Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival to focus on rebuilding post-Covid economies

The virtual five-day event will include ten panel discussions, five workshops and nine keynote sessions


Sunset and Sharjah's skyline on Khalid's lagoon.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Global entrepreneurs, a Nobel laureate, business leaders and influential life coaches from around the world will discuss entrepreneurship challenges, hold workshops and inspire the next generation of change-makers at the virtual Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF) starting on Sunday.

Organised by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), the fourth edition of SEF will be held under the theme #BeTheHero as the world rebuilds societies and economies post-Covid.

It seeks to motivate and inspire more socially-conscious entrepreneurs to make an impact on their communities and build a better future together, Sheraa said in a statement.

The five-day SEF agenda includes ten knowledge-sharing panel discussions, five interactive workshops and nine keynote sessions. It will be free to attend as part of Sheraa's $1 million solidarity fund.

This fund was created in May to assist start-ups struggling to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. It was established in place of Sheraa’s annual entrepreneurship events, which were cancelled to adhere to safety guidelines set by the authorities.

“Sheraa believes that people have the power to change the world through entrepreneurship,” its chief executive Najla Al Midfa said.

“This is apparent now more than ever, as change-makers across the globe lead the charge towards building more resilient communities … stronger and more prosperous economies. This shared sense of purpose and responsibility will be highlighted at SEF,” she added.

Eminent speakers at SEF include Dr Jane Goodall, a UN messenger of peace; Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Bangladeshi social entrepreneur; Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and chief executive of a non-profit global venture capital fund Acumen; and Anousheh Ansari, the world’s first female private space explorer.

In January, Sharjah was rated among the world's top 10 fastest-growing urban areas in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Attracting foreign investment across sectors is a key priority for the Sharjah government as it cuts its reliance on oil revenues and continues to diversify its economy.

Sheraa, meaning to sail in Arabic, is Sharjah’s initiative to build a start-up ecosystem in the emirate. It is headquartered at the American University of Sharjah and its hub, launched in September 2018, is based at the University of Sharjah.

It has helped founders scale their businesses through workshops, mentorships, introductions to investors, government partners and corporate entities to help them secure access to growth capital.

Since 2017, SEF has seen more than 200 showcasing start-ups, 240 local and international speakers and over 8,000 attendees.