Time for entrepreneurs
Ahmed Kotb gives entrepreneurs some tips about the initiatives that exist precisely to help them
Egyptian governmental and non- governmental organisations are taking a series of steps meant to raise awareness about entrepreneurship and self- employment. These organisations are offering their help to entrepreneurs to undertake their business ventures in the most efficient way possible. Small and medium enterprises account for nearly 80 per cent of economic activities and employment in Egypt.
Since the question facing most entrepreneur wanna-bes is precisely how to start, Egypt hosted Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) from 4 to 10 November in an attempt to offer a solution. GEW was coordinated by 33 governmental and non-governmental partners. A total of 68 activities took place to raise awareness about entrepreneurship and showcase financial and other services that entrepreneurs have access to.
"We offer our help to anyone with no more than a project idea," says Mohamed Ismail, director of the Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) of the Industrial Modernisation Centre (IMC). He added that EDP has launched a mentorship programme. It aims to give entrepreneurs the chance to turn their ideas into actual industrial business projects, by bringing in service providers who will take starters step by step through to the successful launch of their venture.
"Mentoring and coaching will be provided to any entrepreneur for a period of a year and half," Ismail told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that in order to qualify for financial aid from the IMC, entrepreneurs need to complete the mentorship programme. Successful candidates are offered direct financing of up to LE400,000. In addition, LE500,000 are granted to entrepreneurs whose projects the IMC believes qualify for export. This sum, says Ismail, will cover expenses for international exhibitions and other export-related mechanisms. "The ultimate goal of the IMC is to increase the number of exporters, and to reach the benchmark of LE200 billion in industrial exports in four years," Ismail said.
Those aspiring to benefit from the mentorship programme need to have an innovative industrial project idea that requires less than LE5 million to start off, the potential to grow, registration with the industrial development authorities and other governmental institutions, and a commercial registration file of no more than two years.
"I joined EDP as a service provider because I believe that more people should be able to learn how to create and run a business project," said Consultations Egypt CEO Fadi Morsi, whose company is among the EDP's mentorship programme's service providers. Morsi also believes that encouraging self-employment and entrepreneurship is a great idea, because everyone prefers to do what they love for a living, and because it enhances productivity on the whole.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, as at summer 2008, 13.1 per cent of Egyptians aged 18 to 64 years were either actively trying to start a new business, or already owned and managed a business that was less than three and half years old. Based on this indicator, Egypt ranked 11th among 43 countries researched in the GEM in terms of total entrepreneurial activity. GEM is an international research initiative that measures the level of entrepreneurial activity of participating countries.
Another project designed to help entrepreneurship is the Egyptian Junior Businessmen Association (EJB), which has launched an initiative called Mashrouak Haqiqa, meaning "your project is reality". Mashrouak Haqiqa is a competition for entrepreneurs who are asked to submit their business project ideas for evaluation at the website www.mashro3ak .com. The best ideas get up to LE100,000 in financing, EJB board member Khaled Farouk told the Weekly. He added that selection process is based on the success potential that winning ideas have.
The initiative, according to Farouk, is aimed at generating new job opportunities, encouraging innovation, promoting the idea of self-employment and training entrepreneurs.
Farouk expressed his concern over the GEM report's revelations on entrepreneurship education in Egypt. The report shows that only 7.5 per cent of Egyptians surveyed said they had never taken courses on how to start a business or participated in related training after leaving the formal education system.
Magdi Wahba, director of the Know About Business (KAB) project kick- started by the International Labour Organisation, believes this is about to change. "KAB is designed to help teach students about entrepreneurship and how to make a business plan," Wahba said. He added that many Egyptian universities have made entrepreneurship workshops available as a summer activity, and some have even included them as courses in their curricula.
In a more supportive environment for entrepreneurship, and with the tens of entities providing services for entrepreneurs, the risk of starting a business project is minimised, says Farouk.