annual Global Employment Trends For Youth report, released last month, the region was singled out as having the world’s highest youth jobless rate--at close to 30 percent.
As a result, efforts to boost entrepreneurship have kicked into high gear, and Souktel has played a key role in the process--linking young entrepreneurs with advice and resources via mobile phone, and mentoring tech start-ups from Palestine to the UAE.
Recently, team members Mohammad Kilany and Uqba Owda traveled to Nablus, in the northern part of Palestine’s West Bank, for their second stint as coaches in the popular global event Startup Weekend. Organized by the Google Development Group at a local university and sponsored by Google, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and others, the event saw more than 150 participants pitching dozens of entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of judges. These were then narrowed down to the top 17, at which point everyone assembled into teams and took their best shot at presenting a coherent business plan.
Kilany and Owda worked closely with all 17 groups, advising them on marketing strategies, business models and other startup hurdles. In the end, first prize went to Bi-Basata, an e-learning platform for students in Palestine struggling with their final-year high school exam prep.
"As a young tech startup ourselves, Souktel is always looking for new opportunities to help entrepreneurs in Palestine," said Kilany. "We believe they are a great source of jobs for local youth, and the key to improving our economic situation". He added: "It was a huge responsibility to mentor these teams and help them achieve their dreams, but it was incredibly rewarding."
Owda agreed: “I was impressed by the quality of the ideas coming from these motivated young people: They want to build their future through innovation. As part of our responsibility to strengthen the employment sector in Palestine, Souktel is always eager to play a role in these events”.