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Monday, December 14, 2015

Ramallah hosts first Palestine exporter showcase

 
  • Success will depend on accessing and competing in developing markets
  • Event targets stone and marble, agriculture, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and Information and communications technology (ICT)
  • Israel’s influence over transportation links, invoicing and taxation remains a point of contention


  • Commerce depends on accessing and competing in global markets
    The Palestinian territory’s first exporter week launched in late November, bringing together hundreds of attendees in the West Bank to promote the region as a global supplier of products and services. Event organizers and speakers were keen to establish an economic-based narrative under the banner of “export-led prosperity”.
    A handful of political and industry supporters from importing markets – Canada, the EU, the US and Turkey – spoke as partners of Palestinian private sector development.
    Katherine Verrier-Frechette, representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority, said that for small economies like Palestine’s (2014 GDP $7.5bn), success will depend on accessing and competing in global markets.
    As part of this strategy, Palestine is highlighting sectors such as stone and marble, agriculture, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and other industries. Information and communications technology (ICT) in particular is making gains as heavyweights such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco outsource services to local companies. ICT also recorded the highest output per employed person, at $93,200 in 2014 (compare with services at $14,500), according to the Portland Trust.

    Click here!
     
    Exports have been growing, at some 300 per cent over the last 10 years to $1.1bn for goods and services in 2014, and reached more than 100 countries, according to PalTrade, organizer of Exporter Week and non-profit membership organization set up to improve trade competitiveness.
    US-based Minnesota Cut Stone was at the conference to discuss importing activities in the stone and marble sector. Jake Blom, general manager, said the company began partnering with Jerusalem Stone Group because of consumer demand for Palestine’s limestone colours.
    Expertise and technology necessary for detailed fabrication was available on site, so shipping waste was avoided, he noted. The company plans to provide an American branch for Jerusalem Stone Group.
    But establishing business was not without its obstacles. “There seems to be a lack of certainty in time and schedules,” Blom said, pointing to September’s holidays as a major limitation causing production and transportation delays.
    Israel’s influence over transportation links, invoicing, and taxation were a clear point of contention throughout the conference, as well as issues with Jordan over introducing bespoke barcodes to identify Palestinian products.
    Middle East turmoil stemming from the Syrian conflict was not widely perceived as a risk factor. To the contrary, Palestine has a track record of outperforming markets during times of instability.
    Palestine Exchange-listed Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC) has seen its revenues go up to $536.2m in 2014, a 20.6 per cent jump year-on-year. Fida Musleh-Azar, Investor Relations at APIC, said that given the current uncertainty, Palestine has shown remarkable stability over the past few years.
    “We are used to working in disturbance. You always do contingency plans,” she said. “Life goes on. You cannot sit back … this is not the way it works in Palestine.”

    Friday, December 4, 2015

    Israel’s Overlooked Issue With Palestinians: Cellular Service


    A Palestinian driver shows the “Azmeh” application on his mobile phone while waiting in traffic at Qalandia checkpoint, November 10, 2015. Credit: AP
    The long-awaited awarding of 3G frequencies is a good sign both for app users and the overall Palestinian economy, the think tank Al-Shabaka says.

    Amitai Ziv, Haaretz, Dec 02, 2015 1:03 AM

    The army made the historic announcement on November 19: Israel and the Palestinian Authority had agreed for third generation cellular networks to operate in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

    But the statement, on which the army’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has declined to provide details, raises more questions than it answers. To really understand it, you have to know that 3G services were launched in Israel in 2006. The Palestinians are still on 2G, which means no fast Internet, and prices are way out of line.

    Without the allocation of new frequencies, Palestinians have been held hostage by the Israeli government. Even with an advanced smartphone, forget about using a navigation app or sending pictures, for example.

    A day after the announcement, the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency, released a statement of its own.

    The ITU said it “welcomed the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement on the assignment of frequencies in the 2100 MHz band for Palestinian cellular operators.” The frequencies would be awarded to the two Palestinian cellular incumbents: Wataniya and Jawwal, a subsidiary of the Palestinian telephone company PalTel. 

    “Palestinian operators will be able to construct broadband cellular networks completely independent and separate from Israeli networks,” the ITU said. “Moreover, the operations of the Palestinian and Israeli broadband cellular networks will be regulated respectively by the Palestinian and Israeli authorities.”

    Israel had delayed allocating 3G frequencies to the Palestinians for years. The Israeli Communications Ministry and the army’s Civil Administration in the West Bank are responsible for those frequencies. Also, Israel is responsible for providing allied tech services to the Palestinians — both under international protocol and the Oslo Accords.

    In August, after more than five years of delays, officials of the Palestinian Telecom and Information Technology Ministry met with their Israeli counterparts over allocating 3G and 4G frequencies. Palestinians said the Israelis had agreed in principle to provide the frequencies.

    Israeli cellular companies have had a much easier time receiving such frequencies; as a result, many Palestinians use the Israeli companies.

    Jawwal was the first Palestinian cellular company and still has the largest customer base: 2.75 million in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. PalTel, Jawwal’s owner, is the largest firm on the Palestinian Stock Exchange — a third of the value of all stocks listed there. It’s also the second largest employer in the PA.

    Wataniya is owned by a Qatari company, Ooredoo, which owns cellular firms all over the world, including in Tunisia, Algeria and Myanmar. It started operating here in 2009 and has 620,000 customers.

    According to Israeli estimates, there are some 3.4 million cellular subscribers in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Tens of millions of dollars

    Communications infrastructure, especially cellular frequencies, are a major issue for the Palestinians, so the Palestinian-American Al-Shabaka think tank took a look at the issue in its November report “ICT: The Shackled Engine of Palestine’s Development.” With “ICT,” the Washington-based think tank was referring to information and communications technology.

    Al-Shabaka estimates that “Palestinian operators lose $80 to $100 million annually as a result of the lack of 3G services.”

    The report’s basic assumption is that the information and communications technology industry is the “pillar of all other sectors” and “enables and enhances different dimensions of social and economic development. In addition, there is a strong positive correlation between direct investments in ICT and job creation.” It says this sector accounts for 5.6% of Palestinian GDP.

    Al-Shabaka lists a number of problems affecting the Palestinian ICT sector. First is frequencies. The 4.8 megahertz Jawwal received in 1999 served 120,000 people, a customer number that has since ballooned by 20 times. In comparison, Cellcom enjoys 37 megahertz.

    “Basic functions that users in other countries take for granted are simply not available through Palestinian providers, forcing both the business community and other customers to look elsewhere to the advantage of Israeli Internet providers,” the report says.

    It’s the Israeli operators who profit from the lack of cellular frequencies, says Al-Shabaka. They build cellular antennas in the settlements, sometimes on private Palestinian land, and provide services to Palestinians.

    The Palestinian companies can’t put up antennas in Area C — about 60% of the West Bank’s territory — which is under exclusive Israeli control. It’s estimated that some 20% to 40% of the Palestinian telecom market is served by Israeli companies, which don’t pay taxes to the PA. The Ramallah government thus loses an estimated $10 million to $40 million a year.

    Israeli cellular operators declined to answer TheMarker’s questions on their antenna numbers, revenues or customer numbers in the West Bank, saying these were commercial secrets. Some companies said they didn’t sell SIM cards in the West Bank but such cards may reach the area, which is outside the companies’ control.

    Al-Shabaka laments Israel’s control over the Palestinian telecommunication infrastructure in the West Bank.

    “Companies rarely get permission to build service towers in Area C, but they are also prohibited from building switches in Area A, which is supposed to be under sole PA control under the Oslo accords,” Al-Shabaka writes. “This has forced Jawwal to locate its switches to London and Jordan, while Wataniya Mobile had to build them in East Jerusalem, under Israel’s control.”

    The fragmented Palestinians

    Sam Bahour, one of the authors of the Al-Shabaka report, notes the great demand.

    “The Palestinians are a group that loves technology, and I have seen more advanced smartphones here than when I lived in the United States. The young people, like young people everywhere in the world, want to be up to date with the latest trend,” he told TheMarker. So the allocation of 3G frequencies is vital."

    Bahour said the availability of communications technology was particularly important to the Palestinians; after all, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are separated from one another, and the West Bank is separated from communities overseas.

    Meanwhile, the Israeli cellular companies providing service in the PA don’t have licenses from the PA — something that breaches the Oslo Accords, Bahour says.

