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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid