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.
Egypt has some of the densest neighborhoods in the world. The result of this is a lot of injustice, unemployment, pollution and other challenges. Regardless of who you are – rich, poor, young, old – you witness these challenges. But, injustice spurs potential as it forces people to see where they themselves can have an impact. Social entrepreneurship is an amazing way to channel our energy for change. This however, requires assistance from all levels.
Governments often see it as their job to provide an effective economy, water and sanitation services, healthcare, and energy, amongst others, and rightfully so. But in facing as many challenges are we face today, it is understandable that governments around the world – developed and developing alike – struggle to do so. Social enterprises can provide these services and enhance what the government is already providing. By working together and listening to the ecosystem of entrepreneurship already on the ground – not simply providing top down regulation – we can work together towards a higher purpose: a better Egypt.
And the Government is beginning to do this as well as provide essential support to social enterprises that are trying to pilot and/or scale. For example, Smart Village (a Silicon Valley-esque area where all the telecommunications and tech companies are located) is hosted by the Ministry of Communication and Information. I personally have taken advantage of this as it provides access to technical resources and various avenues for funding. Additionally, it allows social entrepreneurs to work together and bounce ideas off one another.
This is where Egypt’s development partners can play a key role. For most social enterprises creating the start-up is easy. You see a problem, develop an idea, and start a business or organizations. Investors often are excited to invest. But if I were to be honest, once you are really up and running, you realized there is much more to do that you never thought of. Accounting, pricing, marketing, product design, material supply chains. Here is when investors usually move on and look for the next exciting start up. When you have limited resources and are working alone, it can be the end of your business. By providing social enterprises learning opportunities for skills that will help business thrive during this period, development partners can ensure that more people are receiving jobs and more people are receiving life changing services.
After over three years of revolution, our country is finally stabilizing and we need to change the revolution into action. Into real development, into real impact. By turning the energy of the youth that we had on the streets for the revolution into projects that benefit people directly we can affect true change. Instead of protesting for regime change, we can develop businesses that change people’s lives. With the government beginning to support such initiatives and the energy of the youth turning revolution into social impact, there is no way for Egypt to go but up.
Rania Salah Seddik is the Founder and Managing Director of Gebraa, a hybrid social enterprise that links artisans of traditional Egyptian crafts to clocal and international markets. Gebraa was awarded the 2013 Egypt Development Marketplace Grant to improve its organizational capacity. She was recently profiled on Forbes as one of Egypt's top Social Entrepreneurs.