Accelerating Arab youth ecopreneurship

Aspiring Arab entrepreneurs take part in a bootcamp to find sustainable solutions for reducing domestic carbon footprints.

More than 150 aspiring entrepreneurs from 15 Arab countries took part in an eco-bootcamp to come up with new business ideas to help counter the effects of climate change and reduce the carbon footprint of everyday activities.

An initiative of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation (AGF), one of the UAE’s leading philanthropic entities, and the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), the Eco-Preneurship Programme launched in September 2023 ahead of Dubai hosting COP28.

In October, more than two dozen youth teams took part in a 10-day bootcamp hosted by Expo City Dubai in the Terra Sustainability Pavilion. Five teams, two thirds of which were Emirati nationals and female, were selected to move on to the next pre-accelerator phase, where each team received a grant of Dhs 25,000 (US$6,800).

Now, they will be given an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of senior officials, experts, and potential investors at the upcoming COP28 conference.

Of the five who pitch at COP28, three will be chosen for a final stage of incubation and each will receive an additional Dhs 50,000 (US$13,615) to develop their businesses.

“Innovation thrives when it meets purpose – and through the Eco-preneurship Programme, we're forging purposeful innovation that will shape our global future,” said Najla Al-Midfa, CEO of Sheraa.

“Through our exciting partnership with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, and by combining entrepreneurship with eco-consciousness, we're nurturing start-ups as well as cultivating a movement that addresses the most pressing challenges of our time,” she added.

“Our commitment is unwavering: to empower the next generation to devise and roll out sustainable solutions.”

Sonia Ben Jaafar, CEO of Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation.

Nesma Farahat, AGF’s head of programmes, told Philanthropy Age that the idea for the programme had come after an invitation to partner with the UAE’s Ministry of Education on their Greening Education Initiative. The aim was to leverage local philanthropy to promote the integration of eco-friendly communities and equip future generations with the necessary tools to tackle climate-related challenges.

“We don't view this as a project that ends at COP28 but really kind of an investment in the community,” explained Farahat. “We hope to see the legacy of this programme for years to come – through these successful businesses.”

“Today's entrepreneurial landscape is rapidly evolving, prompting us at the foundation to craft bespoke solutions,” explained Sonia Ben Jaafar, CEO of AGF, which has provided a total of grants totalling Dhs 275,000 (around $75k) for the programme.

“We're forging green alliances … to bolster our innovative endeavours, she added. “Our commitment is unwavering: to empower the next generation to devise and roll out sustainable solutions. Sheraa is equipping these budding eco-preneurs with the business savvy and market connections required to deliver the balanced solutions our world urgently needs.” - PA

The five finalists were:

  • Waste Busters proposed a gaming app that aims to reduce household food waste.
  • AIN plans to launch a startup to provide intelligent solar-powered irrigation systems with the aim of transforming traditional agricultural practices.
  • ECOSAT came up with an innovative and cost-effective approach to leverage AI technology to monitor air pollution.
  • Team Falaj, an all-female team, aims to champion sustainable farming practices for greener landscapes.
  • Golden Roots wants to create a startup to revolutionise agriculture by cultivating Jojoba oil plants, which help local farms enhance soil fertility and hopefully drive economic diversification in the region.