By Hadeel Hegazy
Many Egyptian university students are part of an international initiative virtually unknown outside their campuses; Enactus is a worldwide organisation that lets students design and implement projects to improve the lives of marginalised groups in society by using their entrepreneurial skills. The winners of this year’s national Enactus competition were the chapter at the British University in Egypt (BUE), whose project was to improve the lives of street vendors.
Enactus was founded in the United States, but is currently active in 39 countries, and has active chapters in nearly 40 universities in Egypt. Students carry out their projects with corporate financial support throughout the academic year, at the end of which they present their projects in a national competition whose champions participate in the international competition. Since Egyptian universities joined Enactus, their teams have won the world cup several times.
In 2013, 39 teams comprising of 2,170 students designed and carried out 157 projects, covering a wide range of subjects, from environmentally friendly initiatives, to raising awareness for people living with a disease and creating outlets for handicrafts.
Enactus Cairo University launched La Maison de Crochet, a project that presents handcrafted products made by women in areas like in Ain El-Sera, and the Karama project, which focuses on people who live with HIV/AIDS and hopes to improve their lives both socially and financially. Karama collaborated with the United Nations Development Program to create job opportunities but also to raise awareness about the disease and its dangers in order to remove its stigma.
At Ain Shams University Enactus has been running the El-Orouba project for the past three years, which focuses on improving the local area by helping the inhabitants to start small businesses. In 2013, the chapter also teamed up with Educate Me, which adopts a new approach in educating underprivileged children by promoting children’s creative skills, designed a sustainable energy project by installing solar panels in Beni Suef to supply the inhabitants with renewable, clean energy.
The winning project this year from BUE is called Al-Souk, and was implemented in the Al-Moqattam neighbourhood.
“In Egypt no licenses are given but to owners of kiosks so street vendors never leave their places, because customers know their location,” said head of Enactus BUE Projects Ramy Saad. Al-Souk was designed to both increase the safety of the vendors and clean up the streets. “The vendors earn their living from streets,” Saad said, “we decided to make it more organised.”
Together with the residents and the vendors Enactus cleaned up an area and removed garbage and built Al-Souk, (The Market), creating 114 small shops where former street vendors can sell their merchandise. The project has proven to be a success and an extra 112 are planned to be built in the near future.
The team hopes to win the world cup for the first time in the university’s history and show the world the entrepreneurial spirit of the country. Saad said: “We are not just representing BUE, we represent Egypt.”
The Enactus world cup 2013 will take place from 30 September until 1 October in Mexico.