Endeavor Lebanon and Lebanese International Finance Executives (LIFE) held their 5th annual Global Business Summit in Beirut on December 21, 2018, in the presence of a large audience of Lebanese professionals, both local and from the Diaspora, comprised of entrepreneurs, investors and other players in the ecosystem.
Sponsored by Bank Audi, Banque Libano-Française (BLF) and the Beirut Digital District (BDD), the annual Global Business Summit seeks to connect business leaders from around the world, to shed light on investment opportunities, innovation and entrepreneurship in Lebanon to create prospects for growth.
H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri shared the government’s plans to develop the private sector, stating that:
"Lebanon is founded on a spirit of entrepreneurship and determination, that has fueled the business sector for decades," he said. "It is my priority to ensure that opportunities are provided to SMEs, to foster growth, help them advance in the realm of innovation and creative thinking, and in turn, drive job creation and economic prosperity," added Mr. Hariri.
Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, H.E. Mr. Riad Salamé, commented on the official plans to grow the Lebanese economy. "We are working towards safeguarding and protecting the Lebanese economy, which requires political stability. Our focus is shifting towards integrating effective corporate governance practices both within the banking and financial sectors, as well as the private sector to ensure economic growth," shared H.E. Mr. Riad Salamé. "In addition, our efforts are channeled towards strengthening the private sector, and predominantly the SMEs, who are the main drivers of the Lebanese economy," he added.
The 1st part of the Global Business Summit focused on the support of local and international organizations for SMEs in Lebanon. A panel discussion was led by various international organizations that have continued to invest in Lebanon’s growth, which included the International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), Kafalat and the Business Environment and Innovation Department at the Prime Minister’s office.
Addressing the situation in Lebanon, Christina Chehade, Managing Director of Endeavor Lebanon, shared that, “The Lebanese story of success and growth in innovation and entrepreneurship has been dampened by a struggling economy,” adding that, “At Endeavor, we believe that SMEs and scale-ups are the propelling force of the economy, and we all have a shared responsibility to support them.”
Adel Afiouni, LIFE Board Member, highlighted the key role that the Lebanese business and finance diaspora will play in the revival of the Lebanese economy and in the growth of the private sector in particular. “The Lebanese Diaspora is uniquely positioned, through its global footprint, the depth and experience of its members and their network of business and capital providers. Leveraging the Diaspora’s unique position and building strategic cooperation and business partnerships between Lebanese SMEs and the Business Diaspora should be a key component of the private sector’s growth strategy and of the government’s plans to support SMEs.”
This Summit provided the audience the opportunity to learn more about the success story of the merger between the Lebanese company Diwanee and the Saudi company Uturn, to create a leading media player in the region. Attendees also learned more about the fintech sector and various initiatives poised for growth in Lebanon, and heard a lineup of promising young startups pitching on stage.
Marc Audi, General Manager - Country Manager Lebanon of Bank Audi, shed light on the contribution of his institution towards the development of the Lebanese economy. “Notwithstanding the economic and environmental challenges that our country is facing, Bank Audi remains determined to spare no effort in contributing to the economic growth of Lebanon. Bank Audi has recently joined forces with the EBRD in providing $200M worth of financing solutions for sustainable development projects. This initiative aims at inspiring investors and generating opportunities for the local entrepreneurs.”
Raya Raphaël Nahas, General Manager of Banque Libano-Francaise highlighted the importance for entrepreneurs to overcome the current challenges in order to promote a sustainable economy. “In building its position as a regional innovation hub, Lebanon is facing a range of challenges, as any entrepreneurial ecosystem did throughout the world… But recognizing and overcoming these challenges are the real opportunities for entrepreneurs to thrive and to foster a sustainable economy. At Banque Libano-Française, we understand these challenges, value entrepreneurial spirit, provide guidance and support entrepreneurs throughout their journey.”
BDD’s CEO, Mouhamad Rabah, emphasized the important role that the digital community plays in Lebanon, commenting, “At BDD, we believe that Lebanese talent is the backbone of the Lebanese economy. By providing it with the right support system, it can flourish and boost our economy with it. BDD started 6 years ago as a vision to build a hub for the digital creative community, aiming to provide an ideal business environment so companies can increase their productivity and grow.”
He added, “BDD is also committed to support talent development and the entrepreneurial ecosystem through various initiatives and programs. We collaborate with ecosystem players on mentorship events, competitions, conferences, and we have recently launched the BDD Academy to develop tech talent starting from school and throughout their professional journey.”