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FEATURE STORYDecember 5, 2023

Entrepreneurship for Growth: Empowering Egypt’s Aspiring Businesses

Egyptian entrepreneur Fatma Marzouk, a beneficiary of Catalyzing Entrepreneurship for Job Creation project

Fatma Marzouk, project beneficiary.

World Bank

For Egyptian entrepreneur Fatma Marzouk, opening up her own handbag business has been a game changer, providing greater financial security for her family and offering employment to others in her community.

Located on the first floor of a small building in an alley in Imbaba — a bustling Giza governorate neighborhood —Fatma’s small workshop is filled with the machinery, tools, accessories, and materials needed to produce handbags.

My husband and I used to work for other (handbag) workshop owners but we wanted to be independent and have our own place,” said Marzouk, 45, who benefited from financing from the World Bank’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship for Job Creation project

My income has increased a lot and now I can afford to cover my children’s education. I can go to the doctor and get medical treatment. We are blessed, thank God,” she added.

Her handbag business currently employs a tailor and four other workers and her husband has also joined. “I am thinking of expanding the business and getting a bigger place so I can work more,” she said, adding that she hoped their children would one day join the profession.

The USD$ 200 million Catalyzing Entrepreneurship for Job Creation project was launched in 2019 to spur more jobs in Egypt’s private sector.  To date about 188,000 entrepreneurs, 43% of them women, have received financing through the project. This led to the creation of about 380,000 private sector jobs. 

The project’s current results surpassed original targets, which shows the strong appetite Egyptians have to start their own businesses.

Entrepreneurship is essential to Egypt’s economic growth, especially amid the current challenging global context. By starting their own businesses, entrepreneurs like Fatma can generate sustainable incomes for themselves and create more jobs within their communities, boosting incomes for more people. 

This project aims to support Egypt’s ongoing efforts to create more private sector jobs by promoting entrepreneurship and expanding access to finance for small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as high growth firms and innovative start-ups. It builds on the success of its predecessor, the Promoting Innovation for Financial Inclusion project, which over its five-year life span helped create and maintain more than 290,000 jobs.

Farah Osman, 34, is a co-founder of Bluworks, an HR Tech company which benefitted from the project’s funding component that is dedicated to innovative start-ups.

Bluworks is a mobile-first HR platform that enables companies to streamline blue-collar workforce management, including scheduling, time tracking, bonuses and penalties, payroll and more. This platform also empowers workers with visibility over their pay, performance, and potential for growth.

Our vision is to build an integrated platform that helps companies manage, incentivize and develop their blue-collar workers. We also aim to provide opportunities for growth and support services for the blue-collar workers themselves.” said Farah. “When raising funds for the company, we wanted to tap into leading local and regional institutions, and we are very fortunate to be able to do that in November of last year and the application process was very smooth,” she added.

Blueworks currently supports 15 companies — reaching 1,200 blue collar workers —in the food and beverage, retail and facility management industries. The company plans to expand to other sectors and regions, and to link workers to potential job opportunities.

The Catalyzing Entrepreneurship for Job Creation project avails funding to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises like Fatma’s workshop through deploying US$ 146 million to the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (MSMEDA)who in turn channels them to entrepreneurs whose applications are accepted through several bank and non-bank financial institutions (including microfinance NGOs, financial leasing companies, factoring companies). 

The project’s US$ 50 million dedicated to funding Innovative high growth funds like Blueworks are channeled through privately managed risk capital intermediaries, such as angel funds, accelerators, Venture Capital funds, and investment companies. Similar to the MSMEs beneficiaries, innovative high growth funds also apply for funding and once accepted, they receive the support.

In addition to monetary support, the project also helps build the technical capacity of ecosystem players. An example of non-financial support is a series of specialized private capital masterclasses delivered to first-time fund managers.

This project also supported the establishment of Egypt’s first Fund of Funds at MSMEDA. This entity is designed to increase the supply of funding for innovative startups and MSMEs. The Project has thus far mobilized US$145 million from other investors (private players and DFIs) to the fund.

The Catalyzing Entrepreneurship for Job Creation Project resonates with the priorities of the World Bank’s new Country Partnership Framework with Egypt. This framework has people at its core and is designed to support Egypt’s development endeavors at building back better. The framework’s first high-level objective is “More and better private sector jobs”, which this project aims to do through offering support to all scopes of entrepreneurial projects. The framework’s second and third high-level objectives are “Enhanced human capital outcomes” and “Improved resilience to shocks” which would also be advanced with the support of private sector led job creation. 


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