100 young entrepreneurs include social responsibility in business plans

13-08-2018

AMMAN — Some 100 young entrepreneurs have recently convened in the Dead Sea area, where they presented their innovative business ideas at the Ebtekarthon forum organised by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) in celebration of International Youth Day.

Organised for the third year in a row, the knowledge-driven marathon aimed to “provide young entrepreneurs with the opportunity to develop their projects and gain knowledge and understanding of social responsibility and entrepreneurship”, according to JOHUD ICT for Development Director Ruba Hijazi.

“There are a lot of startups competition happening in Jordan among extremely motivated and skillful young people, but we noticed that most need to have more focus on the social aspect of entrepreneurship, and the impact their businesses can make on the society”, she told The Jordan Times on Monday.

 Fadi Oweis, who won the first place for his e-platform AmwalCom, said he was “honoured” to take part in the event, which enlightened him and his co-founder Yara Zreikat on the social responsibility aspect of entrepreneurship.

“When I returned from the US where I lived with my family, we were looking to buy an apartment  and started prospecting for loans with local banks. Despite being well educated and rather knowledgeable about the sector, we found it very stressful and confusing to go from one bank to another to find a suitable loan,” he remembered.

Aware of the low financial literacy of most Jordanians and the challenges to financial inclusion, Oweis decided to launch AmwalCom (“Your Money” in Arabic), an online platform that helps citizens compare offers from banks and learn more about financial products such as credit/debit cards, loans and various types of accounts.

“Instead of having to go to each bank to learn about their interest rates and different offers, citizens can now have a look at different offers, and make informed choices with all the info in hand,” the entrepreneur told The Jordan Times over the phone, stressing the savings in terms of costs, time and efforts this allows. 

“When starting their businesses, most entrepreneurs face various difficulties related to registering processes, legal issues and funding. By bringing together young innovators and well established entrepreneurs and specialists, we enable them to network and learn from their peers and experts in the field,” Hijazi explained, noting that more than 20 motivational speakers and specialists participated in the three-day event.

She said the forum also sought to emphasise the social aspect of entrepreneurship, by helping “purely business ideas” incorporate social issues through innovative thinking and technology.

“As organisers, we were very proud to see so many talented and driven participants, and we definitely saw the shift in the final competition, where projects clearly integrated the social aspect discussed during the marathon,” the JOHUD official said, adding that over 350 applications were submitted to be part of the event.

“What really attracted us to apply to the Ebtekarthon was the social aspect of the event and the opportunity it gave us to include this added value to our project,” Oweis explained, citing the future partnerships he and his co-founder are now planning to incorporate in their social responsibility plan.

“We want to partner with NGOs and local and national parties encouraging financial inclusion, as well as working with students from Jordanian universities, as this will be a way to support the national efforts already implemented in the Kingdom towards financial inclusion,” he underscored.

For Hijazi, “events like these are essential to create and empower a generation of young entrepreneurs who are able to make an impact in their country through technological advancement and give back to their communities through their implementation.”

She said inspiring young entrepreneurs to convert their projects into social enterprises will also provide greater opportunities by reaching further into organisations looking to address social, cultural and environmental challenges, ultimately making the innovative world more accessible to our youth in the future.

From the Ebtekarthon, which was held under the patronage of HRH Princess Basma, six finalists will be proceeding for a chance to compete in the Princess Basma Award for Development and Community Service.