Right now, is the time to plant the seeds for short, medium and long term resilience through a strong entrepreneurial sector. In recent years, Egypt has shown itself as a startup hub as many of its youth are growing up with an entrepreneurial drive wishing to establish their own businesses. The country is witnessing the growth of a thriving sector, reflecting the adoption of new technologies, creativity and innovation coupled with sustainable solutions. The growth and scale of these businesses is determined by the public-private partnerships that take place today. Right now, innovation is key to powering through the jobs of tomorrow. The digital revolution has transformed our lives and societies with unprecedented speed and scale, with new technologies inevitably leading to a major shift in the labour market. With the pandemic hitting global economic and social development, the rise of the digital economy is viewed as a new engine for global economic recovery, with internet-related industries becoming more of a key focus area for development opportunities.
There are incredibly vast opportunities for Egypt to become a regional powerhouse for digital transformation. We are seeing the rise of young, fresh and talented innovators and entrepreneurs in the market, particularly in the digital and fintech sectors, which places the country in a unique position to harness this potential and capitalize on the trends that are growing at present. New emerging technologies such IoT (Internet of Things), Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Machine Learning are currently coming to the fore, and this is most exemplified by the New Administrative Capital. The city is set to become the country’s first ever smart city, which will include a city-wide digital security system as well as a smart infrastructure to reduce consumption and cost with a focus on renewable energy using IoT.
With a burgeoning young population, it’s not just emerging technologies that are paving the way for digital transformation, but also a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Currently, Egypt has the highest number of startups deals in the MENA region with total funding in Egypt worth $95 million.
To move in the right direction forward, fostering partnerships with development partners, private sector and civil society organizations as well as mobilizing the vibrant national and international startup and innovation ecosystem are key steps that the Government of Egypt is currently undertaking. To ensure streamlined and efficient implementation of efforts, the Ministry of International Cooperation is working on connecting all stakeholders on the opportunities that lie ahead for digitization and entrepreneurship. Planning for the new world of work, the Ministry is bringing together development partners to promote technology transfer knowledge which will in return enhance and build the tech-capacity of the people. Digital entrepreneurship is of high topicality as technological developments and advances in infrastructure create various opportunities for entrepreneurs. Egypt is increasingly becoming the region’s entrepreneurial hub for its majority of young population, who are agile, adaptive, talented and innovative.
To encourage SDG-focused tech-inclusion and scale up impact, the Ministry of International Cooperation crafted a strategic framework to shift development ambitions into real tangible digital solutions; through four main components: First: Prioritization; through the Ministry of International Cooperation’s Multi-Stakeholder Platforms to support economic cooperation between Egypt and its multilateral and bilateral partners in the field of digitalization and entrepreneurship.
Second: Idea Generation: Through addressing challenges and opportunities in the tech-sphere in coordination with development partners to search for new innovative ideas that can be implemented and encourage technology transfer through financing agreements on technical assistance. Third: Project Implementation; looking at the design and implementation of all digitalization and entrepreneurship projects. Fourth: Monitoring and Optimization; integrating the use of ICT solutions to ensure agility and efficiency in monitoring the implementation of projects; in addition to the Ministry of International Cooperation activities.
In November 2020, the Ministry of International Cooperation with the Saudi Grant Management Committee signed a $6.4 million financing agreement to finance the digital transformation to support MSMEs in rural villages, targeting projects by women in the field of handicrafts. The implementation of the program will be through the Bank of Alexandria with more than 1,475 clients benefiting from the financing, 30% of which are women-owned enterprises and 45% to firms owned by people under the age of 25.
Established in 2017, Egypt Ventures is an investment firm seeded by the Ministry of International Cooperation and the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) with a mandate of supporting and investing in startups from a diverse range of sectors across Egypt. Egypt Ventures has created a blended finance model through which investments are directed into accelerators, venture capital firms, and startups at the early and growth stages.
The one-of-its kind investment firm drives innovation-centric enterprises led by strong and resilient entrepreneurs that have the potential to create high economic value and compete on a global scale. With a fund that equates to more than $40 million, Egypt Ventures and its subsidiary enablers, including, but not limited to, Falak Startups and EFG-EV Fintech, invested in over 150 companies in Egyptian growth stage startups and scale ups. Egypt Ventures and EFG-Hermes (one of Egypt’s leading investment banking institutions) have jointly established in 2018 the “EFG-EV Fintech” as a pioneering fintech-focused investment company. EFG-EV Fintech offers a startup accelerator and an early stage VC fund both designed to nurture, support and empower financial technology startups. In addition to funding, the startups are offered office space, legal and accounting services, tailored training and mentorship programs. In 2020, five startups graduated from the third acceleration cycle with more than $160,000 of total seed investment and a fourth cycle was launched. Additionally, EFG-EV Fintech, through its VC arm has directly invested in 4 high-growth fintech companies with total investments of $650,000. This increases the company’s portfolio to 20 fintech startups - 13 graduates from the accelerator program and 7 with direct investment.
For the first time for an Egyptian minister, H.E Dr. Rania Al Mashat participated in the Linkedin Live Webinar Series on Women Empowerment for the Leadership in 2020 session with more than 5,600 viewers from Europe and the Middle East and North Africa. Microsoft – owned Linkedin is one of the fastest growing social media platforms with more than 690 million users globally, more than half of them are university graduates. Professionals watch nearly 4 million hours of content on LinkedIn Learning monthly, a nearly 50% increase month-over-month, with LinkedIn Live streams viewership up by 158% since February 2020.
The Ministry of International Cooperation is fostering the potential of innovation, digitization and entrepreneurship through mobilizing the vibrant national and international startup environment, identifying and financing efficient, innovative, agile and scalable ideas. In October 2020, H.E. Dr. Rania Al Mashat with John Barsa, USAID Director in Washington, who was visiting Egypt for the first time, Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, US Ambassador to Egypt and Leslie Reed, Director of USAID, Cairo Office visited Flat6Labs, where they met with young entrepreneurs to learn about their business plans and successes. Flat6Labs, which has grown to be the leading business accelerator in Egypt having helped 106 businesses create 7,450 jobs (of which 6,293 are held by women)- is a success story of bilateral cooperation between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the United States of America. USAID supported Flat6Labs in its early years through mentorship and technical assistance under the $32 million Egyptian Competitiveness Project between the Egyptian and American governments. In addition to the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund’s investment in Flat6Labs reaching around $ 1 million. Harnessing the power of young entrepreneurs, Flat6labs is a model for cooperation to foster youth employment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and offers a wide range of services including mentoring, training, and financing.
Within the portfolio of the Ministry of International Cooperation, there are currently 34 projects in innovation, digitalization and entrepreneurship contributing to 13 SDGs with a total development financing of $1.014 billion; 4% of Egypt’s ODA portfolio. The jobs of the future are highly dependent on several UN SDGs all at once. It is not restricted to one goal or one target, but rather a collection of several ones successfully coming together to achieve as many as SDGs as possible for new jobs to exist.
Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions.
Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries.
Substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
Ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.
Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
Enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology.
Expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support.
Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors.
Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.
Upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities.
Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending.
Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states.
Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.
Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
Promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed.
Fully operationalize the technology bank and science, technology and innovation capacity-building mechanism for least developed countries by 2017 and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology.
Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.