Could Beirut become the Silicon Valley of the Middle East?

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Beirut’s economy could see major shifts in the next few decades, according to Lebanon’s Central Bank, which has committed millions of dollars for tech growth in the city.

A recent report by CNN labeled Beirut as a “resilient, transformation city” with a culture of freedom and diversity which could serve as a solid base for the Middle East’s growing tech revolution.

According to industry publisher Tech Crunch, Beirut’s tech sector has grown by an average annual rate of 7.9 percent to reach a market size of $381 million in 2014.

The growth is partly as a result of the Beirut Digital District (BDD), launched in September 2012 as a tech incubator for startups and existing nontraditional digital businesses.

“Beirut is rapidly shaping up to be a powerhouse for startups in the Middle East. It has many of the key elements: a highly entrepreneurial culture; incubators and accelerators; venture capital; some gradually favorable government policy; and access to growth funding,” said Mike Butcher, editor of Tech Crunch.

International tech investors are adding projects in Beirut — in hopes of establishing an up-and-coming tech hub for the MENA region.

Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) have raised “at least $50 million” to assist in this project. They’re working closely with Beirut-based Leap Ventures on a new $71-million venture capital fund focused on the Middle East.

Lebanon’s Central Bank is also adding $400 million into the startup tech economy through its “Circular 331″ initiave. The project allows local entrepreneurs to receive a seven-year interest-free credit from the Central Bank (BDL), which can be invested in treasury bonds that return interest rate of 7%.

Even Britain is joining the momentum by launching a new project in cooperation with the Central Bank called the U.K-Lebanon “Tech Hub.”

A new office for Lebanese tech entrepreneurs opened in London recently, which is meant to allow Lebanese entrepreneurs a chance to use the UK as a springboard for global growth.

The London office is the first overseas base of the new UK Lebanon Tech Hub, which aims to support the growth of the knowledge economy in Lebanon.

“For thousands of years Lebanon has had a reputation for trading and entrepreneurship,” said Colm Reilly, CEO of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub. “Despite tough conditions in the region, this spirit is evident in the new generation of entrepreneurs that are developing the country’s tech scene.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s technology industry still faces performance problems, especially for tech investors interested in web-based platforms and Internet services.

According to BBC World News, Lebanon has one of the slowest Internet connections in the world. But Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb said he will launch a five-year national telecommunications strategy on July 1st to boost Internet performance in the country, according to The Daily Star.

Beirut’s tech future still has many unanswered questions because of the region’s political instability and Internet capabilities. According to CNN, the future of tech growth will rely heavily on the country’s political leaders.

Source: http://www.lebaneseexaminer.com/2015/06/24/could-beirut-become-the-silicon-valley-of-the-middle-east/

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