Entrepreneurs in Gaza are being empowered with real business connections to Microsoft enterprise clients to start their own software consultancies. Microsoft under the 4Afrika Initiative has collaborated with Mercy Corps’ startup accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks, to run the Gaza Business Lab, and give software engineers and product managers the technical and business skills and networks to launch their own self-sustainable businesses.
According to reports, the Gaza Strip is a difficult environment for sustainable development. 80% of the population are dependent on assistance and around 50% unemployed. However, over 99% of the population is literate and the number of women gaining higher education is the same or higher than their male counterparts. As a result, international investors began investing in Gazan startups in late 2013 and are currently closing a second round of investments. Microsoft has joined to bring its strengths to the table.
“Microsoft and Mercy Corps share the passion of growing developer talent and launching successful technology businesses that create real opportunities for Gazans,” says Leila Serhan, General Manager of Microsoft NEPA. “Through this program, we hope to achieve a deep and sustained impact on the lives of entrepreneurs, preparing them to be regionally and globally competitive.”
As part of the program, Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks is managing the selection and training of the developers and product manager, as well as the product definition and relationship with the enterprise clients for whom the Gaza team is building software. Microsoft is supporting the project financially and technically. This includes:
- Providing stipends to the developer team in Gaza
- Connecting the developer team in Gaza to a real Microsoft enterprise client who has a need for a specific product
- Providing access to its technologies and expertise
- Connecting each Gazan team member to a remote mentor
- Bringing Microsoft volunteers to Gaza through the MySkills4Afrika program
The program also aims to maintain 33% women participation to promote diversity and inclusion.
“By empowering women to do more and be more, we are enhancing their productivity and competitiveness,” adds Serhan. “This in turn leads to a larger and more sustainable impact being made on communities, which accelerates the region’s overall economic growth. We launched the Cloud Startup Academy in Morocco in 2014 with a similar vision in mind.”
Speaking on the collaboration with Microsoft, Iliana Montauk, the director of Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks adds: “Gazans are skilled, passionate, and dreaming to take part in the global tech movement. We and are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Microsoft to bring the company’s unique value to our ongoing effort to help Gazans develop critical business and technology skills.”
To learn more about the Gaza Sky Geeks program, visit: http://www.gazaskygeeks.com/