The last five years saw a growth boom in the field of entrepreneurship in the MENA region. This region has come to be widely recognized as a Cradle for nurturing young start-ups. Egypt, undoubtedly, is and has been the pioneering entity in this change. It is one of the best start-up hubs in the world today. An estimated 3.6 million Egyptians are entrepreneurially active, 1.4 million of whom are nascent entrepreneurs, 2.2 million are owners of new firms, and 1.9 million are owners of established businesses, according to a report issued by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in 2013. But what sparked this change? Let’s take a brief look into it.
4th January,2011, Tunisia: A young, frustrated vendor and micro-entrepreneur named Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself ablaze after he was unable to find decent work and carry on his business due to the Government policies and widespread corruption in his country.
This immolation sparked the fire that quickly spread to Egypt where the youth struggled with unemployment and rampant corruption. The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 saw the beginning of a new dawn for the people and more specifically for the business-minded youth. With many foreign businesses fleeing the country, several business reforms took place which brought in loads of opportunities.
Egypt has a population of 9.6 million and almost half of it is aged below 30. The youth-bulge is so immense that there was a deficiency of government jobs in the country. With the government and big businesses failing to produce employment for the young people, the youth took to starting their own business with the lure of better economic and financial prospects.
The major reasons for Egypt being able to nurture start-ups are the fact that cost of living and rent is low here. The labour is cheap and its geographical location is favourable. The corporate taxes are less as compared to the developed nations, making the investment in these start-ups quite appealing.
Ahmed Alfi, a serial Entrepreneur and co-founder of Flat6Labs, quotes,” Egypt faces multitude of challenges that can be overcome with simple entrepreneurial ideas. Yet, it has high returns on the effort you put into it with small investments.”
The number of start-ups in the IT sector is tremendously huge because the internet penetration in Egypt is growing exponentially with the last recorded penetration of 40%. This region is experiencing strong growth in mobile and web-based industries with e-commerce picking up the pace of the entrepreneurial boom. Instabug, an app that allows app-developer worldwide to test their app before submitting it to the company, is an Egyptian start-up that flourished and reached all the way to the Silicon Valley. It has built a sound name in the tech-world.
For a region budding with hopeful young entrepreneurs, many in Egypt turn to innovative and most importantly socially and environmentally conscious ways to lead the way with their businesses. Apart from the economic prospects of entrepreneurship, there are also some socially responsible start-ups like Nafham which is an educational platform that aims to make up for the shortfalls in regions current educational systems by offering free online classes via crowdsourced videos currently covering the Egyptian curricula, and already 40% of Saudi Arabia’s, and 30% of Syria’s curriculum.
Their website now boasts more than 3.6 million total video views, and 200 thousand unique visitors.
This young generation of entrepreneurs is full of innovative ideas, brave to take the risks of markets and make a name of their own. However, this generation has no older generation to guide them through the thick and thins of setting up a business. Lack of funding and understanding of market, government bureaucracy and improper marketing are some of the major problems hindering their business and dreams. However, companies like Flat6Labs work as regional start-up accelerator by providing seed-funding, mentorship, office space, training and networking opportunities to young start-ups, thus helping them grow.
Flat6Labs was founded by one of the most influential entrepreneurs for the youth of Egypt, Ahmed Alfi with the view of guiding and nurturing young start-ups. He also founded the GrEEK Campus- a close-knit startup community in the heart of downtown Cairo. This place is often regarded as Silicon Valley in miniature. It is also home to dopay and Uber Egypt and a focal point for the technological advancements in the MENA region and the rest of the African continent.
Websites like egypreneur are helping the business-minded people to come along and share their views and opinions, and finding new allies. It is providing immense opportunities for networking.
The essence of entrepreneurship lies in solving everyday problems and turning these solutions into fully-fledged business. Despite the odds, Egypt is growing at a steady pace as a hub for starting your own business. The opportunities are big and resources are abundant. With so many political and social reforms in this region, job creation is the only solution to the problem that Egypt might face due to the youth bulge, and entrepreneurship is the way that is leading it to new heights.
by Piyush Barskar