The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talat has witnessed, via videoconference, the launch of the first round of Startup Launchpad program, provided by the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), in collaboration with the American University in Cairo (AUC) Venture Lab.
The program aims to build the capacities of and help entrepreneurs and tech startup owners to start their business, through providing intensive training, skills and educational material that are necessary to develop effective plans for entrepreneurial projects.
The ceremony was attended by ITIDA CEO Amr Mahfouz, ITIDA VP and Chairperson of the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) Hossam Othman, Dean of AUC School of Business Sherif Kamel, AUC Venture Lab Director Ayman Ismail, a number of entrepreneurs and founders of the startups enrolled in the first round of the program.
The program aims to promote technology innovation in Egypt through helping entrepreneurs and innovators in ICT and providing mechanisms and solutions to the challenges they face, to help transform their ideas into successful businesses and startups.
The eight-week program provides an international certificate of completion and specialization in entrepreneurship, from ITIDA and AUC Venture Lab. The program entails an internationally accredited training curriculum, provided by AUC Venture Lab, a member of Babson Collaborative of Babson College in the U.S., the world’s top educational institute for administration and entrepreneurship. The College is known for its unique academic programs.
During the meeting, the ICT Minister stated that the program aims to upskill young people in entrepreneurship to start creative businesses. This comes in line with the strategy of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), that targets promoting technological innovation and developing startups through encouraging young people to work, innovate and create non-traditional jobs for Egyptian youth. Talaat referred to Egypt's regional leadership in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, in attracting investments in startups.
MCIT works to ensure that Egypt occupies a leading position in terms of the number and size of startups and the volume of foreign investments, providing those startups the opportunity to succeed at the local, regional and international levels, said the ICT Minister. He added that MCIT established five digital innovation centers in different governorates, and is currently working on establishing five more to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among the youth nationwide.
MCIT also launched Our Digital Opportunity initiative that aims to upskill young people in web development, data analysis and digital marketing, which contributes to providing skilled individuals for working in startups, Talaat added.
Kamel underlined that the program represents the beginning of a new phase of cooperation between the AUC, MCIT and ITIDA. The program also reflects the keenness of the AUC School of Business to launch initiatives and projects to foster the ideas and projects of young entrepreneurs. The program provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs nationwide to benefit and serve the society, in line with the state's efforts to achieve digital transformation and harness technology with the spread of COVID-19, he added.
For his part, Mahfouz highlighted that startups are a main driver of economy and job creation, and one of the elements of attracting capital and foreign direct investment. He said that Egypt has competencies and skills in this field, that are currently being developed and nurtured to maintain Egypt's position and competitive edge at the regional and international levels.
Cairo is one of the top 10 countries for affordable talent and among the top 50 global startup ecosystems, Mahfouz added.
During the ceremony, the ICT Minister had an open discussion with the young entrepreneurs who had questions and inquiries on the possibility of participating in the projects rolled out by the government, and on the facilitation of the contracting procedures between the government and startups.
Talat said that MCIT launched Our Digital Opportunity initiative to provide a range of digital transformation projects that MCIT carries out through startups, either through contracting directly with MCIT or through contracting with the major companies responsible for running the projects.
The initiative provided the opportunity of participating in 31 projects. Sixteen small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were selected to implement 15 digital transformation projects at government agencies. The second batch of projects is to be launched soon, said the ICT Minister.
Talat underscored that such meetings prove that Egypt has a broad base of promising young people who can establish a robust IT industry. He called on the attending young people to develop ideas and solutions that can create an added value, to help them grow and compete.
At the end of the meeting, it was confirmed that another meeting will take place between the Minister and the entrepreneurs enrolled in the first round of the program, after the eight-week program is concluded, where these young people can showcase the ideas they developed.
ITIDA received applications for the program through TIEC website, from November 15 to January 3. The number of 257 project ideas were submitted to the program, of which 15 startups specializing in AI, data science, e-commerce platforms, cloud computing, and digital game, app and web development, were accepted.