Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr


Nearly 63 percent of people living in Africa lack internet access. In contrast, 11 percent of North Americans, 13 percent of Europeans and 48 percent of Asians lack internet access. In response to this issue, Africa50, an infrastructure investment organization, has launched an innovation challenge asking for modern innovators to submit their original ideas on how to provide internet to under-served areas in Africa.

The Africa50 Innovation Challenge began May 14, after it was announced at the Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda the same month.

The submitted solutions will be piloted in Rwanda, which Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobissé said was the ideal place to implement and test the solutions.

Rwanda: A Country Evolving in ICT

Ebobissé described the country as having a thriving Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) sector. Cooperation between the challenge and the co-development of the Kigali Innovation City, a project Africa50 invested $400 million in 2018, is evidence of this ICT boom.

Rwanda has increased its internet access to 29 percent, as of 2019. The increase is a marked improvement compared to the less than 1 percent who had access in 2000. This development can, in part, be accredited to the National Information Communication Infrastructure (NICI) policy the country adopted in 2000.

The policy defines four separate stages of increasing internet and communication in Rwanda. The country has already prepared the ICT groundwork and is currently in the fourth and final stage; enhancing the infrastructure and improving the service delivery.

The goal of the final stage is to increase technological skills, develop the community and private sector and enhance the government’s use of the internet and cyber-security. The policy is planned to end in 2020.

The ideas will be implemented more broadly across the continent once the pilot phase in Rwanda is complete.

Winning Criteria and Perks

The judges will be looking for six main criteria in the proposals submitted to the Africa50 Innovation Challenge:

  • Innovation and originality
  • Ability to be implemented on a large scale
  • Affordability for both implementors and consumers
  • Sustainability for the environment
  • Readiness to be piloted in Rwanda
  • Adaptability of the solution for a variety of circumstances

The finalists will be announced mid-October and they will present their solutions at AfricaCom the following month.  Those selected will be announced at the 2020 Transform Africa Summit, but the organization does not specify how many winners will be chosen.

The winners will be awarded a cash prize or project development funding, connections to investors and exposure as an innovator.

If these solutions are implemented, economic growth and job creation are a few of the newfound benefits that may come to these countries. Companies can grow and have an improved role in the competitive market if they have access to the internet.  As a result, these solutions allow them to reach more consumers, labor pools and raw materials, according to a 2012 report by the International Telecommunication Union.

ICT Progress in Other African Countries

There will certainly be interesting proposals from this year’s Africa50 Innovation Challenge entries,  but there are already solutions that have worked in other African countries.

For example, Kenya has had a considerable jump in their internet speed and bandwidth — which increased 43 percent from 2016 to 2017. This increase can be attributed to the National Broadband Strategy for Kenya. Additionally, Nigeria has increased its number of internet users from 72 million in 2017, to 92 million in 2018.

Nigeria’s fiber network, 21st Century, is partnering with Google Station and anticipates the installation of 200 Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2019, according to Fortune.

Africa50 aims to spread high-speed internet and improve opportunities for those living in under-served communities, whatever the solution.

– Makenna Hall
Photo: Flickr

Impact Investing in RefugeesImpact investing, otherwise known as socially responsible investing, refers to investment aiming to create a positive social or environmental impact while also generating a financial return. Some subsets of impact investing intend to control the power of private investments. Here, these investors are only addressing the concerns of particular groups.

For example, “gender lens investing” encourages investment in companies that are led by women. Additionally, it promotes investment in companies that create products or services seeking to improve women’s’ lives and wellbeing.

However, an unprecedented rise in the number of refugees and displaced people globally is creating the need for a new type of impact investment, specifically addressing their needs. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, a record 70.8 million people around the world are either internally displaced, have become refugees, or are seeking asylum due to natural disasters or violent civil conflicts. Here are 3 organizations that are leading the charge in the new field of impact investing in refugees.

3 Leading Organizations Focused on Impact Investing in Refugees

  1. Refugee Investment Network
    The Refugee Investment Network (RIN) is one of the leading organizations in the emerging field of impact investing in refugees. At the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference in San Diego in October of 2018, RIN was launched. RIN serves as an information hub connecting investors to projects that benefit refugees. To help investors address this group of individuals, RIN has created the Refugee Lens, which guides investors on how to most effectively seek out and invest in organizations benefitting refugees. One of RIN’s goals is to challenge the misconception that refugees are an economic burden. Instead, RIN promotes the idea that impact investing in refugees can stimulate economic growth, and presents evidence of this in a report, titled “Paradigm Shift.” The report points out that entrepreneurs comprise 13 percent of the refugee population in the U.S. This means that refugees have a higher percentage of entrepreneurs than both the non-immigrant refugee population and the native-born population in the U.S.
  2. Epimonia
    Epimonia is a fashion company that promotes awareness of refugee issues in the U.S. The company was founded by Mohamed Malim, a Somali-American entrepreneur and former refugee who fled Somalia’s civil war. Initially, he had relocated to Kenya, but then again to the U.S. Among other products, Epimonia sells bracelets made from life vests that were once worn by refugees, known as “embracelets.” The Greek island of Lesbos provides these life vests since they have a high population of refugees. Additionally, Epimonia works with the nonprofit organization Refugees4Refugees to acquire these life vests, which then become embracelets. Refugee workers in the Netherlands make the bracelets, which then sell throughout the U.S. Malim has sold almost 1,500 embraclets, and has visited 20 college campuses to spread awareness of refugee issues. Epimonia invests 50 percent of its profits into initiatives that benefit refugee communities in the U.S. The organization has given $1,500 to the Dream Refugee Mentorship Program. They provide current and former refugees with professional mentorship and scholarship aid. Additionally, it provides them with a network of connections to help them succeed in the workforce after college.
  3. Kiva Refugee Investment Fund
    In 2017, the microfinance company Kiva launched the Kiva Refugee Investment Fund (KRIF) to help extend financial services to refugees and provide loans to those looking to start businesses. Unlike other nonprofits that operate on the basis of donations, KRIF utilizes crowdfunding to channel money into loans. These are then given to refugees, which are later paid back. This means that individuals who contribute to loans not only get to aid in refugee entrepreneurs launching their businesses but also get to share in the successes that those businesses create. KRIF challenges the idea that refugees are too risky to invest in, and has supporting data. According to its website, KRIF currently has a rate of repayment on its loans of 95.5, percent. Additionally, they have effectively crowdfunded $12.5 million in loans to 15,873 refugee borrowers. In total, KRIF aims to reach 200,000 borrowers.

Multiple organizations are beginning the way for investment in refugees. Impact investing in refugees has proven to be far less risky than naysayers have claimed. In fact, it is incredibly effective at both generating a financial return to investors and uplifting refugee communities around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr