Can the MENA region create another Silicon Valley?

In the Frost & Sullivan backed report on the ‘Role of Entrepreneurship and SME Enterprises in Development of the ICT Industry’, it comes out strongly that startups are the way to go.

According to the report, start-ups in the MENA “Middle East and North Africa”, region have grown eight-fold since 2005 with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) attracting 17% of the new enterprises.

In another area which was found to be interesting is that the report also mentions that currently there are over 55 VC firms investing in the MENA.

The population of the MENA region at its least extent is about 381 million people, about 6% of the total world population Bahrain – 1,235,000, Egypt – 79,090,000, Iran – 76,923,000, Iraq – 31,234,000, Israel – 7,654,000, Jordan – 6,407,000, Kuwait – 3,566,000, Lebanon – 4,224,000, Libya – 6,420,000, Morocco – 32,200,000, Oman – 2,845,000, Gaza Strip – 1,657,000, West Bank – 2,515,000, Qatar – 1,697,000, Saudi Arabia – 27,137,000, Syria – 22,505,000, Tunisia – 10,433,000, UAE – 4,976,000, Yemen – 23,580,000</ref> At its greatest extent, its population is roughly 523 million.

Also, the MENA region has vast reserves of petroleum and natural gas that make it a vital source of global economic stability. According to the Oil and Gas Journal (January 1, 2009), the MENA region has 60% of the world’s oil reserves (810.98 billion barrels (128.936 km3)) and 45% of the world’s natural gas reserves ( 2,868,886 billion cubic feet (81,237.8 km3)

As of 2011, 8 of the 12 OPEC nations are within the MENA region.

And a fund capital of $455 million has been put into circulation in 2010 by US-based Overseas Private Investment Corporation towards investing in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies.

It is now expected that by 2015, there will be close to 900 start-ups in the MENA region compared to a humble figure of below 50 in 2005.

A question that needs an answer is that of: Can the region create another Silicon Valley?

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