Marked by its political volatility and economic distress, the occupied Palestinian Territory (hence referred to as ‘Palestine’) struggles to provide long-term job opportunities, especially for its youth. Despite remarkable progress in basic and higher education, in 2019 almost one in four Palestinian among the labour force still remained unemployed. As stated by the UN, the lack of decent jobs hinders sustainable economic growth and has a high risk of damaging social cohesion and environmental sustainability. Motivated by the objective to generate employment opportunities for women and youth in Palestine, a recent study conducted on behalf of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) indicated that the Palestinian ICT startup sector holds underutilized potential to create jobs, especially for youth and women.
Taking into consideration this context, the SDC – which has a longstanding presence in the occupied Palestine territory (oPt) – mandated the advisory firm iGravity to conduct a feasibility study and identify how the agency can contribute to generating employment opportunities for women and youth in Palestine through tech-based innovation and entrepreneurship. Specifically, the mandate covers the investigation of two components:
- Supporting the development of a sustainable demand for start-ups and acceleration (including skills and capacity building for entrepreneurs and support structures) through linking Palestinian universities and support structures with Swiss experts and service providers, and
- Stimulating private sector investments through showcases by providing seed and acceleration funding to young entrepreneurs in tech sectors.
As such, the overarching objective of the project is to create jobs for women and youth in the occupied Palestine territory. Needless to say, there are several ways to contribute to this objective 1. Based on the research on the challenges and opportunities of the Palestinian innovation system and digital economy 2, which identified ICT start-ups as an underutilized source for job-creation, the project will aim to generate job opportunities specifically through supporting the tech entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Based on a wide range of interviews with relevant ecosystem actors in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the report concludes that there is a crucial need for building capacities as well as reinforcing connections and productive collaborations between actors. It proposes a three-pronged approach intervening both at the actor and systems level to improve the pipeline as well as attract private capital. The three recommendations developed in the following pages were elaborated in dialogue with both SDC and ecosystem actors in Palestine as well as Switzerland to ensure their relevance.