    And it’s always possible to use the security argument. It’s always possible to claim that an attack will be planned using a smartphone.

    “And if I do it over an Israeli network, what’s the difference? In any case, the entire network is monitored,” Bahour says. “When you call me in Ramallah you dial the 02 area code. Our telephone network has remained operating in all the rounds of the conflict, and it seems there’s a good reason.”

    Al-Shabaka says the first step is for Israeli restrictions on the information and communications technology to be lifted.

    “No matter how far a new agreement goes, it will not be fully effective unless Israel completely lifts its hand off Palestine’s ICT sector,” the think tank writes. “If it does not, the PLO/PA should use Palestine’s observer state status and ITU resolutions to lobby for free access to its full frequency spectrum and a Palestinian international gateway that is independent of the Israeli one.”

    Al-Shabaka also says foreign investment in the Palestinian technology sector should be encouraged, along with further cooperation with Palestinian companies.

    Another key step is replacing the Palestinian communications ministry with an independent communications authority. In addition, the Palestinian Education Ministry should promote information technology in schools — and “hold Palestinian academic institutions to a higher global standard in this sphere and to develop Palestinian skills in innovation, creativity, research, critical thinking, and science and technology.”

    Finally, Al-Shabaka says there is room for promoting communications services on a local level in the PA without waiting for outside help. The think tank has called on the cities to lay fiber-optic cables and microwave links, and build public Wi-Fi antennas as an alternative to the cellular networks.

     “Municipalities can also add solar power panels onto their street lighting poles as well as a wireless network to ensure citywide Wi-Fi,” the report states.

    Al-Shabaka also calls for the building of mesh wireless networks, which are not dependent on centrally located towers and can bypass obstacles like hills. They’re a promising new avenue for municipalities.

    In conclusion, Al-Shabaka says the new agreement may lead to major changes, but it remains to be seen how it will be implemented. “Regardless, Israel is unlikely to completely lift its hand from this key sector,” the think tank says. 

    Amitai Ziv
    Haaretz Contributor 

    Sunday, October 11, 2015

    Despite Government Resistance, Beer Flows Freely for Palestinians

    Image: Madees Khoury



    Thursday, September 24, 2015

    On The Ground In Palestine: The Businesses That Thrive Under Pressure


    By Chris Wright for Forbes International

    Last month I spent several days on the West Bank, in the Palestinian Territories, researching a feature for Euromoney on how banks and businesses thrive under extreme stress.
    The article appears in Euromoney today, and you can read it here.
    The article was prompted by some highly impressive numbers from the biggest bank in the Territories, Bank of Palestine, which logged 20% year-on-year growth in its first-half numbers in August. How, I wondered, was that possible in a place like Palestine?

    Consider this:
    • Palestine, insofar as it is a state at all, is made up of two completely different places: West Bank and Gaza (plus East Jerusalem). The two are not connected, and there is no freedom of movement between them, with permits to travel controlled by Israel.



