Expert views

Creating a lifeline for young graduates in Gaza

13 September 2023
Basel Qandeel, Director, Business and Technology Incubator (BTI), State of Palestine

Building digital skills and entrepreneurship is essential for social and economic stability in Palestine

In a world marked by rapid technological advancements, digital solutions can help overcome the challenges the Gaza strip is facing.

Prioritizing entrepreneurship and freelancing are vital and innovative ideas can help the local economy to boom, lifting the Palestinian community's living standards, and propelling overall social and economic growth.

That is why our goal at the Business and Technology Incubator (BTI) is to reinvigorate entrepreneurship and innovation in Palestine,

providing avenues for Palestinian youth and entrepreneurs to secure steady employment through start-ups or digital platforms. We hone the skills of technical and creative graduates and prepare them for digital careers.

Operating under the Community Service and Continuing Education Deanship at the Islamic University of Gaza, BTI empowers local youth to establish and develop successful, sustainable start-ups.

Far reaching impact for the economy and people

By offering mentorship, networking, training, funding access, and workspace, BTI guides start-ups through each stage of development, from conceptualization to investment, while offering a comprehensive package of services, including help with freelancing.

Since its establishment in 2006, BTI has emerged as a prominent start-up incubator in Palestine, delivering impactful programmes, thanks to collaboration with local and global partners. These partnerships have led to remarkable outcomes in job creation, incubating start-ups, and investment.

As the first incubator in Gaza and the second in Palestine, BTI has catered to a substantial number of beneficiaries across various initiatives, with over 4,000 entrepreneurs, 2,000 freelancers and 350 start-ups. Over 60% of freelancing participants and 35% of supported entrepreneurs are women.

Our pursuit of equity is evident in our initiatives exclusively designed for women. Finally, we are the sole provider of the Professional Diploma in Entrepreneurship in Palestine.

Academic research coupled with entrepreneurship

Blending academic research with entrepreneurial practice is an important component of our work. This involves funding and nurturing research projects that transition into viable businesses rooted in solid academic principles.

A distinct advantage of BTI is its affiliation with a university, the Islamic University of Gaza, equipping it with a diverse pool of human and scientific resources. The incubator is in the process of establishing the Financial Technology Innovation Center to align with the global fintech trend. The center will offer a range of services to a broad spectrum of users, including entrepreneurs.

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The importance of partnerships in bringing success

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Since starting our alliance with the International Trade Centre (ITC) in 2018, we have made remarkable strides. By jointly initiating the Freelancing Programme, we have so far provided support to over 2,000 graduates, resulting in a cumulative revenue surpassing $2 million.

Anchored in a transformative approach, our endeavors help unlock the potential of refugees, returning migrants, youth, local communities, and small businesses within the Gaza Strip. We thus contribute to better lives and economic conditions, bolstering social stability through employment.

Our focus on bolstering freelancing skills and self-employment particularly advances the employability of women. Crafting alternative and inclusive labour markets for Palestinian youth propels them beyond the confines of the static local economy, granting them access to novel avenues for innovative work on regional and global scales.

I am deeply grateful to the Government of Japan and the International Trade Center for their unswerving support toward youth and marginalized segments within the Gaza Strip. We eagerly anticipate new undertakings that will undoubtedly pave the way for more success stories in the future. These projects have honed the capabilities of over 600 graduates, of which 60% are women, generating total revenues surpassing $260,000.

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