By Tamara Pupic
Ahmad Al-Sayed Ahmad, general manager at Jericho Gate, a residential and tourism project in Palestine, presents the company’s plans to help innovative entrepreneurs to reshape the country’s future.
Please tell us more about the Jericho Gate project.
Jericho Gate is the largest integrated township project in the region. It is being established at the southern entrance of Jericho city in Palestine.
The project was established back at the beginning of 2011 as a result of a strategic partnership between PADICO Holding and Palestine Telecommunications Company (Pal Tel). It includes the development of a variety of tourist and recreational facilities, holiday residential villas, resorts, and the largest water park in the region, as well as other tourist, recreational and cultural facilities.
Jericho Gate Project is envisaged to be developed over 10 years in three major phases. Phase one has already started and will expand until the end of 2018. Phase 2 will commence in 2019 through 2021. Phase three will commence in 2022.
This project is a unique and advanced step in the history of the Palestinian economy, which will also provide thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities to Palestinians in Jericho and Al-Aghwar Governorate in particular, and Palestine in general.
Have you used any services of local start-ups in the project?
Jericho Gate Company is still in an infrastructure development stage, which is primarily dependent on the major companies in the real estate development field. At a later stage, the company plans to engage entrepreneurial start-ups in order to enable them to make their impact on the Jericho Gate Project. We will welcome youth-led projects in the field of information technology, as well as cooperatives that produce handcrafts and symbolic gifts, which are very popular amongst the visiting tourists. Our company shall engage these promising projects and promote their services and products within our commercial facilities in the future.
How can Palestine-based corporations include start-ups in their product development models and what would be your advice to them?
With the high unemployment rate in the Palestinian economy, which fluctuates between 24 percent to 27 percent on annual basis, and other difficulties in the Palestinian market, the small-sized enterprises, especially entrepreneurial projects initiated by recent graduates, could serve as a viable sustainable solution to creating more employment opportunities in Palestine.
However, in order to integrate these projects within the Palestinian economy, we need a firm national economic strategy, with integrated efforts of the private and governmental sectors and civil society institutions. We also need the support and encouragement of official authorities through tax exemptions, facilitating the registration process of new products and their access to regional and international markets. Like in other countries, a one-stop-shop initiative needs to be explored at the national level to facilitate the creation of sustainable start-ups and the development of our national human capital.
The Palestinian private sector is capable of accommodating such projects by establishing strategic partnerships and signing agreements to incorporate the products and services of these new companies into the activities of large companies. The integration of entrepreneurship projects also requires an effective role by Palestinian universities and technical colleges, by providing the graduates with the necessary entrepreneurial skills, enhancing their knowledge about the labour market, and connecting them with potential funders.
Please tell us more about other initiatives by Jericho Gate and its shareholders to support local entrepreneurs.
Jericho Gate has plans for three main initiatives in our commercial mall around the Piazza. One is for local artists to host their own productions, another for locally-made handcrafts, and the third is for local fruits and vegetables producers. In addition, for those who are interested in the renewable energy and modern services solutions, ample opportunities can be explored and discussed with our management team. Our partners are also pioneers in supporting Palestinian entrepreneurial projects, such as PADICO Tourism (JEDICO), PADICO Holding’s investment arm in the tourism sector, which has executed the initiative of “Al WataniAwalan” (National First). It is a major initiative aimed at supplying the agricultural food products produced by Palestinian cooperatives to all hotels and restaurants that are subsidiaries of JEDICO.
PADICO Holding also supported the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association (Asala) that supports female entrepreneurs to develop individual projects. Furthermore, PADICO HOLDING has been supporting youth art projects as well as various events and projects to promote the Palestinian youth innovation, including the Made in Palestine competition, an Oasis 500 training programme.
How can the UAE and Palestine expand their cooperation regarding entrepreneurship-related initiatives?
Young Palestinians are full of entrepreneurial energy and have creative and innovative ideas. However, they lack the necessary communications skills to promote themselves, and are unable to connect and build relationships with their peers across the region who can potentially support their ideas.
Accordingly, it is necessary to enhance their cooperation the Emirati business community and investment institutions and Emirati businessmen who can help them transform their entrepreneurial ideas into sustainable projects.
I believe that it is important to organise competitions for entrepreneurs, which will be attended by business people and funders, when entrepreneurs can present their ideas in a competitive setting and can establish relationships with those who are interested in adopting such ideas.
Within Jericho Gate Project, there are many viable business ideas and initiatives and we welcome all investors from the Arab World and the Diaspora Palestinians.