Facebook’s #LoveLocal campaign aims to support local SMBs in MENA

The #LoveLocal campaign aims to help SMBs regionally pivot to digital. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 September 2020

Facebook’s #LoveLocal campaign aims to support local SMBs in MENA

  • Campaign will amplify the voice of SMBs, shed light on their stories and challenges

Facebook Inc. has announced the launch of #LoveLocal, a new initiative to support local small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The #LoveLocal campaign aims to help SMBs regionally pivot to digital and grow by highlighting several resources made available for their economic recovery.

The campaign will amplify the voice of SMBs, and shed light on their stories and challenges, to help generate consumer demand for them across the region.

Through the campaign, Facebook will provide business owners access to the Middle East and North Africa SMB Training Hub, a platform with up to 40 online webinars available for free that businesses can use to master a range of digital tools covering digital marketing and e-commerce, and develop and grow their business presence online.

Courses have been developed in partnership with e-commerce platforms and Facebook partners such as ecomz, Expand Cart and Zid.

Highlighting the impact of the pandemic on SMBs and the need for additional support, the Future of Business Survey — an ongoing collaboration between Facebook, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — released a Global State of Small Business report in July 2020 that found that 26 percent of SMBs globally had closed between January and May 2020.

“According to the report, in the MENA region, 70 percent of businesses reported reduced sales, with around 40% reducing their workforce in response to the pandemic,” said Ramez Shehadi, managing director for MENA at Facebook.

“Small businesses are the backbone of any economy and pillars of their local communities. In these challenging times, SMBs need support from community members across the region,” he added.

“Our #LoveLocal campaign is aimed at supporting local businesses and driving communities towards greater engagement with them in an effort to bring sustenance and growth for SMBs now, and on the road ahead.”

Prior to COVID-19, a paradigm shift towards digitization of the economy was already underway.

Current events have since accelerated the paradigm, evidenced by the manner in which customers are shifting their spending toward digital.

The report found that at least a third of SMBs globally indicated that they had earned a minimum of 25 percent of their sales from digital channels in the previous 30 days.

The training hub will therefore give MENA SMB owners access to Facebook’s Business Resource Hub, an online skills training program.

SMB owners can also find out about Facebook’s grants program and learn new marketing skills to grow their business during these times.

Business owners will also have access to free webinars, where they can learn how to best use free Facebook and Instagram tools to connect with customers and the business community.

“It is now clear that a key way for SMBs to survive the pandemic is to pivot to digital in order to access a wider radius of consumers beyond their traditional physical reach,” said Shehadi.

“Entrepreneurs can register for free online courses to receive insights on Facebook’s services and tools that can help them get online, boost leads and grow online commercial engagement,” he added, stressing the need for businesses to develop digital skills to unlock opportunities.

“Our online resources and tools can help small business owners with tips, training and much more to learn, live and work more readily and effectively in the digital world.”

Earlier this year, Facebook launched several Boost with Facebook initiatives that are being deployed across MENA countries with local partners.

The Boost with Facebook program, designed to help small businesses grow by expanding their digital skills, provides virtual learning sessions to upskill startups and SMBs, helping them advance the marketing aspects of their respective businesses.

Consumers can also join in by using the hashtag #LoveLocal to show how they are supporting local businesses and share their local buying experiences towards this initiative.


Prominent communications executive hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘admirable’ Hajj and G20 amid COVID-19

Updated 55 min 2 sec ago

Prominent communications executive hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘admirable’ Hajj and G20 amid COVID-19

  • Founder of Unitas Communications says Kingdom has ‘set a precedent’ in its handling of both events

LONDON: According to one of the UK’s most prominent communications executives, Muddassar Ahmed, Saudi Arabia has “not only done an admirable job but has set a precedent for other nations to follow” with regard to its handling of Hajj amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The Kingdom’s decision to suspend the Hajj pilgrimage during the pandemic was a brave one, all the more so because it is a religious occasion that hundreds of thousands of people spend their lives preparing for,” Ahmed, the founder of Unitas Communications, told Arab News.

“To tell people making a once-in-a-lifetime journey that their plans must be put on hold cannot have been easy. But it was without a doubt the right thing to do. In our religion, the protection and preservation of life are of paramount value,” he added.

Ahmed, one of the UK’s top 1000 most influential people, also praised the Kingdom’s handling of the G20 summit last month after deciding to go fully virtual, calling it “absolutely the correct course of action.”

“In both instances, Saudi Arabia has set a precedent for other countries to follow. We can contrast its proactive, forward-thinking and compassionate approach, as well as its own COVID-19 statistics, with other countries’ track records,” he said.

Countering extremism as a British Muslim

Ahmed is not only known for his role as a communications expert, but also as a leading figure in the Muslim community in the UK, countering hate speech and the rise of extremism as an advisor to the British government on anti-Muslim hatred.

“As a born-and-bred British Muslim, this is not just important to me on a policy level but on a deeply personal level. I have dedicated my life to improving relationships between Muslim and other communities and I believe that, through Unitas and other projects I have dedicated myself to, we have made tremendous progress in improving the image and position of Muslims in Britain and the West,” Ahmed, who was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims worldwide three times, said.

Before founding Unitas, Ahmed was an activist campaigning against the Iraq war and founder/host of East London’s Radio Ramadan shows.

“I soon realized that adversarial campaigning only went so far. I was concerned by the growing divide between Muslims and wider society, between the Islamic world and the West, and I wanted — I needed — to help heal these divides, to bridge these allegedly irreconcilable narratives,” he explained.

Soon after, he teamed up with fellow East Londoner and childhood classmate Shiraz Ahmad to give birth to the world’s first public relations agency dedicated to bridging the gap between the Islamic and Western worlds: Unitas Communications.

One of the group’s first clients was the National Health Service, which needed to access hard-to-reach minority communities in East London.

It was not long before their work earned the attention of people invested in efforts to do the same. A few years after the start of the Iraq War and after the 7/7 2005 London terrorist attacks, community cohesion in the UK was at an all-time low.

The UN’s Alliance of Civilizations then reached out to Unitas to “see minority and Muslim communities have the training and develop the skills necessary to engage effectively and constructively in wider British society.”

Ahmed and Unitas’s work is not restricted to the UK alone, with the group and its founder earning praise and recognition from former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and by the City of New York.

Brexit and what is to come

While many businesses have been critical of Brexit and its potential consequences, Ahmed looks to the bright side of matters and instead calls it “an opportunity for Britain to reset its narrative on the world stage.”

“I have every confidence in the ability of the British nation to reinvent itself,” he added, explaining that “Unitas operations extend across continents in order to connect people, cultures and ideas and to make communicating effective and impactful.”

With regard to what the future holds for Unitas in such uncertain times, Ahmed remains optimistic.

“The future will see Unitas continuing to work with leading international brands and expanding its presence across Europe and the Middle East and deeper into Southeast Asia. But I should also say that a major priority for us has always been the US. We’ve had major American clients, like the National Football League and the US State Department,” he said.

“We will continue to choose clients who contribute to making the world a more understanding place, and we will engage those relationships to improve the world, to leave things better off than where they were when we started.

Because this work isn’t just a business to me or my team. It’s a moral calling.”