Mapping the agri-food ecosystem in MENA Region
An Introduction To Food, Agriculture and Water Ecosystem in The Middle East and North Africa
Part VI – Oman
COVID-19 could go down the history as one of the most tumultuous events that our generation has ever experienced.WHO declares that the pandemic has caused more mass trauma than WWII and will last for years(1), the pandemic was marked as the most challenging crisis since World War II by the UN chief (2), this list of how dreadful is COVID-19 can be further extended. Despite the pandemic’s awful effects, it has also accelerated some trends in the agri-food ecosystems and investments. The MENA Region-based start-ups saw a record of USD1BN investment in 2020 (3). The investment volume is showing that the region has a high potential for entrepreneurship. As part of our research works, we decided to search for the MENA Region’s agri-food ecosystem, and we shared several maps since the beginning of 2021. Now for our sixth map in the region, we dive into Oman’s Agri-Food Ecosystem.
An entrepreneurship ecosystem is formed by interdependent actors and relations directly or indirectly supporting each other and creating new ventures. With so many stakeholders in it, the ecosystem is a complex network. That is the main reason why we make a map. When we look at the map word’s etymology, it is from medieval Latin “Mappa Mundi,” literally meaning ‘sheet of the world.’ With our map, we want to create a clear, understandable sheet of actors, stakeholders in the agri-food ecosystem, and greater visibility. There are many governmental organizations, incubators, accelerators, companies, start-ups, and other ecosystem players that work for a better food and agriculture system in the Sultanate of Oman. We searched and put them on our map.
Building The Map
Governmental & Public Organizations
The Sultanate of Oman is a country on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in western Asia (5). Oman has appealing geography, strategic location, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and natural resources. The country has an important vision called Oman Vision 2040. According to Document Vision 2040 “Oman Vision 2040 is the Sultanate’s gateway to overcome challenges, keep pace with regional and global changes, generate and seize opportunities to foster economic competitiveness and social well-being, stimulate growth, and build confidence in all economic, social, and developmental relations nationwide (6)”.
Vision 2040 aims to develop a competitive economy with the private sector. Many governmental and public organizations support the development of entrepreneurship and SME’s in the country. One of them is Riyada. Riyada, The Public Authority for Small & Medium Enterprises Development, aims to develop small and medium enterprises and their contribution to the local economy with a wide range of training programs and business advisory services. Another governmental organization for the support of entrepreneurship is Ithraa, an award-winning inward investment and export development agency. Ithraa has a mission of raising the volume of Investments and Omani non-oil exports toward sustainable economic growth in the Sultanate. Moreover, there is the Tanfeedh program, Tanfeedh, The National Program for enhancing economic diversification brings together public and private sector stakeholders to discuss challenges, agree on the action and accelerate the implementation of existing economic goals. Oman’s National Business Center, launched by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estate (Madayn), offers Omani entrepreneurs a platform to develop their business ideas and develop the business into growing ventures. You will discover many more governmental, public, and non-profit organizations that work for Oman’s blooming entrepreneurship ecosystem on our map.
As Kök Projekt, we are an innovation partner for the food, agriculture, and water sector companies. We work with them closely. In recent years, private corporate firms have also become active supporters of the startup ecosystem. They also support incubator and accelerator programs to reap the benefits of innovation. In Oman, we see examples of accelerator programs’ support in SparkLabs Energy Accelerator program which is a joint venture between Petroleum Development Oman (Oman’s National Oil Company), Phaze Ventures (Oman’s first private venture capital fund), and SparkLabs Global. In our Oman Agri-Food Ecosystem map, you will find many companies from a variety of sectors such as food production, consultancy, finance, ICT/IT, etc.
Start-up: A Promising Ecosystem
As Kök Projekt, we are an agri-food start-up accelerator. We follow startups from all over the world. To create our map, we used our database and searched on the internet for developments in Oman’s startup world. According to Wamda’s article, Omani youths have consistently performed well in Microsoft’s global ‘Imagine Cup’ competition which is a sign that Oman is doing well at cultivating a young tech-savvy generation (7). The young and tech-savvy population is one of the main pillars of an entrepreneurship ecosystem. Oman has a promising food start-up ecosystem. You will find many start-ups on our map working on a variety of fields from smart farming, marketplace/e-commerce, delivery, water tech to waste management, etc.
Incubators & Accelerators: Nourishing The Entrepreneurship Journey
Creating and operating a start-up can be challenging. Incubators and accelerators provide comprehensive support for start-ups. Take an example of a typical acceleration program that includes training camps, meeting sessions with mentors, demo day presentations, and networking sessions which are very beneficial in the entrepreneurship journey. There are many government initiatives as well as private enterprises providing accelerator and incubator services in the Oman entrepreneurship ecosystem. One of them is Oman Tech Fund initiatives, OTF Techween, and OTF Wadi Accelerator. Moreover, SAS Accelerator program aims to nurture the IT sector in the Sultanate and contributes to providing new services and local products in various IT fields. For the young generation, co-working spaces are also important, these spaces offer networking opportunities, prevent the isolation of working from home, and help to save costs. One of the leading co-working spaces in Oman is Al Rud’ha where members can benefit from the meeting rooms, event areas, community connections, and many other facilities. You will find many accelerators, incubators, and support organizations that we can not mention here on our map.
Investors play a vital role in the start-up world. They work as a backbone to the entrepreneurial ecosystem by providing the capital to start the business, assisting the business plan for a start-up, advising to manage the funds accurately. In Oman, the government and private sector provide many investment funds. One of the pioneer investment bodies is Oman Technology Fund (OTF). the fund has three investment projects. The first one is, investment in the early stage of ideas under the OTF Techween, the second one is acceleration stage OTF Wadi Accelerator, and the last one is growth phase OTF Jasoor Ventures. Moreover, one of the leading Oman-based funding firms for the food sector and other related industries is Atyab Investments, the company also has Atyab food-tech LLC which provides many services for food safety and security. You will find many other investment bodies and firms on our map.
This is not a full-scale map of the Oman Agri-Food Ecosystem.
You can reach our 2021 Oman Agri-Food Ecosystem Map here.
Given the rapid development of ecosystems, it has become necessary to stay informed of the most recent developments in the field. We hope to draw a clear picture of the Oman Agri-Food Ecosystem and make it easy to understand.
We look forward to publishing our next maps.
(4) Definitions from Oxford Languages, map etymology
(6) https://www.2040.om/Oman2040-En.pdf (p.8)