Let’s agree to not be utopian. A country with a population of over 92 million, poverty, inflation, pollution, weak public healthcare, weak public education to name but a few macro-issues - won’t be entirely transformed with entrepreneurship.
But let’s also agree, that the rise of entrepreneurship has given Egyptian youth passion, motivation and hope - which may not be enough to change the world. But it’s certainly a start. So when we talk about entrepreneurship, when we tell the story of how it all began, and where it’s going, yes, surely we can be positive. We can talk about “transformative journeys”, “breakthroughs” and dreams of “unicamels”.
A year ago TechCrunch told the story of real tech “giants” that years ago set the foundation for today’s thriving start-ups.
Over the past three years or so, the awareness level of the existence of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt has seen a tremendous hike. Starting from the sheer size of the RiseUp Summit every year, the increased level of available funds and venture capital, the interest and involvement of the government and all the way to a ‘Shark-Tank’ like television program - have all contributed to an enhanced level of awareness.
My own mother, having liked and shared my RiseUp and Egyptian start-up related posts on Facebook since 2013, is now a passionate believer in the future of a generation she had once deemed useless.
So what do we need to do now?
The Manifesto’s section four clearly outlines the challenges faced with respect to the way stories are told, how much exposure the ecosystem gets and the lack of desired attention and spotlight the ecosystem feels it merits.
Telling the stories to and opening up a dialogue with the larger public is a process that should be built on the stages of commitment model:
We may today claim that stage one, Awareness, has been, to an extent, successfully completed - at least within the primary stakeholder groups.
Now moving in to 2019, we venture upon stage two: Understanding - a much more complicated and challenging phase. Because it requires a high degree of transparency, consistency, and deliberate messaging tailored to each of our target audiences. Understanding is also a mutual process. So it’s not about trying to deliver a message from one perspective. It’s about defining both the benefits and the risks to everyone involved directly and indirectly.
For example, when talking about Youth Entrepreneurship, it’s critical to also talk about lack of experience, and that the traditional education system does not prepare fresh graduates for an entrepreneurial venture. Over-selling the ‘trend’ of being an entrepreneur has given youth the impression of a glamorous, easy-money kind of life. The ‘hard work’ part seems to be missing.
We need to talk about failure as much as we talk about success. But most importantly, to affect change, the challenges and obstacles need to be addressed head on.
Because this is not going to happen overnight. And is not a matter of “generating buzz” or launching cool creative one-off campaigns. Those things win clicks, shares and eyeballs.
Whereas the StartUp Manifesto’s Positioning and Advocacy Programme is about affecting change, and winning hearts and minds.
By: Mai Abaza
December 1, 2018.
Forbes.com’s coverage of RiseUp Summit in 2015 said that :
“The size of the event is a testament both to the stature that the idea of entrepreneurship holds in the market, and the promise of MENA's growth. Despite its reputation for geopolitical turmoil, the market of more than 200 million people is benefitting from the rise of the middle class, rapid growth in Internet use and mobile and the common language, which means it's relatively easy to expand online.”