Lebanon's Hariri launches $48mln fund for startups

The fund caters to emerging companies in the telecommunications sector

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri speaks after a cabinet meeting in Baabda near Beirut, Lebanon December 5, 2017.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri speaks after a cabinet meeting in Baabda near Beirut, Lebanon December 5, 2017.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon unveiled Monday a $48 million fund to support startup companies involved in technology and software programming.

In an opening speech at the Grand Serail, Hariri told participants in the launch that the government would continue to work on implementing essential projects for the country.

The $48 million fund caters to emerging companies in the telecommunications sector and was established by two mobile operations in Lebanon that are managed by Touch and Alfa.

A new Business Support Unit was also launched by IDAL – the national agency, established in 1994, for the promotion of Lebanon as a key investment destination and supporting new startups.

Hariri thanked those involved with the investments. “I would also like to thank IDAL, Alpha and Touch, because this work is very important for Lebanon’s youth and all Lebanese people,” Hariri said, according to a statement.

The prime minister added that it was the government’s duty to “work to lift all the obstacles they face.”

“At the Grand Serail we have a team of people working on updating all the laws dating back to the 1950s and the ’60s, and God willing these items will be presented to Cabinet and included in the budget items of 2018,” he said.

Hariri also expressed gratitude to the Chinese companies that provided technical help in establishing the fund, which is aimed at enhancing the telecom and technology sectors in Lebanon.

“We want to work and we will continue to work. We hear racket,” he said, referring to criticism directed toward the government, “and this racket will continue and will increase. I will not stop, and I will do what martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri did, which was building hospitals, universities and developing the regions. No matter how loud the racket, this government will continue to work,” Hariri said.

The head of IDAL, Nabil Itani, also underscored the importance of his agency in supporting companies seeking to invest in Lebanon and create more jobs. “IDAL’s role is to support investment and project support, as well as to promote productive sectors through product promotion and marketing programs and facilitate access to world markets. These exports include, of course, exports of the technological sector, benefiting from Lebanon’s openness to the world, its geographical location and its free economy,” Itani said.

He explained to the audience the role of the support unit created by IDAL and the two mobile companies.

“To complement its role and increase its support to all productive sectors, we are launching the business support unit, which is based on an urgent need for the business community and will be the first of its kind within the framework of a government entity in Lebanon, providing legal advice and free financial auditing services to emerging companies,” Itani said. He added that the support unit will contribute to the promotion of entrepreneurship, competitiveness and the increased attractiveness of the investment climate.

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