    • Gaza was involved in a vicious war in 2014 that killed more than 2,000 of its citizens.
    • The two halves have different governments: Fatah in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza. The two sides don’t like each other, and Hamas, with an unflinching belief in the destruction of Israel, is considered a terrorist entity by most western institutions. Any local bank faces the additional pressure of trying to make sure it isn’t banking Hamas (Jordan’s Arab Bank has been fined heavily in the US for the suggestion that it once did).
    • Even in relatively peaceful West Bank, 70% of the land is controlled by Israel and cannot be built upon or otherwise developed by West Bank citizens or business. Palestinians can’t use many of their own roads, and find their own water supply controlled and diverted by Israel, where they receive far less usable water – whether for drinking, hygiene or irrigation – than the Jewish settlements built on their land.
  • Beyond all that, the everyday reality of life and business in Palestine is of obstruction and inconvenience. “Many parts of the West Bank are completely off limits, and there are only one or two roads that act as lifelines between the north and the south,” says Bank of Palestine’s CEO, Hashim Shawa.”There are checkpoints at lots of the junctions on those lifelines, and often situations where the Israeli forces just close everything down. It interrupts traffic, movement of people and goods, daily lives, everything, and it puts off people from doing things and spending money. It all puts a massive constraint on the true potential of the Palestinian people and economy. It’s a layer of problems on problems on restrictions on restrictions on restrictions.”
  • So how, then, do banks and businesses grow? Read the Euromoney article to understand more through a series of interviews, from an olive farmer in Jenin to an ice cream manufacturer in Nablus, a pharmaceutical family business in Ramallah to the head of the stock exchange. But here are a few conclusions:
    • My own experience of the Palestinian people on the West Bank is that the fundamental drive in their lives is to get by: to raise their families, educate their children, earn a living. Politics and religion only come into it insofar as they impact upon daily life.
    • That being the case, businesses thrive by finding a way. The olive oil farmer I met spotted a market under the Fair Trade label more commonly associated with coffee. His company, Canaan Fair Trade, consolidates 2,500 families with small scale farms into one trading channel, guaranteeing them a living wage. Doing so puts the cost of the product beyond an acceptable price for locals to buy it, but no matter, they export to the US, where the Fair Trade label is valued. And, since there’s not enough water, they just focus on crops that don’t need much: olives and almonds.
    • The situation is still more extreme in Gaza, where two million people live in a strip of land 25 miles long and three to seven miles wide, with dismal infrastructure, unreliable electricity and profoundly limited movement. Yet Iliana Montauk, an American who moved here to set up the Gaza Sky Geeks incubator fund, has helped to launch numerous online and virtual businesses (since in Gaza it’s best to have a business that exists in thin air rather than any physical infrastructure) and says they are the hardest working people in the world. Gazans don’t take annual leave, she says – where would they go? They’re not allowed to leave Gaza – and have taken to asking her to keep the office open until midnight so they can keep working, since there’s nothing else to do. “To launch a successful business you need entrepreneurs who are hungry to launch a business and willing to work incredibly hard to make that happen,” she says.
    • In the West Bank, business is still local: everyone knows everyone else. This is perhaps part of the reason that creditworthiness is surprisingly high. The bank manager knows his or her clients personally, and probably their family and their neighbours; if someone gets into difficulties, the community tends to help them out; and people generally do not want to walk away from a debt since everyone else will know it’s out there.
    • In places like this, full of niches and angles, the little guy can thrive, so banks like Bank of Palestine have done well by backing small to medium enterprises, or by helping the enfranchisement of women in business.
    • Palestine’s diaspora is huge and powerful: it is estimated as much as $100 billion. Loyal and keen to help, mobilising that capital in business represents a colossal opportunity for the Palestinian economy (and, let’s be clear, it is far better that that money goes into a productive use in business and commerce than some of the alternatives).
    • Palestine’s stock exchange allows a mechanism for that foreign-held capital to come home again. Today, liquidity is weak, but no more so than in other regional exchanges like Bahrain; the exchange is hoping to gain membership of the World Federation of Exchanges shortly.
    • And here, for the frontier-spirited, is perhaps an investment case. Valuations are low, companies tend to pay a very high yield, and Palestine Exchange CEO Ahmad Aweidah  says that with statehood, “we would be at least 10 times as big within five years.” True peace and independence would be an almighty investment opportunity.
    The world community should be glad to hear this, and should support it. An economically prosperous Palestine is a credible Palestine; a credible Palestine is one that can stand alone as a recognised state; a recognised state doesn’t need something with Hamas’s attitudes representing it. The more people can build a decent standard of living in Palestine, the less any temptation to drift towards extremism. A viable economy in Gaza and the West Bank is in everyone’s interests, most certainly including Israel’s, and what I concluded on my latest visit was this: if people can build impressive businesses in these circumstances, imagine what they could do without restriction. That, perhaps, is a brighter future that trade and investment can help bring.

