How Are Visa, CIB Empowering Women-Led Businesses In Egypt?

April 4, 2024


In November, Visa, a digital payment solutions provider, and CIB, a leading private-sector bank, unveiled recipients of the She’s Next grant program in Egypt. Among the standout winners were Hadeer Shalaby, founder of Green Fashion; Salma Tammam, the innovative mind behind Reme-D; and Nihal Ali, the visionary founder of Fincart.

Launched in Egypt in October, the program aims to empower women-owned small businesses nationwide through funding, personalized coaching, and mentorship. The top three winners receive $10,000 each, while the next five gain access to a year-long training program. Further, the first 20 applicants are granted enrollment in a one-year skills improvement program offered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In an interview with Business Monthly, Shalaby expressed the significance of winning the She’s Next grant for her business,  a lifestyle brand based in Cairo that promotes a sustainable and eco-conscious lifestyle by making fashionable clothing “that sends nothing to landfills.” according to their website.

“Winning not only brought attention to my journey and project but also revealed potential opportunities,” Shalaby highlighted.

Addressing the challenges her business encounters amid the current economic climate, Shalaby told Business Monthly that all small and medium businesses face hurdles stemming from inflation, economic fluctuations, and the widespread low income among individuals.

However, she highlighted how challenges can be turned into opportunities, emphasizing her business’s competitive advantage in low production expenses due to utilizing recycled materials.

Green Fashion utilizes materials sourced from factory residues, defective rolls of cloth, used clothing, and other recycled materials, Shalaby explained.

Despite being affected by economic fluctuations, customer interest in local products post-war in Gaza has revived her business. “We will continue to promote and bolster local products, particularly those that are unique and demonstrate strong competitive capabilities, which we believe our product exemplifies,” Shalaby emphasized.

High costs, high hopes

Meanwhile, Tamam, founder of Reme-D, a Med-tech company that develops and manufactures disease diagnostic testing systems suited for use in low-resource settings, told Business Monthly that the award is a “validation” of hard work and dedication to improve the healthcare sector.

Like all small businesses in the country, Tamam’s business is affected by Egypt’s ongoing economic challenges.

“Operational costs have risen due to the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound, making imports of some raw materials more expensive, thereby increasing our operational expenses,” Tamam said.

Furthermore, maintaining stable prices for our products over extended periods has become a challenge, potentially impacting profit margins in the future, she explained.

Rising inflation also posed challenges in attracting investors, thereby restricting Reme-D’s access to crucial funding necessary for business growth and sustainability.

However, in this context, Tamam explained to Business Monthly that winning the She’s Next program enhances credibility and reputation, rendering entrepreneurs and businesses more attractive to potential investors, clients, or partners. Additionally, Tamam noted that the monetary prizes accompanying these awards can offer additional resources for further project, business, or initiative development.

Key quote

“We understand the importance of initiatives like She’s Next in empowering entrepreneurs and driving economic growth .. these awards not only uplift individual entrepreneurs but also contribute to the overall resilience and innovation of the business community,” said Malak El Baba, Vice President and Country Manager for Egypt at Visa.

“In times of economic uncertainty, recognizing and supporting entrepreneurship becomes even more critical,” she added.

3 startups won

Three Egyptian startups have been awarded $10,000 each for securing top positions in the second edition of the She’s Next competition, organized by Visa and CIB.

Selected from a pool of over 4,000 applicants nationwide, these women-owned small businesses also received a year of business coaching from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The competition attracted participants from various sectors, such as technology, business, real estate, healthcare, social enterprise, and fashion.

Entries were evaluated by a jury based on several criteria, including the progression of applicants’ entrepreneurial journey, the robustness of their business metrics, digital presence, and problem-solving abilities. The jury comprised Malak El Baba, Egypt Country Manager at Visa; Hany El Deib, Head of Business Banking at CIB; Hany El Sonbaty, managing partner of Sawari Ventures; and Karima El Hakeem, CEO of Plug & Play Egypt.

She’s Next initiative aligns with Visa’s commitment to supporting the digitalization of women-owned businesses.