How we support agribusiness and handicrafts sector in Upper Egypt
Last week I met 35 entrepreneurs from Assyut, Aswan, Beni Seouf, Cairo, Fayoum, Giza, Luxor , Minya, Qena, Sharkeyya, Sohag. Some of these names aren’t familiar and there is a reason for that…
They had just been awarded 25,000 dollars each through the Egypt Development Marketplace (DM) competition  because their businesses have potential to grow, and create jobs for some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in Upper Egypt.
I was struck by the new innovative ideas for example using palm trees to produce handicrafts and high quality affordable furniture. But also by the revival of local industries such as the ancient Upper Egyptian carpet weaving produced by ferka, not only generating income for marginalized girls and women, but also renewing pride in Egypt’s remarkable culture and heritage. Whether producing local honey, or adding value to products through food processing of tomato paste, olive oil or dairy products specifically for low-income families, these businesses had deserved their cash reward.
But for me the Development Marketplace is about so much more than money. It creates a chance for aspiring businesses to be mentored, guided and trained by a group of key local and international companies and entrepreneurs that sponsor, nurture and help them learn how to thrive. It’s also an important “collective journey of discovery” with the entrepreneurs, civil society organizations, government and the private sector. The DM team held consultative discussions across the Egypt so the ideas and decisions as to which sectors and which parts of Egypt needed the most attention began 18 months ago. We built consensus, listened and learnt along the way and decided to support the much neglected region of Upper Egypt which has the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the country – we listened to the “wisdom of the crowd”, and worked with CSOs to reach the most marginalized people.
We organized an intensive campaign and made presentations in Upper Egypt-- Aswan, Qena, Minya and Assyut -- to encourage rural cooperatives, small and medium enterprises and CSOs, to apply. We received more than 180 proposals from 170 organizations—many more than we had expected. Also, so that we could try and make sure everyone had a fair chance, the 67 finalists underwent 4-day workshops organized in Aswan and Minya in collaboration with IFC, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, where they further developed and refined their social business plans.
The DM connects local aspiring entrepreneurs to potential future investors. It starts to build an “entrepreneur” friendly environment to allow access to capital and help businesses become self-sustaining and help create local jobs. The partnerships we all built over the 18 month period with prominent local and international partners  are now invaluable and will help these entrepreneurs over the next 12 months as they build their businesses – we will be supporting them every step of the way.
I hope, one day not too soon away, the current headlines coming out of cairo about politically motivated violence and demonstrations on Tahrir Square will give way to success stories that showcase the great entrepreneurial talent and the innovative spirit of the people of Egypt.
- Gender 
- Youth 
- Agribusiness 
- Upper Egypt 
- handicrafts 
- employment 
- Egypt 
- cairo 
- Urban Development 
- Private Sector Development 
- Poverty 
- Labor and Social Protection 
- Information and Communication Technologies 
- Health 
- Gender 
- Financial Sector 
- Environment 
- Education 
- Agriculture and Rural Development 
- Middle East and North Africa 
- Egypt, Arab Republic of