    Chris Wright is the author of No More Worlds to Conquer, published by HarperCollins

    Original Article is here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswright/2015/09/21/on-the-ground-in-palestine-the-businesses-that-thrive-under-pressure/

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015

    No electricity, no problem: Startup Grind Gaza succeeds despite obstacles

    Despite difficulties, Dave McClure, right, managed to get to Gaza for its second Startup Grind event, and it was a success. (Image via Ain Media)

     
    by Christina Ganim, September 14, 2015
     
    The difficulties of getting into Gaza didn’t deter Dave McClure. The prominent angel investor and founding partner at 500 Startups was the guest of honor for Startup Grind Gaza’s second event in Sunday, but first he had to get there.
    To be sure, McClure already was scheduled to be in Palestine. He spoke at Startup Grind Ramallah last Thursday, but entry into Gaza required a different visa that could only be obtained from the Israeli government; the application process began many weeks prior. And it’s nearly impossible for Gaza’s entrepreneurs to get permission to leave the strip, even if it’s to simply hear McClure speak in Ramallah.
    It took over a month and the assistance of Mercy Corps to get McClure permission to visit Gaza. But persistence paid off, and Gaza’s entrepreneurial community turned out in force on Sunday to hear him speak.
    The event was an opportunity for Gaza’s startup community to benefit from McClure’s insights, and for McClure to get a small taste of the conditions in Gaza.
    “Tough backgrounds breed resilient and nimble entrepreneurs,” McClure said, when the power went out. “This happens in Asia, too. Stop worrying about lack of electricity, focus and build great online companies.”

    For more information:
    http://www.wamda.com/2015/09/no-electricity-no-problem-startup-grind-gaza-succeeds-despite-logistical-obstacles

    Friday, September 4, 2015

    Turning Water Into Wine

    The Taybeh Vinfest, West Bank
    Taybeh, the last Christian village in the West Bank, is well-known for its brewery and annual Oktoberfest. Late last year, the family that owns the brewery launched a winery. The first Taybeh wine festival (the Taybeh Vinfest) was held at the end of February. The Khoury family has always claimed that developing the local economy is their way of putting up peaceful resistance and encouraging Palestinians to stay in – or return to – their native home instead of going abroad in search of better opportunities.
     
    The Taybeh Golden Hotel's sleek glass walls and neoclassical-inspired facade would blend anonymously into the background of most streets in Paris or London. But in the sleepy West Bank village of Taybeh, its brightly lit, chandelier-clad lobby is unlikely to go unnoticed.
    One family in Taybeh is determined to turn this small village 20 kilometres north of Jerusalem, the
    only remaining Christian enclave in the West Bank and home to some 1,400 people, into a tourism hub in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

    Nadim Khoury returned from Boston to his native Taybeh after the Oslo Accords, taking advantage of the climate of temporary stability to set up the successful brewery that first put the village on the map. The yearly Oktoberfest that began in 2005 drew visitors in their thousands.

    For the rest of the story by Ylenia Gostoli of Qantara.de click here:

    http://en.qantara.de/content/the-taybeh-vinfest-west-bank-turning-water-into-wine
     
    
    Canaan Khoury at the Taybeh winery. Khoury, a 23-year-old Harvard University graduate, was put in charge of the new winery in November 2015 by his father, who returned from Boston to his native Taybeh after the Oslo Accords to set up the family's successful brewery


     

    Wednesday, September 2, 2015

    Meet the Palestinian Who Went From Throwing Stones at Israelis to Building a Town With Them

    Bashar Masri, main investor of the new Palestinian city of Rawabi, in front of an apartment building under construction in Rawabi, West Bank, on Feb. 24, 2014
     

    

     Bashar Masri's Rawabi project will welcome its first residents this month


    Bashar Masri, 54, looks pensive as he sits in the gleaming, glass-walled luxury apartment showroom of Rawabi, a brand new Palestinian city he has built from scratch.
    Rawabi is the first planned town to be built in the West Bank. The futuristic, hi-tech and eco-friendly town, which welcomes its first residents this month and eventually aims to house up to 40,000 people cost $1.2 billion, provided by the Qatari Diar real estate firm and Masri’s own Massar International real estate firm.

