An academy for entrepreneurship in the UAE


An academy for entrepreneurship in the UAE
Genny Ghanimeh is the CEO and founder of Mind Cloud Academy, which focuses on skill-building for entrepreneurship.

dubai - The Mind Cloud Academy helps to increase employment and provide meaningful skill-building

By Sanjiv Purushotham

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Published: Mon 10 Jul 2017, 8:22 PM

Last updated: Sat 15 Jul 2017, 12:32 AM

The case for pragmatic entrepreneurship education is of critical importance in the Arab world and North Africa. There are several factors at play including the youth bulge, higher literacy rates and aspirations as well as a growing trend among youth from the region to work in private enterprise instead the public-sector.

Donald Kuratko, who chairs the Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, started the fifth entrepreneurship programme in the United States back in 1983. He estimates that there are now over 5,000 programmes worldwide offering classes and majors in the field.

In a hard-hitting article in Forbes, the inverse relationship between the explosion of entrepreneurship programmes and the number of actual startups was highlighted. It appears that it's difficult to teach entrepreneurship via formal secondary and tertiary institutions in classroom settings.

Mark Weinberger, global chairman and CEO of EY, quoted a survey by the firm that indicated that 59 per cent of entrepreneurs intended to increase their workforce as against only 28 per cent of established businesses. The need for entrepreneurship in men is of significant importance.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) report World Employment and Social Outlook 2016: Trends for Youth, the youth unemployment rates in Arab states and North Africa in 2017 will be 29 per cent, among the highest in the world.

Recognising this, the region plans to ramp up investment in education by hundreds of billions of dollars up to 2020. Between 2009-14 period, the GCC saw a CAGR of 4.4 per cent in tertiary education, reaching a level in over 1.5 million students, growing rapidly. Within this, the UAE remains the most advanced, achieving the 12th position worldwide for higher education in the Global Competitiveness Report 2015-16 published by the World Economic Forum.

Keeping the Arab world in view, Genny Ghanimeh, dynamic CEO and founder of Mind Cloud Academy, decided to focus on skill-building for entrepreneurship. She saw this as a gap. Resolving this would help to increase employment, provide meaningful skill-building as well as allow her to create true value by working closely with policy makers in industry, education and entrepreneurship.

Ghanimeh is perfectly suited for this challenge. An engineer and physicist by training, she also has an MBA in Finance from the London Business School. She got exposed to development project finance and structuring deals. There was no looking back. Known for her work in starting Pi-Slice, Ghanimeh is a well-recognised speaker on entrepreneurship and human endeavour in the region. She has an intrinsic drive to inform and educate people about the value of entrepreneurship and what it takes to succeed. She is a guest lecturer and entrepreneurship mentor for the London Business School. She is also a speaker at events organized locally and internationally.

Her relationship with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and specifically the Dubai Business Women's Council, brought into sharp focus the gap that she had identified. The viability of an enterprise in the area of formal entrepreneurship mentorship is supported by the statistics quoted earlier. There is a strong need to rapidly build employment in the region. There is also a robust appetite for investment in pragmatic education by both the public and private sectors.

The other area which Ghanimeh noticed was the "copycat" approach of many regional startup business models. According to Ghanimeh, the Arab world is different. Also, it is incorrect to believe that the Arab world is homogenous. There has to be local adaptation.

Says Ghanimeh, "It became my calling and responsibility to give back what I was given and create a platform of support and empowerment to all entrepreneurs who want to overcome their own challenges."

Once she got the concept right, Ghanimeh went into execution mode. What emerged was Mind Cloud Academy, an initiative that seeks to provide the tool sets required by a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) owners to scale up their businesses. The first offering is a programme consisting of 10 courses, designed specifically for challenges with a focus on Business Entrepreneurship and Mindful Self-Development. It is the first Knowledge & Human Development Authority (KHDA) Dubai certified Business Entrepreneurship Program. The courses are taught by expert successful regional entrepreneurs. The second of the two pilot initiatives will run later in the month of July. The first formal programme will begin in September.

Mind Cloud Academy will scale along two vectors. On the one side, it will expand with the UAE. Dubai alone will have 9 sessions during a year. The same format will be rolled across multiple cities in the region. Each city will have leaders from the relevant market speaking and teaching the courses. The other vector is online and gamification. A GulfTalent study indicated that 62 per cent of training seekers prefer classroom-based courses supplemented with an online component. The fee-based program has received tremendous interest from SMEs as well as corporates which want to sponsor courses. For example, Barclays has sponsored 15 places.
The initiative is well positioned to succeed. This is a good time to check out the program. Says Ghanimeh about the growing interest "I want to thank all the partners that made this initiative a reality from Dubai Business Women Council, In5 Innovation Center and Barclays Bank PLC"
The writer is a Partner at BridgeDFS, a bespoke financial advisory firm ( He's a digital banking and digital banking financial services evangelist, practitioner, advisor and consultant. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy. He can be contacted at

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