By: Mohamed Hosny and Nagham El Houssamy
The RiseUp Summit is a three-day entrepreneurship marathon that includes workshops, talks, panel discussions, startup stations, pitch competitions and networking platforms with industry experts. RiseUp 2016 took place from December 9 to 11, 2016, boasting more than 4000 attendees.
The Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) partnered with RiseUp to host an Open African Innovation Research Project (Open AIR) Distinguished Speaker event. A2K4D invited Ibrahim Al-Safadi, CEO of Luminous Education, to speak about “maker spaces” in the region. In March 2016, Luminus Education received EUR 5 million grant from the European Union to encourage innovation and increase work readiness and entrepreneurship among Jordanians and Syrian refugees. The three-year grant will help establish three Fab Labs throughout Jordan. Al-Safadi’s future plans include establishing similar maker spaces across North Africa to tackle the growing unemployment issue. The main purpose of the talk was to share the experience of how to create a maker space and ensure that individuals involved in the process of creation end up with job opportunities.
Al-Safadi’s talk took place on day two of the RiseUp Summit, where he began by discussing how vocational training, which actually takes place in maker spaces, can help reduce unemployment and boost entrepreneurship in the region. If maker spaces target the youth segment that lacks any form of higher education, the skills these individuals develop can be turned into an asset that can be capitalized on while seeking employment. The maker spaces established by Luminus Education are part of the MIT Fab Lab network, and are equipped with prototype products, such as 3D printers, laser cutters and fabricators, currently hosting 45 startups.
Luminus Education is built around the notion of education for employment. The company works with several firms in the Arab world to identify the needed market skills, and uses this information to devise courses that maker spaces can then provide. These maker spaces have an educational structure in place, whereby meticulously planned courses are offered on how to use the available tools. Eighty percent of the “makers” that attend these courses receive certificates, which they can use to boost their resumes and job application materials. Syrian refugees, for example, have used these certificates to seek work opportunities in Europe, Canada and other Arab countries.
The most noteworthy point from Al-Safadi’s talk was the strong emphasis on the educational aspect of maker spaces by providing training for the job market, rather than focusing on creating new and innovative products. This does not mean that aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to develop a new product are not supported. In fact, Luminus Education usually provides entrepreneurs with some technical support while developing the first prototype of their products, which usually takes 1-2 years. The company also provides legal assistance to help makers set up and register their own business. A product prototype that is judged as promising receives an initial seed funding of $1,500. Once a business plan is develop the financial support surges to $50,000. Luminous Education also helps with coaching and mentoring until the startup reaches the point of generating revenue.
 Endeavor. (2016, March). Jordan’s Luminus Education Receives EU Grant to Provide Job Training to Local Communities. Retrieved December 2016, from Endeavor.
 Jordan Times. (2016, January). EU-funded project to enhance job prospects for young Jordanians, Syrians . Retrieved December 2016, from Jordan Times: http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/eu-funded-project-enhance-job-prospects-young-jordanians-syrians#sthash.uyrmUUnI.dpu