    Masri is today one of the richest men in Palestine, an accomplished real estate magnate and entrepreneur who frequently meets international leaders, from the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
    But his wealth and polished appearance betrays little of his past as an angry youth growing up in the West Bank city of Nablus and his stints in Israeli prisons. He was born in 1961 and Israel invaded the West Bank and ended Jordanian control in 1967. As he grew up, Masri found himself in confrontation with Israeli soldiers who patrolled his home town and enforced Israeli rule

    See the rest of this Time Article here: http://time.com/4018306/rawabi-bashar-masri/

    Sunday, August 23, 2015

    Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of Palestine Exchange Interviewed for FEAS Newsletter



    Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of Palestine Exchange


     
    In a recent interview for the Frontier Newsletter from the Federation of Euro-Asian Stock Exchanges, Ahmad Aweidah, CEO of Palestine Exchange provides significant insight into Palestinian capital markets.  He discusses the underpinnings of the exchange, how it has grown and how outsiders can invest in Palestinian public companies. For the full text of the interview click here: http://www.feas.org/Portals/0/FEAS_Frontier_Palestine.pdf.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2015

    Gaza’s new Coca Cola plant to start operating in months


    By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
    Saturday, 20 June 2015

    Beverage giant Coca Cola is set to open a plant in Gaza this October, marking the multinational’s fourth factory in Palestine, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
    The $20 million investment in the Palestinian enclave will hike up the number of Palestinians employed by Coca Cola from 500 to 800.
    While starting a project in Hamas-controlled Gaza may sound riskier than opting for the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is based, Imad Hindi, the general manager of National Beverage Company (NBC), said the company has long been an investor in Palestine.
    “Coca Cola is the first and largest global company that has invested in Palestine and these investments are opening the gates for others. The same thing will occur in Gaza,” Hindi, who heads the company which bottles and distributes Coca Cola products in Palestine, said during a press trip to one of the three plants in the West Bank earlier this week.
    Coca Cola has factories in Ramallah, Tulkarim and Jericho and is the fifth largest investor in the country, Hurriyet reported.
    The Coca Cola share in the Palestinian market is at 86 percent, the largest for the company in the region.

    Last Update: Saturday, 20 June 2015 KSA 20:02 - GMT 17:02
     
     

    Friday, June 5, 2015

    Global Founders Capital Invests In Middle East Hotel Booking Startup Yamsafer

    Global Founders Capital, the European investment fund set up in 2013 by Rocket Internet founders Oliver and Marc Samwer, has led a $3.5 million Series B funding round in Middle East hotel booking startup Yamsafer. Existing investor Sadara Ventures also participated in the round, along with some undisclosed U.S. based investors.

    It’s GFC’s first investment in the online travel in this region, although Rocket Internet has previously invested in Namshi, a regional online fashion retailer — and has multiple global travel investments to its name such as Traveloka in Indonesia, or Germany’s Trivago (now owned by Expedia).

    Yamsafer is located in the West Bank — and claims this is the first “foreign-led venture capital investment of its kind in a Palestine-based company”. It plans to use the funding to accelerate growth and expand its team. Currently it has some 4,000 properties bookable via its platform.

    for more information: http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/03/global-founders-capital-invests-in-middle-east-hotel-booking-startup-yamsafer/

    Sunday, May 31, 2015

    "They are much better than their image outside"

    Doing business in the West Bank: Roger Hearing explores the intricacies and misconceptions of the economy of the West Bank with the head of the World Bank office in Jerusalem, Steen Lau Jorgensen:

     

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02rth34


    Release date: 20 May 2015
    6 minutes

    Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    High level of technology literacy in Palestine


    The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology issue a joint press release on the International Day for  Information Society  17th of May.

     

    The world celebrates the International Day for Information Society this year under the theme of "ICTs; Drivers of Innovation”.  The main purpose of the information society knowledge and fair access to information. Information is a key pillar for the Palestinian economy as it connects it to the global economy and helps overcoming the restrictions imposed by Israeli military occupation.

     
    Telecommunications  in Palestine

    The total number of Internet companies operating and registered in the Ministry of Telecommunications for the year  2015 were 56 companies distributed as follows; 40 Companies wireless connection to the Internet (WIFI), and 6 companies for connections to the IP telephony (VOIP), and 10 companies for Broad Band Internet connection, concerning the number of  companies for import of communications equipment have reached 40 companies for 2015. 

    The number of fix telephone lines in Palestine exceeded 403.1 thousands in 2014,  while  the number of mobile phone subscribers  reached 3.1 millions. The number of ADSL subscribers reached more than 235 thousands in the year 2014. Currently, the number of computers in Palestinian households was estimated at 1.1 million computer (Desktops, laptop and Tablet).
     

