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Female founders from the Arab region will be at 4YFN 2022

We are very pleased to announce that 8 of the female founders who took part in the Women Innovators Programme, in partnership with the UNDP, will be with us at 4YFN 2022. Below we tell you more about the programme and the activities planned at the event.

Joining forces to drive the social impact agenda

In 2021, in partnership with UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), we launched the “Women Innovators Programme In the Arab Region” – a mentorship programme aiming to benefit female entrepreneurs in the Arab region working to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

During the programme 35 experts from our network mentored 21 entrepreneurs leading digital startups working in areas such as education, digital health, cultural heritage, talent and more.

Our expert mentors included experience entreprenerus, as well as representatives of companies like Telefonica, Typeform and Hotjar, and investment firms like Adara ventures, Mundi Ventures, Draper B1, and EAE Invierte. International platforms such as Techstars and Women’s startup lab have also supported the programme.

Over the course of 6 weeks the founders received more than 200 hours of remote-mentoring, touching upon different business aspect such as business planning, pricing, commercial strategies, growth, recruitment, marketing and more, as well as technical issues.

Demo-day pitching: the programme’s culminating moment

The peak of the 2021 programme was the final Demo-day where 15 investors from European and Arab countries acted as remote jury in 3 pitching sessions, providing the entrepreneurs valuable feedback and advice.

John Hoffman, CEO GSMA Ltd and Dr. Khalida Bouzar, Assistant Secretary General, Regional Director, Bureau of Arab States, UNDP, both spoked at the openning address of the session stressing the importance of promoting women entrepreneurs from the Arab States.

Today I’ve been presented with a remarkable amount of projects that match what I regard as the dream of an investor come true

Paloma Cabello, investor

The investors, sitting in 3 jury panels, were especially impressed with the quality of the projects presented and the tremendous potential of the founders:

“I am absolutely stunneed by the quality of the startups led by this amazing group of Women Innovators in the Arab Region.” Posted investor Paloma Cabello via LinkedIn, after being part of the Demo day jury. “Today I’ve been presented with a remarkable amount of projects that match what I regard as the dream of an investor come true: Sound markets, well-designed business models tackling real needs, good traction at present and trustable perspective to see increase at investable level, cash-caring incredibly committed teams and, above all things, an energy quality second to none.”

Founders and mentors share their impressions

The programme matched founders with mentors based on skills, interests and experience. To help make the engagement more productive, the founders were asked to share the main challenges their businesses were facing at the time. The mentors then planned the mentoring around those challenges, aiming at exploring them further and discussing the different strategies to face them.

Albert Forn, mSchools Director at the GSMA, served as a mentor for some of the founders working in the field of education technologies. Albert has nothing but good memories from his interactions with the founders: “The most amazing thing about my contribution as a mentor to the UNDP programme was being able to experience the passion and talent of the young entrepreneurs, their commitment to their projects, their drive in the face of any adversity and the feeling that any of them could succeed.”

“Participating in the programme was a life-changing experience on a personal, professional and entrepreneurial level”, said Aya Yousef, who was mentored by Albert. Aya, an Edtech entrepreneur from Lebanon, is part of the founding team of online studend hub “Allread”, aiming to transform the higher education ecosystem in Lebanon and improve its accessibility.

More founders shared feedback about their time at the programme, speaking about its importance and transformative effect:

“I had one-on-one sessions with my mentors, which allowed me to gain insight into how to shape the Somali Storytellers and explore my role as a CEO. ” said Zahra Abdihagi Mahamed, Executive Director of the Somali Storytellers, the first film-making company after the Somali civil war to teach digital storytelling and filmmaking. Zahra adds: “I learned that the story behind every business is what matters the most, especially when you are pitching to investors. We were able to complete our first two projects with the knowledge obtained through the programme. The overall experience was amazing and I’m grateful to have been among the selected participants.”

It has been an enriching experience where I’ve gained valuable knowledge and insights, and where I got to know incredible female leaders and changemakers.

Selma Taherti, programme mentee and Founder at Green Sewing

Selma Taherti, founder of Green Sewing “I am glad and proud to have taken part in the UNDP-4YFN Women Innovators Programme along with 21 other women leaders from the Arab States, with an international panel of mentors and investors. It has been an enriching experience where I’ve gained valuable knowledge and insights, and where I got to know incredible female leaders and changemakers.” Green Sewing is an Algerian startup that upcycles advertisement posters into unique and eco-friendly products which was at the time looking to overcome growth obstacles: “During the programme, my mentors and I focused on marketing strategies and how to attract and get in touch with new clients, and to present the added value that my startup Green Sewing is going to provide for them. Their knowledge and expertise helped me update my business plan.”

Meet the founders from the Women Innovators Programme at 4YFN 2022!

Thanks to the support of the UNDP, 8 of the founders who took part in the programme will be in Barcelona for MWC/4YFN 2022. The founders will be accompanied by representative of the different teams of the UNDP in the Arab region who supported this programme and will be arriving from countries including Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, Somalia and Sudan.

We are beyond excited to welcome in-person these 8 inspirational female founders and are humbled to be part of their journey to making the world a better place:

  • Martine Zaarour (Lebanon), Jar Thouraya
  • Zahra Abdihagi Mahamed (Somalia), Somali Storytellers
  • Aida Kandil (Morocco), MyTindy
  • Hawra Milani, Iraqi innovator and entrepreneur
  • Selma Taherti (Algeria), Green Sewing
  • Aya Yousef (Lebanon), edutech entrepreneur and innovator
  • Sabrina Amer Moussa (Algeria), Tyniri 
  • Dalia Yousif (Sudan), AskMe Edutech co-founder

Do not miss out on the chance to meet them and the UNDP delegation! We specifically recommend the following sessions at Hall 6:

  • Monday 28/02, 15:00-15:20, at Banco Sabadell Stage: Fireside Chat “Women, Entrepreneurship & the Digital Economy in the Arab States”. Session description.
  • Monday 28/02, 17:00-18:00 at Discovery Area Stage: Pitching session “UNDP-4YFN Women Innovators Programme in the Arab States”. Join us to hear the founders pitch their projects!  Session description.

Can’t make it on 28/02? The founders will be present for the remainder of the event. Look for them at the Impact Forest at 4YFN, Hall 6.

What’s next for the Women Innovators Programme?

Following our Feb 24 press release “GSMA and UNDP Strengthen ‘Impact Partnership’ at MWC22 Barcelona”, we can now confirm that a second edition of the Women Innovators Programme is in the making!

The UNDP offices in the Arab region are preparing to launch the outreach activities to female founders, while on the 4YFN side we are getting busy selecting the mentors to support the programme in 2022. We will share more information shortly after 4YFN 2022!

4YFN - Women Innovators Programme in the Arab Region