Entrepreneurship in Conflict Regions Part 2: Nigeria & Egypt

Read Part 1 Here!

Nigeria

 

The Federal Republic of Nigeria, or simply referred to as Nigeria, is the unfortunate birthplace of the Boko Haram insurgency. The Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009 as an armed rebellion against the Nigerian government, and since has spread to the surrounding Central and West African states of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. The highly unstable region suffers from glaring human rights issues.

 

Entrepreneurship is crucial to Nigeria’s economic growth, and through entrepreneurial capitalism and economic prosperity, Nigeria can move a bit closer towards stabilization and peace. It is estimated that 45-60% of Nigeria’s urban labor force work for small businesses. Another study found that half of Nigeria’s employment and industrial output comes from SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises).10

 

Terrorism and political corruption have made launching, growing, and sustaining businesses in Nigeria difficult for locals. However, as we have seen in the previous stories, entrepreneurship has still found a way to prevail in this conflict zone. These entrepreneurs are not waiting on change, and are instead gaining momentum through aggressive innovation and calm stoicism. The resilience of entrepreneurs in Nigeria is well evident even as recent as this summer when five Nigerian startups attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) MITx Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. The acceptance rate of this highly selective program is .08%.11

 

Bus Stop, a startup founded by Emmanuel Adegboye from Lagos, Nigeria, solves the problem of chaotic public transportation, something that over 25 million Africans rely on, by identifying patterns in public transport and demystifying the model to make it easier for locals to navigate around cities. Another startup called Slatecube, founded by Chris Kwekowe from Lagos, Nigeria, is a skill-building platform that allows individuals to learn skills, practice them, and then use them in jobs. Other startups from Nigeria are focusing on industries such as agriculture and healthcare. The clear pattern here is that Nigerian entrepreneurs are rising from the conflict to innovate and create solutions to challenges that, if solved, can directly improve the quality of life.

 

Egypt

It is no surprise that Egypt too has suffered from socioeconomic and geopolitical instability, as their violent protests and uprisings have made international headlines since the start of the Egyptian Crisis with the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. An unstable government, which has changed hands multiple times in the past 3-4 years, violent protests, and the rise of the Sinai insurgency all led to economic downturn with an increase in unemployment and decline in investor confidence. Although things are getting back on track with a projected GDP growth of 3% this year, many of the risks discussed still hinder its Egypt’s future and its prosperity.

 

Yet, amidst years of unrest, Egypt has become one of the fastest growing hubs for entrepreneurship in the world. This distinction can be attributed to a young, talented, tech-savvy population, rapid growth in web and mobile penetration, and strategic location.12 Endeavor Egypt found that Egypt’s tech industry is growing at an average of 30% per year, a growth rate similar to New York.13

 

Egyptian startup Instabug launched as the streets of Cairo flooded with violent protests against the government. Instabug, co-founded by Omar Gabr and Moataz Soliman, saw a future for their app, which finds bugs in software, after it successfully launched in beta. However, the future of their country and the home base of their business did not look as promising.14 However, despite conflict and unrest, Egypt’s entrepreneurs pressed-on, like many of the other entpreneurs we have discussed in conflict zones. Around ten startup incubators have launched throughout the country, along with competitions and accelerators.

 

Many Egyptian entrepreneurs looked to international markets to recover from the negative effects of conflict and to find a path to growth. As we saw with Christine Sfeir in Lebanon, global expansion helped her stabilize her business, gain knowledge, insight, and experience in international markets, and provide more security to her foundation in Lebanon. Egypt’s Omar Gabr of Instabug left for the United States to secure funding for his app but with hopes of soon returning to Cairo. One of Egypt’s biggest weaknesses in entrepreneurship is a lack of mentors. Entrepreneurs like Gabr have the unique ability to return as mentors, armed with international experience in global markets.

 

The threat of spontaneous unrest has hindered the startup ecosystem in Egypt, making investors very wary. However, while investors may steer away from unpredictability and ambiguity, some of the best entrepreneurs walk right into it. It is this resilience that has put Egypt on the map as a global entrepreneurial hub.

 

References (continued)

10Oyelola, O. T., 
Ajiboshin, I. O.
, Raimi, L., Raheem, S.,

Igwe, .C. N. (2013), Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Economic Growth in Nigeria, 2: 197-215.

11http://www.itnewsafrica.com/2015/07/5-nigerian-startups-take-on-2015-mitx-global-entrepreneurship-bootcamp/

12http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/the-worlds-best-start-up-hubs-cairo-egypt

13http://endeavoreg.org/effecting-high-impact-entrepreneurship-in-egypt-endeavor-egypt-and-the-cairo-tech-map/

14http://mashable.com/2014/02/25/egyptian-startups-political/

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