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$400m for the startup scene in Lebanon raises more questions than it brings solutions

How to be innovative in a country where two decades of civil war and rather noisy neighbours such as Syria keep the focus of media on bombings, turmoil and refugees is a tall order. This is the task the Central Bank of Lebanon tries to answer with its circular 331, which put US$400-million on the table earlier this year, just for startups. This is one percent of the GDP and, as attractive as it may look, it doesn’t go without a lot of skepticism as well.

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Let’s zoom back to know how such a big bet finds its place in the longer history of innovation in Lebanon. Back in the inter-war times (1920-1940), the French protectorate had, like other places in the African colonies, helped to train the ruling elite. The civil war years, from 1975 to 1990, has just accelerated the motion of an already highly mobile population.

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