Businesses do so with changes in their products. For example, when the drugstore CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes impacting the health of many of its customers; or when companies apply their professional expertise, like the Dutch delivery company TNT, which uses its core competencies to end world hunger. It partners with the United Nations World Food Program and donates its logistic knowledge and resources to help deliver food to 100 million people a year.
Following the Abraham Accords and the opening of the borders between Israel and the Emirates and Bahrain, it was clear that the business sector will be the driving force for collaborations that will bring the people and societies closer. Countless delegations have visited each country, with a focus on innovation and technology. Israel’s trade with the Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco increased in 2021 by 441% from the previous year. It wasn’t surprising to see the heads of Israeli hospitals visiting the Emirates soon after the normalization agreements were signed, as medicinal knowledge is crucial everywhere and the different countries vary in resources. When attending a Middle East Fitness Business Summit in Dubai, I was amazed by the extensive number of Arab startups in the field of wellness technology, health, preventive medicine, fitness, nutrition, and stress management. They address concerns of almost every society, which explains why the Wellness market in the Middle East is estimated at $107.7 billion.
This incredible opportunity for new Middle Eastern collaboration was also recognized by Jared Kushner, former senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump. Mr. Kushner was recently reported to have invested Saudi funds in Israeli tech companies. Once again, the common interests of nations may bring them closer through the power of business.
It is only logical for the Middle Eastern tech world to collaborate. Such joint ventures embody the concept of “Shared Value” which was coined by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School and Mark Kramer in 2011. Shared Value means companies should create financial value by creating value, not only to the company’s direct beneficiaries but to every one of their stakeholders. In our small global environment, our neighbouring countries are our stakeholders. We are all dependent on each other, therefore creating value for our stakeholders will inherently benefit us. It is a win-win situation, especially in the Wellness industry where shared knowledge and resources can improve the lives of many.
Looking at some of the wellness startups in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) reflects the fact that we’re all in the same boat. From startups that offer an AI-powered mental health tracker, to tools that maintain the mental wellbeing of employees, to genetically personalized solutions for routine fitness and advanced athletic training.
The Wellness arena in the Middle East is vast and bountiful both in needs and solutions. This year it has the chance to take the front seat on the global wellness stage since the Global Wellness Summit will take place in Tel Aviv – its first time in the Middle East.
This wave of opening national borders can lift many wellness roadblocks between societies that were isolated till now. It’s high time for the tech industry to charge forward, exchange expertise and resources and create value for an entire region. Who knows, maybe that will be the engine for future positive national and political steps that will improve the well-being of the entire world.
Written by Amir Alroy Co-founder of Welltech Ventures, Co-chair of the Global Wellness Summit in Tel-Aviv