    More than Half of Palestinian Households Own a Smart Phone

    The percentage of households in Palestine that Own a Smart Phone reached 51.0% in 2014, (59.4% in the West Bank and 34.7% in  Gaza Strip).  While the percentage of households in Palestine which have computer reached to 63.1% in the year 2014, 66.9% for the West Bank and for Gaza Strip 55.6%, compared to merely one-third 32.8% for Palestinian households owning computer in 2006 .


    Narrowing Gender Gap in Use of Technology

    The percentage of Internet users for both males and females increased during the year 2014 compared to 2000, the gap receded.  Where the percentage of Internet users among males increased from 7.9%  to 59.6% and the percentage of Internet users among females increased from 2.8 % to 47.5%.
     

    About Half of the Palestinian Households Have Internet Access at Home

    48.3% of households in Palestine have an Internet connection in the year 2014 (compared with 30.4% in 2011) 51.4% in the West Bank and 42.2% in Gaza Strip.  While 53.7% of individuals (10 years and above) who used computer by use the Internet in Palestine: 54.5% in the West Bank and 52.2% in Gaza Strip.


    Three Quarters of Individuals Use Social Media Networks

    Percentage of persons (10 years and above) who use Social Media Networks reached  75.1% of Internet users in the year 2014. Regarding the purpose of the use of Social Media Network, the results indicated that 75.0% of Social Media Networks users accessed it for acquaintance, and 76.5% use it for games and entertainment, and 62.0% for making phone calls.


    Research and Development Personnel


    In 2013, there were 8,715 employees in Research & Development, representing 5,162 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers.  There were 4,533 researchers, accounting for 2,492 FTE researchers, including 3,510 male and 1,023 female researchers.  There were 566 FTE researchers per one million inhabitants.


     

    Research and Development Outputs


    The major outputs of Research and Development, in 2013 were as   follows: 149 international standard book numbers (ISBN), and nine patents.  While research by field was distributed as follows: 26.7% studies and consultations, 34.4% basic research, 30.6% applied research, and 8.3% experimental research.

                                                                            

    For more information, please contact:


    Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
    Ramallah- Palestine  P.O. Box 1647
    Tel: (970/972) 02-2982700
    Fax: (970/972) 02-2982710
    Toll Free: 1800300300
    Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology
    Ramallah- Palestine  P.O. Box 674 
    Tel:  +972 2 2429350
    Fax: +972 2 2429357
     

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    Pressing play on a paused economy


    Monday, April 27, 2015

    Gisha releases a new report on the leading productive sectors in Gaza.

     In November 2014, Israel canceled the sweeping ban on sale of Gaza-made and grown goods in the West Bank. Against this backdrop, we gathered leading figures in five manufacturing sectors in Gaza in order to hear from them about the obstacles they face on the way to realizing their potential and about their hope for a better future.

     On November 6, 2014, a truck left Gaza on what one might call a historic trip. The cardboard boxes it was carrying, loaded with ten tons of cucumbers, were to be sold in Hebron. It was the first time Israel allowed goods from Gaza to be sold on the private market in the West Bank in seven and a half years. Since that morning, hundreds of trucks loaded with goods have left Gaza for West Bank markets, which had been blocked to Gaza residents since Hamas took control of the Strip.

    Given that Israel and the West Bank had been Gaza’s main trade destinations until 2007, the ban on accessing these markets virtually eliminated economic life in Gaza and produced disparities between the two parts of the Palestinian territory with respect to nearly every economic parameter. Allowing the sale of Gaza made and grown goods in the West Bank, and recently also in Israel to a limited degree, is critical and gives ground for cautious optimism.

    Around the same time as the cucumbers were on their way to Hebron, we brought together leading figures in five manufacturing sectors in Gaza for focus group discussions. We wanted to understand what the potential of trade with the West Bank means to them and what obstacles they face. Each focus group included representatives from one of Gaza’s main productive sectors: furniture, agriculture, textile, food processing and information and communication technology (ICT). Participants discussed the many years of closure, shared their thoughts on accessing West Bank markets, and their hope for a better future. 
    For the rest of the article click here:

    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    First Palestinian Business Conference to take place in May

    BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian businessman Farouq al-Shami declared Tuesday that the first Palestinian Business Conference will take place next month.
     
    Al-Shami, who is also head of the conference, said the event aims to support Palestinian economic dependence as well as help to create more job opportunities through building new projects.
     
