During the seventies and eighties, no place in the world was more synonymous with death, destruction and misery than Beirut. The world watched in horror as over 150,000 people were killed during the Lebanese Civil War. The country that had been likened to Switzerland and Paris devolved into brutal factional warfare as Shiites, Sunnis, and Maronite Christians somehow lost the ability to cooperate and, as Khalil Gibran noted, considered themselves each a separate nation. The economy came close to collapse. The U.S. was not untouched: 283 US marines and 58 French soldiers were tragically killed in their sleep on October 23, 1983 when two truck bombs hit a multinational peacekeeping force. David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, reminds us the world has not learned one of the lessons of the Lebanese Civil War: “As the Syrian crisis becomes background music to the headlines of war in Iraq and Yemen, it is vital not to lose sight of a simple truth: Humanitarian misery becomes a source of political instability if it is allowed to fester”. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/04/didn-learn-lebanon-civil-war-150417071259176.html
But the Lebanese economy did not collapse, and Lebanese women might be leading the entrepreneurial path back in this basically patriarchal society. For instance, the Cherie Blair foundation http://www.cherieblairfoundation.org/lebanon-women-entrepreneurs/ has partnered with J.P. Morgan Chase to help Lebanese women overcome still formidable hurdles, such as finding sources of finance rather than relegate women to using only their own personal savings.
University of Phoenix Center For Global Business Research affiliates Jinan Ziade (first author), Claude Tanoe, and yours truly Lou Daily have the story on how today the Beirut Digital District has become the Silicon Valley of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and a hub for venture capital. Not surprising according to Jinan, since the Lebanese are noted for entrepreneurial ability, and, of course, are related to the Phoenicians of antiquity, inventors of the alphabet and seafaring traders par excellence.
Jinan and Claude’s research on women entrepreneurs in Lebanon will be presented in late June at the 2017 ICSB Conference (International Council for Small Business) in Buenos Aires. Congratulations to Jinan and all, and to the women entrepreneurs of Lebanon, resurrecting the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Lebanon, like the mythological Phoenix, from the ashes of civil war.