Mapping the agri-food ecosystem in MENA Region
An Introduction To Food, Agriculture and Water Ecosystem in The Middle East and North Africa
Part VIII – Lebanon
As Kök Projekt, we are passionate about food, agriculture, and water. We love to stay updated about the agri-food sector. We conduct research, prepare reports, and create databases to understand the world of food and agriculture. We shared several maps to understand the MENA Region’s food and agriculture ecosystem for the last months. The Region has a high potential for entrepreneurship. According to data from Magnitt, despite the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, startups based in the MENA region received a record $1 billion of investment in 2020, a 13% increase from the previous year(1).
The region is very rich with its cuisine and also has significant importance for food and agriculture history. The Levant (2) is accepted as the region where wild olives were first transformed into cultivated plants(3). With significant potential for entrepreneurship and rich history, the MENA region has a lot to say for the food and agriculture entrepreneurship ecosystem.
For our eighth map in the framework of our study, “Mapping the MENA Region,” We are now about to zoom in on Lebanon’s Agri-Food Ecosystem.
Entrepreneurial ecosystems aim to support economic development by promoting entrepreneurship and helping the growth of small-medium enterprises. An agri-food entrepreneurship ecosystem is formed by several players such as start-ups, governmental/public organizations, research/academic institutes, support organizations, accelerators, incubators, companies, and funding organizations. This list can be further divided into many more categories. Each organization focuses on different parts of the entrepreneurial journey, but they interact as a system and work together. With so many stakeholders in it, ecosystems are complex networks. In the agri-food sector, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees with so many stakeholders. With this map, we focus on Lebanon’s agri-food ecosystem and hope to draw a clear picture of it.
What is on the Map?
When we look at the map word’s etymology, it is from medieval Latin “Mappa Mundi,” literally meaning ‘sheet of the world.’ With our map, we want to create a clear, understandable sheet of stakeholders in Lebanon’s agri-food ecosystem(4).
Governmental and public organizations play a vital role in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. In Lebanon, in 2014, Banque du Liban announced Circular 331, an initiative to create the foundation of the new “Lebanese knowledge economy.” Circular 331 created USD400 Million for the Lebanese enterprise market(5). You will find more governmental and public organizations that play a role in the entrepreneurship ecosystem of Lebanon.
As Kök Projekt, we are an agri-food start-up accelerator. We follow startups from all over the world. We used our database and searched on the internet for developments in Lebanon’s startup world to create our map. Start-ups help to create jobs, boost the economy, find solutions to solve local and regional challenges. Lebanon has a promising food start-up ecosystem. You will discover many start-ups on our map working on various fields from smart farming, marketplace/e-commerce, delivery, clean-tech to food-tech, etc.
As Kök Projekt, we are an innovation partner for the food, agriculture, and water sector companies. We work and follow them closely. In recent years, changing market forces are pressuring companies to innovate in response to global competition, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. Today, many corporate firms are diving into the startup ecosystem and getting involved with entrepreneurs and start-ups. They also support incubator and accelerator programs to reap the benefits of innovation. In our Lebanon Agri-Food Ecosystem map, you will find many companies from food production, finance, CPG to IT/ICT, etc.
Incubators & Accelerators: Nourishing The Entrepreneurship Journey
As we mentioned earlier, access to capital is an important issue. However, many start-ups are not ready to receive investment. Start-ups need guidance, mentorship, and support. Incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and support platforms are the primary helpers of entrepreneurs during their journey. Many start-ups have a strong technical concept but have room to improve on sales and marketing. Entrepreneurship support organizations can help bridge that gap. Incubators and accelerators with their programs provide access to mentors. In Lebanon, there is an agriculture-focused acceleration program called Agrytech organized by Berytech. You will find many incubators, accelerators, support organizations, and co-working spaces on the map.
Creating a startup can be an exhaustive, expensive and arduous process. Investment funds are critical players for the primary concern of startup: Funding. Investors play a vital role in the start-up world. They work as a backbone to the entrepreneurial ecosystem by providing the capital to start the business, assisting the business plan for a start-up, advising to manage the funds accurately. You will find many investment bodies and firms on our map.
You can reach our 2021 Lebanon Agri-Food Ecosystem Map here.
This is not a full-scale map of the Lebanon Agri-Food Ecosystem.
(3)R.Blatchly,Z.D. Nircan, P.O’Hara, Zeytinlikten Sofraya Zeytinyağı’nın Hikayesi, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2020, p.14.
(4) Definitions from Oxford Languages, map etymology