2022 in Retrospect – How Perseverance Brings a Positive Impact!

Last year, as we wrapped up 2021, many of our MENA innovators wondered what their businesses and innovations would look like in 2022. Would many people return to the office? Would they be able to produce their crops and be able to sustain their operations? Would they be able to reach their end-users? As the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, new opportunities and avenues emerge, but with a new year ahead of us, we still grapple with many of those same questions.

On the MENA Regional Innovation Hub’s side, we focused on those questions, too. We shared innovators’ stories, their challenges and impacts, but also returned to participating in strategic events like the Agri-Food Innovation Days and the COP 27. And we had some fun along the way, too. Here’s a look back at what we got up to in 2022.

In March, MENA RIH announced the winners of the Iraq Call for Innovations  – 8 small- and medium-sized enterprises that are impacting Iraq’s water-energy-food nexus. In June, the MENA RIH welcomed the 12 winners of the second MENA Call for Innovations.

In May, the Water & Energy for Food (WE4F) MENA Regional Innovation Hub was proud to host its first in-person Innovation Camp in Cyprus. The multi-day event was a perfect opportunity to help the cohort of MENA-based agri-food companies on their growth journey by discussing key challenges like gender integration, climate resilience, smallholder farmer support– and to finally bring everybody together face-to-face. 

Throughout the Innovation Camp, an emphasis was placed on helping innovators connect over shared challenges in the enabling environment in their respective countries, and work on partnership approaches to jointly address sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and climate change. The event has been a key platform for fostering knowledge and exchange among the innovators, the donor community, and the MENA Regional Innovation Hub team.

In October, the MENA Regional Innovation Hub was present at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Brussels, hosting the session, “End-User Financing to Combat the Impacts of Climate Change”. Our Moroccan Innovator SOWIT joined in-person along aQysta, while ONergy and FIN’Elle participated through pre-recorded videos. The session covered the importance of end-user financing for smallholder farmers who would otherwise not have access to climate-resilient technologies, integrating women into end-user financing models, and next steps for businesses and other interested parties.

October also saw nine innovators from the WE4F MENA Regional Innovation Hub (RIH) were selected to participate in the Arab SME Summit in Amman hosted by the UN-ESCWA where they seized the opportunity to showcase their innovations, engage with government and development officials, and meet other inspiring enterprises from the region. Innovators benefited from the panel discussions as well as the specialised training sessions like Green Business Model Building and Green Finance, but also had their own peer-to-peer meetings where they explored expansion and partnership opportunities within the RIH target countries. The WE4F RIH booth at the Summit helped boost the visibility of the project and ignited interest within embassies, local and international NGOs, and, of course, green enterprises.

For the month of November, let us recap what happened at this year’s Green Innovation Days in Lebanon! The WE4F MENA Regional Innovation Hub participated not just with a booth for exposure, but also in the panels, workshops, and matchmaking with experts. In brief, we signed a partnership agreement with AL Majmoua on stage and organised/took part in 3 panel discussions and 1 workshop. 2 of our innovators participated in panels – Green Essence and Compost Baladi. Innovators were matched with our tier 1 experts at the booth to prepare future technical assistance.

One of the most notable events to discuss climate change and its impact on a global scale happened on our home turf in Sharm-El-Sheikh in Egypt this November. The MENA RIH and many of our innovators were present at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference. It provided us with an excellent opportunity to exchange WE4F’s scope, goals and vision with decision-makers, peers, and leaders in the field.

This is just a brief overview of what the MENA Regional Innovation Hub got up to in 2022, made possible by supporting our tireless innovators and collaborating with our partners and stakeholders. In 2023, we look forward to sharing more stories, even bigger impact, many positive updates, and success stories!