CAIRO: Egypt launched Wednesday the country’s first center dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Enterprise Egypt, or Bedayah as it will be known in Arabic (which literally means ‘start’), will be fully operational this September.
The center will have the support of Egypt’s Social Development Fund (SDF), the Arab Gulf Program for United Nations Development (AGFUND) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Three protocols were signed Wednesday at the Cairo headquarters of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI), giving Enterprise Egypt an official green light.
Bahrain’s Minister of Housing Sheikh Ebrahim Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, SDF Secretary-General, Hani Seif El-Nasr and GAFI Chairman Assem Ragab were on hand for the signing ceremony.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Bedayah will be built on the foundation of a one-stop shop, a single office where investors can access all the services needed to set up a new business, Samir Radwan, advisor to GAFI’s chairman, said.
Enterprise Egypt will have several stakeholders, including SDF, AGFUND, the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), Misr Bank and Bank of Alexandria,
Several branches of Enterprise Egypt will be open on the campuses of universities across Egypt.
“[Enterprise Egypt] will be based on a new vision and added services, Radwan added.
Enterprise Egypt will work with other local institutions to provide entrepreneurs with the needed training, information about investment opportunities and access to finance.
It will contain three units – Central BDS Unit, Incubation Unit and Access to Finance Unit – which will each be tasked with different activities.
The center will also provide legal consultancy services to entrepreneurs in the process of establishing their small businesses.
“It will shift the emphasis from enterprises to entrepreneurs, and transform the youth from job seekers to job makers, Radwan added.
The ultimate goal is to increase SME contributions to Egypt’s GDP, from the current 25 percent to 40 percept in 2015 and, eventually, 50 percent in 2025, according to GAFI figures.
The SME sector in Egypt is expected to employ around 12 million people by 2015, or 42 percent of the country’s total labor force, which is expected to reach 28.6 million at this time.
Enterprise Egypt will operate on the premise that investment is the main driver for job creation, Radwan said, adding that it will take a different approach from the piecemeal and inadequate programs targeting SMEs in order to create a solid career path, especially for the youth.
The pilot project of Bedayah in the Arab world was established in Bahrain in 2001, and the office has since generated hundreds of success stories.
“Since its establishment in Bahrain, 10,000 jobs have been created, 900 entrepreneurs benefited from [its services] and 300 enterprises were established, said Dan Liang, China’s representative and head of investment promotion and technology at UNIDO.
Other countries have adopted this model, such as Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, and now have similar offices, said Liang.