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Erbil-Based Shiffer Wins the MITEF Pan Arab’s Innovate for Refugees

The Innovate for Refugees competition awards the best solutions to tackle the refugee crisis across the Middle East. US-based Engineering For Social Good and Lebanese startup KwikPak won the Idea Track.

Peer-to-peer logistics platform Shiffer, founded in Iraq, has just been awarded the ‘Startup Track’ at the Innovate for Refugees Competition (IFR), a global competition led by the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan-Arab for the best tech-driven solutions addressing the challenges faced by refugees across the globe.

The startup, founded by Azhar Al-Madani, had previously won the first prize at the Startup Roadshow, led by Jusoor and Spark last september. ‘Engineering For Social Good’, from the USA and ‘KwikPak’, from Lebanon, won the ‘Idea Track.’ This year’s edition of IFR received applications from over 50 countries from around the world, highlighting the competition’s popularity, and the universality of the issue at hand. The winners will each receive a cash prize of $40,000 among other in-kind benefits like training, long-term mentorship, and networking. 

Other finalists included Re:Coded, which runs coding bootcamps across Turkey, BuildInk, a mobile-friendly robot concrete 3D printer and signature concrete mixture from Lebanon; TaQadam, a USA-based startup that optimizes image annotation for your business in AI; and Artificial Blood, from USA.

Before the final award ceremony, the finalists took part in an intensive 3-day training program conducted by the MIT Bootcamps. The training program is conducted by MIT-trained coaches and focused on the fundamentals of starting a new venture, problem specification, customer mapping, business model, pitching, all supported by hands-on coaching.

“Innovate for Refugees and ReACT are not just about creating technological advancements; they are part of a global movement aiming to change the reality for millions of refugees around the world. Our bet is on education’s ability to create a safe space for refugees to express themselves, learn, and realize their potential,” said Hala Fadel, Chair of the board of MITEF Pan Arab.

The first part of the day featured the graduation of the first cohort of the MIT ReACT Certificate Program part of the MIT ReACT Hub, an initiative that was launched in May 2017 to offer quality education to displaced individuals all over the world.. MIT Enterprise Forum Pan-Arab Region is ReACT’s inaugural Seed Partner.

The final award ceremony also featured a keynote address by Prof. Sanjay Sarma, VP of Open Learning at MIT, in addition to a panel focused on a sustainable solution to the educational gap created by forceful displacement.

“This is the second year I’ve judged the IFR competition, and it’s wonderful to witness the innovative ideas and concepts that these young people come up with,” said Rashad Sinokrot, Chief Executive Officer of GCC SERVICES. 

Moreover, there was a discussion panel featuring speakers from Edraak, Zain Jordan, MIT Refugee Action Hub, and Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education مؤسسة عبد الله الغرير للتعليم. The panel highlighted the challenges related to education that displaced communities face on a daily basis. The panelists deliberated over what had already been done to tackle this global issue, and what is still needed to fully resolve issues like illiteracy, access to information, and technological inclusion.

Photos: Courtesy of MIT Enterprise Forum Pan-Arab.

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