Mapping the Agri-Food Ecosystem in the MENA Region
An Introduction To Food, Agriculture and Water Ecosystem in The Middle East and North Africa
Part VII – Jordan
For the last months, we shared several maps to understand the MENA Region’s food and agriculture ecosystem. The Region has a high potential for entrepreneurship. Magnitt reports that MENA-based start-ups have been growing since 2016. Government support, increased funding and international interests played a vital role in this growth (1). We started our mapping journey in the MENA Region with Bahrain, and we continued with Qatar, KSA, Kuwait, UAE, and finally, Oman.
In our seventh map, we tried to understand the Jordan Agri-Food Ecosystem. According to Lexico, “ecosystem” means ecology, a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. (In general use) it means a complex network or interconnected system(2). Agri-food Entrepreneurship ecosystems are not different. They are formed by many actors such as start-ups, governmental/public organizations, research/academic institutes, support organizations, accelerators, incubators, companies, and funding organizations. This list can be further divided into many more categories. With so many stakeholders in it, ecosystems are complex networks. In the agri-food sector, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees with so many stakeholders. That is the main reason why we create a map. With this map, we focus on Jordon’s agri-food ecosystem and hope to draw a clear picture of it.
Building The Map
Governmental & Public Organizations
Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is a difficult journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. Jordanian public actors are working hard to create a healthy entrepreneurship ecosystem. The creation of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship in May 2019 (former Ministry of Information and Communication Technology) is a solid step to show the support of the Jordan Government for a digital, entrepreneurship-friendly economy. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Index 2019 (GEI), the country ranked 39th. The GEI is an annual index that measures the health of entrepreneurship ecosystems in 137 countries(3). In the MENA Region, public support for investments of SMEs and start-ups is widespread, and Jordan has no exception. An important example is the Innovative Startups and SMEs Fund (ISSF), a private sector managed fund making investments in innovative startups and early-stage SMEs. ISSF was an initiative by the Central Bank of Jordan, which contributed $48M, and the World Bank, which put in $50M with total working capital of $98M(4). There are many more governmental and public stakeholders in the Jordanian entrepreneurship ecosystem. For more governmental and public organizations, check out our map.
Start-up: Well Educated, Vibrant Ecosystem
As Kök Projekt, we are a food start-up accelerator. We follow start-ups from all over the world carefully. To create our map, we used our database and searched on the internet for developments in Jordan’s food and agriculture start-up world. According to a World Bank survey of 230 Jordanian entrepreneurs, Jordanian entrepreneurs are well-educated and have solid experience in the business sector (5).
Digital tools provide new pathways and unlock new opportunities for entrepreneurs and the world. Food security and food safety are global challenges. They find their place in SDG 2: Zero Hunger. In Jordan, there is a start-up that works with World Food Program. Decapolis, working on food traceability and blockchain technologies, collaborates with WFP in a pilot program to empower 100 smallholder farmers. The project’s main goal is to improve the safety and quality of fresh foods produced (6). You will find many more start-ups in Jordan’s agri-food ecosystem working on different subjects from smart agriculture, delivery, e-commerce, etc., on our map.
As Kök Projekt, we are an innovation partner for the food, agriculture, and water sector companies. We follow them carefully. They organize and sponsor events and acceleration programs. The pandemic accelerated this trend by showing businesses that they cannot exist without technology, infrastructure. Digital transformation has become a necessity.
Meanwhile, big companies also realized the value of working with start-ups. One of the examples in Jordan is Orange Big Program. Orange is an international telecommunication company. As part of its support for local entrepreneurship, Orange Jordan established Business Innovation Growth “BIG” powered by Orange. BIG: A startup accelerator program aimed at small Jordanian businesses. The program aims to help Jordanian startups expand into new markets and reach more customer segments(7). In our seventh map for the MENA Region, you will find many companies from various sectors such as retail, finance, food production, agriculture, and ICT sectors.
Incubators & Accelerators & Support Organizations
Endeavor insights claim that entrepreneurship in the area has a multiplier effect; for every ten new successful enterprises, over 1.4 billion USD in new valuations and over 2,500 new jobs are created (8). However, entrepreneurship is a long way with unexpected detours and roadblocks. During the journey, entrepreneurs need support. Incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and support platforms are the primary helpers of entrepreneurs during their journey. 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. In the Jordan entrepreneurship ecosystem Accelerate Jordan, established by VentureX in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship and the Jordanian Ministry of Culture, offers an ag-tech theme-based Hassad Agritech Accelerator program. The program aims to work with people across the ag-tech and agri-food value chain from Jordan and the world(9).
In an entrepreneurship ecosystem, co-working spaces are also important. These co-working environments offer entrepreneurs collaboration and networking opportunities while providing shared resources such as meeting spaces, printers, etc. Vbc is the first co-working place in Jordan, and since its opening, they have been grown tenfold, and now they are in three different locations(10). You will find many more accelerators, incubators, and other support organizations on our map.
Creating a startup can be an exhaustive, expensive and arduous process. One of the main concerns that start-ups face is getting the business funded. Investment funds are critical players for the major concern of startup: Funding. In Jordan, one of the leading investment companies is Oasis500, is a pre-seed and seed fund manager and accelerator aiming to catalyze the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Jordan and the MENA region. They invest in driven entrepreneurs with scalable innovative ideas and startups. Leading Jordanian start-ups such as Bilforo, Kama,Toffimelt are in the portfolio of Oasis 500(11). You will find many other investors on our map.
Ecosystems are complex networks. Moreover, given the rapid development, it has become necessary to stay informed of the most recent developments in the field. With this map, we hope to draw a clear picture of the Jordan Agri-Food Ecosystem and make it easy to understand.
You can reach our 2021 Jordan Agri-Food Ecosystem Map here.
This is not a full-scale map of the Jordan Agri-Food Ecosystem.