A handout of the online session (Photo: Ministry of Planning)
Egypt’s small and medium-sized enterprise sector involves 1.7 million businesses, which account for 44.6 percent of the establishments involved in the formal sector, according to Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala El-Saeed, nothing the sector had been affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The sector also employs 5.8 million people, or 43.1 percent of total workers in the formal private sector.
El-Saeed said on Thursday that Egypt is working to encourage all programmes and initiatives that support SMEs’ development efforts, through expanding the establishment of industrial complexes that include a heavy labour force, such as Damietta City for furniture and Al Robaki City for leather.
In this regard, the government has set up 4,500 serviced industrial units, including 750 units in the cities of 10 Ramadan City and Margham, and in the Red Sea governorate.
She highlighted the Rowad 2030 (“rowad” meaning pioneers in Arabic) projects that the planning ministry has launched with the aim of supporting young people’s capabilities and progressing their skills in order to turn their ideas into real projects.
“Rowad 2030 established nine business incubators in the artificial intelligence (AI) and tourism sectors, in addition to an Egyptian-African business incubator. It also incubated 19 projects in the Mashreq Tourism Incubator and established entrepreneurship monitor ‘Rowad Meter,’ which is an updated national database that provides data about all entrepreneurs and business incubators in Egypt,” said El-Saeed, who was participating in a virtual panel organised by the International Council for Small Business, under the heading “Entrepreneurship, SMEs, and Micro-Projects’ Future in the Post-COVID-19 Phase.”
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the government is working to support the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector through a number of procedures, including releasing a new MSMEs law that the parliament recently approved, the minister said.
The law deals with the informal sector and how to engage it with the formal one, according to El-Saeed.
The law also encompasses easing finance provision for MSMEs and extends several direct and indirect incentives to the sector, in addition to stimulating innovation.
For his part, Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park in the UAE, said during the panel that Egypt has a pioneering role in entrepreneurship and is supporting it through taking actions that have paved the way for innovation culture in the Arab world.
Sanaa Abo Zeid, a manager at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, said during the roundtable that unemployment is the significant challenge that the Middle East and North Africa is facing, which is expected to soar amid the coronavirus crisis, especially among young people.
She said that unemployment costs the region more than $40 billion a year, according to IFC studies, adding that the only way to counter the crisis is to enhance the private sector and SMEs, which are a key contributor to GDP and which help in creating new jobs.