Egypt Hosts Top African Innovation-Driven Entrepreneurs on Successful Ecosystem Tour
Twelve Legatum Fellows from seven countries explored Egypt’s entrepreneurial environment, connecting markets and strengthening ties across Africa.
Cairo, Egypt, February 2023 – On January 21-26, the Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology facilitated a successful ecosystem tour of Egypt’s thriving entrepreneurial landscape for its 2022-23 Legatum Foundry Fellows. Designed for Africa’s top innovation-driven entrepreneurs, the Foundry Fellowship is a competitive program aimed at giving Fellows the opportunity to reflect on their entrepreneurial leadership journeys as a means to becoming more active participants in building vibrant entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems in their own countries. The Fellows had meetings with startup incubators/accelerators and high-level representatives from government, corporate, university and risk capital as part of the Fellowship’s goal to build bridges between different African markets across the continent.
Egypt was carefully selected as a location for the tour because of its rapidly growing startup ecosystem. According to Magnitt’s 2021 Egypt Venture Investment Report, the Egyptian ecosystem saw a 168% year-on-year increase in capital investment in 2021, reaching a new record of $491 million. In its third quarter 2021 Africa Funding Report, Digest Africa reported that Egypt had the highest number of deals in Africa and the third highest total funding.
“Egypt (just) works”, said Paul Orajiaka, a 2022-23 Legatum Foundry Fellow and Founder of Auldon Toys in Nigeria. “There’s an infrastructure for registering your company, securing investment, and scaling. There are places for entrepreneurs to start and grow their companies, hire talent, and connect with the broader ecosystem.”
The tour is designed for Fellows to meet and have action-oriented conversations with the various stakeholder groups that make up a robust innovation ecosystem. They were thus introduced to stakeholders from government, corporate, university, risk capital and entrepreneurs who are solving challenges and building inclusive systems through innovation.
The Fellows visited five innovative startup co-working spaces, including 500 Startups CREATIVA hub, the Plug & Play CREATIVA hub, Startup Haus Cairo, Consoleya and the GrEEK Campus. They had meetings at Microsoft to discuss initiatives that support the growth of startups and small businesses, spur innovation, and create new job opportunities in Africa. They also received insightful presentations from representatives from the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, the Egyptian American Enterprise Fund and AfrEximBank; three renowned development finance institutions that offer various programs that aim to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa.
Their busy schedule included meetings with six prominent risk capital providers and investors (from Kamelizer, Avanz Capital, Disruptech Ventures, 500 Global, Algebra Ventures and Global Ventures), as well as discussions with key government representative at the General Authority for Free Zones and Investment (GAFI).
“We are pleased to have hosted the Legatum Foundry Fellows on their successful ecosystem tour of Egypt. During their visit, they had the opportunity to see firsthand the dynamic and innovative spirit of Egypt’s entrepreneurship community. As the Chief Executive Officer of the General Authority for Free Zones and Investment, I was particularly impressed by the passion and drive these fellows have shown in terms of creating new businesses and jobs and developing innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing Africa. With our vibrant startup community, world-class talent pool, and favorable business environment, we are well-positioned to be a hub for innovation and a leader in the region. We look forward to continuing to work with organizations like the Legatum Center to support the growth of entrepreneurship and innovation in Egypt and beyond,” said Hossam Heiba, Chief Executive Officer, GAFI.
The interactions the Fellows had over the week-long tour provided the perfect platform to make valuable connections and gain insight into the culture of cooperation and partnership needed to scale innovation-driven companies, create jobs, and build a community of entrepreneurs who can foster collaboration between ecosystems in Africa.
“The Legatum Center is committed to strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the continent. Through the Legatum Foundry Fellowship, we are not only exposing our Fellows to different stakeholder groups but we are also creating opportunities for them to connect and understand what is needed for an ecosystem to work. Our goal is to build entrepreneur-led communities that can drive the change needed to transform systems and improve lives on the continent. I am truly proud of the impact our fellowship is making in realizing this mission,” said Dina Sherif, Executive Director of the Legatum Center.
The fellowship ecosystem tours are based on the working paper titled An MIT Approach to Innovation: eco/systems, capacities & stakeholders by Professor Fiona Murray, Faculty Director of the Legatum Center and Dr. Phil Budden. The framework is a proven model for building strong and sustainable innovation ecosystems and provides a roadmap for entrepreneurs, investors, government and other stakeholders to work together to create the conditions needed for innovation to flourish.
