Smart City MENA Roadshow highlights startup innovation across the region

More than 170 startups applied to showcase their solutions for the Dubai Smart City Accelerator team

This summer the Dubai Smart City Accelerator, powered by Startupbootcamp, kicked off a Smart City MENA Roadshow to meet with some of the region’s most promising startups from 10 countries in North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf.

From more than 170 applications, we met with 100+ startups who are creating innovative tech solutions in the following industries related to Smart Cities: IoT & Connectivity, Urban Automation & Mobility, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Open City Data, Sustainable Cities & Living, Smart Government, and Smart Retail. 

Smart City Pitch Events were held in Amman, Cairo, and Dubai bringing together startups alongside 32 experienced mentors who provided feedback on their business models and pitches.  One-on-One Office Hours were also held in Casablanca, Tunis, Beirut, Riyadh, Kuwait City, Manama, and Palestine. 

Among the startups selected during the MENA Roadshow, finalists will be invited to the final Selection Days for the Accelerator from September 2-4 in Dubai. Ultimately, ten companies will be selected from across the globe to join the award-winning, three-month program running from late September 2019 to early January 2020.

Startups selected for the third cohort benefit from an exclusive acceleration package valued at €300k. This includes €15,000 in cash per team to cover living expenses, office space in Dtec, mentorship opportunities from over 100 industry experts, consultation and advisory support, as well as access to Startupbootcamp’s partner organizations and seed funding.

Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority in collaboration with du, Dubai Chamber, Smart Dubai, Visa, Orange Business Services, and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Dubai, has joined to fund the Dubai Smart City Consortium. These key partners provide expertise, exposure channels, APIs and unparalleled access to their deep Smart City network of industry professionals and mentors from around the world.

What’s happening with Smart Cities in MENA? 

As urban trends shift, governments recognize the need for building smarter cities to meet growing environmental pressure, infrastructure needs, and citizen demands for greater quality of life. With more than two-thirds of the global population expected to live in cities by 2050, governments are beginning to embrace smart technologies that will help meet the coming challenges.


Although cities concentrate on societal problems, they are also the world’s best laboratories for solutions.

Smart City innovations in the Middle East and Africa have mainly focused on four areas: mobility, security, sustainability and public services. However, priorities in smart city investments do vary across the region. More affluent countries like the UAE are focused on improving government services, security, and quality of life. For example, launched in 2013, government entities like Smart Dubai focus on ‘happiness’ as an end goal in their initiatives around data, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and paperless services. These government entities have partnered with or are investing in startups who can assist in achieving their visions, such as the Dubai Smart City Accelerator program.

Whereas more affluent countries have more capital to invest in building smart city infrastructure, developing countries are aiming to fix infrastructure challenges through technology and innovation. The three major areas of emphasis for countries in Africa are transportation, mobility, and utilities. For example, as the largest city in the MENA region and the 17th largest metro area in the world, Cairo is also ranked the fourth worst city in the world for traffic congestion. This reality leaves ample room for innovation in the mobility sector. Startupbootcamp alumni Buseet and FriendyCar are examples of startups offering solutions to assist with more efficient and comfortable transportation options in Egypt.

As stated in the McKinsey Global Institute report Smart Cities: Digital Solutions for a More Livable Future, “although cities concentrate on societal problems, they are also the world’s best laboratories for solutions.” There remains great room for innovation in urban centers in MENA and startups will continue to play an important role in both identifying needs and engineering smart solutions – whether in developed or developing cities.


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