The success of some university-supported startups is prompting calls for expanding entrepreneurship programmes at Egyptian universities to develop students’ entrepreneurial skills and enable them to launch similar companies.
Mohamed Hassan Al-Ahmar, a graduate of Cairo University’s Faculty of Economics and Political Science, told Al-Fanar Media that offering entrepreneurship programmes at universities would improve students’ ability to generate ideas and raise awareness of the importance of such programmes.
He added: “The success of some startups, such as Swvl, which was sponsored by the American University in Cairo’s Venture Lab, contributed significantly to the increase in students’ interest in studying entrepreneurship in Egyptian universities.”
Swvl joined the AUC Venture Lab in 2017 and within five years became the first North African company to make its debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, with a valuation of $1.5 billion.
The AUC lab says it has graduated more than 300 startups, which have gained more than 3 billion Egyptian pounds ($162 million) in investments and created 10,000 jobs. It was named the Best Accelerator/Incubator Program in North Africa by the Copenhagen-based Global Startup Awards last year.
“It is necessary to take advantage of this success, by expanding the teaching of entrepreneurship courses in Egyptian and Arab universities, and providing the necessary funding for business incubators.”
Mahmoud Hammad A professor of economics at Sohag University
Mahmoud Hammad, a professor of economics in the Faculty of Commerce at Sohag University, in southern Upper Egypt, believes universities should build on the qualitative and quantitative developments in this field.
“It is necessary to take advantage of this success, by expanding the teaching of entrepreneurship courses in Egyptian and Arab universities, and providing the necessary funding for business incubators,” Hammad told Al-Fanar Media.Mahmoud Hammad A professor of economics at Sohag University
He called for sustainable funding of entrepreneurship programmes, saying the startups they foster would create a lot of job opportunities and become a source of income for universities that enter into partnerships with those companies.
Egypt a Powerhouse for Startups
The report credits university programmes, along with government and business initiatives, with contributing to the rapid rise of tech startups in Egypt. The country now rivals “and even surpasses more established startup ecosystems such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya for levels of entrepreneurial innovation and investment,” says the report, which was issued last fall.
It particularly notes university programmes that go beyond simply offering courses on business and entrepreneurship. Cairo University, Al-Azhar University, and Nile University have rolled out initiatives that provide early-stage startups with access to training, mentorship, networks, and even funding, it said.
Egypt had at least 562 tech startups in operation as of September 2021, employing almost 13,000 individuals and accounting for about 20 percent of all active tech startups across Africa, the Disrupt Africa report said.
It also noticed that the pace of launching new startups had quickened. A total of 114 Egyptian tech startups were funded in 2020, up from just 10 in 2015.
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Since January 2015, around $800 million has been raised by at least 318 Egyptian tech startups, according to Disrupt Africa’s data.
Stronger growth has taken place in total annual funding secured by those companies. The $156 million raised in 2020 was nearly 20 times the $8.6 million banked in 2015. The total for last year soared even higher, with 82 startups having secured a staggering $400 million.
Egypt’s prominence in Africa’s technology scene is gaining attention overseas as well.
Viva Technology, an annual trade show in Paris that brings together business leaders, startups, investors and researchers, and the International Finance Corporation recently announced that eight Egyptian companies were among the 45 startups that have been selected to compete in the first AfricaTech Awards.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony during the 2022 edition of Viva Technology, in June.