Women Innovators Inspire at 4YFN 2024

By: Jennifer Colville, Innovation Team Leader, and Teresa Wolverton, Innovation Specialist UNDP Amman Regional Hub for the Arab States

March 8, 2024

The energy was electric as four female entrepreneurs took to the stage in the Four Years from Now (4YFN) Pitching Hub at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain to pitch to a group of potential investors, partners, and peer innovators. With the final mic drop, a roar of applause broke out, and audience members eagerly approached the stage as the four founders from the joint UNDP-4YFN Women Innovators Programme (WIP) gathered at center stage to take their bows.


The magic of this moment has been years in the making – and exemplifies one storyline in UNDP’s broader movement to invest in women to accelerate progress. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, read on to learn more about the incredible women innovators leading the way to inclusive entrepreneurship and social impact in the Arab States.

Investing in Women for Sustainable Development

Inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship bring new solutions to enduring challenges and are a crucial component to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


Scores of data have demonstrated that investing in women entrepreneurs results in sizeable financial and social returns. Women entrepreneurs play a key role in creating employment opportunities, strengthening local entrepreneurship ecosystems, enhancing human capital investments, and fostering development outcomes for entire communities.

Around the world, women entrepreneurs are launching innovative businesses that bolster economies, address the needs of their communities, and drive sustainable development. Yet, women remain underrepresented in many parts of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. In the Arab States, women are half as likely as men to be engaged in entrepreneurship, have fewer business-relevant networks, and obtain only 2% of the region's venture capital.[1] As we hurtle towards the 2030 target for achieving the SDGs, the need to invest in women-led innovation has never been clearer.

Accelerating Progress in the Arab States

The Women Innovators Programme was launched in 2021 by UNDP’s Amman Regional Hub for the Arab States in collaboration with Four Years From Now, the start-up platform of GSMA, the Global System for Mobile Communications, to address the growing gender divide in entrepreneurship in the Arab States.

WIP champions female founders of tech enterprises across the Arab region who are leveraging technology to advance the SDGs by ensuring they have access to resources that are critical to their success. This includes a robust mentorship programme, masterclasses, support for pitching development and delivery, and networking opportunities with business leaders, fellow innovators, and investors around the world.

Having just completed its third year, WIP has supported over 80 women innovators from 16 countries and provided more than 700 hours of one-to-one mentorship. These innovators have launched and led enterprises that offer digital-based solutions across a range of sectors including education, health, finance, disability inclusion, sustainability, and more.

Female Founders Take Center Stage

The WIP delegation at 4YFN 2024 included female founders from four start-ups representing the best of innovation: ideas that drive inclusive and equitable growth, solutions that are rooted in the needs of their communities, and visions that reach into the future of what our world can become.

  • Amina Daoud of Hello Data, an Algerian data-tech startup dedicated to empowering decision-makers and fostering the growth of SMBs through data-oriented solutions
  • Fatima Zohra Bouladjoul of Zero Cash, an Algerian banking and fintech startup that aims to provide a low-cost, real-time payment solution
  • Sana Hawasly of Daraty, a Syria-based pioneer of electronics education that revolutionizes STEM learning for children in the Arab world
  • Maysoun Al-Skaf of Ajyal Smart School, an online school that helps Syrian students who are refugees, displaced, or living abroad to earn MoE-certified Syrian educational certificates

While at 4YFN, the founders showcased their groundbreaking start-ups on the pitching stage, shared their experiences during the UNDP-hosted session on women-led innovation and social change as part of the 4YFN Impact Programme, and connected in-person with the incredible mentors from 4YFN's global mentorship community, who have supported the WIP founders throughout their journey in the programme. The women innovators and UNDP Country Office staff also engaged in dialogue with Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer of UNDP, and Marina Walter, Deputy Regional Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States, discussing the challenges and triumphs of women’s innovation throughout the region, and capped off the week with a visit to members of the vibrant local innovation community in Barcelona at L’Ateneu de Fabricació de Gràcia.

As we reflect on the successes of WIP3, and the excitement of 4YFN 2024 over the past week in Barcelona, we pause today to celebrate International Women’s Day and are also excitedly looking to the future...  the call for women innovators to participate in WIP4 will open shortly and we look forward to continuing to work alongside women in the Arab States to foster inclusion, innovation, and impact for a brighter future.

The Women Innovators Programme (WIP) is a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Arab States and Four Years From Now (4YFN), the start-up platform of the global mobile operators’ association, GSMA. WIP is a mentorship programme for women-led, digital, social impact-oriented start-ups in the Arab States. Since 2021, WIP has provided 700+ hours of mentorship to 80 start-ups from 16 countries across the Arab States. In addition, participants have had the opportunity to pitch to international investors at an annual Demo Day event, participate in GSMA’s Mobile World Congress, and join peer-to-peer and group learning sessions on topics of interest.