Monday, April 30, 2018

Youth, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development

Mr. Sherif Samy and Eric Davis
This past April 5th, the MA Program in Political Science – United Nations and Global Policy Studies (UNMA) held its second annual Rutgers Global Policy Roundtable at its partner institution, Marymount Manhattan College, in New York City.  The topic of this year’s Roundtable was Youth, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development.  The project’s key question is: how can helping youth develop entrepreneurial ventures, which have a significant social impact, empower them and benefit their respective societies?

Project Goals
Using Egypt as a pilot study, the project seeks to empower youth in countries around the world by promoting their competence in social entrepreneurship. This effort will not only provide assistance for individual youth entrepreneurs, but develop a model for social entrepreneurship which can be applied in different regions of the world. “Youth social entrepreneurship” refers to a youth entrepreneurial venture which has, as part of its mission, the purpose of contributing to the betterment of the society in which it operates.
Mr. Sherif Samy answers a question at the Roundtable Panel
As was discussed at the Roundtable, the project entails the following processes. First, the project has identified a large number of successful social entrepreneurship ventures in Egypt and other countries in the MENA region.  Second, the project is developing a group of young Egyptian social entrepreneurs who will identify successful social entrepreneurial ventures in Egypt and serve as mentors to youth entrepreneurs.

Third, once identified, successful youth social entrepreneurs will be invited to present proposals in a competitive platform, based on a “shark-tank” model, or via international video conferencing, to potential investors in Egypt and the West who can help them improve and expand their enterprises. 
Finally, the project is raising funds from public and private funding sources to provide financing for the project in its start-up phase.

The project is intended to allow successful youth entrepreneurs to scale-up their ventures, initially through the aforementioned investments. We hope the initial investments will attract additional and ongoing domestic and foreign investment, particularly from the United States. To assist successful youth social entrepreneurs, we’re able to offer them access to a wide variety of patents developed by an engineering faculty member at Rutgers University at no cost.

An innovative aspect of the project is the creation of a website where youth social entrepreneurs can exchange information on their respective entrepreneurial ventures.  The ability to share information in a password protected section of the website is intended to allow youth entrepreneurs to benefit from the efforts of youth entrepreneurs elsewhere in the world. Using grant funding, the project will organize workshops in a variety of countries where youth can meet and generate a synergy from the exchange of information the United States and abroad to improve their ventures.
Roundtable panelists: Dr. Jay Pozenel, United Nations; Dr. Jennifer Mueller, Marymount Manhattan College;
Dr. Steven Adelkoff, Arrakis Development, LLC; Dr. Eric Garfunkel, Rutgers VP for International  and Global Affairs;
Dr. Tarek Saadawi, Director, CINT, CUNY; and Dr. Ghaidaa Hetou, CEO, iStrategic, LLC
Genesis of the project
Regarding the genesis of this initiative, earlier in my career, I conducted research on industrialization and economic development in Egypt.  My book, Challenging Colonialism: Bank Misr and Egyptian Industrialization, 1920-1941, was published and recently reissued by Princeton University Press.  This book, which has been translated into Arabic, led to an invitation for me to keynote a conference at Cairo University in November 2016 on reviving the private sector of the Egyptian economy (see details of the conference below).  

At the conference, I met Mr. Sherif Samy, one of the grandsons of Muhammad Talcat Harb, the founder of the Bank of Egypt (Bank Misr) in 1920.  The bank subsequently established 23 companies designed to challenge British and foreign domination of the Egyptian economy.  

The companies Talcat Harb founded include the Misr Company for Spinning and Weaving which is located in al-Mahalla al-Kubra in the center of the Egyptian Delta. It is still the world’s largest spinning, weaving, dying and bleaching complex for cotton textiles to this day. Among the other companies established by the Bank Misr is Egypt Air and the Misr Company for Theater and Film (Studio Misr) which began the process which made Egypt’s film industry the largest in the Middle East. 

The Roundtable was very fortunate to host Mr. Sherif Samy as its Keynote Speaker.  Mr. Samy is a prominent Egyptian entrepreneur who has served in financial capacities in countries throughout the world. A former director of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, Mr. Samy is also actively involved in micro-finance in Egypt and is a strong advocate of youth social entrepreneurship.

Project rationale

Youth comprise a large demographic in many countries of the world, especially in LDCs. They comprise as  much as 70% of the population under the age of 30.  Often ignored by politicians, and lacking resources, much of their creative energy fails to find an outlet and is lost to their respective communities. Social entrepreneurship offers youth the opportunity to put their creativity to work and to contribute to what are, in many countries, stagnant public sector dominated economies.

Social entrepreneurship can also serve as a deterrent to extremism. Unfortunately, large numbers of youth lack hope in the future.  In some instances, such feelings have led youth to use their creative skills to promote violence and wreak havoc through participation in terrorist organizations, whether the so-called Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Shabab or al-Qacida. 

Social entrepreneurship can serve multiple functions. Not only can it empower youth by offering them employment and the ability to contribute economic value to their respective communities, but it can also offer youth an alternative to extremist narratives and ideologies.

Project activities
The website currently under development will be launched during the fall of 2018. The project is also developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled, “Youth, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development,” which will made available to youth social entrepreneurs globally, and will be taught by the faculty of the UNMA, and other academic units at Rutgers University, beginning in the winter of 2019.

As mentioned previously, to identify social entrepreneurial ventures that would benefit from further investment, and possible technical assistance, we will evaluate proposals via “shark tank” models, or via international video conference meetings, during the late fall 2018. Because we have the necessary infrastructure in place, the first “shark tank” and/or video conference is likely to be held in Cairo, Egypt. All presentations by youth social entrepreneurs will be filmed and the successful projects will subsequently be presented to local investors in Egypt, the host country, and the United States.

The project anticipates dispersing investments to youth entrepreneurial ventures during late 2019. A Project Supervisory Council, comprised of representatives of Rutgers University, the business community in Egypt and the United States, and UN agency officials, will oversee the investment process. Assessment of the success of the investments will be conducted on an ongoing basis by the Project Supervisory Council.

For further information on this project, please contact Dr. Eric Davis, Director, MA Program in Political Science – United Nations and Global Policy Studies, and Professor of Political Science, at