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Digital Media Startup Companies in the Arab world

Maharat in partnership with Deutsche Welle Akademie developed in 2019 a study to explore the reality of digital media startups in the Arab world.

The study provides a field-based research addressing three examples, that is, three Arab countries: Lebanon, Morocco and Jordan. The study is based on monitoring media startups in these countries in order to answer a set of important questions in terms of company origins, working conditions, as well as the general framework of their operation.  The work was carried out in the field by three research teams that were active in each of these countries, and carried the same questions:

  • What is the reality of digital media startup companies?
  • What are the challenges facing media startups?
  • What are the elements of a nurturing ecosystem of media startups?
  • What is the legal framework for establishing these companies?
  • How much freedom are they granted?
  • Which economic model do they adopt and how successful is it in ensuring its independence and viability?
  • Are there basic skills for creating a new business model for the media?
  • Do the higher education institutions in the Arab world show interest in media and innovation?

This study answers these questions extensively and explains the reality of startups in these countries. It also presents the difficulties that hinder their growth and attempts to provide recommendations aimed at promoting the success of innovation initiatives in the Arab world.

Based on those three studies that have addressed the cases of Lebanon, Morocco and Jordan, it appears that a strong trend towards the establishment of digital media startups in these countries is now emerging. It seems also clear that these organizations are now making serious efforts in order to gain their place in the field of innovation, entrepreneurship as well as in the establishment of new economic concepts. The presence of reliable incubators and funds sponsoring such projects to launch innovative initiatives are what motivate innovators to implement their desired projects.

However, it also seems clear that startups are struggling with many obstacles that stand in their way, such as the absence of regulatory and supportive laws, the broad limitations that restrict the freedom and activity of these organizations, the difficulty in accessing information, and the absence of advanced information networks.

In addition to these constraints, the absence of new appropriate economic models for these startups is also a challenge for startups, given the failure of old financing models. This implies that self-financing initiatives are much needed, through the response of these projects to important societal needs. It is important to note that universities in these countries have not yet taken a necessary scientific step in this direction, which is the introduction of the concepts of innovation, leadership and business in academic curricula.

Moreover, the political and economic conditions that surround the Arab world today generate additional obstacles, such as warning political systems from startups, the absence of basic funding for technological infrastructure and the scarcity of advertising resources.

All types of startups in developed countries have proven their importance in terms of economy, growth, public service, as well as with regard to responding to the new needs of society arising from information technology. Several experiences in the models presented by the study have also shown this great role for such organizations and the society's need for them in several fields. Therefore, it seems necessary to develop plans by the public and private sectors in Lebanon and the Arab world, in order to support and sponsor these initiatives and to develop the legal, financial and technical structures that would foster the launching and incubation of these projects.

To read the study in English click here.

To read the study in Arabic click here.