Nov 302011

Supporting Young Entrepreneurs in the Middle EastEntrepreneurship is becoming increasingly accepted as an important means and a useful alternative for income generation in young people, particularly in the developing world. As traditional job-for-life career paths become rarer, youth entrepreneurship is regarded as an additional way of integrating youth into the labor market and overcoming poverty.

Throughout our long history of working with the marginalized, Human Concern International has sought participatory and empowering approaches, rather than building dependence on charity, we seek to foster self-reliance, and success. To do so we have often use business development approaches, helping to empower through the building of self-esteem, positive risk taking, and problem-solving.

In Egypt, HCI’s “Supporting Youth Micro-Businesses Afflicted by the Political Crises in Egypt” program economically empowers underprivileged youth in low income urban areas of the Cairo governorate that have been adversely affected by the recent unrest through self-employment, putting them in charge of their own income-generating projects; the selected youth’s micro-businesses are provided with an innovative system of tailored micro grants, affordable microcredit and technical assistance. The program is being implemented along with HCI’s long-term local partner Gouzour NGO. The program’s approach is based on mentored ownership.

After the success of the first phase, HCI expanded the scale and the scope of the project to include another Egyptian grassroots organization having a long history of charity work, with the aim to transfer the knowledge gained during phase one to the new organization, at the same time providing the new organization with tailored capacity building activities to guarantee sustainability and increase local knowhow.

Also in Sudan, HCI has been working to empowering Sudan’s youth generation through entrepreneurship and business development, both in Darfur area and in settlements around Khartoum. HCI’s initiatives touched on the economic aspect of the lives of the disabled youth first, then young orphans, and now on the disadvantaged youth in general. The beneficiaries received coaching in micro-business management and eventually developed and implemented small income generating initiatives such as a home based cafeterias and workshops which HCI funded using a combination of grants and loans.

In 2009, The “Today’s Orphans Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs” program implemented in Sudan was specifically designed by HCI to empower orphans and to prevent them from getting drawn into a passive cycle of receiving charity and relying on the kindness of others. As part of the activities, a group of orphans received the training and materials necessary to embark on their own business ventures. They were also given the opportunity to test their ideas under real-life circumstances, and took part in the “Business for a Day” program, in which they designed and operated a small business service for one day. The Project also included the setting up of and funding of an investment club run by the orphan entrepreneurs.

In 2010, HCI built up these young entrepreneurs’ knowledge of investment by further developing the investment club managed and run by orphans, a space where more orphans received hands-on investment training and a positive attitude towards investment entrepreneurship was created. They were given the opportunity to be able to test group investment ideas under realistic circumstances and get a deeper understanding of running an investment business. This investment club is a legal entity that is able to attract and absorb more orphans and serve as an “incubator” for future group investments.

Later on, the project also built up the developmental capacities of the youth and put them on the path to become active philanthropists by increasing their public awareness, promoting youth involvement, increasing local contributions, contributing to greater accountability, enhancing transparency in decision-making, and promoting good governance based on active citizen participation among the young club members. The group learnt how to better organize themselves, identify and link with established CBO programs and services, design and implement youth-oriented fund raising activities, develop a grant-making/monitoring mechanism, and organize youth volunteers in support of foundation activities as well as those of local CBO partners. This transition to active philanthropy boosts their self confidence and empowers them as they are giving back to the community which took care of them for many years.

More recently, HCI broadened its focus to empower underprivileged youth in low-income urban settlements around Khartoum. The beneficiaries received coaching in micro-business management and were assisted to develop viable micro businesses, which included micro-business ideas generation and business training.

The activities carried out in Egypt and Sudan have given these youth real, relevant instruction on how to build a successful and sustainable business and will build the groundwork for the development of a new generation of young entrepreneurs eager to take action and improve their situations. The resources and skills offered through HCI’s initiatives will definitely enable them to further develop their business opportunities and enhance their livelihoods, which will ultimately lead to more stabilization and an improvement in livelihoods in targeted areas.

As a result of HCI’s intervention these young men and women have a better chance of coping with the economically debilitating situation on the ground; and having being offered the means to rebuild their livelihoods they will be able to get their lives and the lives of their dependents back on track. It is also worth noting that by empowering young entrepreneurs in general, HCI is also aiding the community as a whole; the increased employment and income generated by vocational training, on-the-job support, and business development services give communities an economic boost, and serve as a positive example for others.

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