Nicolas Sehnaoui: Guru of the Lebanese Digital Economy

An entrepreneur by nature and a change catalyst who aims at creating and pivoting ecosystems capable of accelerating the sought change, he assumed several position in the private and public sectors, leaving the numbers to speak on his behalf. Nicolas Sehnaoui served as the Minister of Telecommunications of the Republic of Lebanon between June 2011 and February 2014. He successfully upgraded Lebanon’s telecommunications infrastructure, rolling out 3G and 4G, securing redundancy on international connectivity, launching a national Fiber Optic Backbone and Beirut Digital District, to name only a few of his accomplishments.

His efforts were crowned by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union that ranked Lebanon in the first place regarding progress out of 157 countries in the 2012 ICT Development Index, all while reducing Internet and mobile costs by over 80%. By June 2013, with the infrastructure well on its way to recovery, Sehnaoui turned his attention to Lebanon’s knowledge economy, more specifically its digital economy. While actively working on elevating the entrepreneurial spirit in the digital economy, Sehnaoui was instrumental in the lobbying that helped bring about Banque du Liban Circular 331, a groundbreaking $400 million equity investment guarantee initiative that transformed Lebanon’s banks into VC-oriented institutions. He now chairs the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, a Banque du Liban and UK Embassy common initiative that aims at creating a corridor between Lebanon and England to allow Lebanese Information and Communication Technology (ICT) entrepreneurs to access the world supply chain through the London platform.

Listing the achievements of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, Sehnaoui says,

We have contributed to the creation of 138 new jobs, $7.4 million additional revenues to the companies we supported in 2015 and 2016. Our accelerated companies have secured $4.4 million in funding and additional Investment. Our workshops, events and signposting services have helped 482 companies and 1,338 individuals, between professionals and students.

 Sehnaoui helped in internationalizing Lebanon’s entrepreneurial momentum. The Hub helped to engage sixty key members of the diaspora, acted as Lebanon’s National Team for the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and ran nationwide surveys as per the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) methodology. Sehnaoui proudly says that the GEM index for 2015 identified Lebanon as one of the top 20 entrepreneurial countries in the world.

 “Our ecosystem is beginning to be noticed on the global map and I am confident it will soon shine like a beacon of success, which brings a lot of joy and satisfaction to the teams of the many enabling entities working relentlessly to make it happen,” he adds. With the aforementioned infrastructural changes, Lebanon aims to become the tech gateway of the Middle East. A blueprint has been prepared to create 25,000 ICT jobs and a $7 billion boost to GDP by 2025. Lebanon is identified by its huge growth potential in financial technology (FinTech), well-being (healthcare, fitness and food lifestyle), and retail “visualization” technology. Finally, since its establishment in 2012, the Beirut Digital District has nurtured a generation of tech entrepreneurs. The tech sector, which has grown 8% a year, has been labeled the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East.”

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