In an inspiring ceremony, Shell Egypt and the British Council celebrated the closing of the Intalaaqah’s eighth year in Egypt. The program, geared at supporting entrepreneurs aged 18-32, celebrated the graduation of 19 participants from the program, honoring them for their innovative ideas.
Participants competed in seven categories: Best Existing Business, Best Business Plan, Best Small Business Idea, Best Project in Health & Safety, Best Business Idea for People with Disabilities and Best Environmental Project.
According to Shell CEO Joroen Regtien, Shell has been keen on serving society long before corporate social responsibility became a fad. Intilaaqah was first introduced by Shell in the UK in 1982 under the name “Live Wire” and has been supporting entrepreneurs ever since.
In Egypt, the one-year program trains participants in market analysis, business administration and marketing.
“Shell recognizes that having a vibrant group of small and medium sized enterprises is good for any economy and the development of the country, so that’s how it started, and it was very successful. Later, it was exported to 17 countries and translated into ten languages. In Egypt there was an obvious need, as the Egyptian economy is very state focused and dominated by a few big private companies and the SME sector is relatively small, so it was a good time to introduce it here in 2006,” says Regtien. He explains that Intilaaqah’s program in Egypt was customized to account for cultural and language differences, and that the curriculum was adjusted to give specific local information about business-related legislations.
The program trained 645 business pioneers in 2013, and has provided training to 5,645 trainees since its launch in Egypt eight years ago – including 215 with disabilities. Judges were especially enthusiastic at the participation of hearing-impaired and speech-impaired trainees in this year’s program.
The first prize in the category of Best Business Idea for People with Disabilities went to Mohammed Tarek Ahmed, who is both speech and hearing-impaired. Translator Fairuz explained that he is determined to realize his idea now that the program is over: his business is a short number to serve people with similar disabilities. “There are many problems that we face when we interact with non-disabled people. I thought of setting up offices where translators can assist us; we will use video calls to get answers to inquiries,” he said.
Ahmed, who learned about Intilaaqah through the National Council for Affairs of the Disabled, says that he is currently in touch with Telecom Egypt to set up a short number for the service. He aims to solve many problems by providing hearing and speech impaired people with a channel to answer inquiries relating to government services, health services, emergency needs or legal matters. At the same time, the center will provide a rapid translation tool to help them communicate with others through video calls.
An especially thrilling moment for all the women in the hall, Intilaaqah’s biggest prize, Best Existing Business Prize, was awarded to Sherine Atef from Sohag. In addition to winning the first prize of the category, Atef received a cash prize of EGP 25,000. Wearing a huge grin, Atef talked about her project, which now employs 17 people.
“I started my activity in 2011. My company, Candy, works in the production and sales of household goods, upholstery and bed sheets, lingerie and bridal accessories. I learned about Intilaaqah through the Social Fund for Development, with whose assistance I had set up my business. I was happy to get the scholarship and it didn’t fail my expectations; even the issues I had already learned through my experience in the market were explained in a more methodological way, which clarified many facts for me. I hope to enlarge my workshop and turn it into a well-known factory,” says Atef.
While Atef won in the category of Best Existing Business, other women were encouraged by this year’s addition of a new category dedicated to female entrepreneurs.
“A lot of our work on the ground supports young people in various ways. We have a whole program called skills of employability, and Intilaaqah is an important part of that. Our partnership with Shell to offer training to young people wishing to start their own businesses helps us support more entrepreneurs in Egypt, and this is a very important part of our work,” says Denise Waddingham, Director of Partnership in British Council in Egypt.
Waddingham explains that the British Council’s role is to find trainers and training venues, in addition to using its networks with Egyptian universities to recruit people to the program, to advertise the program, and invite judges for the awards. “It’s a partnership on many different levels,” says Waddingham.
Over the years, Intilaaqah credits itself with helping to establish more than 500 businesses, some of which do business with Shell, producing giveaway gifts and providing publishing and media services.