Science & Technology
Launching a sustainable business goes well beyond learning how to draft a business plan or fill out a financing application. It involves a range of skills, both “hard” and “soft”, such as managing a start-up enterprise, motivating employees, assembling a cohesive team, tailoring a product to a well-defined market, adapting rapidly to fast-changing circumstances and consumer sentiment, and understanding how to convert an interesting technology into a viable business.
In my very first meeting with a government official, I was asked about World Bank support for geothermal power generation in Djibouti and the exploration needed to identify viable sources. I must admit, at the time, I was not very familiar with the technology. Nevertheless, I learned fast about geothermal energy and about the project that was under preparation.
In a country like Egypt which faces a host of political and economic challenges, innovative solutions are very much in demand. The good news is that there is a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship spreading across the Arab world. The bad news is that micro and small enterprises -- mostly working in low-tech industries -- in Egypt are not getting the support they need to be part of this wave.
Microwork presents a unique opportunity for jobs and income for sections of Palestinian society that face high levels of unemployment, such as youth and women. It is a new phenomenon in the digital economy: anyone anywhere can work through an online platform equipped with just a computer and internet access.
The World Bank, together with the ministries of Communications and Transport and Egypt’s information technology industry, just organized the first ever Cairo Transport App Challenge (Cairo TApp). Teams of digital innovators tackled a range of issues related to moving about the Egyptian capitol’s congested streets.
When I was a graduate student, I often drove through the Altamont Pass wind farm. I thought of them as the California’s equivalent of Dutch windmills, more beauty than function. Little did I know that it was one of the first, and largest, wind farms in the United States and that I would someday learn more about their value and potential.
When the Arab Spring broke out and regimes began to fall under the pressure of their own citizens, a revolution on social media also took hold. During this critical period, the use of Facebook and Twitter was ubiquitous, especially in Egypt and Tunisia. Social networks and cell phones played an important role.
After several months of planning and consultations with our partners, which started in May 2011, the Egypt Development Marketplace (DM) was launched on November 8, 2012. As part of the outreach strategy, the Egypt DM team organized a series of information sessions in four of Upper Egypt’s major cities; Asyut, Qena, Aswan and Minya. The sessions were co-organized and co-hosted with Egypt DM partners International Labor Organization, Social Fund for Development, Sawiris Foundation, and others.
It has been a year since WaterHackathon Cairo took place, bringing together Egyptian technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt’s biggest water challenges. Since then, one of the WaterHackathon winners—Team Abu Erdan—has successfully turned their idea for a mobile farming tool linked to the cloud into a full-fledged mobile platform.
“We are not geniuses. We just use common sense.” For CEO and co-founder Ahmed Zahran of Karm Solar Egypt, a company that aims to commercialize solar technologies, it’s not about being a visionary. It is about good business. Ahmed and other young entrepreneurs and business leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities of doing business in the region.