As crowdfunding becomes more popular in various countries, recent reports reveal the funding option is gaining attention in the Middle East. According to the Huffington Post, a handful of Lebanese entrepreneurs are using crowdfunding to create and sustain social initiative throughout the country, some of which have a strong focus on disadvantaged youth.
Lebanese-American and MIT graduate Zeina Saab used Middle East’s crowdfunding platform, Zoomaal, to help set up Nawaya Network, an NGO. She is now overseeing a number of social projects in the city of Beirut. She stated, “Zoomaal came along at just the right time for us at Nawaya; we were ablet o raise $7,000 in just two days, which helped establish our network.”
Saab and her team work with youths to teach them core social principles while nurturing their specific talents for the arts. She noted, “Individually tailoring each project helps us make each person a success story.”
Meanwhile, Jordan entrepreneurs are also realizing the potential of crowdfunding and currently there are 11 Jordanian projects registered on Zoomaal’s platform. Founder and CEO of Zoomaal, Abdallah Absi, explained the concept behind the funding option and said, “It really makes sense. These young Arab entrepreneurs have some great ideas, but it’s hard for them to gain the trust of investors.”
He continued, “We’re establishing relationships with a number of companies to support the platform and its users – people get excitd when they see big companies matching donations, and it encourages other to get involved. Bust the most fascinating thing is the statistic. 45% of donors are Arab expat, and 70% of contributions are cross-country transactions as well; people want to give back to their communities.
Although the rise of crowdfunding in the Middle East is gaining support, there’s still a number of limiting factors that are exsisting on Zoomaal. Unlike its American counterpart, GoFundMe, the platform only accepts projects that are deemed to be sustainable and not considered “one-off” charity projects.
Local governments and banks are also struggling to understand the crowdfunding. Absi claimed, “They see it as a threat. They fear it because it could be a way of laundering money or funding terrorism; it’s not a comfortable zone for them.”