At the core of any socio-economic development is the empowerment of the middle class. A strong middle class ensures a stable consumer base, more productive investments, and a more effective achievement of the sustainable development goals SDGs that includes reduced inequality, gender equality and economic growth.
In a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Mentor (GEM) for 2017-2018, it was found that 75.9 percent of Egyptians perceive entrepreneurship as a good career choice.
While this reveals that the entrepreneurial culture is very much growing, it also marks the societal transformations that are necessary for the achievement of SDGs, which is an increase in human capacity. The ongoing entrepreneurial revolution currently taking place suggests that more people have the capability and knowledge to become entrepreneurs – a reflection of the growing middle class in Egypt despite the persistent rise in the poverty rate.
Last Saturday, following the success of its fourth edition ‘Successful Failures’, Entreprenelle kicked off the fifth edition of its annual event for women entrepreneurs in Egypt at the Greek Campus in Downtown Cairo under the theme ‘Fresh Start.’
The huge event reportedly received around 6000 attendees, who were mostly women willing to embark on their entrepreneurial journey despite the existing challenges in Egypt’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“What is really special about this event is the culture of community it provides. When you come from a community that discourages you from many things, this kind of event encircles you with a community that mirrors your ideas and ambitions, and pushes you to move forward,” 20-year-old Amina Abdel Zaher told Egyptian Streets.
On top of exhibiting the startups of many women and holding several panel talks, in the presence of the Minister of Planning, Dr. Hala Al-Saeed, and the Minister of Communications, Dr. Amr Talaat, the event also organized several workshops on topics such as branding, digital marketing, networking and stress management.
“Digital marketing is the future, and many international brands now sell online. This event helps me keep track of other growing trends in the market and how I can become a better entrepreneur,” Dalia Fouad, 49 and founder of jewelry business ‘Silver Passion‘, said. “I get the chance to look for funding programs and network with other entrepreneurs, which is something I cannot do in my free time.”
On the other hand, while Mariam Ragab is a political science graduate with little background in entrepreneurship, Entreprenelle’s event also helps her find out about scholarship opportunities and funding opportunities. “I want to pursue a career in public policy, and I attended this event because I heard they would offer sessions on scholarships and funding opportunities,” she notes, “I also become very inspired seeing all these startups, and in the future I would like to open my own startup focusing on research in public policy.”
On the sidelines of the event, Entreprenelle held a hackathon ‘Qodwa.Teck’ in partnership with Microsoft and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which is MENA’s first and largest Hackathon for undergraduates to support more women in tech.
The hackathon aims to increase women in tech and equip them with the needed skills, as well as receive the needed training and mentorship in tech and entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship and the Middle Class
Women remain disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination as well as career progression opportunities due to social restraints and the lack of decent work environments – particularly in the private sector – that do not integrate a gender-sensitive approach to hiring, promotion, maternity leave and other policies.
As such, Entreprenelle, aims to economically empower women through education, training and by linking them to all the resources possible. In contrast to other entrepreneurship programs in Egypt, it is implemented with a gender focus that acknowledges women’s various challenges that contributes to enlarging the gender gap in the economy.
Last year, Entreprenelle kicked off its 2019 social impact entrepreneurship program by expanding its projects across Egypt in order to benefit more women in other governorates such as Mansoura, Minya, Assiut, Sohag and Aswan.
The training material is tailored on the needs assessment for each city to assure that they deliver a program reflective of the values of these communities.
According to Victor W. Hwang, vice president of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, entrepreneurs are the top job creators. “If we want job creation and a thriving middle class, we need to build an economy that supports entrepreneurship,” he notes. In his 1936 book, The General Theory of Employment, John Maynard Keynes also highlighted the connection between the middle class and economic growth, stating that stable middle class consumption is necessary to increase investment.
Events like ‘SHE CAN’ she light on the middle class and the need to support entrepreneurs to produce local economic growth. When the middle class becomes strong, they also contribute to governance and policy-making, and ensure the path towards democracy and better achievement of their demands.