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Tech start-ups lead Lebanon out of the rubble

PA's Colm Reilly, head of economic development and managing director of UKTI's investment services is featured in an article, published in Management Today, about how entrepreneurs are transforming the Lebanese economy and how the UK is helping them. 

The article, written by the editor of Management Today, Matthew Gwyther, outlines the work of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in Lebanon to support economic development as well as cultivate export opportunities for the UK. 

Matthew highlights the particular role of PA’s Colm Reilly in running the UKTI’s programme in Lebanon, saying: “When sceptics moan about HMG's money being spent on consultants, they should be introduced to Reilly and his works. He is the most acceptable of the faces of government outsourcing. Reilly has set up the UK Lebanon Tech Hub in Beirut, a sort of digital get-together venue for young businesses.” This is a not-for-profit initiative initiated by the Central Bank of Lebanon, endorsed by the UK Government and run by PA which provides UK expertise to support local entrepreneurship and SMEs.

Matthew goes on to explain how Colm has brought together an energetic team of “fizzy and talented youngsters he picked up from the UK embassy,” and the impact they are making. This is endorsed by the UK’s ambassador, Tom Fletcher, who is quoted as saying, Lebanon itself is not a big export market, though we do a lot of business here. The key is Lebanon's networks - immensely powerful in a century that is all about networks. So Lebanon is the perfect hub for businesses seeking a foothold in West Africa, or South America. And the kind of collaboration we're aiming for is more instability-proof than most - it only needs an internet connection, ingenuity and vision.

UKTI’s success is then set in the wider context of the fragile political situation in Lebanon and the fact that traditionally Lebanese entrepreneurs have tended to leave to make their fortunes elsewhere. However, it finds evidence that this is now changing with the emergence of a group of ambitious young people who are focused on creating new start-ups and who have made Beirut their home.

The article then goes on to tell the individual stories of a number of these new entrepreneurs who are succeeding despite the challenges of political instability, poor infrastructure and an imbalanced financial sector, and who seem to be thriving on adversity.


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