Human capital is Egypt’s single biggest competitive advantage in the knowledge-intensive ICT industry. Authorities and sector players are keen to move the market to the next level with a range of programmes designed to develop skills and nurture entrepreneurship. While playing an important role in developing the ICT sector at a grassroots level, these initiatives have also catalysed public-private partnerships with major international technology and education companies.
In November 2016 President Abdel Fattah El Sisi launched Next Technology Leaders (NTL), a programme spearheaded by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) that aims to build capacity among young people using the latest ICT technology. Targeting 16,000 youths over three years, goals of the initiative include boosting the calibre of the workforce, equipping young Egyptians with the skills they need to compete at a global level and supporting the competitiveness of local ICT companies. The programme is also developing a nationwide network of experienced technology professionals who can mentor and support less experienced colleagues.
NTL allows Egyptians who graduated in 2006 or later access to fully subsidised online courses by top universities and companies, with most lasting six months or less. Participating businesses include Indian online education firm Udacity, US-based education technology company Coursera and online course provider edX, founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. Courses include a “nanodegree” in virtual reality in partnership with Google VR, a seven-month specialisation in robotics through the University of Pennsylvania, and a four-stage course in strategic management and innovation in conjunction with Copenhagen Business School. Artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing qualifications are also available – areas in which Egypt’s ICT sector has particular potential. Levels vary from novice to advanced, and those who complete the courses receive certification from the universities and companies involved. More than 6000 courses had been completed by the end of 2017.
The MCIT also supports industry development programmes, including through Egypt Makes Electronics, a new national initiative that focuses on electronics design and manufacturing, and the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (TIEC), which is operated with international partners. The TIEC was founded in 2010 and by the end of 2017 had trained 11,693 people, helped establish 120 start-ups and supported a further 318.
Together, Intel and the TIEC run the Egypt Internet of Things League, an acceleration programme for early stage start-ups working on the internet and related fields. The free programme is designed for university students, young entrepreneurs and graduates who receive support, mentoring and knowledge transfer, selecting top projects for financial support, access to partners’ business resources and business acceleration.
Google is the main partner for TIEC’s Mobile Application Launch Pad, established in 2015. The programme provided training for an initial 2000 students and young graduates. Promising participants can apply for start-up competitions with funding of up to $200,000 to help commercialise ideas for new apps. The TIEC also runs InnovEgypt, which aims to develop entrepreneurial skills among university students with ICT specialisations. The six-day course includes a module on innovation and technology management, followed by a two-day ideation module on idea creation and innovative solutions. The final stage, Entrepreneurship 101, covers the basics of entrepreneurship. By the end of 2017 nearly 3900 students from 21 universities had taken the course.
Perhaps the most notable development of 2017 was the December launch of the African Regional UN Technology Innovation Lab in Cairo. This lab represents the first such centre in Africa established by the UN Development Programme, and it will train entrepreneurs, host events and implement technology innovations.