Entrepreneurship in Egypt

Mostafa Shahat:

Many countries in Africa were under colonial regime for years. As a result of colonial rule, people were controlled economically and politically, and lived in poverty and ignorance. Being Egyptian, I will use Egypt as my case study. Egyptians lived under the British colonial rule for seventy years before we had a revolution in 1952 and succeeded in becoming the Egyptian Arab Republic.

Despite colonial rule, entrepreneurship has transformed Egyptians’ lives over the last ten years.

Even though I didn’t live through this era, I would say it was a critical period when all Egyptians had to work hard and together to make the country much better after the bad time which we had been through. In addition to colonial rule, we had two different wars between 1952 and 1980—imagine how a country could survive in such an environment! Even without knowing the word entrepreneurship at that time, we had used the entrepreneurial thinking concept in our way of managing and leading the country starting with having a vision, turning the obstacles to challenges, learning from our mistakes, and creating opportunities instead of waiting for them. This is what we call right now “entrepreneurial thinking.”

The common culture among youth was to study either engineering or medicine, or travel abroad, especially to the Gulf area, for work. When I entered university in 2008, we barely had youth activities and/or initiatives which were following the university strategy, and they were not actually doing developmental work or helping students by any means. Within the same year, when Barak Obama was first elected as President of the United States, he started spreading the concept of entrepreneurship, and USAID offices all over the African continent have put part of their budget towards entrepreneurship, to spread the concept in the “green” continent. But the two most effective ways are educating youth about entrepreneurship and funding entrepreneurs. At the time, the concept of entrepreneurship in Egypt was nascent.

In 2011, the biggest revolution that Egyptians have had in their history occurred. It caused lots of NGOs, youth communities, and social ventures to be established. Since then, the concept of entrepreneurship has taken off, especially amongst youth in the universities. I am no longer seeing youth who are interested in travelling abroad to work in Gulf countries. With the new common concept I only see potential social/business entrepreneurs who have already changed the country. I believe that every individual in society has the self-permission and the societal support to address a problem, develop a solution, take initiative, and create positive change for the greater good. That’s why entrepreneurship is the only way out for the developing countries, Egypt in particular, because people will be proactive and will not wait for the government to change. They feel that they are part of this community and it’s their responsibility to change it.

I have mentioned Egypt as an example of how entrepreneurship could help the country to grow up, but all African countries are applying the entrepreneurship concept, and the great continent is full of entrepreneurs who are trying to find new ideas in agriculture, industry, environment, energy, education, unemployment, etc.

If you are interested in entrepreneurship opportunities in the MENA region, email me at mostafa@ayibamagazine.com.

Mostafa Shahat is an African Egyptian entrepreneur who has been engaged in several civic projects since 2011. He is the founder of GOL, “Goal Oriented Learners,” a youth community dedicated to empowering, engaging, and training youth and young people so that they can become more qualified for the job market. GOL is funded by Ashoka Youth Venture and hosted by the Information Resource Center at the US Embassy in Cairo. Mostafa has travelled throughout the world to participate in entrepreneurship conferences.