Cairo, 9 December 2010 – The First Microfinance Foundation Egypt (FMF-E), an institution of the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, is holding a three day exhibition, 9-11 December 2010, in the Maadi neighbourhood of Cairo, to offer artisans from the Darb al Ahmar, Gamaleya and Mansheyat Nasr districts an opportunity to showcase and sell their products to a broad audience of the city’s local and international residents.
The exhibit, which is designed to introduce the work of microfinance clients to a broader market of shoppers from Cairo and tourists from the Middle East and beyond, will have 35 stands with leatherwork, arts and crafts and the traditional mother of pearl boxes created by the artisanal community in Darb al Ahmar.
This exhibit is part of a broad effort to revitalise Darb al Ahmar, one of Cairo’s poorest districts, through a number of coordinated initiatives, including the Cairo Economic Livelihoods Project (CELP). The Project uses career and job counselling services, craft development, business development services and access to microfinance to increase and improve employment opportunities for men and women in the area. Other projects of the Aga Khan Development Network include the 35 hectare (74 acre) Al-Azhar Park, a number of restoration projects in Darb al Ahmar, including the Umm al Sultan Shabaan mosque, the Khayrebek complex and Aslan Mosque and Square, as well as health, education and civil society programmes.
“Watching businesses grow and Darb al Ahmar become a thriving community with healthy families shows that microfinance and business development services are highly complementary and can further the success of clients,” said Khaled Al-Gazawi, the Chief Executive Officer of FMF-E. “Microfinance alone cannot alleviate poverty.”
CELP is a bilateral agreement funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada in collaboration with FMF-E and the Darb al Ahmar Community Development Company (CDC).
As part of this project, the CDC complements the work of FMF-E by targeting the under-employed and unemployed with vocational training. After training is received, CDC clients can be referred to FMF-E for a loan to build their own businesses. The CDC also supports artisans through access to international designers, training courses to refine their traditional craft and the tools to market their products.
In a neighborhood where few residents have a formal education, business development services teach entrepreneurs how to operate and manage their businesses more efficiently. Courses include instruction on financial literacy and basic accounting, business planning, marketing and sales. They also help businesses reduce the environmental impact of their activities on their neighborhood and help micro-businesses to transition into the formal economy. In 2009, with the financial support of CIDA, FMF-E established a Business Development Center. FMF-E now offers five courses at the training centers located in Darb al Ahmar and Mansheyat Nasr. At the end of September 2010, FMF-E had extended fee-based training to 4,360 clients, of which approximately 56% were female.
“All of these factors combined will benefit the community by strengthening and establishing a more gender and environmentally sensitive business sector,” said Ferry de Kerckhove, Ambassador of Canada to Egypt in his speech at the opening of the exhibit.
Through this exhibit, FMF-E is helping to revitalise a community that until 2003 lacked basic infrastructure and services. By strengthening businesses and improving the income and employment potential of its clients, FMF-E is playing an active role in the socio-economic development of the region.
AKDN’s Social Development in Egypt
Programmes in Egypt began with the creation of 30-hectare (74-acre) Al-Azhar park on the site of what had been a rubble dump for 500 years. Today, the project has evolved well beyond the Park to include the restoration of 1.5 kilometres of the 12th century Ayyubid wall and several landmark buildings, as well as socio-economic initiatives in the neighbouring Darb al-Ahmar district. These include housing rehabilitation, microfinance, apprenticeships and healthcare. Nurse’s training and early childhood education programmes are also underway in Aswan.