The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has always been a supporter of entrepreneurship and technological innovation, said Deputy Governor of the CBE, Lobna Helal on Monday.
Helal explained that it is obligatory for banks to allocate 20% of their credit portfolio to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by 2020, consequently Egyptian banks provided EGP 110bn of finances to SMEs to date, out of the EGP 200bn allocated for SMEs financing over a four-year period ending in January 2020.
The CBE has also secured EGP 2bn as a guarantee for the Credit Guarantee Company S.A.E. (CGC), in order to encourage banks to provide funding for SMEs, especially in the agriculture sector, she noted.
Helal stressed that the CBE is aware that funding alone is not sufficient, without establishing a business environment which encourages entrepreneurship, and SMEs. “This is why we support the Nile Pioneers initiative, which becomes a brand to serve entrepreneurship and SMEs across Egypt through providing guidance, funding, and technical assistance across a range of different economic sectors, including the agriculture sector,” she said.
The Nile Pioneers Initiative, funded by the CBE, announced on Sunday the five winning projects in the Digital Agriculture Challenge from over 130 projects that applied.
The first three winning projects received EGP 150,000 each, including business incubation services, technical, and financial support. The first winning project is the Verum Code, which is a system that could reduce commercial fraud of agricultural products, and can be applied to other projects. The second winning project is the Fresh Source, which is a platform to link farmers with traders. In third place is the Innovation Team’s application for packaging and distribution. In fourth and fifth place is the Tomatiki, which is an automated irrigation system, and Solarise for hydraulic Irrigation.
For his part, Tarek Khalil, president of Nile University, praised the efforts of Nile Pioneers in supporting entrepreneurship in various sectors, especially using innovation, and technological solutions to address all manner of challenges facing farmers.
According to Agriculture Global Practice Manager at The World Bank, Julian Lampietti, there are 500 million farmers worldwide, and millions of industries that rely on food processing. He noted that it is of great importance to utilise digital technologies in the Egyptian agriculture sector, due to the country’s high population density.
The Minister of Agriculture, Ezz El-Din Abu Steit, investment in the agricultural sector accounts for only 3% of total investments in Egypt, which is very low, since banks consider it as a high-risk sector.
Moreover, Abu Steit, praised the technological solution offered through the Nile Pioneers initiative to reduce production losses, and improve water conservation by providing solutions to the agricultural sector challenges in Egypt.