Rising from the Ashes, Building Resilience with Innovation and Entrepreneurship in
In what may be one of the most contentious regions in the world, Gaza is home to nearly 1.8 million Palestinians crammed into just 365 km², making the area one of the most densely populated places on earth. This translates into over five thousand people per square kilometer. Added to that, Palestinians in a landlocked Gaza have been suffering under a siege that has persisted for over ten years. With no control over their borders, and no end to the crippling siege in sight, the Gaza economy has crumbled, leavening the vast majority of its citizens impoverished.
According to the World Bank, restrictions on the movement of trade and goods to and from Gaza has forced the area to rely on foreign aid for development. Yet with the dwindling of foreign aid, and the Palestinian Authority’s reduction of monthly payments to just 30 million USD, there are no strategies in play or feasible that can counteract the economic freefall in Gaza, or improve the outlook for 70 percent of the unemployed youth there.
Despite the hardships, the people of Gaza continue to look inward to resist the overwhelming odds stacked against them and have turned towards entrepreneurship and innovation to reclaim their future. As a result, a small yet all the more inspiring startup community is slowly emerging amidst the literal and metaphorical rubble of the support infrastructure there.
To date there are a reported 35 support organizations active throughout Gaza City, a majority of which are located with Gaza city. While the surrounding cities, such as Khan Yunis, Rafah and the North of Gaza rely on Gaza City for entrepreneurial support. Local branches of financial organizations that provide microfinance, loans and grants dominate Gaza’s ecosystem. Incubators and accelerators are few and far between.
Gaza Sky Geeks dominates the scene, and provides new graduates, and emerging entrepreneurs with a complete set of services, from incubation to acceleration, to a fully equipped coworking space, and complimentary business support services, Gaza Sky Geeks is fostering a new generation of innovators. Additional incubators that are gaining momentum includes UCAS Business and Technology, PICTI, and BTI. A host of government institutions are readily available for new graduates looking to navigate the ecosystem. Training organizations are also available for new graduates to gain the skills and acumen they need to develop viable ventures.
What becomes apparent is that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Gaza suffers not only from a lack of coordination between public and private sector players, but from the incessant siege and border closures that have systematically undermined the economic potential of over 1 million Palestinians.