In cooperation with ‘Tamkeen’, The Global Entrepreneurship Network kicked off its first day of activities of the 11th Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) 2019, with His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister in attendance.

Over 110 sessions and over 240 local, regional and global speakers to be hosted during the event. Attended by over 3000 visitors from over 170 countries, the event is hosted for the first time in the Kingdom and has brought together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers and economic policymakers from around the world.


Held at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre, the GEC was initiated with an opening speech made by His Excellency Zayed Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism who welcomed delegates with an opening speech before the first day’s activities and sessions commenced. In his opening speech, His Excellency noted: “We must convert the mindset of people in Bahrain from job seekers to job makers. It is not a coincidence that this global event is being held in Bahrain at such a pivotal time in our history, it is a testament to our commitment to serve our private sector and shift away from being an oil-based economy to being more diversified and knowledge-based.”


Today’s sessions began with the “Plenary Opening Session” moderated by Global Entrepreneurship Network President and Founder, Jonathan Ortmans. The plenary panel discussion revolved around the progress and efforts focused on diversifying Bahrain’s robust economy and private sector. Members of the panel included His Excellency Zayed Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Tamkeen Chairman, His Excellency Shaikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al Khalifa, His Excellency Khalid Rumaihi, Chief Executive of Bahrain Economic Development Board, and local entrepreneurs Hala Ahmed Sulaiman, Founder and Managing Director of Beyond Borders Consultancy and Founder and CEO of Maya La Chocolaterie and The Living Concepts. The panellists discussed various initiatives, country strategies and policy changes being made to promote and benefit SMEs and start-ups in Bahrain, as well as the various obstacles entrepreneurs have faced amidst today’s economic landscape. Initiatives and policy changes are being put in place to not only position Bahrain as a business-friendly ecosystem but also to empower Bahraini partnerships abroad. Such examples include implementing first Regulatory Sandbox initiative in the region, Export Bahrain and new bankruptcy laws.


Commenting on the success of the first day, Tamkeen Chairman, His Excellency Shaikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al Khalifa, said: “Tamkeen is proud to bring this event for the first time in Bahrain with the Global Entrepreneurship Network, connecting thousands of experienced entrepreneurs, researchers and policymakers from around the world to the Kingdom’s ever-growing entrepreneurial start-up culture. At Tamkeen, we are committed to providing guidance and financing to local start-ups, as well as international ones. Today’s sessions established a quality benchmark which will be continually met over the course of four days via the GEC’s diverse and insightful selection of workshops, panels and sessions. We are confident that our attendees will benefit from this auspicious event to propel their skills and contribute to the Kingdom’s economic vision.”

On his part, Tamkeen Chief Executive, Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, said on the sidelines of the GEC : “We welcome the participation of our international attendees on the first day of GEC 2019, where the participating countries have demonstrated an aligned global vision in supporting entrepreneurship and discussed global challenges facing the field.”


Following the plenary panel discussion, a special keynote speech was delivered by Jonas Kjellberg, Co-Founder of Skype. In his keynote, he discussed the numerous failures surrounding his success through his investments and business choices where he noted “one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is unlocking growth via innovation and entrepreneurs need to constantly rethink on how to acquire capital.” He also emphasized on the importance of changing the business game through providing innovative products and restructuring business models. Kjellberg concluded with a strong piece of advice, encouraging entrepreneurs and business starters to “innovate, not imitate”.


This year’s edition of the GEC will address important economic themes including the global entrepreneurial revolution, high-performance ecosystems and inclusive economies. GEC 2019’s sessions, workshops and panels will explore new ways to nurture start-up companies, expand their reach to global standards and promote sustainability as they support the growth of the Kingdom’s entrepreneurial sector. Other sessions throughout the day included “Megatrend Mashup: A Game Designing and Experiencing Emerging Disruptive Technologies”, with Dave Moskovitz, “Creative Industries Entrepreneurship” with Michael Sturtz, “Speed Mentoring” with Jeff Hoffman, and “Moving Beyond the Business Case: How to Make Venture Capital Work for Women Entrepreneurs” with Country Head, Microsoft for Start-ups, Lathika Pai, amongst many other sessions held throughout the day.


Sessions from yesterday’s Ministerial event included “Building One Global Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”, “Start-up Nations Ministerial” by nine international delegates and “Building Healthier National Ecosystems”. The inaugural ministerial session on Monday explored the development of the entrepreneurial sector as well as examined prominent insights related to implementing policies to support start-up enterprises and opportunities to ensure sustainable and strategic entrepreneurial growth.


Over the years, GEC has been considered one of the largest entrepreneurial platforms in the world, hosted in many countries including the United States, United Kingdom, China, Italy, Brazil, Russia and the UAE. This year, the decision to choose Bahrain as host country for GEC 2019 derives from the Kingdom’s strong positioning through its 2030 vision as well as its role as a global hub for entrepreneurs. GEC 2019 will continue until April 18, 2019.