Young Egyptians have an amazing potential that is not yet being utilized. We have a well-established business sector, but with the establishment and success comes an aversion to trying new things. To innovating. While the business sector has made incredible impact on my country, there are still gaps. Gaps in jobs and gaps in services that would allow our most marginalized citizens to escape poverty. This is where entrepreneurs, especially young ones, can help.
“Every time I see a problem, I create a social business to solve it,” renowned Nobel Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said to an overflowing room at the World Bank Group’s Headquarters in Washington, DC this summer. “Set up a social business.”
“The poor are like Bonsai trees,” the founder of Grameen Bank explained, “When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch-deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on."
My father was a pharmacist in Giza, Egypt, with a number of pharmacies dotted throughout the city. Growing up, he engaged me in discussions on public and current affairs and encouraged me to argue my opinions on what was happening in our community. He frequently took me to historical places around Egypt - recounting heroic and brave stories of our past - and ingrained in me pride in our country: a deep unwavering love for Egypt.
We traveled down a bumpy, dirt road in the rural areas of West Bengal towards a village called Bolpur. Three hours after leaving Kolkata, the car pulled up to an unassuming concrete building. The health care worker who accompanied us for this ride jumped out enthusiastically and immediately spoke into her megaphone. “Not feeling well?” she called out to the village, “Need a quick check up? Come and visit us for the next hour and a half.” Here, in a small village, at an unassuming building, we had found ourselves at an iKure spot camp.
iKure - a Kolkata-based social enterprise dedicated to bringing affordable health care to India’s poorest populations - has created these spot camps as an integral part of their inventive model for a network of health clinics in India’s rural areas. In addition to providing access to doctors and medicine prescriptions, they provide the necessary outreach to tell villagers about where and when the clinics are and how they can access medical consultations and medicine.
For 15 years the World Bank Group’s Development Marketplace (DM) has identified innovative social entrepreneurs who tackle service delivery bottlenecks that disproportionately affect the world’s poorest populations. Originally a competitive grants program, the DM has grown over the years into a multi-faceted program that identifies these entrepreneurs, analyzes their specific needs, and maps out the problems they face and the solutions they offer. Through this approach, the DM is able to assist these organizations in breaking down service delivery barriers so that other social entrepreneurs and the public sector can follow their lead: eventually helping to create a world free of extreme poverty and raising incomes so that we all share in the world’s prosperity.
In September 2012 and as part of its Brown Bag Lunch (BBL) series, the Development Marketplace (DM) team hosted a discussion entitled “Social Entrepreneurship Opportunities & Challenges in MENA: Presentations from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine” where we invited Synergos Social Innovators to share their experiences from the region.
Much like the kinds of social enterprises the DM hopes to support in Egypt, Synergos also supports social innovators in the region to fulfill unmet needs for the poor and marginalized. Synergos is a non-profit that mobilizes resources and bridges social and economic divides to reduce poverty and increase equity around the world.
The Synergos Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) program was launched in 2008 with leadership and funding from the US Agency for International Development. AWSI supports nearly 40 civil society leaders serving poor and marginalized communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates. Social innovators are pioneers of change in their communities and offer original approaches, methods, and solutions to address social and economic problems.
For more information on the event you can access the full report here.
النسخة العربية من المقالة متوفرة على هذا الرابط.
Ranya Abdel-Baki is the former Executive Director of Sanabel, The Microfinance Network of Arab countries. Ranya spoke with the World Bank Development Marketplace about the state of the Microfinance sector and Microfinance Institutions (MFI) in the region. Based on her several years leading Sanabel, she also explains why MFIs have been seen by many as the only sustainable and financially viable inclusive business or social enterprise1 model in the region.
Jill Richmond: Can you talk about the impacts of Arab Spring on MFI’s in the region, if any, and its direct impact (both sustaining and non-sustaining) on your clients?
Ranya Abdel-Baki: We ran a successful workshop last November where practitioners from Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria gathered and shared their experiences, lessons learned and future challenges. Naturally, the crisis impacts vary from country to country, and also within each country impacts sometimes varied amongst MFIs depending on their geographical locations (especially the case for Egypt).
While we have not yet completed the data collection for December 2011, we believe that total outreach for the region is going to stagnate or drop for 2011. From the workshop we made some interesting discoveries. You would think that MFIs would only be focused on institutional survival, but they have been putting their clients’ needs ahead of their own. We've seen Enda in Tunisia, for example, providing support - not only to its own clients but also to refugees from neighboring Libya. In Egypt, the First Microfinance Foundation (FMF) organized exhibitions for clients during the revolution to help them market and sell their products during these difficult times. Abyan Program, one of the hardest hit MFIs in Yemen, continued disbursements and collections even under circumstances that have forced most of the staff and clients to flee Abyan Governorate.
Jill Richmond: In many interviews you talk extensively about the importance of contingency plans. What other lessons can be taken from the experience of MFIs during the Arab Spring?
Find out more about the social enterprise movement in Egypt. This timely piece from BBC that features some exciting social enterprises ranging from roof-top gardening to paper made from recycled agriculture waste.
Development Marketplace partners, Iman Bibars from Ashoka and Magdi Amin from the International Finance Corporation (a co-sponsor of the upcoming Egypt DM) highlight important barriers blocking the movement's growth and hindering its ability to keep pace with demand for improved goods and services to the poor.
Before the Arab Spring, numerous Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries appeared to be performing well on several developmental fronts, showing impressive growth rates and improving business climate indicators. However, many of those who took to the streets believed that this growth only benefited a privileged minority. In that context, the Development Marketplace (DM) team is publishing a series of blog posts that aim to stir a debate and discussion to explore how the MENA region can adopt a new development model for competitive economies to create decent jobs while promoting sustainable development, social justice and equity.
The purpose of the blog series will be to help us all gain better understanding of the potential, opportunities and challenges facing inclusive business, inclusive finance and social entrepreneurship in the region. The blog posts will be released periodically leading to the launch of the Egypt DM Competition. The Call for Proposals is scheduled to be released and circulated the first week of November 2012.
The India DM is focused on identifying Inclusive Business Models that can scale impact in the States of Bihar, Rajasthan and Orissa. Inclusive business models are those offering goods/ services and contributing to income generation of the poor in financially sustainable and scalable ways. They productively integrate those living at the base of the economic pyramid into their value chains as consumers, producers and/or distributors.