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The SmartEx exhibition kicked off earlier this week in Lebanon amidst a festive atmosphere. The participating companies — a whole lot of them — took the opportunity to wow the audience by showing off their innovations while industry experts got together to discuss the various challenges and opportunities that lay ahead of Lebanon’s fast-growing tech sector.

SmartEx 2018 is the second edition of the event. The original SmartEx conference spawned from a similar Saudi tech and networking event in 2017. The four-day event began on the 25th till the 28th of April 2018, and it included different aspects of the country’s technology sector ranging from IT security and automation to telecommunication and retail.

This year’s edition of the exhibition follows the recently held CEDRE Conference that brought $11 billion to the table as loans and grants for enhancing Lebanon’s infrastructure. Both these events have one common agenda — to turn Lebanon into a regional hub for technology and innovation.

As per a recent assessment by IDAL, the ICT (Information and Computer Technology) industry in Lebanon witnessed an encouraging 9.7% growth in 2017, thus qualifying itself as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country.

A large chunk of this growth can be attributed to Circular 331, a central bank-guaranteed fund dedicated to up-and-coming businesses in Lebanon. This fund empowered numerous entrepreneurs to design and develop their innovative products and services.

“I believe this is the time where people should double down on their support to the tech industry and especially innovation,” said Sami Abou Saab, CEO of the Beirut-based accelerator, Speed.

Meanwhile, Patrick Raad, CEO of Techno Vision, a GPS tracking system, called for more investment and encouragement for Lebanon’s startup ecosystem by saying, “We need more awareness of IT in Lebanon. We’re still a small group of companies, and we need more investment and encouragement. It shouldn’t be a small sector. Companies should use more technology as added value in their business.”