Arab Spring, Start-Up Summer?
Monday, July 18, 2011
Like so many other young people in Cairo, Yasmine el-Mehairy saw no future in Egypt. What she saw was a dead end.
Then came Tahrir Square.
Six months after an uprising led by people like her ousted Hosni Mubarak and overturned the established order of the Arab world, Ms. Mehairy has joined the ranks of Egypt’s newest business class: the entrepreneurs of the revolution. Instead of leaving Egypt as she had planned, she is staying to nurture a start-up called SuperMama, an Arabic-language Web site for women that has 10 local employees.
“The revolution really made my generation believe in ourselves,” Ms. Mehairy, 30, says. If Egyptians can topple Mubarak, she wonders, what else might they accomplish?
That is a sobering question for educated, affluent Egyptians like Ms. Mehairy – people who, unlike most Egyptians, have other options. She has a master’s degree in interactive media from the University of Westminster in London and hoped to move to Britain or Canada.
The revolt now known as the Arab Spring placed Egypt on an uncertain course. After years of corruption, its hidebound economy is reeling. Tourism and investment have plunged. Mass unemployment – which fed Egyptians’ anger – has worsened and protests in Tahrir Square continue. The nation will elect a new government in September, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen then.