    He told Ma'an the conference will be taking place in Ramallah for three days starting on May 4.
     More than 300 Palestinian, Arab, and foreign businessmen will attend the conference to discuss methods of investment in education, agriculture, technology and manufacture.
     President Mahmoud Abbas will also be taking part in the conference.
     
    Al-Shami added that the committee in charge of the conference has already started delivering invitations to businessmen expected to invest in Palestine, pointing out the opportunity for businessmen abroad to familiarize with the Palestinian economy and visit Palestinian factories.

    Al-Shami called upon businessmen to invest in Palestine and support Palestinians.

    Al-Shami's call is the most recent amid expanding efforts by Palestinians to reduce dependence on Israeli products and markets, a difficult process due to Israeli control, restrictions, and taxing of goods entering and leaving both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Saturday, April 4, 2015

    Palestinian students design vest to help the blind navigate

    (Reuters) - Palestinian students from the Polytechnic University in Hebron have created a vest that uses vibration and voice commands to allow the blind and seriously visually impaired to walk unaided. Their Smart Assist System for Blind People (SASB) is designed to be used in place of the traditional white cane used by the sightless.

    Graduate student of engineering, Abdel Rahman al-Barmeel, who helped design SASB, said the system is simple and convenient to use.



    Full Story: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/18/us-westbank-blind-vest-idUSKBN0ME11320150318

    Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    Gazan Women Surge Ahead With Startups



    
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The unemployment rate among Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip has risen in the last decade. A sharp rise was witnessed after Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2006, making it difficult for many Palestinians to secure jobs. However, business incubators such as the one at the Islamic University of Gaza have provided pioneering women with the chance to start their own independent projects, making them leaders in the world of business, namely in the technology field.
     
    Rana al-Qirnawi, 25, did not wait for her graduation from university to arrive at the bitter reality that she would not find a job, despite her creative capabilities in computer engineering. Qirnawi believed in her abilities and started searching for funding for her idea to establish a specialized company in web development. It was then launched by one of the business incubators in Gaza. Today, after having won the contest for the business and technology incubator at the Islamic University of Gaza, Qirnawi has become the manager of Genius Soft, a company for web development and programming, smartphone application production and online statistical and research projects.
     



    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Economic independence grows at Palestinian mushroom farm

    "In a corrugated iron building a few miles from Jericho’s town center, rows of dirt trays are stacked floor to ceiling. Inside the trays, soft white mushrooms grow under florescent lights.
    Women in matching aprons and colorful headscarves pick the day’s harvest and package the small bulbs neatly into small plastic containers, ready to be delivered to shops across the occupied West Bank.
    “There was no Palestinian mushroom in the Palestinian market, so all our consumption of fresh mushrooms would come from the Israeli market — and our philosophy is against that,” Mahmoud Kuhail, the thirty-year-old co-founder of Amoro Agriculture and owner of the mushroom farm, told The Electronic Intifada."

     In the following video produced by Rosie Lyse-Thomas, the entrepreneur  mushroom farmer articulates how a successful new business can be developed in the face of occupation.  He articulates why developing new businesses to serve the Palestinian market as well as for export are empowering peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

     
    For the full text of the original article click here

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    First Thoughts

    In this, the first official post to the blog of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, I want to simply outline the objective for the blog. Consistent with our objective to promote business relationships between Americans and Palestinians resulting in Positive Investment in Palestine. We will be featuring success stories of Palestinian businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, report stories of interest to those seeking to make a positive impact on the Palestinian economy, and will provide the back story for companies and individuals our team identifies as investment opportunities within the Occupied West Bank and Gaza. In addition to our own content, we will repost or provide links to stories outlining business successes as we find them and will provide links to economic data reported from various sources on the economic outlook in Palestine.

    To that end, here is a link to the January Investor Newsletter for the Palestine Exchange which is the public stock exchange in Palestine. The newsletter provides an index, top gainers and losers as well as numerous other indicators related to publicly traded stocks on the Palestine Exchange. Public companies provide numerous jobs within the Occupied West Bank and Gaza and are an important segment of the economy.

    http://www.pex.ps/PSEWebSite/publications/PEX_Issue_58_January_2015.pdf