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Maghreb Startup Initiative Seeks Out Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia

Yesterday, the Education for Employment (EFE) foundation and its partners announced the inauguration of the Maghreb Startup Initiative (MSI) – a regional competition to spur innovative entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

 Starting this month, teams of young entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia will have the chance to submit proposals of innovative ideas to MSI.

In Tunisia alone, around 300 applicants are expected to submit group proposals. Only 25 teams will be shortlisted to advance through the second round, which involves pitching the concept of their enterprise to a jury of experts.

 Each proposal will be judged on its innovative character, profitability, and social impact as well as the team’s managerial competence.

 The 25 teams will then participate in a six-day “boot camp,” which will consist of intensive training in management, project implementation, and marketing.

 Ultimately, by December, three to five teams per country will be selected to win a cash prize. Currently, the total prize money to be divided among the winning teams is at $70,000. However, this amount could increase as EFE attracts additional sponsors for the MSI.

Regardless of the final outcome, all teams that make it to the “boot camp” phase will enjoy a continuing rapport with mentors, or established figures in the entrepreneurial field, with whom they were paired during the competition.

 “This initiative is meant to give hope to the youth of the Maghreb,” said SaïdAïda, president of EFE-Tunisia’s board of directors, during his public address at yesterday’s press conference.

 “This competition reflects the need to identify projects. You have many such projects that are unexploited in Tunisia,” said MondherKhanfir, managing director of Wiki Start Ups – one of MSI’s local sponsors.

 When asked by Tunisia Live how MSI stands apart from other similar regional initiatives, Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, vice president of EFE’s global team, stressed MSI’s aim to provide “end-to-end support” to its participants. Contestants don’t just receive training only to later find themselves on their own, wading the choppy waters of the labor market. Even after the cash prize has been awarded to the winning teams, all participants that make it to the “boot camp” will be aided by their mentors to broaden their network and get the first interview.

The innovative focus of the projects must be in the fields of biotechnology, green energy, media, or information and communication technologies (ICT). “These sectors don’t require too much initial capital from start ups,” explained Khanfir, who was recently at the National College of Engineers in Sfax to spread word of the regional competition.
“Tunisia already has the technology and laboratories in its universities, where young participants can test their innovative ideas,” he said.

 ICT and renewable energy sectors are markets that have not yet been saturated in Tunisia, and could be drivers of the economy. “The local potential in these sectors is critical for the country’s development,” added Khanfir.
Source: Tunisia Live