File Photo: Egyptian women work at a textile mill in Mahalla El-Kubra, about 110 km north of Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
Women have contributed up to 50 percent to the 1.2 million micro enterprises across Egypt supported by the Social Fund for Development (SFD) from 2009 to 2015, the state's official statistics body CAPMAS announced on Sunday in a press release sent to Ahram Online.
In its study titled 'The reality of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) 2009 - 2015,' CAPMAS revealed that there is a total of 2.4 million small and micro-sized enterprises across Egypt with 6.3 million employees.
The study also found that women have contributed almost 25 percent to some 103,000 small enterprises funded by the SFD from 2009 to 2015.
Although Egyptian women make up around 50 percent of the country's population of 91 million, they constitute less than a quarter of the country's labour force, according to CAPMAS report in March 2016.
Egypt is home to 44.1 (49 percent) million women and 45.9 million men (51 percent), while the number of females in Egypt's workforce constitutes almost a quarter of that of men – 23.5 percent as opposed to 72.3 percent.
Egyptian women are the heads of 17.8 percent of households, according to data released by CAPMAS in 2014.
In Egypt, micro enterprises are funded by the SFD, the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Local Development Fund.
The SFD has funded 1.2 million micro enterprises at EGP 5.3 billion, providing 1.3 million job opportunities from 2009 to 2015, while the Social Solidarity Ministry has supported 82,000 micro enterprises with 82,000 job opportunities from 2009 to 2014.
The Local Development Fund supported 41,400 small enterprises in 2009/2010 and 2014/2015.
To support SMEs, the CAPMAS study recommends providing an integrated information system for businesses while facilitating access to credit and reducing interest to encourage the establishment of such projects.
The recommendations also include launching a marketing channel for the products of these businesses.
In January, Egypt’s central bank announced the launching of a four-year programme to increase financing of SMEs nationwide, as these businesses are key contributors to the state’s investment and production sectors.
The cabinet approved in August a draft law allowing individuals to launch single-person companies without the need for more employees, as part of its efforts to support SMEs.
With the country's ailing economy and unemployment at 12.5 percent in the second quarter of 2016, analysts believe SMEs constitute a great opportunity to boost the economy and create jobs.
Egypt's economy has been struggling due to a sharp drop in tourism and foreign investments - two main sources of hard currency for the import-dependent country - caused by political unrest that followed the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and later the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.