Enabled by UNDP’s region-wide Women Innovators Programme, at the Algeria Accelerator Lab we’ve been learning about the potential of mentorship to transform opportunities for women entrepreneurs and innovators and amplify their social impact.
In January 2021, together with the Algerian Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ACSE), we organized the Professional Camp for Sustainable Solutions (PROCESS), which identified and supported budding social entrepreneurs from across the country. One of the participants, Selma Taherti, is the founder of Green Sewing, a socio-environmental startup that expands the value chain of advertising posters by recycling them into unique, creative, and eco-friendly products like shopping bags, backpacks and more. By employing women in the production process, Green Sewing also supports job creation. Green Sewing was the winner of the “Coup de Coeur féminin” in the 2019 TotalEnergies “Startupper of the Year Challenge”. However, due to Covid-19, the start-up faced challenges linked to customer demand and accessing funding.
In Selma’s words, “one of the main challenges that we were facing was developing our marketing and commercial skills. We were trying to learn new methods on how to attract and approach new clients since, at that point, this was of extreme importance to us!”
Another social entrepreneur, Sabrina Amer Moussa, co-founded Tyniri*, an e-commerce platform that supports artisans in marketing their products. Sabrina joined us through Generation Unlimited (GenU); a global multi-sector partnership to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training, and employment opportunities for young people aged 10 to 24. Tyniri, a startup founded by four young women who are first-time entrepreneurs, was facing difficulties in attracting catching artisans, dealing with intense competition, and overcoming a lack of leadership training.
In April 2021, Selma and Sabrina were selected to participate in the first iteration of the Women Innovators Programme, a partnership between the Innovation Team at UNDP’s Regional Hub for the Arab States and 4YFN, GSMA’s platform for startups worldwide. This was a mentorship program for women-led digital start-ups in the Arab States that are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. 21 participants from across the region benefitted from 210 hours of one-on-one time with international mentors from the 4YFN Global Tech Community (industry experts and serial entrepreneurs) and were able to pitch to international investors at a Demo Day.
Sabrina shared with us her experience of the programme: “After partnering with UNDP Algeria’s Accelerator Lab, we applied design thinking to better define the nature of our startup. During this phase, we identified artisans who shared with us their products which vary from one region to another. We were amazed by the beauty and the diversity of the products and the traditions which encouraged us to make a Minimum Variable product and test it. However, we were always missing the advice of someone who has been down the same path who could encourage us to manage our learning, develop our skills and improve our performance. When we joined the Women Innovators Programme, we had a chance to hear from different experts who shared with us their experiences, resources, and orientation and by the end of the programme, we officially launched our startup”.
Building on the Women Innovators Programme, UNDP is providing continued opportunities to the participants. One of those opportunities will be their participation in GSMA’s annual Mobile World Congress, taking place in person in Barcelona from February 28th to March 3rd 2022, in which UNDP is an “Impact Partner.” Selma and Sabrina, with the support of UNDP Algeria’s Accelerator Lab, will represent Algeria in one of the biggest technology events of the year, where they will have the opportunity to present their startups, gain new perspectives and network with other tech-minded entrepreneurs, potential partners, and investors.
Sabrina: “We are so excited to participate in the GSMA event in Barcelona to promote Algerian traditional handicraft worldwide through our platform! We wish to promote our project to international investors and business angels. Our objective is also to learn from the experiences of other participants and speakers, and to share our own”.
In short, MWC is an opportunity to meet decision-makers and hear from thought leaders. During the event, participants will see the vibrancy, reach, and diversity that puts MWC at the forefront of the kind of innovation that addresses critical challenges across society.
Selma: “I expect to meet people from different backgrounds that I can learn from and listen to their experiences. I am sure that we will be on the same page on some challenges we face and the expectations we have. I am looking forward to meeting future entrepreneurs, experts in the latest technologies, and other women leaders from Arab countries who participated in the Women Innovators Programme”.
Mentorship is a process connecting individuals with different levels of experience and expertise. It is empowering for young women entrepreneurs and essential to enable the growth of their businesses. Selma and Sabrina are two emerging women entrepreneurs who proved being capable of defeating many business challenges after their experience with the Women Innovators Programme, which second edition will be launched at the Mobile World Congress!
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Hanane Kaouane, responsable d’expérimentation, Accelerateur lab Algérie