Panelists included Ayman Sejiny, CEO of the Islamic Cooperation for the Development of the Private Sector in Saudi Arabia, Neila Tazi, Senator and Founder of A3 Communications in Morocco, and Fida Taher, Co-founder of Women in Business Arabia in Jordan.
Speakers stressed the importance of immediate and substantive support to SMEs in the context of COVID as the biggest contributors of jobs to refugees. In addition, it was noted that many SMEs, especially those run by women, are genuinely concerned about refugee issues. If those companies who are reporting on social impact could be given certain incentives, it would encourage other SMEs to follow their footsteps. Further, there is a great need for technical assistance to women entrepreneurs. COVID has presented some opportunities to democratize delivery of technical assistance by digitizing training sessions, empowering women economically and enabling them to apply learnings to their businesses.
A key challenge in engaging the private sector is changing public perceptions to see refugees as net positive economic contributors to both developing and developed economies. Art and media were identified as powerful sectors to contribute to shaping such perceptions. However, there is a need for more advocacy to entrepreneurs to demonstrate what is possible and greater data and information sharing between the private sector and humanitarian actors can support partnerships that move beyond funding and financial support.