Press Releases

MENA Startups Must Offer More Incentives to Attract Talent: Report

In Cairo:
Riham Mustafa
Phone: +(202) 2461-4230

Cairo, Egypt, July 19, 2016–A report sponsored by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and conducted by the Wamda Research Lab, has found that although entrepreneurs are creating jobs in the Middle East and North Africa, they often struggle to find and retain talented employees.

The report, done in partnership with Bayt and Beirut Digital District, found that just 12 percent of people want to work for a startup. Most would be happier working for a large corporation (64 percent) or in government (51 percent). That talent crunch often limits startups, a potentially valuable source of jobs, from reaching their potential. To reverse the trend, the report says entrepreneurs need to offer more incentives to employees, including stock options, and look for talent in new places, like universities.

“Startups have to tap into a pool of talented workers in order to be able to scale, create jobs, and drive the kind of economic growth this region so badly needs.” says Elias Boustani, Head of Operations at Wamda.

The report, titled Access to Talent for MENA's Entrepreneurs, surveyed 963 entrepreneurs and 1,697 workers. In another key result, it found that while startups have openings, they often struggle to find employees with the right technical and soft skills.

“MENA, more than most regions, faces the acute challenge of generating a large number of jobs very quickly,” said Mouayed Makhlouf, IFC Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Startups can help create jobs, but the region also needs an active, agile private education sector that will equip students with the skills they need to take advantage of those openings.”

 Here are other key findings from the report.

       While more than 90 percent of entrepreneurs plan to hire in the next year, just 12 percent of the workforce said they would like to work for a startup.

       Soft skills remain a big challenge for entrepreneurs, with those surveyed having difficulty finding employees who are motivated (42 percent), independent (39 percent), and with a high aptitude (37 percent).

       Entrepreneurs have difficulty finding hires with sales (28 percent), business development (27 percent), and management (24 percent) skills.

       With the exception of the United Arab Emirates, 94 percent of entrepreneurs hire locally even though they are aware there is talent in other countries. The most qualified regional workforces are thought to be in Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.

       There is a gap between salary expectations and salaries offered. Just over 50 percent of entrepreneurs in MENA offer salaries ranging from $250 to $1,000 per month, but only 13 percent of the workforce is willing to work for less than $1,000 per month.

About Wamda Research Lab (WRL)

WRL is Wamda’s research program that produces studies on entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)and seeks to foster thought leadership in this field. Its agenda is to inform investors, policymakers, and other stakeholders on barriers to and solutions for developing entrepreneurship in MENA.

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About Beirut Digital District (BDD)
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About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. Working with 2,000 businesses worldwide, we use our six decades of experience to create opportunity where it’s needed most. In FY15, our long-term investments in developing countries rose to nearly $18 billion, leveraging our capital, expertise and influence to help the private sector end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit    

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