October 21, 2009

Social Economy 101 – Egypt

Filed under: social economy 101 — benmetz @ 7:25 am

This is the shortest in this series of posts, and was the toughest to write.  Egypt is a challenge for me to find purchase on.  Plus the social economy is in such an early stage of development there’s not a lot to write about…  Still, it’s fascinating stuff once again and is contributing to a broader, global, view of social economy development that I’m developing.

The nascent social economy in Egypt

Historically the Egyptian state has been the provider of the overwhelming majority of public services and it was only in the 1980’s did the social economy start to emerge in any way.  This emergence was partly driven by a large influx of international donor funding (in excess of $2billion) during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

In the 1990’s smaller, more innovative, third sector organisations began to develop, in part fuelled by a reaction to what was perceived as funding led approaches of the larger and more institutionalised NGO’s.  Many of these younger organisations derived their inspiration from the increased globalisation of third sector thinking and activity.

The concept of social enterprise and the social economy has only emerged in the last three or four years, mainly as a direct result of the work of Ashoka, whose Middle East / Arab World activity runs out of Cairo.  As a result it would appear that most notable social entrepreneurs in Egypt are Ashoka Fellows.  Ashoka’s work has been instrumental in an increased level of innovation across the third sector in human rights, education and linkages to the business sector as well as the emergence of environmental activity as a new strand of third sector activity in Egypt.

In the words of one interviewee “the social economy is in kindergarten in Egypt, we have a very long way to travel”.

Infrastructure and support for the social economy in Egypt is nascent, comprising in the main a small number of indigenous players with very limited capacity and an even smaller number of international development foundations and support providers who have extended their activity to include either Egypt, North Africa or the Middle East.


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