Talented Brits wanted for Middle East mentoring

Some British entrepreneurs are putting their business acumen to charitable use as mentors in Jordan.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

UK entrepreneurs are being sought for a new mentoring programme that will see successful British business figures imparting their wisdom to fellow entrepreneurs in the Middle East. Mowgli, the not-for-profit organisation behind the scheme, is tired of monkeying around – having just completed a successful pilot in Jordan, it’s keen to roll it out to other countries in the region.

Co-founder Simon Edwards is trying to find 100 talented entrepreneurs with the skills to create wealth and opportunity in these developing economies. ‘Our mentors are working with people in Jordan who are making an impact and creating jobs in their area,’ said Edwards. ‘Entrepreneurship in its early stages can be quite a lonely business. People who have already walked the walk and know what the challenges are can make a difference.’ The Young Entrepreneurs’ Association (YEA), the Micro Fund for Women and the Queen Rania Centre for Entrepreneurship are also on board for the ride.

Edwards and his Mowgli co-founder, Dubai-based businessman Tony Bury, intend to scour UK plc for entrepreneurs and employees with relevant business experience and a burning desire to make a difference, then match them to suitable mentees. And he insists it’s not just about altruism. ‘We can learn many lessons from Arab culture,’ says Edwards. ‘They don’t see business just as a means of accumulating personal wealth, but for the good of the community.’ Perhaps some of our recent high-profile banking failures should spend a few months in the desert, to brush up on their social philanthropy (although maybe the Middle East won’t want them).

Mowgli plans to raise over £2m in donations from corporates and philanthropists, so that it can expand its mentoring programmes to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.  And it’s a case of ‘so far so good’ - the recent launch in London had former M&S boss Lord Stone and Peter Lilley MP among its key-note speakers, and has already recruited mentors from the likes of Hanover Fox and Morgan Stanley. 

Its cause also has some high-profile support: President Obama recently spoke about the need to recruit a corps of business volunteers dedicated to partnering with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries, in order to foster economic development. He’ll be hoping other groups look at Mowgli and decide: 'Oo-be-doo, I wanna be like you'.

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