Lamya Marafi

Building Enterprises, Sustaining Optimism: Revolution 2.0 in Post Mubarak-Egypt

Post-revolution Egypt reflects a huge sentiment toward building Egypt through social entrepreneurship to face one of the country’s major challenges, including the 25 percent (and rising) youth unemployment rate. With the hope for less political bureaucracy and the downfall of the corrupted regime, social entrepreneurship is expected to embark on a vibrant path and spirit.

However, there are still many obstacles. The mistrust against foreign assistance for civil society initiatives might be one of them. In August, Jim Bever, the director of USAID in Egypt, resigned from his position after the organization promised to allocate millions of dollars to youth organizations. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) – Egypt’s interim leadership – rejected USAID’s offer, insisting that the money is not allowed to go to the youth organizations directly. Foreign aid allocated to civil society initiatives must be investigated beforehand and receive the Ministry of Social Solidarity or even SCAF’s permission.

Mistrust against civil society more broadly is another obstacle. SCAF is putting many youth political activists on military trial, with charges such as insulting the SCAF, encouraging violence, and treason under the continued emergency law. Last month, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), held a press conference sponsored by numerous Egyptian human rights organizations regarding SCAF’s suspicious policy toward civil society organizations (CSOs), just five days after another press conference held at the Press Syndicate to take a stance against military trials of civilians.

The sponsored 36 Egyptian human rights organizations expressed concern that SCAF is no different than Mubarak’s regime when it comes to denying foreign funds and monitoring their organizations’ activities. The suggested reason is that SCAF fears the impact and the long-term effects of Western funding on civil society in Egypt and the possibility that it could threaten SCAF’s position of governing the transitional period, perhaps infiltrating “Westoxficiation” among Egyptian youth and indirectly intervening in the country’s domestic affairs.

Almost nine months after the revolution, the future of Egypt’s civil society is still unknown, but clearly social entrepreneurship needs its own 2.0 revolution, as it will most likely continue to face political bureaucracy in the short-term. Social entrepreneurship driven by Egypt’s youth is expected to face challenges with regard to fundraising and sustainability as the economy is fluctuating and business investors can be hesitant to invest in young ventures. Paperwork and legal documentation is another problem. It can a few take days or a few months to register a new organization depending on your luck and the type of organization or business you are establishing. Clearly, establishing a human rights organization could increase the paperwork and filing time more than a community development organization.

Despite these headwinds, several promising home-grown initiatives are already under way. One such post-revolution social entrepreneurship project is TahrirUp, an incubator and angel fund for Egyptian entrepreneurs dedicated to connecting them with experts in technology, marketing, logistics, and other business services. The project selects two Egyptian start-ups per year to invest in and helps with business models in categories related to technology, education, healthcare, environment, and local commerce.

Another similar initiative already well established before the revolution and now gaining attraction is Egypreneur. This non-profit organization also focuses on engaging Egyptian social entrepreneurs in activities that develops their business entrepreneurship initiatives through a grassroots approach by providing sustainability, network, and other support to their businesses. Users can also post related articles, videos, events, and interviews on its website or on their Egypt Entrepreneurs Daily newspaper to engage the public audience with the updated entrepreneurship news in Egypt. Egypreneur already counts around 6,000 users on its Facebook page and around 17,900 followers on Twitter.

The ongoing discussions of civil society post-Mubarak is anticipated to flourish and progress because of all the previous limitations and repression under Mubarak’s regime on the civil society sector. Regardless of the outcome of foreign aid uncertainty and the bureaucratic challenges, its clear that Egyptian youth will continue its optimism and persistence in promoting social entrepreneurship and volunteer initiatives to extend the political revolution to civil society.

Despite all the imposed challenges, Egyptian youth have continued, especially during these transitional times, to use social media and the World Wide Web to promote and launch their social entrepreneurship initiatives to reach a wider audience and ensure a faster, less-bureaucratic launch of their work. This young generation, around 40 percent of Egypt’s population, has already proved that it is capable of causing dramatic change and will continue to push forward until genuine results are achieved.

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