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Young Entrepreneurs as Agents of Change in Upper Egypt

“We can’t find the right workers”—“it’s hard to get through all the bureaucracy to get a certificates for our factory”—and, “we spend a lot on electricity.” These are some of the complaints I noted down at a meeting of leaders from the industrial sector in Upper Egypt. Before taking notes, I had tried putting on the hat of an entrepreneur listening to a potential customer to find out exactly what his complaints were about. 

Last year, on the same date, I coordinated hackathons in four governorates in Upper Egypt, where more than 200 young innovators were thinking about the challenges they faced in daily life and for which they strive to find innovative solutions. The two situations made me consider matchmaking the two groups, in the hope that young innovators and entrepreneurs could help transform Upper Egypt. 

Ecosystem overview
When we dig deeper into the entrepr“eneurship ecosystem of Upper Egypt, we find a lot of supply-driven activities to support the growth of entrepreneurship—such as competitions, training, and other events raising awareness of the need for it. On the demand side, this encourages entrepreneurs hungry for learning and innovation.

Their main challenge is “what’s next?” The young entrepreneur-to-be benefits from these programs—and actually starts their own business—but he or she doesn’t find mentors to guide them along the journey or put them back on their feet when something fails.  Limited funding is another constraint. 

Such constraints affect startups in Upper Egypt, which can die at a very early stage.
The personality of most entrepreneurs in Upper Egypt plays an important role in how they cope with the overall lack of job opportunities in Egypt and the weak private sector, itself a key driver for growth and job creation. 

The founders of start-ups might be graduates fresh out of college trying to create opportunities for themselves and others. But, as we have few international companies in Upper Egypt, they have previously gained no professional skills. What they have is passion and a vision for change. Most importantly, they are really committed to learning and trying to grow their startup.

Innovation is about process 
According to the global design company, IDEO, there is a myth surrounding creativity— that either you have it, or you don’t, and only a “sage on the stage,” like a Steve jobs, can generate new ideas. But this could not be further from the truth: Creativity can be learned through practice. Creative confidence is more about the ability or skills acquired in the process of generating, embracing, and acting on new ideas. 

If we adopt this thinking, we can work through a process that focuses on gaining a clear understanding of problems or challenges. And I think that could happen through matchmaking the two parties I’ve come into contact with in the past year—entrepreneurs and industry sector leaders. It’s a way for young people to help transform Upper Egypt and make a real impact on our society.

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