StartupBlink Blog

The Middle East and Africa region has emerged as a vibrant and dynamic hub for startups and entrepreneurship. With 63 startup ecosystems represented in the global top 1,000 cities, up from 57 in 2022 in StartupBlink’s Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2023, this region showcases the growth and expansion of innovation-driven ventures.  You can access the raw data behind StartupBlink’s Index with StartupBlink Pro.

Among the countries in the region, Israel stands out as the dominant player by a significant margin. Israel’s startup ecosystem is widely recognized for its remarkable achievements and global impact. It ranks 3rd in the world, trailing only behind the United States and the United Kingdom. With five cities in the regional top 20, Israel’s consistent performance is a testament to its thriving startup culture and supportive infrastructure. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is another notable player, securing the 28th spot globally. However, Israel’s score remains 389% higher than that of the UAE, solidifying its position as the undisputed leader in the region. 

Top 20 Cities from the Middle East & Africa Startup Ecosystems

Growth and Expansion of Startup Ecosystems

The Middle East and Africa region is experiencing a surge in entrepreneurial activity and startup growth. With an increasing number of cities joining the global top 1,000, it is evident that this region is becoming a hotbed for innovation and creativity.

Mauritius and Senegal have made significant strides in their startup ecosystems, climbing ten spots in the global rankings. These countries have taken proactive measures to foster entrepreneurship, creating an enabling environment for startups to flourish. Furthermore, Uganda’s return to the top 100 demonstrates its resilience and potential as an emerging player in the startup landscape. The region’s startups are capitalizing on their unique strengths and local market opportunities to drive economic growth and job creation.

Israel's Unmatched Dominance in the Region

When it comes to startup ecosystems in the Middle East and Africa, Tel Aviv reigns supreme. With a score almost five times higher than that of its closest regional competitor, Tel Aviv’s dominance is unparalleled.

Tel Aviv’s success can be attributed to various factors, including a strong entrepreneurial culture, access to venture capital, world-class research institutions, and government support. This ecosystem has fostered the growth of successful startups across a range of industries, from cybersecurity and fintech to biotechnology and artificial intelligence. Tel Aviv serves as a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs and other cities in the region.

Rising Stars: Mauritius, Senegal, and Uganda Take climbing in the Index

While Israel may dominate the region, other countries are making notable progress in their startup ecosystems. Mauritius and Senegal have experienced significant advancements, rising in the global rankings by ten spots each. 

Uganda’s return to the top 100 is also commendable, as it highlights the country’s resilience and potential for growth. With renewed focus on promoting entrepreneurship, Uganda is creating opportunities for startups to thrive and contribute to its economic development.

Shifting Powerhouses: Bahrain and Mauritius Make Their Mark

The composition of the region’s top 5 startup ecosystems has undergone changes, reflecting the evolving dynamics and emerging players. Bahrain and Mauritius have secured positions among the top 5, replacing Nigeria and Kenya.

Bahrain’s rise as a regional startup powerhouse is the result of strategic investments and initiatives aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. The country’s progressive regulatory framework, access to capital, and support for tech startups have propelled it into the spotlight.

Mauritius, known for its tourism industry, has also made significant strides in developing its startup ecosystem. By leveraging its strategic location and focusing on sectors such as fintech and green technology, Mauritius has positioned itself as an attractive destination for startups and investors.

Unlocking the Tiers: Tel Aviv, Dubai, and Beyond

To understand the hierarchy within the region’s startup ecosystems, they can be classified into three tiers. At the top tier stands Tel Aviv, a powerhouse that sets itself apart with a score nearly five times higher than its closest competitor. This level of dominance is unparalleled globally, solidifying Tel Aviv’s status as a leading startup ecosystem.

The second tier comprises Dubai, Jerusalem, and Lagos, which have shown significant growth and have the potential to become prominent players in the startup landscape. These cities offer a supportive environment, access to funding, and a burgeoning startup community.

In the third tier, we find Cairo, Haifa, Cape Town, and Nairobi, which are witnessing remarkable progress and emerging as promising startup hubs. These cities are attracting attention with their innovative ideas, entrepreneurial spirit, and growing investment opportunities.

Notable Advancements in City Level

Among the region’s cities, Cairo has experienced a remarkable leap in the global rankings, climbing 36 spots to secure the 124th position. This impressive advancement highlights the resurgence of Egypt’s startup ecosystem and its potential for growth. Cairo has witnessed a surge in tech startups, driven by a young and tech-savvy population, increased access to funding, and supportive initiatives by the government and private sector. The city’s entrepreneurial spirit is creating a buzz and attracting attention from investors and international stakeholders.

Nurturing the Ecosystems: Overcoming Obstacles to Sustain Growth

While the Middle East and Africa region’s startup ecosystems show great promise, they also face challenges that need to be addressed to ensure sustained growth and success. Some of the key challenges include access to funding, regulatory hurdles, talent acquisition and retention, and limited market size. Governments, institutions, and industry stakeholders need to collaborate to create a conducive environment for startups to thrive, providing adequate support in terms of funding, mentorship, and infrastructure.

Startups in Middle East and Africa Startup Ecosystems

  1. Similarweb

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

SimilarWeb offers an AI-based market intelligence platform that helps monitor web and mobile app traffic.

