On November 14, students from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the U.S. participated in a global pitch competition at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor. The students are participating in the William Davidson Institute’s MENA-Michigan Initiative for Global Action through Entrepreneurship (M²GATE), which virtually connects undergraduate participants from the University with peers in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to find entrepreneurial solutions to social challenges in the Middle East and North Africa region. The project is supported through ECA’s Stevens Initiative.
Through a virtual exchange, the teams developed social entrepreneurship projects and complementary pitches over a semester with the help of coaches, mentors, and social enterprise entrepreneurs from MENA and Michigan. Only three out of 90 teams advanced to the final round, affording them the opportunity to travel to Michigan to participate in the competition where one team would be crowned winner.
In front of a live audience and panel of judges, joint U.S. and MENA teams pitched solutions to a number of challenges within their countries including recycling, waste management, and a plan to enhance soft skills for youth to aid in professional development. Team EcoMENA, comprised of students from Egypt and Michigan undergrads, was selected as the winning team. Their project featured a plan to work with the Zabaleen community (roughly translated as garbage collectors) in Cairo to help them transform recycled materials they collect into jewelry and other items that can be sold for profit. This would greatly reduce the amount of plastics and metal burned or dumped into landfills and help the Zabaleen earn extra income.
The students participating in M²GATE are part of the Stevens Initiative. The Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Aspen Institute, is an international effort to grow and enhance the field of virtual exchange, and to build career and global competence skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa.
To learn more about the Stevens Initiative, please click here.