USAID Mission Director in Egypt Sherry Carlin, in an interview with Daily News Egypt, avoided talking about the US aid cut and the other options to finance the gap of the USAID’s programmes due to the aid cut.
Carlin said that USAID/Egypt supports the government of Egypt’s reform agenda on a number of fronts to establish a good macroeconomic foundation for growth.
How is USAID working to improve the skills of the labour force to address the current skills mismatch in the labour market?
Working with the government of Egypt, the private sector, and other stakeholders, USAID, through its Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement (WISE) project, works to improve technical secondary education to meet the needs of Egypt’s job market. The project establishes partnerships between businesses and technical schools in order to better coordinate the skills needed for employment. USAID directly addresses the current skills mismatch, creating a pool of qualified candidates and linking graduates with jobs. This partnership has already resulted in the addition of two new curriculum specialisations—logistics and renewable energy—which respond to the private sector’s need for workers with skills in these areas.
Since August 2016, USAID’s WISE project established school units to help students’ transition from education to employment. The project has facilitated training for 1,800 teachers and school staff in 28 schools in five governorates, who have provided career guidance to 10,000 students over the past year. These students are meeting the demands of the local labour market. In the first year of the project, 5,500 students have secured employment, and 4,800 have participated in internships. This fall, twice as many schools will establish transition to employment units, for a total of 60 schools in 11 governorates.
How does USAID work to address factors that constrain labour market efficiencies?
Working in coordination with the government of Egypt and the private sector stakeholders, USAID works to address factors that constrain labour market efficiencies by building partnerships, assessing the environment, and fulfilling key stakeholder recommendations.
Sustainable solutions come only when stakeholders work together to support the end goal. To increase the quality and number of employable graduates that can help propel Egypt’s economy forward, USAID’s WISE project is partnering with the Egyptian National Competiveness Council (ENCC) to establish a mechanism to encourage dialogue between public and private sector stakeholders at the national level to address the major problems in the labour market and recommend reforms that can improve labour market efficiency. Additionally, in partnership with the Ministry of Local Development, USAID’s WISE project is establishing economic partnership councils to identify and address constraints to labour market efficiency at the local level.
In partnership with the ENCC, USAID commissioned a comprehensive survey of Egypt’s labour market to assess the economic context, the supply and demand of skills, and the role that gender plays in securing and maintaining employment. The study represents a major step in aligning technical skills with labour market needs. It also paves the way to identifying and addressing the areas of concern that restrict labour market efficiency and supplies needed information to business associations to build partnerships with the government and advocate for reforms related to labour market efficiency.
USAID is fulfilling several key recommendations from the report. This includes helping students gain needed skills by improving technical secondary education to meet the needs of the market, as well as offering training on soft skills, like communication, work discipline, and work ethics—those that are necessary to succeed in the workplace.
How is USAID helping micro, small, and medium enterprises take full advantage of expanded market opportunities resulting from the government of Egypt’s economic reform programme?
The US government, through USAID, is helping micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) take advantage of commercial opportunities by improving business development services and supporting entrepreneurs to launch new businesses. As more Egyptians are able to connect to new economic opportunities, their demand for goods and services will expand, hence creating an engine for sustained growth of the country’s economy.
To stimulate entrepreneurship, USAID’s project to strengthen entrepreneurship and enterprise development (SEED) has held nine startup and business plan competitions, connected nearly 1,500 young entrepreneurs with a network of accomplished mentors, and helped 250 entrepreneurs connect with incubators to further refine their business models and develop the capacity to launch viable business ventures with the potential to create jobs and contribute to Egypt’s economic growth. In the past 18 months, 72 USAID-supported startups have introduced new products to the market, including mobile applications, jewelry, and hygienic food packing machinery for small and medium food producers in the Delta region.
The SEED project has improved the capacity of five financial service institutions through training on product development and social performance management systems. These institutions have since provided funding and/or support to over 8,700 clients. The SEED project has organised the first of many forums to link MSMEs with non-traditional financing (e.g. crowdsource funding, angel investment, venture capital) and is currently developing a mobile application to inform and connect MSMEs with a range of financial products.
The success of the government of Egypt’s reform programme hinges implementing sound macroeconomic policies. How is USAID supporting the government of Egypt achieve this goal?
USAID is supporting the government of Egypt’s reform agenda on a number of fronts to establish a good macroeconomic foundation for growth. On structural reform, USAID is providing technical assistance to streamline business registration and trade and investment facilitation to hasten enterprise formation and growth. USAID is providing technical assistance to 1) improve public investment planning, implementation, and monitoring to enhance the productivity of public capital assets and the efficiency and effectiveness of public services; and 2) upgrade effectiveness of public financial management to improve fiscal management, budgeting, and expenditure control, as well to promote greater budget efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
On export promotion, USAID is providing technical assistance to 1) enhance the capacity of new and expanding export-ready enterprises to increase sales and reach new markets in selected sectors; and 2) strengthen public and private trade-support institutions (e.g. trade associations, export councils, etc.) that assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to compete in the international marketplace.
USAID is also supporting the industrial sector by providing technical assistance to promote MSME growth through 1) stimulated entrepreneurship, 2) improved efficiency and effectiveness of business development services, 3) improved financial products and services, 4) integration of MSMEs into progressive value-chains, and 5) provision of a skilled workforce.