“The Foundry Fellowship brings together a diverse group of leaders from different backgrounds and industries to expose them to MIT’s drinking from a fire hose culture. The program provides them with MIT tools and resources in a unique deep dive setting to further their impact and influence. MIT management is committed to further the development of an entrepreneurial innovative curriculum that captures the breadth and depth of what entrepreneurs need to effectively navigate complex ecosystems,” said Bassim Halaby, MIT Sloan School of Management Board Member.
The Egypt ecosystem tour is the second of five that the Fellows will participate in as part of their six-month Fellowship journey. The tour in Egypt began in Fayoum with a two-day adaptive leadership retreat and an enriching evening of pottery making, traditional Egyptian cuisine, music, and dancing at the Fayoum Art Center. It ended with a visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, giving the fellows a memorable experience and a deeper appreciation of Egypt’s rich cultural heritage and history.
Below is a full list of the 2023 Egypt ecosystem tour hosts and participants:
Mr. Tarek Osman, political counselor for the Arab World at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Dr. Hossam Osman, ITIDA’s Vice President to Manage Software Engineering Competence Center (SECC), Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC), and Information Technology Academic Collaboration (ITAC).
HE Dr. Hala ElSaid, Minister of Planning & Economic Development.
Dr. Mohamed Alaa, Deputy Minister of Planning & Economic Development and Cairo University Faculty of Economics & Political Science.
Dr. Sherifa El-Sherif, Executive Director, National Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.
Ambassador Mohamed Khairat, former Assistant Minister of Immigration for International Cooperation.
Mrs. Randa Fouad, Artist/Development Communication Expert, Women Economic Forum.
Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, Executive Director, GAFI.
Dr. Wessam El Beih, Country Director, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, Drossos Foundation.
Mr. Aly El Shalakany, Managing Partner, Acasia.
Hanan El Meguid, Founder & CEO, Kamelizer.
Hany Assaad, Co-founder, Avanz Capital.
Mohamed Okasha, Managing Partner, Disruptech Ventures.
Amal Enan, Partner, 500 Global.
Karim Hussein, Managing Partner, Algebra Ventures.
Eslam Darwish, Fintech Partner, Global Ventures.
Dr. Reem El Saady, the National Program Manager of EBRD Small Business Support (SBS) Program.
Yasmine El Hini, Egypt Country Officer, International Finance Corporation.
Patrick Utmah, AfriExim Bank.
Moataz Kotb, Founder & Managing Director, CultArk.
Mirna Arif, General Manager, Microsoft Egypt.
Chahir Fahmy, Senior Business Development Manager –Startups, Africa Transformation Office, Microsoft Egypt.
Ahmed El Alfi, Founder of Sawari Ventures, Flat6Labs, and the GrEEK Campus.
Mr. Omar Mohanna, Chair, Egyptian Center for Economic Studies.
Dr. Ahmed Galal, Former Minister of Finance.
Dr. Abla Abdel-Latif, Executive Director, Egyptian Center for Economic Studies.
Dr. Hala Barakat, American University Cairo, Center for Entrepreneurship.
Tarek El Kady, Founder & Chair, Techne Summit
Salma El Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director, Ahead of the Curve
Hesham Wahby, CEO, Cultiv
Dr. Ahmed El Shazly, CEO, Sekem
About the Foundry Fellowship
Launched in 2021, the Foundry Fellowship is a first-of-its-kind fellowship focused on African entrepreneurs who have successfully grown ventures on the continent and have arrived at an inflection point in their entrepreneurial journeys. The fellowship provides a space for these entrepreneurs to come together to reflect on their achievements and consider their present and future leadership roles as entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, and thought leaders. Collectively, the Fellows will explore the future of innovation ecosystems in Africa and demonstrate how Africa can be a hub for innovation globally. The Foundry Fellowship was developed in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation in alignment with the Foundation’s vision of a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper.
For a full list of Foundry Fellows and descriptions of their companies, visit: https://legatum.mit.edu/entrepreneurs/
About the Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at MIT
The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at MIT was founded in 2007 on the belief that innovation-driven entrepreneurship is key to increasing prosperity and building more inclusive systems in emerging markets. The Center drives prosperity globally by building pathways for principled entrepreneurial leaders to transform systems and improve lives. The Legatum Center is a global community based at MIT, drawing on the Institute’s talent, networks, and expertise to inspire and equip those who want to move their ideas toward scalable impact. In addition to supporting and equipping entrepreneurs operating in emerging markets with the tools and resources to build scalable impactful businesses, the Center gathers lessons and produces actionable insights to inform and advance innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems globally.
Media requests should be addressed to Kavan O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.