Egypt's revolution seems to have inspired a great many people to spruce up their neighborhoods, re-paint their shopfonts or open a small business. Certainly, there have been many new creative endeavors inspired by the events of January and February this year. A great many people, meanwhile, are thinking bigger, attempting to contribute to broader and longer-lasting changes in the nation through grass-roots action.
At the forefront of such hands-on activity is the Nebny Foundation, a non-governmental foundation launched after the 25 January revolution by activist Jawad Nabolsi and several young Egyptian revolutionaries. The main aim of the foundation is to help underprivileged craftsmen who have suffered economically as a result of the uprising, providing assistance with business start-ups, assisting with the sale and marketing of products, and providing job opportunities associated with construction and residential remodelling projects.
“Our approach will respond to the current economic needs of Egypt’s economy and youth by creating employment opportunities,” says Mariam al-Hitami, Nebny’s event manager.
The foundation depends to a large degree on the hard work of volunteers, many of them working long hours to bring their vision to life. Funding, meanwhile, comes from private donations and a few much-needed sponsorships from companies such as City Stars and Microsoft.
Nebny is currently working in various suburbs and shantytowns of Cairo, such as Manshiyet Nasser, offering neighborhood remodeling scenarios at reasonable prices. The aim is to help spruce up the neighborhood, providing more attractive and better-functioning living environments, while giving work to local builders and craftsmen.
“We work closely with the residents to discover their desires and fulfill their needs,” says Hitami. “We also provide customized design services. We use our expertise and experience to fulfill the remodeling dreams of people in the suburbs.”
While remodeling suburbia, Nebny plans to create job opportunities for more than 30,000 residents through participation in the renovation of their neighborhoods. Using Manshiyet Nasser as a model, it is hoped that the remodeling activities will also have the effect of raising awareness of urban environmental issues.
Nebny has also initiated the Center for Entrepreneurship (C4E), a platform for the launch and growth of early-stage businesses in Egypt.
“C4E will mine, screen and select up-and-coming business ideas and entrepreneurs, and provide an array of services that will help them launch the right products to the right market and people using the right economic approaches and techniques,” explains Hitami.
The Foundation will be raising its profile both at home and abroad through its Egypt.Now Festival, which is set to run from 1 July to 18 July, consisting of a range of events in various venues, including Andalus Garden, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, El-Sawy Culture Wheel and the Cairo Opera House.
A forum affiliated with the festival will feature several economic, social and political entrepreneurs, experts and innovators tasked with envisioning Egypt’s future. Advisors are to include Ismail Serageldin (director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Mohamed el-Sawy (director of El-Sawy Culture Wheel) and Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general.
The event has three main elements to it: a film and music festival, a jobs fair, and a crafts market. It is hoped that the festival will encourage tourism, refresh the job market, showcase Egyptian youth as the leading actors for change, and invite the world to share in a new future sparked by a vision of revolutionary change.