From Valley Morning Star
In Egypt’s newest reality television show, contestants sold fruit juice from push carts in Cairo’s busiest market and later organized a desert safari for tourists, hustling to make sales in the capital’s crowded streets.
The program, called “The Project” in Arabic, highlights entrepreneurship and small business acumen — something experts say is more crucial than ever as Egypt tries to claw its way out of tough economic times.
With youth unemployment upward of 30 percent and its economy only now back to levels seen before its 2011 uprising, Egypt’s salvation may lie in the small, informal businesses run by those scraping out a living in the Arab world’s most populous country.
“There is not even a word for entrepreneurship in Arabic,” said Anna Elliot, executive producer of “The Project” and founder of Bamyan Media. “But there is this hunger for it.”
Egypt’s economic landscape is largely controlled by its government, the country’s No. 1 employer. However, the government is grappling with large budget deficit and has had to seek billions of dollars in financial bailout cash from Gulf nations since a July 3 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
But outside of government-owned companies and large multinational corporations, there are thousands of small, largely informal businesses, from street vendors to small shops. Most of those don’t pay taxes and operate in small towns and informal areas outside the capital.
Experts believe that gray economy truly powers Egypt. Ghada Fathi Waly, managing director of Egypt’s Social Fund for Development, estimated that at least two-thirds of the country’s economy rides on the informal businesses. Waly, who was last week also appointed a government minister, recommended allowing the businesses to run outside of government control to allow them to flourish, while registering and taxing only potential exporters.
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