The democratic upsurge of the Arab Spring has been one of this year’s most provocative international developments. The related question of economic growth in the Middle East is addressed in a new article in TIME magazine, which highlights the role of Endeavor and Egyptian Endeavor Entrepreneurs.
Author Michael Schuman points out that some businesses thrived even under the old regime, but had to contend with excessive government regulation and bureaucratic cronyism that hindered growth. One Endeavor company, El Matbakh of Cairo, has successfully supplied food for large corporate cafeterias for years. Yet in spite of their success, Endeavor Entrepreneur Hiba Jammal has been less than satisfied with the previous government’s regulatory practices:
Jammal says she got lost in a confusing and opaque web of regulations. She hired a lawyer to help her wade through the morass, but it made little difference. ”You can’t get anything done unless you know someone who knows someone who knows someone.”
Her dissatisfaction was mirrored by another pair of Endeavor Entrepreneurs, sisters Hind and Nadia Wassef, founders of Cairo’s successful Diwan Bookstore chain. “The bureaucrats have the productivity of a Cheerio,” complained Nadia. “It is demoralizing. Why would you become an entrepreneur in Egypt?”
Yet there is reason for hope. In the words of Endeavor co-founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg, as quoted in the article, “A collapse of the traditional structures creates an opening for young people who want to create wealth.” In other words, inasmuch as one believes that the previous governments stifled small businesses through corruption, overbearing regulation, and cronyism –- circumstances all described in the article –- a new government is an opportunity to lay the foundation for a new and dynamic marketplace.
And although the author cannot predict the future, he did find a young businessperson with high hopes, IT company OMS’s co-founder Ahmed Kabeel: “I can’t hide that there are a lot of uncertainties in the circumstances around us,” but with the advent of democracy, “if you do something for your country, it will deliver results.”