Gehane El Sokkary, principal socio-economist at the African Development Bank (AfDB) said that the bank is expected to sign new entrepreneurship agreement with the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT), which is affiliated to the Ministry of Higher Education, before the end of November.
The new agreement is worth €4m, and aims to support entrepreneurship in Egypt, El Sokkary told Daily News Egypt during the event, which was organised by the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies (ECES) on Wednesday, entitled, ‘Entrepreneurship in Egypt: from local individual successes to becoming an African hub.’
The new project will pay special attention on entrepreneurship in Upper Egypt, oases areas and Cairo, said El Sokkary, adding that green technology and agribusinesses are the main sectors of the planned project.
“We will establish incubators and accelerators. We will offer seed funding for the start-ups so that entrepreneurs will be encouraged to have their own projects,” noted El Sokkary, adding that one of the main objectives of the project is to establish an online educational entrepreneurship platform to help youth who have ideas to log on the internet and learn more about how transfer their ideas into real projects.
Additionally, El Sokkary said that the AfDB is implementing another project with the Ministry of Trade and Industry in the area of industrial waste management, where entrepreneurship is one of the project’s components, adding, “we have worked with more than 40 entrepreneurs, 15 of them are successful, and they transferred into the formal sector and received funding from other financial institutions.”
The joint project with Ministry of Trade and Industry was able to attract 15 universities’ students for six months’ training on entrepreneurship, elaborated El Sokkary, mentioning that the AfDB’ SMEs portfolio in Egypt including entrepreneurship projects is over $400m.
Moreover, El Sokkary said that many African countries are very highly advanced in the field of entrepreneurship such as Kenya and Tanzania, which are well known with their experiences and innovations, while other countries such as Tunisia and Morocco are less advanced in the entrepreneurship area, noting that the AfDB plans to make a regional cooperation programme with entrepreneurs in the North African countries including Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt.
“The new regional programme will meet some challenges, as we are on different levels of entrepreneurship development, and I think that Egypt is more advanced in this area than other countries in North Africa,” noted El Sokkary, adding that there is a big difference between SMEs and entrepreneurship sectors.
On 2 October, the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation (MIIC), in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), announced the launch of a website calling for applications for the initiative designed to support African entrepreneurs and start-ups, to select 100 promising African start-ups, and invited them to take part in Africa 2018 Forum, to be held under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Sharm El-Sheik in December 2018.
The initiative aims to communicate with major international investors, businesspersons, financial institutions and policy-makers through helping start-ups obtain funding, guidance, and access to new markets.
El Sokkary noted that the entrepreneurship sector in Egypt is showing promising indicators, adding that developing this area needs cultural change.
Meanwhile Khaled Bechara, co-founder of Acceloro Capital, said that entrepreneurship in Egypt is not doing very well, adding, “some countries such as the UAE began their entrepreneurship progress with us. However, they developed much faster than us in this area.”
Bechara said that developing entrepreneurship in the world is going at a very fast pace which requires great additional efforts from the Egyptian entrepreneurship stakeholders to match global changes.
Abla Abdel Latif, ECES’ executive director and director of research said that ECES published a guide for women entrepreneurs to help them start their own businesses, noting some investment climate improvements are required to help entrepreneurs end their businesses in case of failure.
Abdel Latif added that additional structural reforms are needed to help SMEs grow, noting that the entrepreneurship ecosystem is very slow.
Abdel Latif mentioned that entrepreneurship is the key to future development, which is why countries worldwide are trying to actively promote entrepreneurship through various forms of support, adding that both public and private institutions are exerting strenuous efforts in support of entrepreneurial activities in Egypt. However, the achievements on the ground are still extremely low.
The ECES attempts to make significant contributions to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Egypt, said Abdel Latif, noting, “studies and in depth analyses of the various aspects of the entrepreneurship ecosystem were instrumental in these activities, so are the practical initiatives adopted by the ECES, aiming at achieving rapid geographical expansion for entrepreneurs throughout Egypt, as well as initiating serious and fruitful collaboration with African countries.”
Sherif Kamel, School of Business dean at the American University of Egypt (AUC) said that there is a big need for entrepreneurship knowledge and training to boost commerce in Africa, adding that over 3,600 women applied for the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative (AWEC) while the programme capacity could only incorporate 200 women.
86% of the women who applied were qualified and already had their businesses, said Kamel, noting that there is a major chance of establishing business management faculties as well as developing businesses for Egyptian businesspersons.
Entrepreneurship development activities are more popular now than five years ago, adding that the Egyptian society enjoys many elements to help promote the entrepreneurship sector such as the high percentage of the youth population who use technology and have ideas which could make a difference.
For her part, Nermine El-Tahri, assistant sub-governor at the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said that establishing the entrepreneurship ecosystem will help in accessing the African continent, adding that Egypt has signed many agreements aiming towards vital entry of new African markets such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) free trade agreement.
“Through enhancing the entrepreneurship ecosystem, we believe that we can unlock the potential of African youth to become more globally competitive, and to actively contribute towards the development of their societies,” MIIC Minister, Sahar Nasr, stated on October.
Nasr mentioned that the MIIC launched the ‘Fekretak Sherketak’ initiative, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, to support start-ups and enhance entrepreneurship in Egypt. The MIIC also provides entrepreneurs with the main tools, including funding, guidance, and training as well as several areas such as health technology, household services, vehicles, and food, noted Nasr.