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‘Small Steps to Success’ Initiative Aims to Strengthen Women and Youth Entrepreneurs in GCC

The International Trade Centre’s (ITC) SheTrades Initiative, Visa, and the Qatar Fintech Hub (QFTH) operated by Qatar Development Bank (QDB) have launched the latest phase of their partnership to support youth and women entrepreneurs in Kuwait and Qatar. This collaboration introduces “Small Steps to Success,” a comprehensive curriculum designed to enhance entrepreneurial skills, digital engagement, innovation, and soft skills tailored for young and female entrepreneurs.

The “Small Steps to Success” project aims to create a supportive ecosystem for young and female entrepreneurs through personalized peer-to-peer sessions and extensive networking opportunities. A key focus is on elevating female entrepreneurship by engaging financial institutions to promote inclusive practices and providing financial literacy training to emerging entrepreneurs.

Youth and women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are becoming significant economic contributors in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. According to the 15th ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, 53% of young Arabs in the region aspire to start their businesses within the next five years. Additionally, a 2020 McKinsey report predicts that the number of women in professional and technical roles in the Middle East will more than double within a decade, driven by digitalization and entrepreneurship.

Aligning with these trends, ITC SheTrades and Visa are intensifying efforts in Qatar and Kuwait to position youth and women entrepreneurs as key drivers of economic growth and innovation within the GCC. In Qatar, the partnership with QFTH will support early-stage entrepreneurs and FinTech startups by leveraging QFTH’s central role in the Qatari FinTech ecosystem.

Dr. Hamad Salem Mejegheer, QDB’s Executive Director of Advisory & Incubation, emphasized that the initiative aligns with QDB’s vision to foster entrepreneurial success and establish Qatar as a leading FinTech hub both globally and regionally. This strategy supports the nation’s Third National Development Strategy and broader economic diversification goals.

Shashank Singh, Visa’s VP and General Manager for Qatar and Kuwait, highlighted the partnership’s goal to equip young and female entrepreneurs with essential skills and networks for success in the digital economy. He underscored the transformative potential of digital inclusion in driving widespread growth and opportunities.

ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton elaborated on the partnership’s objectives, stating that the initiative aims to empower women and youth with comprehensive online business courses, networking, and financing opportunities to drive innovation and sustainability in Qatar and Kuwait.

The program is now accepting applications, offering selected participants support in identifying business growth challenges and opportunities. Participants will also have access to an e-learning package that includes e-commerce strategies, sustainable business practices, and financial readiness—all designed to help entrepreneurs develop their businesses further. Interested youth and women-led businesses are encouraged to apply for the program to take advantage of these valuable resources.

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