Tag Archives: what’s going on

Silicon Wadi

16 Feb

Could a prototype Arabic Silicon Valley solve Amman's constant economic trouble?

Here’s my Welcome-Back-Post: A link to an interesting comment by William D. Cohan for the Washington Post addressing flourishing times for internet start-ups in Amman.

It’s no news really that Jordan lacks natural resources and is hugely dependent on foreign financial aid, and that Jordan’s economy is more volatile than, say, neighboring Saudi Arabia with an exuberant supply of oil.

Despite the changes in the region, King Abdullah II. has to worry less about abdicating than about improving his country’s economic outlook for the coming years: Amman’s prices and unemployment rates are rising, its economy is all but stable, and Amman is home to a huge number of excellently educated young people who aren’t able to score adequate jobs or salaries. A detailed look on the problematic Jordanian labor market can be found in February’s issue of Jordan Business Magazine.

Nonethless, Cohan’s article sheds a look on the growing number of young new internet start-ups emerging in the Jordanian capital, a lot of which are born out of necessity and with very little to no venture capital: Money’s tight, but there’s a lot of brains. I am therefore not surprised that Rachid Sifraoui, founder of the venture capital firm Finaventures, ranked Amman 10th among the best cities in the world for tech start-ups, according to Cohan’s article. While 10th place may be up for discussion, there’s no arguing the huge number of vibrant, young, hipster, quirky or insanely smart businesses you’ll stumble over when in Amman. Does Amman however have enough resources to keep up the development and become an Arabic “Silicon Wadi”? How is that going to work out alongside the strategy of marketing Jordan as an adventurous tourist destination? And where are the hip organic coffee shops going to open?

Cairo wasn’t built in a day

1 Jun

I need to apologize as I’ve been away from the keyboard for some time now.

Looking at Old Europe news, the past month’s political events in the Middle East indeed seemed predictable: There’s the latent civil wars (Yemen and Syria) or just the plain blood spilling (Libya). And all the while, Egypt’s political stalemate has slowly decreased news coverage on developments over the past month. As expected, a sleek turn of the eras has not yet taken place in Egypt – but we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But things do continue to rock and roll in the Middle East:

This week started with several Western media outlets appalled at the EGYPTIAN military for conducting their infamous virginity tests on detained female protesters. The whole incident took place back in March after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and was swiftly documented and investigated by Amnesty International, who published the allegiations mid-March. Yet it became news over here only when a high-ranking Egyptian Officer confirmed the story towards CNN this week: Sure enough, publications like the German yellow-press “BILD” are more than happy about stories containing sex, crime and Arabs revolting.

Interestingly, what we did not read about so much was that last Friday, Tahrir Square and various other places once more filled up with angry Egyptians voicing their discontent with the military’s sloppy reforms. Furthermore, well-known blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, who had been publishing about the Revolution and accusing the Military police of violence , has been detained and questioned by the military. He was released and claims to not have been tortured: Watch out, Egypt!

Meanwhile in SYRIA, Bashar al-Assad might have gone a step too far: Torturing, castrating and killing a 13-year old boy to shut up the angry masses really just isn’t a good idea. Assad probably hoped for a paralysis of fear among his people. But instead he might have just triggered a Syrian “We are all Khaled Said” moment: Hamza Ali al-Khateeb’s brutal murder has shocked and angered Syrians, as they cannot believe the regime would resort to slaughtering innocent children. Al-Khateeb’s death might solidify and even catalyze the Syrian protests, as a recently launched Facebook site named “We are all Hamza Ali al-Khateeb” is rapidly attracting followers, and the regime’s murder of a child has appalled even uninvolved Syrians. The thought that this could have been their own child might just be the reason for them to chime in.

As if that were not enough, Assad as probably also heard of a handful of Syrian businessmen meeting clandestinely in Turkey to discuss the possibilities of opposition and transition. We’re not talking about some Syrian Pitchmen Association, but rather about some of the business elite of the country. I can’t think of another way to say this, so German will have to do: The air might be getting thin for Bashar.

The meeting is said to be organized by the National Organisation for Human Rights. Which is based in Egypt.

What wonderful irony.