Egypt’s Banana Kingdom to ripen in California

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Egyptian social startup Banana Kingdom could be leaving its sleepy Nile-side home for a faster pace of life in Silicon Valley, after winning a pitch competition in Cairo.

Ibrahim El Hadary pitched the company to judges on the final day of Ahead of the Curve’s ‘The Impact’ training program in Cairo at the end of May, beating 11 others to a scholarship to attend Stanford University’s impact innovation course.

Fathi El Hadri pitching his idea. (Images via Eman Mostafa)

Banana Kingdom recycles banana leaves, turning them into textiles, thread and handicrafts, instead of burning them, and is led by CEO Fathi El Hadri.

“Thirty-three million banana trees are burnt yearly, while banana fibers can be extracted and used in spinning, textile, and handicrafts before disposing of the remains without harming the environment. In addition, job opportunities would be provided for thousands of young people and local industries would be supported,” El Hadri told Wamda.

“My factory’s productivity is currently low, considering the funding scarcity. We export the extracted banana fibers, but if we get the funds we need to open 230 factories, we will immediately develop work plans and carry out studies to benefit locally from banana fibers. This requires a $9 million investment,” he said.

Other startups pitching that evening included Irlenegypt, a project which creates educational material for children with Irlen Syndrome, a condition which inhibits learning as children are affected by a loss of focus, hyperactivity and autism, and Tahrir Academy, which aims to provide online education, including school curricula for school students, in an interactive manner based on set scientific criteria, which is what Egypt’s current educational system lacks.

Social entrepreneurship training

The competition was the last stage of the five-day entrepreneurship training program run by Ahead of the Curve’s Entrepreneurship with Impact Ventures arm.

Cairo was The Impact’s first training session and was followed by a second in Dubai in the first week of June.

Social entrepreneurs pitching their ideas before the jury and the audience.

The program aims to create a network of social entrepreneurs and support them through training and education. The end result is to build companies and projects that have a sustainable social impact in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and the UAE.

“Entrepreneurship rests upon three main pillars: efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation. In fact, entrepreneurship preserves the social and economic fabric of societies, and this is why it is an important factor that adds a humanitarian aspect to these projects,” said Mansour Foundation managing director Rania Hamoud.

The 25 participants in the training course included Egyptian Abilities, for the employment of people with disabilities, the Mother & Child online magazine which educates women about pregnancy, and Tawseela which provides shared transport in an attempt to address traffic congestion in Egypt.

The Impact’s training of the first 12 companies.

Supporting entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship with Impact Ventures concept, which has three main areas: training and capacity building through The Impact, providing specialized research and counseling, and offering funding for the early stages of social business projects.

“We should work on creating sustainable job opportunities to young people, as well as focusing on social challenges, such as education, health care, environment, and poverty,” says Ahead of the Curve co-founder Dina Shereef.

By 2016, The Impact training program hopes to empower more than 150 individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to successfully kick-start and scale their social enterprises, expose existing and aspiring social entrepreneurs to potential investors, mentors and board members, and provide new social enterprises with much needed seed investments.”

Eman MostafaEman Mostafa, technology and business geek, works for Argaam & Argaam Digital. You can e-mail her on eman [dot] wamda[at]gmail[dot]com, or follow her on Twitter @EmanMos24674178.

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