Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Rural and urban communities in Egypt are heavily dependent on state subsidies across an entire spectrum of energy, food, infrastructure and other basic needs. This is exacerbated by the fact that energy, although heavily subsidized, is often very hard to get hold of. Egypt has a growing energy dependence that is manifesting into an energy crisis. Since 2010, Egypt’s oil consumption has outpaced its production, electricity consumption is increasing faster than capacity expansions, and Egypt has become a net importer of oil and is going in the same direction for natural gas. The resource deficiency that Egypt is facing is not only limited to energy, but also water and food. Egypt has an annual water deficiency of 7 billion cubic meters and imports about 40 percent of its food. There is a lack of self-reliance, on a national level, as a result of dependence on local and international governments and aid, associated with myriad problems such as poverty, unemployment, fragmentation, loss of skills, declining health and increased rural-urban migration.
In the urban context, poverty levels are rising in Egypt with 10% poverty among populations living in urban governorates during 2012. These constitute the Base of the Pyramid (BoP), a market whose needs, such as access to sewage, clean water, and energy, remain unaddressed. The majority of businesses in Egypt target high class and upper middle class customers characterized by their high purchasing power, leaving BoP citizens uncatered for.
Simultaneously, unemployment levels are rising in Egypt and in 2013, it was reported that youth constitutes 70.8% of the total unemployed, with around 10.6% aged between 15 and 19, and 20.9% ranging between 25 and 29 years old. The majority of the unemployed youth were found in the 20 to 24 year-old group, of which 39.3% were jobless.
In the rural context, in 2012, 51% of the Egyptian populations living in rural areas are poor. In 2008, the World Bank estimated that three quarters of the 18 million Egyptians living below the national poverty line lived in rural areas. Agriculture alone represents 13% of the country’s GDP, 20% of total export and 30% of total employment (55% when including agri-business). In 2006 it was estimated that 40% of rural populations were less than 14 years of age. These youth will be seeking decent income generating opportunities, and the agricultural sector should be able to meet their aspirations and provide potential employment opportunities in rural areas. The jobless rate in Egypt’s rural areas was last reported in 2013 to be 11.3 percent. Life in Egyptian villages often means a life in poverty. The productivity and growth of rural livelihoods is driven by its agriculture, yet farmers are increasingly vulnerable to environmental pressures stemming from unsustainable practices like irrigation and soil fertility management, illegal dumping, land grabbing and building on agricultural land, which results in decreasing land values. Small-scale farmers also struggle from the underlying issues tied to the farming value chain, where most benefits are focused on landowners with large farmlands.
Many of the farmers are dependent on farming inputs from government cooperatives and are indebted, making working in agriculture no longer profitable. Decreases in the profitability of farming will likely increase the already high levels of rural unemployment, leading to the vicious circle of skills loss and dependency.
It is within this context that a growth landscape and an enabling environment for businesses which are inclusive coupled with green job creation, particularly as a solution to community and sustainability challenges, becomes of such importance. Triple-bottom-line products will represent a shift in the Egyptian business culture, to one that relies on the valorization of community-based resources and skills to be socially responsible and environment friendly.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Adam is creating spaces which foster a culture of social innovation and green technology innovation in urban and rural areas. These spaces use participatory approaches to empower Egyptian communities to convert their daily sustainability challenges (agricultural challenges, water, soil, energy, food ...etc) into innovative, affordable, replicable and open source solutions to address their local needs. These solutions become responsible and inclusive green businesses improving the quality of life for the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) whilst providing opportunities for income generation.
Adam’s idea consists of four main components; three in urban areas and one in rural areas. In urban areas, Adam empowers youth to create innovative low cost technology solutions for sustainability challenges and convert them into tangible products and businesses (for example: developing a $150 solar water heater in response to diesel shortages). First, he established icecairo, acronym for Innovation, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship, a co-working environment targeting youth, especially unemployed, and pre-incubating their ideas. ICE Cairo provides technical know-how, prototyping labs for locally applicable solutions and business capacity building as well as shared community expertise. By harnessing the power of their network, consisting of technical and business experts, media, NGOs and policy makers, youth are ready for business launch and market access. Second, Adam is institutionalizing fabrication laboratories (Fab-labs) in engineering schools across different universities to allow students to prototype potential affordable tech solutions for sustainability challenges. Third, the physical co-working space and university Fab-labs are complemented by an open source, evolving e-learning platform that aggregates all the technical know-how of the resulting innovations to allow solutions identified in one place to be available for replication by other communities and youth elsewhere. The prototypes and products generated by the ICECairo community are used to create responsible and inclusive green businesses which improve livelihoods through sustainable products and create economic opportunities for young Egyptians to access new markets, additionally it contributes to the growth of a sustainable green economy in Egypt.
In rural areas, Adam established Nawaya, an Arabic word meaning seeds, nucleus and intentions. Through Nawaya, Adam targets the farming community, in particular small scale farmers, introducing a farmers’ apprenticeship program, a 2-year intensive program that develops agricultural skills, exchanges experience between farmers through farmer-to-farmer educational videos, integrates sustainable farming practices on their land, and solves farming challenges through prototyping and demonstrating opportunities for creating agri-businesses to alleviate rural poverty.
To convert sustainability challenges into viable green business opportunities in rural and urban areas, Adam uses collaborative design methodologies to foster synergies within each community (like Art of Hosting), which are internationally acclaimed for their ability to allow for integration between community members, crowdsource expertise and build on the shared power and experience of communities to reach desired solutions. This participatory approach creates a bottom-up model of sustainability that can be used to alter and create policy.
Adam’s idea aims to create communities that use local resources and skills to be self-sufficient and independent of subsidies or grants, allow rural and urban communities to solve their own challenges, turn those solutions into green products and services, and create youth employment that is socially responsible and environmentally friendly.