Jordan’s ICT sector set to grow owing to strong human capital and infrastructure

• Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship launches Jordan Source to facilitate and ease new investments into Jordan’s digital outsourcing economy • 27 per cent of MENA’s tech entrepreneurs are Jordanian, even if the country’s population accounts for 3 per cent of the region, says HRH Al Hussein bin Abdullah II

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship (MoDEE) in Jordan has launched a new groundbreaking initiative to increase regional and international investments in the kingdom’s digital outsourcing economy.

In partnership with the World Bank Group (WBG), MoDEE conducted a one-hour webinar titled, ‘Jordan’s Qualified IT Talents: Your Winning Card Against Your Competitors,’ in which the ministry launched the Jordan Source programme.

The event kicked off with a speech by HRH Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, who highlighted the strength and potential of the Kingdom’s burgeoning ICT sector.

“27 per cent of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) tech entrepreneurs are Jordanian, even if our population accounts for 3 per cent of the region,” HRH said, adding, “Our ICT sector boasts more than 600 technology companies and startups. Our tech talents have had an outstanding impact extending far beyond Jordan’s borders.”

He emphasised Jordan as a strategic location at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, saying, “From Jordan, you will be able to grow your businesses, reaching every corner of the world.”

“Our free trade agreements offer access to 1.5 billion customers in 161 countries,” he added.

The event’s other key speakers included H.E. Ahmad Hanandeh, Jordan’s Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship; Ferid Belhaj, MENA Vice President of the World Bank; Ronaldo Mouchawar, Vice President of Amazon MENA; and Fadi Ghandour, JoExecutive Chairman of Wamda Capital. They highlighted several factors that have paved the way for Jordan’s success as a potential regional leader in the ICT sector.

Speaking at the webinar, Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Ahmad Hanandeh said Jordan’s ICT sector has great growth potential, offering highly skilled human resources, as well as the supporting infrastructure, legislation, and incentives.

The minister highlighted the incentive plan offered through “Jordan Source,” outlining why Jordan has become such a major BPO and ITO destination.

“We are starting this programme and project from our full understanding of what the businesses in general and ICT sectors in specific are facing in a world that is fast transforming. The growing need of business IT and back office outsourcing is essential for the business innovation and its sustainability,” he added.

“Through this programme, we are offering a big team that will act as account managers for those businesses and help them in everything they need to set up their businesses, attract, train, and up-skill talents,” Hanandeh said.

This included Jordan’s resilience, safety and stability despite longstanding issues owing to the Arab spring, the influx of refugees, geopolitical issues, and the ongoing global pandemic.

Jordan’s greatest resource has always been its youth talent,” said Ferid Belhaj, MENA Vice President, World Bank.

The country has a young, highly skilled population, bilingual in English and Arabic with a neutral accent; they are technologically savvy, highly educated, and eager to work at competitive wages.

More than 50 per cent are under the age of 24, with 22 per cent holding degrees in IT, Computer Science, and Engineering.

Belhaj said that the World Bank is supporting Jordan as it undertakes structural reforms to improve the business environment and increase private sector investments.

“The potential of BPO activities in Jordan is still largely untapped and may significantly contribute to increasing export revenues. Jordan is becoming a regional BPO centre with many FDIs relocating to the country.”

Belhaj pointed out how the past decade has seen investments from Amazon, Webhelp, Aspire, Microsoft, and others, while local companies, like Crystel, for instance, are keen to expand.

BPO is also an inclusive industry that employs thousands of Jordanian youth, notably women in underserved communities, Belhaj said.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitoring report, Jordan’s female to male ratio went from 0.26 in 2016 to 0.59 in 2019, an improvement of 127 per cent in only three years.

A robust infrastructure complements Jordan’s strategic location. Reliable internet, mobile connectivity, and Jordan’s extensive energy sector keep the power supply reliable, ensuring that ICT companies connect and serve clients without interruption.

Coupled with its vibrant, diverse, and rich culture, Jordan offers a family-friendly and internationally open environment for businesses and visitors alike.

In a separate panel discussion, representatives of Crystel, Webhelp, Estarta, and Aspire echoed similar advantages of doing business in Jordan’s digital economy despite obstacles faced during the pandemic.

The World Bank estimates that Jordan’s real GDP is projected to grow at 1.9 per cent in 2021, as economic indicators suggest an upswing in private demand while global demand remains supportive.

Ronaldo Mouchawar, Amazon Vice President, MENA, said that since Amazon entered the region in 2017 after the acquisition of souq.com, the company has positioned Jordan to be a regional hub: We undertook many of our key activities, such as technical and machine learning development, device development such as Amazon’s voice over for Alexa in Arabic, operational excellence, and customer service here.”

“It showcased to many of our global colleagues the value that Jordan can provide in the region and for the global workforce of Amazon,” Mouchawar said.

After starting with a couple of hundred employees in 2017, Mouchawar said Amazon’s workforce in Jordan has more than doubled to 1,200, with plans to increase to 2,300 in the next couple of years.

Jordan has been one of the region’s innovation hubs for more than a decade. Its thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem has produced high-growth startups, several of which have already scaled regionally and become targets for acquisition.

Jordan’s government is keen to build on these successes—including a highly skilled talent pool, reliable ICT infrastructure, and an attractive investment climate. Jordan Source seeks to further ease and facilitate the investment process for regional and international businesses looking to capitalise on the Kingdom’s ITO and BPO industries.

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