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The World Bank is organizing a women risk management start-up competition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This competition is a public-private partnership between the World Bank, the IFC, MIT Enterprise Forum, IE Business School, Johnson and Johnson, Arab Urban Development Institute, the MENA Early Stage Investment Facility (ESIF) and Smart Data Science to promote the creation of risk management start-ups led by women. While the seed-funding to organize the competition is provided by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), investment funds and venture capitalists are financing the establishment of the start-ups and their mentoring during the initial years of operations. The ongoing pilot phase of the competition will target 3 high-risk cities in MENA, whereas the second phase, which will be launched in the second half of 2015, will target up to 100 cities globally.
While the absolute number of disasters around the world has almost doubled since the 1980s, they have almost tripled in MENA. Over the past 30 years, climate-related disasters have affected 50 million people in the region and cost approximately US$11.5 billion. The high concentration of MENA’s population and assets in urban areas makes disasters’ impact even more devastating. The region is approximately 62 percent urbanized, and its urban population is expected to double over the next 3 decades.
Evidence shows that in societies where economic and social rights are equal for both men and women, disaster-related fatalities between both sexes do not differ significantly. Contrarily, when women’s rights and socio-economic status are inferior to men’s, more women tend to die in adverse natural events. Despite progress towards gender parity in education and health, only 25 percent of women participate in the labor market and 40 percent are unemployed in MENA. Women face limited self-employment opportunities and more jobs are needed in the private sector to absorb the growing number of female jobseekers. By creating start-ups in risk management, women can address the risks they face in their everyday lives, while contributing to urban resilience and creating jobs and economic opportunities.
Women-led teams from the participating cities will submit start-up ideas proposing potential business solutions to urban risks. The short-listed start-up candidates will receive training and mentorship by IE and will attend the “Grand Finale” taking place in Marseille in the second half of 2015, where they will connect with international venture capitalists and business incubators that will help them refine their business ideas. At the end of the “Grand Finale”, a selection committee comprising the above-mentioned partners will choose the 3 winning teams that will receive funding and additional training and mentoring. ESIF will finance the mentoring and will provide equity investment alongside private investors for businesses with growth potential that need financing at the pre-venture capital stage.
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Please contact Andrea Zanon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (+1)202-340-3414 if your organization is interested in joining. Discussions are ongoing with several international corporations, including the above, Hudson Analytics, and other venture capitalists that want to support or invest in this entrepreneurship program.