Both governorates used to be global focal points and entrepreneurial by nature, either due to economic importance in the case of Suez, or to cosmopolitan flair in the case of Port Said. However, the entrepreneurship ecosystems in the two Canal cities remain void and almost nonexistent as a result of misplaced funding and a lack of regular support and methodology, despite their attractiveness.
Ecosystem and potential in the Canal cities
Hesham Wahby, CEO of Innoventures incubator, tells Business Forward that the interesting feature of the Canal cities is that they are part of a global market that pertains to the transportation and petroleum sectors.
“There is potentially a lot of development and money that will be placed in the Canal area, but the resources and money should be used in a good way,” Wahby adds.
Currently, there are five experts and mentors running the Innoventures Ideaspace in the Canal cities, and they are forecast to increase to 20 experts in a two-year span, according to Wahby.
Outside Cairo and Alexandria, the businesses are usually traditional and a lot of innovation needs to emerge, he says – a point seconded by Hassan Mohamed Ahmed, professor at the University of Suez’s Faculty of Science and manager of the Academy of Scientific Research & Technology’s (ASRT) Regional Development Center.
Port Said is an entrepreneurial city by nature, given that it is mainly inhabited by traders
The center is the first of its kind to serve entrepreneurs in the Canal cities, Sinai and the Red Sea region.
“Investment-wise, the region should be appealing in the sectors of industry and fishing. The regional center will provide logistic services in the sector of petroleum and petrochemicals,” Ahmed says, stressing that the foundation of an ecosystem in these sectors is in place, but it needs startup companies and investors.
In cooperation with the University of Suez and the private sector, the regional center will establish a tech incubator, and is intending to engage with people inside and outside the university to know more about entrepreneurship and innovation.
What do startups need in the Canal cities?
Mohamed Salah and Hadeer Segaa are cofounders of an upcycling startup in Port Said, who – as many fellow entrepreneurs in the Delta region – had to travel to Cairo and Alexandria in order to seek regular mentorship and opportunities to develop their idea.
“After I had traveled to Alexandria and Cairo, I saw that youths in these governorates have more advanced ideas and education, so naturally they get more and better opportunities,” Salah says.
Segaa and Salah add that Port Said is an entrepreneurial city by nature, given that it is mainly inhabited by traders. However, business are started without any clear methodology or entrepreneurship know-how.
What the Canal cities are missing are regular support and opportunities, and a plan on how to place the available funding in the right places.
Techne Drifts 2018 is currently in Upper Egypt. Stay tuned for more insights on the startup scenes and ecosystems in Egypt’s governorates.