The plan aims to establish craft industry zones where businesses can start up or grow in all Egyptian provinces, thus bringing job opportunities and investment to many different areas, they said.
Officials have allocated 2 billion Egyptian pounds ($287 million) to move the plan forward, Minister of Local Development Adel Labib said in December.
“The new project focuses on community participation in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and aims primarily to spread investment, development and economic benefits across the greatest number of provinces possible,” Wael Amr of the Ministry of Local Development told Al-Shorfa.
The Ministry of Local Development, alongside the Ministry of Investment and entrepreneurs, will also help implement the new plan, which aims to energise the private sector and spur local and foreign entrepreneurs to increase their investments in Egypt in general, he said.
“The plan will contribute to the effective elimination of unemployment among young people,” he added.
Officials plan to work with these businesses to supply raw materials and parts to major mills and factories, he said.
Minister Labib has directed governors in 15 provinces to allocate 150 feddans of land [one feddan is 4,200 square meters] for these projects: 100 feddans of land in each provincial capital and 50 feddans elsewhere, Amr said.
Additionally, the Ministry of Local Development will help cover half the start-up costs of the new SMEs and facilitate their completion of the requirements for obtaining licenses as swiftly as possible, he said.
CRAFT INDUSTRIAL ZONES
“The concept of establishing craft industrial zones in the provinces has several present and future economic benefits, key among them is the attraction of new investment to the provinces, which spurs recovery by way of creating jobs and reviving economic activity,” said Radwan Gameel, economic advisor at the Ministry of Investment.
This move could also help stem the migration of Egyptians from rural and remote areas to Cairo and other major cities in search of jobs, which would thus ease the capital’s overpopulation problems, he told Al-Shorfa.
The plan can help revive the economy as it does not require a large amount of capital and therefore “does not pose risks to entrepreneurs, who prefer to enter into assured investments in areas near the capital”, he said.
The investment ministry, through the Social Fund for Development, is working alongside many countries and international organisations to stimulate the SME sector, through offering training programmes and providing credit lines and technical support to develop Egypt’s craft industries and their labour forces, Gameel said.
ENERGISING THE ECONOMY OF EVERY PROVINCE
Each Egyptian province has its own economic advantage that distinguishes it from the rest, said Ain Shams University economics professor Fakhreddine Awadallah.
“Hence, the new plan will focus on stimulating and developing this economic activity, as some provinces specialise in agriculture, others in animal husbandry or other industries, such as wood and pottery ,” he told Al-Shorfa.
The food sector is the most active sector for SMEs, and women constitute 40% of its workforce, Awadallah said.
SMEs are very important to the Egyptian economy as they currently represent about 80% of the total number of industrial businesses, contribute an estimated 35% of Gross National Product and employ 70% of the total workforce, he said.
There are around two million SMEs in Egypt and at least 40,000 are added to this number every year, he said.
Nader Shahin of Egypt’s Young Entrepreneurs Association told Al-Shorfa his association works to encourage young people to start their own businesses and helps them overcome obstacles, especially those relating to linking with big factories.
The association prioritises spreading an export culture to create a competitive economic environment that leads to better quality of goods, “especially since SMEs still operate within the domestic economic sphere and have not yet entered the export arena” in force, he said.