Inaugural remarks at SEF 2020 reinforce power of entrepreneurship  in driving meaningful change

Five-day Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF) organised by Sheraa opens with
a packed 5-day virtual programme of inspiration for global changemakers

The 4th annual edition of the region’s fastest growing festival celebrating entrepreneurs, the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF) opened on Sunday, December 6, under the theme #BeTheHero. Organised by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), this is the first fully-virtual edition of SEF, powered by Sahab Smart Solutions.

In her keynote address to mark the opening of the five-day festival, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson, Sheraa, said: “The world right now needs more entrepreneurs who think of the greater good of humanity; and more changemakers who defy geography and truly understand the importance of human interdependence.”

Speaking to a global audience of young changemakers and ecosystem leaders, Sheikha Bodour added: “One of the key takeaways of the coronavirus pandemic is that individuals have enormous power to create positive change in the world. That is the spirit that will help us heal from the impact of the pandemic and more importantly, will help us emerge stronger afterwards.”

With its #BeTheHero theme, SEF 2020 seeks to motivate and inspire entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in their communities and build a better future together. Featuring an internationally renowned line-up of more than 50 speakers, Sheraa’s annual flagship event is free to attend and will be held until December 10.

It was with the objective of “harnessing the power of the inspired individual to transform their communities during these challenging times” that the Sheraa Chairperson launched a global movement – #UbuntuLoveChallenge, with Africa 2.0 Foundation founder Mamadou Kwidjim Toure earlier this year. “Encouraged by the response, we launched in partnership with Sheraa, the Ubuntu Care and Nurture Initiative – UCAN, an inspiring initiative that amplifies the power of entrepreneurship in creating real world solutions to real world problems in important sectors such as food security and healthtech sectors,” said Sheikha Bodour.

UCAN Startup Awards is a $250,000 equity-free prize purse open to top startups from the Middle East and Africa, and the global response to it “reassures us that we are on the right path of making Sharjah an emerging hub of global entrepreneurship, and more importantly, that Sharjah will be part of the solution for so many pressing challenges.”

Saying that this is “a very exciting time to be an entrepreneur,” Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi added: “My promise to you is that we will not stop with this initiative. We will continue supporting promising entrepreneurship that aims to create a positive impact on the world and build a community of global elite entrepreneurs through Sheraa and through forums such as the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival.”

Entrepreneurship is ordinary people creating extraordinary impact

Speaking at the event, Najla Al Midfa, CEO, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), asked the virtual audience “how in these uncertain times, as we stand upon the precipice of change, can we become the hero the world is looking for?”

“Every hero’s journey begins with a call to action”, said the Sheraa CEO, citing the examples of three innovative entrepreneurs who answered this call – Caitlin Dolkart and Maria Rabinovich, founders of Flare, who are providing an Uber-like ambulance app for patients in Kenya thereby reducing emergency response times from almost three hours to 15 minutes; and Omar Itani, Founder of FabricAid, who is giving underprivileged communities in Lebanon access to high quality, recycled clothing.

“Caitlin, Maria, and Omar wanted to leave the world better than they found it; they were committed to a cause greater than themselves,” she said. “That is how ordinary people create extraordinary impact.”

Touching upon another aspect of being a hero, and drawing references to popular culture, Najla Al Midfa noted that a recurring theme in all heroes’ lives is that nobody can be a hero on their own – almost all of them receive guidance and support through mentors.

“This is the role we at Sheraa seek to play,” she said, outlining the organisation’s key function as an ally on the entrepreneurial journeys of founders who are embarking on a quest to become heroes.

Al Midfa explained: “We sense the passion in these heroes. We see their desire to create impact. Together, we build incredible businesses that honour the dignity of all people, that respect our planet, and that shape the future of our economies.”

“Where can one find these entrepreneurial heroes? Look in the mirror, and you will know,” concluded Najla Al Midfa.

Targeting a global audience of changemakers, ecosystem leaders, and entrepreneurs, the five-day festival agenda will include 10 knowledge-sharing panel discussions, five interactive workshops, and five inspiring keynote sessions. To access all the learning and excitement at SEF 2020, free registrations can be done  https://hopin.com/events/sharjah-entrepreneurship-festival.

To stay updated on the festival agenda, interested participants can follow SEF 2020 on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn @SharjahEF, or visit the website, www.sharjahef.com.

The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF) 2020, powered by Sahab Smart Solutions, is being held in strategic partnership with Sultan Bin Al Owais Real Estate and with the support of the Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah). Held every year since 2017, the aim of this festival is to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindset and inspire the next generation of changemakers. Over the years, SEF has seen 200+ showcasing startups, 240+ local and international speakers, and 8,000+ attendees.