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Intel chief says Mideast lacks entrepreneurship

Chairman comments on Intel's lack of progress in venture capital schemes in tech sector.

Plans to plough as much as US $150 million into the Middle East technology sector are struggling because of a lack of entrepreneurship, Intel chairman Craig Barrett has said.

The chip giant said in 2005 it would invest $50 million through its venture capital arm in regional technology companies; the other $100 million was committed to a project with the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA) to invest in tech firms in the Gulf.

However, Barrett told IT Weekly this week, progress on both initiatives has been "slow" - with less than 10% of investment so far delivered - citing a lack of a strong entrepreneurial culture in the region.

"Although there is some entrepreneurial activity, we think there is the opportunity for much more," Barrett said.

Plans Intel is looking at to increase such activity include educational initiatives and a switch in focus to "incubator"style projects to help develop business ideas, he said.

The "infrastructure set-up on the other side" was affecting the project with SAGIA, Barrett claimed: "We continue to work and anticipate the SAGIA structure will get put in place so that we can continue to work with them. But we have been waiting for their commitment and their movement on that space."

Barrett said it was "inappropriate" for him to comment on whether SAGIA was holding projects up, claiming that it has a "very positive" approach. "The issue is whether we really get the ideas implemented on the ground," he said.

IT Weekly was unable to contact SAGIA for comment before going to press.

Barrett is due in Lebanon next week, where he will announce initiatives to help rebuild the country.

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