ICD & We-Fi empower women entrepreneurs

Ayman Amin Sejiny, CEO of ICD; Samir Suleymanov, director strategic initiatives, World Bank; and Wendy Teleki, head of We-Fi secretariat; with others at the ICD premises in Jeddah.
Updated 18 September 2019

ICD & We-Fi empower women entrepreneurs

With the aim of discussing how the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) can expand their relationship and integrate the gender themes into ICD’s operations and businesses, a meeting was held between Ayman Amin Sejiny, CEO of ICD; Wendy Teleki, head of We-Fi secretariat; and Samir Suleymanov, director strategic initiatives, World Bank, at ICD’s premises in Jeddah recently. The parties discussed the development and promotion of women’s entrepreneurship through innovative sustainable solutions to increase women’s access to economic opportunities in developing countries. 

Teleki highlighted the main objectives of We-Fi, which is to support women entrepreneurs around the world through programs that provide financing, capacity building and also promote enabling environments that allow women to become entrepreneurs and grow their businesses. We-Fi uses an ecosystem approach to develop programs at the country level that will break down barriers and create more opportunities for women.

During the meeting, Ayman said: “ICD and We-Fi are working together to enhance their initiatives and mandates in supporting the female society in all ICD’s member countries. We want to ensure that our lines of finance and our relationship with the 102 directly connected financial institutions we are dealing with will further enhance the funding, training to women entrepreneurs and to provide the required necessary support to women in all our member countries.”

Teleki said that We-Fi has six implementing partners (IP) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is one of them. “IsDB, along with ICD is supporting women entrepreneurs in fragile countries. In Yemen, they have a very interesting ongoing program named BRAVE Women. They target to train up to 500 women to learn to develop business plans in fragile and high-risk contexts and up to 400 of them will get access to funding on a matching grant basis. This program aims also to develop the relationship between those women entrepreneurs with the local banks and also lead companies to make sure those women have access to finance and markets to grow their businesses. Moreover, the IsDB and ICD will be implementing soon this BRAVE Women program in two other countries to improve the women’s entrepreneurship potential in key economic sectors and we look forward to seeing those programs happening in future,” she said.

We-Fi is a global platform that seeks to support over a 100,000 women around the world in the next five years and mobilize at least $2 billion from the public and private sector for further activities.


KAUST research to boost global date fruit production

Updated 16 October 2019

KAUST research to boost global date fruit production

Today on World Food Day, a team of plant scientists from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) has begun a major project to improve global date palm production and protection.

This project is the first time that the date palm genome has been studied so comprehensively. Dr. Ikram Blilou, professor of plant science at KAUST, and her research team in Saudi Arabia have collected samples from ancient date palms in the historical farm of Al-Dabeta, by the Quba Mosque in Madinah. 

“Our main goal is to improve date palm fruit production and quality in the Kingdom. With more than 2,000 existing varieties globally from which 400 grow in Saudi Arabia, we are concentrating on the ‘Ajwa’ date variety, because of its important societal and religious value for Saudi Arabia in particular,” said Dr. Blilou. 

Earlier this year, Dr. Blilou published in the scientific journal Plant Cell, findings that provide an insight into how desert plants are able to thrive in hostile habitats. The research teams within KAUST’s Center for Desert Agriculture are creating molecular and biotechnological tools to improve date palm agriculture by sequencing the genome of the Ajwa date palm.

“The date palm is one of the few fruit trees that, remarkably, can grow in the desert, a habitat with an arid climate where extreme temperature changes and drought conditions limit plant growth,” said Dr. Blilou. 

“Within KAUST’s Center for Desert Agriculture Research we are studying date palms using advanced genome sequencing techniques and have begun to develop new breeding strategies to help palms grow faster and healthier as well as making them more resistant to pathogens and pests like the red palm weevil.” 

According to the National Palms and Dates Center (NCPD), Saudi Arabia produces an estimated 1.1 million tons of dates per year, 15 percent of the world’s date production. In addition, export of dates from Saudi Arabia grew by 11.7 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.

“Despite this economic importance, basic research into the date palm, including understanding mechanisms of growth and adaptation to the desert environment, is still in its early stages mainly because of the lack of molecular tools and the challenging nature of the plant. It requires a long generation time for flowering which can be four to five years and setting fruits that take 10 to 15 years,” said Dr. Rod Wing, professor of plant science and director of the KAUST Center for Desert Agriculture.

The next step for researchers at this center is to work on generating high-quality genomes for a large number of other varieties of date palms, bringing further potential benefits for date palm agriculture around the world.