News / Middle East

    Program Partners Young Innovators to Boost Egypt Economy

    ‘LearnServeEgypt’ harnesses ambitions of US, Egyptian entrepreneurs to help create jobs with lasting economic, social impact

    Egyptian and American participants of the LearnServeEgypt Program at one of their sessions in Washington, DC
    Egyptian and American participants of the LearnServeEgypt Program at one of their sessions in Washington, DC
    Mohamed Elshinnawi

    Commerce in Egypt goes back as far as the pharaohs. The Tahrir revolution and the anticipated parliamentary and presidential elections could open new doors for Egyptian businessmen, if the country adopts a more liberal, pro-business stance to attract foreign investment and grow the middle class. But some entrepreneurs aren’t waiting for political cues.They are already getting started.

    A new reality is emerging in post-revolution Egypt where young mavericks with interesting business ideas are getting the mentorship they need, thanks to a U.S. organization that is training young Egyptians how to succeed as entrepreneurs in the global economy. 

    A team of LearnServeEgypt Program participants standing in front of the Washington Monument in the US capital
    A team of LearnServeEgypt Program participants standing in front of the Washington Monument in the US capital

    “LearnServeEgypt, a not-for-profit program, was launched in June, 2011, to create a unique curriculum that prepares young Egyptians to start businesses with social and economic impact,” said Chris Caine, the president and CEO of Mercator XXI. His organization is a global consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., that specializes in helping clients engage with the global economy. 

    The six-week project paired six young Egyptians and six young Americans. They spent the first two weeks in Egypt identifying “new innovative business ideas that can make a social impact in Egypt,” Caine said. In the second phase, the Americans returned home to communicate with their Egyptian partners by e-mails, video conferences and blogs, giving them a chance to acquaint themselves with the basics of conducting international business electronically. For the final two weeks, the Egyptians traveled to the United States to complete their business plans and test them with experts in the field of international business and panels of investors.

    Here are some of this year’s winning ideas:

    Global Egyptian Handicraft Industry in the Making?

    Nada Hamada is a graduate of the American University in Cairo where she majored in marketing. She plans to raise the profile of Egyptian handicrafts in the modern world of global fashion. “My business plan is designed to revitalize Egyptian handicrafts to empower artisans throughout Egypt,” she said.

    “Through training, better design, branding and marketing the new fashionable Egyptian handicrafts, they can sell internationally for triple the current prices,” Hamada said,  “So the plan can create jobs, generate more income and help the Egyptian export industry.”

    A jewelry vendor outside a store in the Khan al-Khalili area of Cairo (file photo)
    A jewelry vendor outside a store in the Khan al-Khalili area of Cairo (file photo)

    Hamada plans to develop distinctive handicrafts in training centers for skilled artisans on a village-by-village basis. She is also looking for investors to finance the project and leverage profits for Egypt’s craftsmen in a $150 billion worldwide fashionable handicraft industry, according to recent reports published by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    The new line of Egyptian handicrafts will target customers in the world’s upper and middle classes who might find an interest in Egyptian heritage and are willing to pay higher prices for higher quality Egyptian products, Hamada said.

    Alternative energy running alternative systems

    Another idea seeks to harness the sun to heat Egypt’s water supplies.

    “My business plan offers cheap and high-quality solar water heating systems to gradually replace the heavy use of Egyptian natural gas,” said Abel Rahman Khalifa, a student at the American University in Cairo. Khalifa estimates that Egypt’s heavily subsidized consumption of traditional energy will run out in 26 years according to a study by our team,” Khalifa said.

    New Cairo, a desert housing development, where the sun shines almost every day of the year
    New Cairo, a desert housing development, where the sun shines almost every day of the year

    “At first, the solar water heaters will be widely marketed in the new cities, like New Cairo,” he said, where year-round sunshine and large homes look like a good fit. “It would make sense for house owners to use them as an economic alternative to natural gas heaters.”  

    “The government is subsidizing conventional energy resources like natural gas, oil and even electricity,” Khalifa said.  The Egyptian government used to allocate billions of dollars to subsidize oil and electricity consumption, but in post-revolutionary Egypt, the government will have to reallocate huge energy subsidies to fund public health care programs and improve education. When that happens, Egyptians will need to conserve energy. That is where Khalifa sees his new solar market.

    “Once the government decides to cut these subsidies or reduce them, customers would resort to alternative energy like the solar energy and that would push the demand on products such as the solar water heaters,” says Kahlifa. He also envisions that manufacturing, distribution and installation of the solar water heaters would create a substantial number of new jobs.

    Investment in helping people with disabilities

    Another business plan conceived by young partners in the LeaveServeEgypt project is designed to create jobs for disabled Egyptians. Although Egypt ratified the U.N. convention on the rights of persons with disabilities back in 2008, few disabled Egyptians have been integrated into the country’s workforce since then. The business plan is called “Istiqlal,” an Arabic word for independence. According to the plan, a non-governmental organization would be established to create job opportunities for the disabled, allowing them to lead more independent and productive lives.

    One team of LearnServeEgypt Program participants touring the Egyptian pyramids
    One team of LearnServeEgypt Program participants touring the Egyptian pyramids

    Caine designed the LearnServeEgypt program to not only assist the people of Egypt in the short term, but also to create a lasting macroeconomic impact. He partnered with the Institute for Education in Washington, D.C., in June of 2010, which also acknowledges that entrepreneurial development is increasingly crucial for post-revolution Egypt.

    Over the course of six weeks, the cooperation between Egyptian and American innovators has produced three notable projects, which are just beginning to come to fruition. More business plans are likely to follow, empowering and offering brighter opportunities for those who for decades have been trapped on the bottom of Egypt’s economic pyramid.

     

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora