Egypt's budding entrepreneurs get boost from US
A 'boot camp' for Egyptian entrepreneurs is one of a number of US initiatives to support economic and democratic reform. But not all Egyptians welcome the help.
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The Boot Camp is sponsored by State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in cooperation with Denmark. It was planned well before the Arab Spring in line with objectives outlined in President Obama’s “A New Beginning” speech in Cairo in 2009. But the event is capitalizing on the spirit of the recent uprising as people see an increased opportunity to forge their own bold paths.Skip to next paragraph
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“I think if we get them some infrastructure – mentoring, financing, and education [about how to formally create businesses] – some of the next big ideas will be coming out of Egypt,” says Jeff Hoffman, an American entrepreneur who is mentoring participants this week.
The Boot Camp will end in a final competition between its 46 participants. They range from Sarah Hamdi, who currently works as an assistant for a business development executive but wants to create an app that connects people to their nearest hospital, to college student Hady Ahmed Fathy, who has dreams of launching a Web service to improve communication between Web designers and their clients.
Winners will receive training in the US or Denmark, and participate in Egypt’s Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre Incubation Program. The center is a collaborating partner in the event and is affiliated with the Egyptian government.
'We want development in other areas'
The Boot Camp is just one example of USAID funding at work.
Another beneficiary of USAID is farmer Mohammad Abdel Wahab, whose crop yield has doubled since he began receiving training and his profits increased by one quarter.
He has been working with Washington-based nonprofit organization ACDI/VOCA, which has received $7 million in USAID funding to train, advise, and technically assist Egyptian farmers over a five-year period starting in 2008.
But while he has benefited from USAID, he says it isn’t enough. From inconsistent water supplies, to poor education, to lack of knowledge about how to manage their livestock, problems in his hometown abound. He has been advising others in his area, and estimates that the ripple-effect of his instruction has helped nearly 300 farmers in his village. But agriculture development is only one small aspect of a slew of problems that need attention.
“We want development in other areas, and have real projects be implemented, not just talks,” says Ibrahim Ahmed Aslan, who grows squash and tomatoes. “We are improving, but it’s a slow process.”