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MITEF Pan Arab launches refugee competition

Global competition launched to find technology solutions to refugee issues

The ‘Innovate for Refugee’ competition will help empower refugees, says Gegenheimer.
The ‘Innovate for Refugee’ competition will help empower refugees, says Gegenheimer.

The MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab (MITEF Pan Arab) has launched a global competition to develop technology solutions to problems faced by refugees.

The ‘Innovate for Refugees' global competition, which was launched today on World Refugee Day, aims to find innovative technology-driven solutions to the challenges encountered by refugees.

The competition is being held in partnership with Zain Group and MBC Hope, the corporate social responsibility arm of MBC, and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) and Jusoor, an NGO that aims to unite the Syrian expat community to help Syria.

The competition is open to participants from anywhere in the world, and the organisers hope to encourage entrepreneurs from among the refugee community to enter ideas themselves.

Participants can apply online on mitarabcompetition.com from 20th June 20 through to 1st September1.  Four prizes of $20,000 each will be awarded to the most innovative solutions that effectively tackle challenges faced by refugees, and the winners will be announced in October.

Of the four prizes, two are offered by the main sponsors Zain and MBC Hope and are open to solutions across categories including healthcare, energy, food, shelter and security. The third is marked for an educational solution and offered by Jusoor.

The fourth prize will be crowd funded and awarded to a solution brought forward by a refugee. The MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Innovate for Refugees crowdfunding campaign launches on the Generosity by Indiegogo platform today.

Hala Fadel, Founder and Chair of the MITEF Pan Arab, commented: "The combination of three factors make me hopeful about this competition: smartphone penetration among refugees is very high and so is Internet penetration; second, you find refugees with a very high level of education especially in science and technology, finally, the refugee population is very young. Technology, education and youth work well together and will help us unleash solutions for refugees by entrepreneurs worldwide and also from within the refugee community."

Scott Gegenheimer, CEO of Zain Group said: "We feel privileged to work with MITEF Pan Arab, MBC Hope and the UNHCR in this very relevant initiative, which strikes a deep chord with Zain. The overwhelming majority of refugees are proud, progressive and dignified people who find themselves in terrible circumstances that are beyond their control. Through efforts such as the ‘Innovate for Refugee' competition, we hope to restore a measure of pride and purpose to many stricken people, and improve their overall living circumstances."

According to Mohammed Abu Asaker, UNHCR's Spokesperson: "Over the past five years the rate of displacement has escalated drastically, with the forcibly displaced exceeding 65 million for the first time. The MENA region is the largest producer and host of refugees in the world, while Syria's war remained the world's leading cause of displacement and associated suffering."

Abu Asaker added: "the size, scale and protracted nature of the refugee crisis shows how traditional approaches are no longer sufficient to address the challenges faced by refugees. It is imperative to pursue innovative solutions that enable them to live a dignified life."