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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.