I was recently invited to Sharm El Sheik in Egypt to speak at the World Youth Forum, an event attended by over 5000 leaders from around the world organised under the auspices of the leadership of HE President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. I spoke under the creativity pillar on the topic of the importance of startups in global economic development.
I put this short note together to share a my thoughts on Egypt startup ecosystem.
Disclaimer: this post is by no mean exhaustive, there is a lot more to say ; just some food for thought.
Egypt currently ranks 120 in the ease of doing business index. Often times, people confuse ease-of-doing-business and healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the criteria of the latter are very different from the former.
While Egypt has consistently ranked in the top 120 of ease-of-doing-business index, and has a nascent and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, it is still lacking quantity in some of the ingredients for a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem. But I must say that work is being done on the ground, evidently so.
Although it was my very first time visiting the Northern African country, I loved the experience apart from the scenic beauty but it’s rich history and the energy among young people.
While I was speaking at one of the sessions moderated by Mr Alaa Mostafa, sharing the stage with Dr Susan Amat and Mr Ahmed Alfi, I made the recommendations that an Africa-wide initiative for startups be established so as to promote intercontinental trade and cooperation as well as value exchange. I am happy that my recommendations where adopted by the organising committee and where subsequently presented to the President.
Five days after the conclusion of the World Youth Forum, a decision had been made to host the first Africa wide startup event in December (we are currently looking for startups who are interested to participate, you can shoot an email to me via firstname.lastname@example.org for more details)
A few years ago – 3 to be exact, I wanted to visit to Egypt but unfortunately the ecosystem was all but non-existent at the time. The government was desperately trying to grow a very nascent environment but every vertical remained extremely siloed.
Fast forward three years and any newcomer to the city of Cairo would be shocked to hear that Egypt ever lacked a startup scene and an entrepreneurial flair. The community is enormous now and the country’s entrepreneurial buzz is palpable – especially in Cairo. This is truly an exciting time for Egypt–and these are the four main components that will keep the system thriving.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, as of 2017 73% of young Egyptians have a heart for entrepreneurship.
One of the biggest gripes of the ecosystem is retention of talent. Most founders who started their company in Egypt would eventually leave for other countries, due the fact that the infrastructure and funding environment could not handle their growth. So when I see foreign startup founders actually coming in to Egypt, that gives me hope.
The funding environment used to be dominated by a few firms. Now, this once tightly-held oligopoly is being superseded by a fresh new batch of “rising star” VC firms. Also throwing their hat in the ring are the investing arms of large organisations who have made waves recently by actively investing in local startups.
There are currently over 50 co-working spaces, accelerators, incubators and innovation labs in Egypt. Back in the day, there was only one.
Today there are dozens available, ranging from the smaller local spaces to global operators. Joining the party are a number of accelerator and corporate innovation programs. Finally, there also exists a wealth of government-assisted programs including World Youth Forum Startup Vein.
The support for startups in Egypt is increasing as more and more partners come aboard. With the World Youth Forum taking a premier position in the world as the must attend event attracting thousands of participants from around the world, I believe that Egypt is geared to be a hub for Arab-Africa startups.
Egypt is opening it’s country and has shown us that they are serious about youth and startup empowerment.
I will keep writing about the experience and relationship I have with the Arab State. Stay tuned.