After the Egyptian Revolution in 2011، the youth spirit for disruption carried over to cause a surge in the country’s startup scene. Everyone had an app idea and، over the next seven years، incubators، hackathons and venture funds mobilized to make those plans into a reality. A hub called the “GrEEK Campus” opened a few blocks away from the site of the revolution، Tahrir Square، as a workspace for startups and gathering point for entrepreneurs. But now، Tatweer Misr، an Egypt-based property developer، is looking to take this innovative spirit one step further with its new project، Bloomfields. An integrated development located east of central Cairo، it will be modeled as a college town where residents can study، work and live as entrepreneurs.
In developing Bloomfields، Tatweer Misr’s CEO Dr. Ahmed Shalaby is planning around the future needs of Egypt’s booming youth population. Already، he says، 40% of Egyptians are under the age of 17. Soon they’ll be aging into a youth unemployment rate that hovers around 26.7%، according to government data. Focusing on entrepreneurship is a practical decision. The the next generation “needs to be job creators instead of job seekers،” Dr. Shalaby says. With this in mind، Bloomfields will not only house entrepreneurs but educate them as well. Egypt has potential for entrepreneur-based workforce، but lacks the educational support required، said the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor in a 2016 study. The report found that society had warmed to entrepreneurship and embraced its legitimacy. In fact، the number of Egyptians intending to start a business by 2019 was more than twice the global average. However، at a structural level، there was not a strong educational framework for this trend. Entrepreneurship education at the school stage ranked a 1.67 out of 9، where 1 represented high insufficiency، which was lower than average for Africa.Addressing this need، Dr. Shalaby planned the centerpiece of Bloomfields to be a new university spanning 25% of the development’s 325 feddans (0.5 square mile). The first building will be a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. Tatweer Misr is in talks with American universities interested in establishing a branch campus dedicated to this vision. George Washington University recently signed on to be involved with executive education. The developer is still looking for the right fit for the undergrad. The rest of the development will be comprised of residential and social spaces that foster an innovative community. A section of the residential space will include smaller affordable units for students to live. Outside the apartments will be places to gather and collaborate. “They need executive spaces، co-working spaces، spaces for incubators،” Dr. Shalaby explains. To make sure these spaces are put to good use، Tatweer Misr has partnered with the International Council for Small Businesses، which works to promote management training for small businesses. In addition، employment opportunities outside the community will be easily accessible as Egypt's new Administrative Capital will only be a 15-minute drive away.
Youth bulge can be a huge economic opportunity if potential is met with employment. East Asian countries like Korea and China have capitalized on their young demographics by making sure youth have the best skills to enter the work force. While the Egyptian government has begun to get behind entrepreneurship، projects like Bloomfields show that much of the burden to grow this youth force will fall to the private sector. In the face of current regulation، Ahmed Osman، the senior vice president of ICSB، told Business Today Egypt، “The private sector should engage small، local businesses in its supply chain، and out of their CSR budgets، to help train entrepreneurs and invest in startups.” If all goes his way، Tatweer Misr may be the first to develop with the young generation in mind، but it won’t be the last.