Tanta’s entrepreneurship ecosystem: Living in the shadow of Cairo and Alexandria

Business Forward joined Techne Drifts 2018 on their first stop in a series of visits to several Egyptian governorates

Located 94 kilometers north of Cairo, Tanta is the fifth most populated city in Egypt. Nevertheless, once one sets foot in Tanta, the major discrepancy between the governorate and Egypt’s cosmopolitan capital Cairo in terms of entrepreneurial resources, infrastructure and access to knowledge becomes self-evident.

Business Forward joined Techne Drifts 2018 on their first stop in a series of visits to several Egyptian governorates, in order to shed light on the entrepreneurial scenes and ecosystems there.

Techne Drifts is an all-year-round one day event series around cities and governorates in Egypt that aims to strengthen ecosystems and empower entrepreneurs in the startup community. It takes place in a roadshow format through a series of country-wide tours across a set of governorates within the Delta, Canal and Upper Egypt regions.

This year, the roadshow started in the Delta, and will continue with the Canal cities and conclude with Upper Egypt, to connect potential entrepreneurs there with investors and provide them with the required assistance they need to launch their startups.

Young people from Tanta gathered to attend workshops and panel discussions to understand how entrepreneurship ecosystems work, and learn about how to define their customers’ needs, develop their business opportunities and pitch to investors.

Challenges that face potential entrepreneurs in Tanta
While the attendees in Tanta showed potential and ideas, they were in need of mentorship in order to guide them on how to turn their ideas into businesses.

It is better to start in Tanta because it is much cheaper than Cairo in terms of wages and rents

Mostafa El-Shafei, founder of a car pooling application in Tanta, tells Business Forward: “My first attempts were to operate the application in Tanta. However, I had to move to Cairo in order to proceed with my idea and develop it.” He adds that the idea of entrepreneurship is not very common in Tanta; nevertheless, there have been recent attempts from incubators and accelerators to approach the Delta region.

“I believe that [young people in Tanta] have the same potential as youth in Cairo and Alexandria. Incubators should at least develop the ideas here in Tanta and can then move them to their headquarters in Cairo,” El-Shafei explains. Currently, what drives entrepreneurs from Tanta to Cairo is not knowing where to start with the business planning and “in hope of better chances,” he concludes.

However, it is not just about not knowing where to start – “people are not familiar with the idea of starting a business; hence, it becomes challenging to convince people to join you,” an entrepreneur from Kafr Al-Zayyat village tells Business Forward, stressing the difficulty of assembling and operating a team when the ecosystem is still not that mature.

Is it possible to kick off an idea from Tanta?
Renowned Tanta-entrepreneur Ahmed Galal, founder of online marketplace for simple home services Taskty, believes that Tanta has both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to its entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Galal says that Cairo is a bigger market than Tanta, which contributes to the lack of access to knowledge in the governorate

“It is better to start [a business] in Tanta because it is significantly cheaper than Cairo in terms of wages and rents,” Galal, who started his business in 2012, tells Business Forward. However, the problem surfaces when people start progressing because at this point, they prefer to move to Cairo for better opportunities that suit their skills. When the startup reaches a more advanced level, the problem of finding and acquiring talent also emerges.

Galal says that Cairo is a bigger market than Tanta, which contributes to the lack of access to knowledge in the governorate.

“When I started my project, I knew very little about the concept of entrepreneurship and did not have connections in the technology industry or entrepreneurship ecosystem. Social media was not very common at the time,” Galal recalls. He got the chance to grow his business and network after he coincidentally attended Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event during which groups of developers, business managers and startup enthusiasts pitch ideas for new startup companies in Alexandria.

“There should be a big incubator in the Delta region. Initiatives have already started to move towards Upper Egypt where there is a lot of potential; however, they assume that the Delta is geographically close to Cairo and Alexandria so they do not give it the same attention,” Galal concludes.

While entrepreneurial resources and stakeholders, such as incubators, accelerators and financing channels, are majorly focused on Cairo, the rest of Egypt’s governorates have been suffering from a lack of knowledge and tools that will help turn ideas with potential into successful, GDP-contributing companies. Stay tuned for our upcoming coverage on other governorates, as we continue our journey with Techne Drifts 2018.

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