A month ago I read an article in the Metro newspaper here in the UK. The author was trying to get the government’s attention towards the emerging innovation of food concept outlets around the country. I remember one of the main headlines stating clearly something in the lines that the country has more chance of seeing the next Starbucks than the next facebook! In order for that to happen, the author encourages to the government to give a better support for food entrepreneurs. Her main argument is based on the fact that people of this generation are more and more used to the idea of eating outside and the huge opportunity out there to capitalize on this trend.
Thinking back home, I don’t think that the trend is any different. Interesting enough, the food innovation have focused recently on Burger joints that mushroomed around Amman. That doesn’t mean it should stop there. I believe that there is a big room for concept restaurants to carry on different display of local and traditional food.
A few years ago, and building on the success of Maktoob, the first seed investment company for the ICT sector started its operation in Jordan. Oasis 500 helps ICT entrepreneurs in Jordan and the MENA region to realize the potential of their creative ideas and turn them into viable startups. The chairman Osama Fayyad, in the world economic forum two years ago, said that King Abdullah dared him to create another 500 success story aka Maktoob, and he passionately accepted the challenge. To this date, Oasis500 website shows a directory of 73 startup they are supporting, among them names we grew to love and admire such as Jamalon, Abjjad, and Zaytooneh.
While Mr. Fayyad has yet to prove himself adequate for such an enormous mission, I would love some Royal, or maybe better say governmental interest in supporting other kind of entrepreneurship beside the ICT sector. Don’t get me wrong, Oasis is a great idea and it has a great potential, but that doesn’t mean we should stop there. The cloud economy does help improve the ground one but it isn’t sustainable on its own. We need other initiatives that help creating new productive businesses, it may very well be in the services fields since the tourism sector is still dear to us.
It doesn’t have to be Oasis 500, it can be Oasis 50 or 100. A seed investment company that supports the food industry entrepreneurs. We have seen few success stories in the past in Jordan such as Chili House, Che Che, Al Day3a, Al Kal7a, Zalatimo.. etc. Why don’t we support what we have and open the door for many others to emerge and provide another backbone to our economy? The next Pink Berry doesn’t have to be Kuwaiti, and the next Zaatar o Zaait may not be Lebanese.
We have embraced globalism and capitalism with big arms, yet we haven’t figured out how to capitalize on that. We opened our doors for international big names without building an adequate playground to foster our own. Worse than that, we have recently readdressed tenancy laws in favor of killing small businesses who suddenly found themselves out in the cold not able to pay the rent for the space of their businesses!
King Abdullah may have fairly paid for not listening to the naysayers, but we have paid more because he listened! It is about time to get back the spirit of pre Arab Spring and the financial crisis. Let’s refocus our compass again towards an economical priority and let’s aid in creating some businesses rather than wasting our energies begging others for money.