2. Yoco

Cape Town,South Africa

Yoco helps 100,000 small businesses in South Africa get paid in-store, online, and on the go.

3. StreamElements


StreamElements provides live video content creators the tools they need to engage, grow and monetize their audience.

4. Tabby

Dubai,United Arab Emirates

tabby is a ”Buy Now, Pay Later” payments company, allowing consumers to shop and pay in 4 installments at no cost.

5. TymeBank

Johannesburg,South Africa

TymeBank is a South African fully black-owned and controlled investment company.

6. Guardio

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Guardio is developing tools and products to combat modern web and cloud-based threats for consumers and businesses.

7. Altibbi

Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Altibbi is the Largest Digital Health platform in the Arab World, including 1.5M pages of medical content and a 24/7 telehealth service.

8. Paystack


Paystack helps accept online and offline payments from anyone, anywhere in the world.

9. TeamApt


TeamApt is a financial technology company focused on developing Digital Banking, Business Solutions and Payments Infrastructure.

10. stc pay

Riyadh,Saudi Arabia

First licensed fintech company in Kingdom by SAMA, the largest digital wallet in the MEMA, and the first Saudi fintech unicorn startup.

Exits in Middle East and Africa Startup Ecosystems

Exit for a startup occurs when the founder sells the company’s ownership to an investor or another company. It is a strategy for many startups that have been decided on since their establishment. Here are some of the Middle East & Africa startups with massive exits. You can view the full list with StartupBlink Pro.

  1. Careem

Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Careem is a hassle-free, one stop solution for daily needs including transport, food delivery, shopping, or payments.

2. Jahez

Riyadh,Saudi Arabia

Jahez is a food delivery platform that unites stakeholders from restaurants, logistic fleet, meal orders into the Jahez Mobile Application.


Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel is a work operating system where organizations of any size can create processes to manage every aspect of their work.

4. Fiverr

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Fiverr is a marketplace for creative and professional services.

5. Payoneer

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Payoneer allows global commerce by connecting businesses, professionals, countries, and currencies with its cross-border payment platform.

6. Jumia Group


Jumia Group is an e-commerce ecosystem that provides innovative, convenient, and affordable online goods and services to consumers.

7. Network International

Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Network offers international payment solutions

8. Outbrain

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

The world’s largest and most trusted content discovery platform.

9. Otonomo


Otonomo provides car manufacturers, drivers, and service providers with a cloud-based solution that connects millions of cars.

10. Riskified

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Riskified enables businesses to realize the full potential of eCommerce by making it safe, accessible, and frictionless.

Unicorns in Middle East and Africa Startup Ecosystems

Unicorns are startups that reach a valuation of one billion dollars or above. Below are some of the Middle East & Africa unicorns from the StartupBlink database. You can view the full list with StartupBlink Pro.

  1. MNT-Halan


MNT-Halan was created to digitally bank the unbanked and substitute cash with electronic solutions.

2. Appsflyer

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

AppsFlyer is the world’s leading mobile attribution & marketing analytics platform, helping app marketers around the world make better decisions.

3. Cell C

Sandton,South Africa

Cell C Limited is a South African Level 2 BBBEE customer-first mobile operator that promotes digital inclusion to enhance lives.

4. Hibob

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

bob is a people management platform that helps fast-growing companies bring out the best in their employees.

5. Flutterwave


Flutterwave is a fintech company providing a payment infrastructure for global merchants and payment service providers across the African continent.

6. Lightricks


Lightricks is a company that develops mobile video and photo editing apps. They are the team that created the selfie-editing app called Facetune.

7. Cato Networks

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Cato Networks provides cloud-based and secure global SD-WAN for the distributed, mobile, and cloud-enabled enterprise.

8. DriveNets


DriveNets is a fast-growing software company that builds networks like clouds.

9. OPay


OPay is designed to make financial services more accessible to everyday customers – whether it’s for the bills they have to pay, or the transfer & withdrawal of money

10. Infinidat


Data Storage Company. INFINIDAT is the one storage vendor you can turn to for all your storage needs.

Pantheon Members in Middle East and Africa Startup Ecosystems

The StartupBlink Pantheon members are a selected group of special startup related entities with a substantial footprint on the global startup ecosystem. Here are some pantheon members from the Middle East & Africa region. You can view the full list of startup pantheon members with StartupBlink Pro.

  1. eToro

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

eToro is The World’s Leading Social Investment Platform.

2. Payoneer

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Payoneer allows global commerce by connecting businesses, professionals, countries, and currencies with its cross-border payment platform.

3. Wix

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Wix unites beauty and advanced technology to create your stunning website. It’s easy and free.

4. M-Pesa


M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer service

5. Jumia Group


Jumia Group is an e-commerce ecosystem that provides innovative, convenient, and affordable online goods and services to consumers.

6. Waze

Tel Aviv-Yafo,Israel

Join forces with drivers in your area, easily report what’s happening on the road and get turn-by-turn navigation that automatically reroutes you when road conditions change.


The Middle East and Africa region’s startup ecosystems have come a long way and are poised for a promising future. The dominance of Israel, coupled with the advancements in other countries, showcases the immense potential and opportunities that exist within the region.With the right strategies and collaborative efforts, the Middle East and Africa region has the potential to produce more global hubs for innovation, attracting startups, investors, and talent from around the world.

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