ArabNet Beirut 2015 launches
ArabNet Beirut 2015 kicked off on March 18 at the Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand hotel after an energetic and packed Design+Code Day. The event gathered 80 speakers, 40 sponsors and partners, and 700 attendees who discussed the latest trends and opportunities in digital business and entrepreneurship.
In its 6th edition, ArabNet Beirut is held under the Patronage of H.E. Mr. Tammam Salam, President of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, represented by H.E. Minister Boutros Harb, Minister of Telecommunications. The event is in Collaboration with the Central Bank of Lebanon and in Strategic Partnership with BankMed, Beirut Digital District, and Digital Media Services.
The first forum day was launched by ArabNet CEO Omar Christidis. Following his warm welcome note, the opening ceremony saw all of HMA Tom Fletcher, HM Ambassador at the British Embassy in Lebanon; Mr. Raed Charafeddine, First Vice-Governor at Banque du Liban; H.E. Minister Alain Hakim, Minister of Economy and Trade; and H.E. Minister Boutros Harb, Minister of Telecommunications.
HMA Fletcher began his opening speech by praising ArabNet for being radical. “What you are doing is not just exciting. It is revolutionary. By opening space for the Arab world’s most creative minds to succeed, you are challenging all of those obstacles that are holding the Middle East,” he says. To support the Lebanese entrepreneurs and investors, HMA Fletcher pointed that they are launching the UK/Lebanon Tech Hub. “We want you to make London the natural launchpad for your businesses as you take your products to your friends in Europe,” he says.
Charafeddine concurred with Fletcher that entrepreneurship is the key to drive the region forward despite all setback. “The Arab world has long suffered from escalating political instabilities that have plagued its economic growth. The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region is persevering hard to ensure that culture in the Arab world thrives and to consolidate our economic position in the global market. What we are seeing today is the emergence of an Arab digital renaissance,” says Charafeddine.
The First Vice-Governor at Banque du Liban reconfirmed BDL’s full dedication to support entrepreneurs in Lebanon. In extension to Circular 331, the Central Bank has guaranteed 100% of investments channeled towards the establishment of accelerators, which are believed to be key to the support and empowerment of entrepreneurs, according to Charafeddine.
Hakim then took the stage and assured the Lebanese entrepreneurs of the government’s full commitment to support them in their endeavors. In its efforts to help SMEs and entrepreneurs, last December the Ministry launched the “Lebanon SME Strategy: A Roadmap to 2020”. Its goal is to foster the creation of vibrant and globally competitive SMEs that contribute to employment opportunities and high value-added economy. According to Hakim, the ICT sector represents a significant share of total exported services from Lebanon.
“The regional ICT market is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $120 billion by the end of this year,” stated Hakim.
The opening ceremony ended with Harb’s invigorating speech, during which he emphasized the right of all Lebanese to have access to internet and the digital services available to the rest of the world. “It has become a human right, a necessity,” says Harb.
In order to allow the Lebanese population to benefit from the technology development, Harb confirmed that the Ministry is taking serious actions to provide telecom and internet services at the lowest price, knowing that this requires high initial investment.
“The revenue will far exceed and offset the costs and will help boost the economy and reduce immigration and brain-drain,” exclaimed Harb.
One of the Ministry’s strategies has been to develop Project Mobile Ecosystem, which aims to help foster innovation in Lebanon, enrich the digital sector, and boost the Lebanese economy.
Harb also confirmed they are taking active steps to make the 4G network widely distributed across the Lebanese territory. He then added that he has devised a 5-year plan to boost the telecommunication sector in Lebanon, the details of which he will reveal at a later stage.
The opening ceremony was followed by high caliber panels and sessions that shed light on the hottest trends in web and mobile, digital advertising, entrepreneurship, and e-banking, as well as the Ideathon and Startup-up Demo competitions, which highlighted the region’s promising entrepreneurs.
ArabNetBeirut 2015 will continue with a rich agenda until the afternoon of Thursday, March 19th.