Mohamed is a father of two daughters aged 17 and 10. He has two prosthetic feet and he is now the owner of an expanded shop that sells spare parts and accessories for three-wheel motorcycles also called “tok-tok” commonly used for the transport of people and goods.
Nagah is a 65 year old widow suffering from chronic chest allergies and high blood pressure, a mother of one daughter who is in her last year at school, previously living on charity and now a new owner of a sewing business selling clothes to her neighbors.
Ramy is a 26 years old living with Hepatitis C and the sole provider for his family supporting his wife, his daughter and his elderly mother, previously living on charity and now the owner of an expanded business in Imbaba selling men’s cloths.
They are few of the many beneficiaries of HCI’s project supporting micro businesses in the poverty-stricken suburbs of Cairo implemented in partnership with the local NGOs, Gozour Foundation and Resala NGO. These beneficiaries are mainly the sole breadwinners of large families, predominantly living on charity. Most of them are either physically challenged or with special needs but now they are successful small entrepreneurs operating new or expanded micro businesses with the technical and the financial support from HCI and its local partners.
Mohamed, Nagah and Ramy and many of HCI’s other beneficiaries live in poverty-stricken and overcrowded neighborhoods like Boulaq El Dakrour, which is the largest informal settlement in the Governorate of Giza near Cairo with a population of almost 1 million. Residents live in illegally built dwellings on privately-owned agricultural land. Population density is extreme. Streets are narrow and buildings reach 6-8 storeys. There is virtually no open space for the provision of public services and practically no community facilities exist. Residents suffer from environmental pollution, particularly from uncollected and ever accumulating solid waste. Unemployment is estimated at 20%, reaching 50% for those under 20. A lack of trust between stakeholders in the area hinders sustainable development.
Mohamed’s previous job involved selling lamps; however, a tragic accident left him with two prosthetic feet and the inability to work as a lamp salesman. He then found an alternative occupation that accommodated his condition while supporting his family. Mohamed’s monthly expenses reach LE 1,000 while the family only received a meager monthly income ranging between LE 250- 500 from charity and his wife’s income. Mohamed received in-kind donation and spare parts and accessories as part of HCI’s project with a net worth of approximately LE 5,000 to help support his business. The feasibility study conducted for Mohamed’s business estimates monthly sales to reach LE 750-1,000 with a net profit of LE 350 during the first few months of operation.
Nagah is a 65 year old widow, and has one daughter who is in her last year at school. Nagah and her daughter live in the basement of a building in a small room that is barely big enough for both of them. Nagah suffers from chronic chest allergies and high blood pressure, and is thus unable to work. Nagah and her daughter survive on charity from the neighboring mosque or by charity from people in their neighborhood. However, these donations never exceed LE 250 every month, which is barely enough to cover their monthly expenses as well as Nagah’s medication.
Nagah resorted to one of her neighbors to teach her how to sew and with HCI’s support; she now owns a sewing machine and materials worth LE 2,000 which she used to start her own business. Nagah is expected to sell clothes to her neighbors and other community, members worth LE 1,000 every month, and earn LE 200-300 of net profit.
Ramy is 26 years old and is the sole provider for his family. He supports his wife, his daughter and his elderly mother. Ramy used to work at a store selling fish until he was injured in one of his arms. He underwent emergency surgery and came out of the hospital Hepatitis C positive. His illness prevented him from working for a while, after which he started working at a clothes’ store where he remained for five years.
The financial burden of supporting his mother after his father’s death has added to his monthly expenses now reaching LE 750. With his low income and inconsistent charity received from relatives he is unable to make ends meet. For the past couple of months, Ramy was unable to pay his rent and electric bills and is now in debt for approximately LE 2,000. With the help of some relatives he recently started his own business selling men’s cloths and he rented a small shop at the Muneira Tunnel in Imbaba. Ramy received a grant from HCI as part of the project worth LE 3,000. This gave his business a significant boost. According to the feasibility study conducted for Ramy’s business, he is expected to sell products worth LE 2,000-2,500 every month, making a net profit of LE 750-1,000 every month to support himself and his family.
The resources and skills offered through this initiative will definitely enable these entrepreneurs to 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 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 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, business development services and financial support give communities an economic boost, and serve as a positive example for others.