Affectionately known to its residents as Um al-Dunya—or the “Mother of the World”—Cairo boasts one of North Africa’s most innovative tech startup ecosystems. And with a local population of 9.5 million, it’s also the Middle East’s most populated city and an ideal launch pad for digital products and services aimed at local consumers.
Make no mistake: Cairo is a lot more than pyramids and politics these days. With the rapid expansion/availability of internet access throughout the country, low cost of starting and running a business, and glut of young, tech-savvy Egyptians entering the work force each year, Egypt’s capital is uniquely poised to reap the benefits of the region’s tech industry boom.
Here are 11 reasons why Cairo might be the next Silicon Valley.
11. A sizable population of digital/mobile consumers with a demand for new products and services.
Cairo’s population is 9.5 million and growing, compared to Egypt’s overall estimated population of over 93 million. A large percentage of these are smartphone users: in 2017, the number of Egyptian smartphone users is expected to hit 23.6 million—and is expected to reach 28 million by 2019. This represents a huge opportunity for tech startups looking to cash in on Egyptians’ increasing need for data and electronic services.
10. A workforce of young, tech-savvy professionals.
Cairo boasts a highly-educated population of young professionals. With its multitude of internationally-ranked universities—the American University in Cairo, the German University in Cairo, Cairo University, and the Modern Sciences and Arts University, to name a few—the city’s workforce is among the best-educated and most highly-skilled in the region.
9. Ample business opportunities in developing basic internet and mobile services for the rest of the country.
Though Cairo is a wired city, the rest of the country is lagging in internet access/connectivity. This is changing fast, however—rural areas are currently at 40% when it comes to internet penetration. Business opportunities abound with newly-connected Egyptian communities joining the populace of digital consumers on a continuous basis.
8. Low cost of starting up a new business venture.
In spite of Egypt’s infamous bureaucracy, the cost of launching a startup venture is relatively low in comparison to other tech startup hubs—around $1,500. Additionally, Cairo is an affordable place to live on a shoestring budget: its cost of living index is 73.06% lower than that of New York.
7. A friendly business environment conducive to starting new tech ventures.
The recent change of government has diversified the tech economy significantly away from older tech monopolies, clearing the way for new startups to take root in the fertile soil of the Nile Valley. For example, the government made a concerted effort last year to boost the country’s solar sector, throwing its support behind renewable energy startups and enterprise players alike.
6. An ideal geographic location for starting a global tech company.
For ambitious tech startups looking to expand globally, Cairo is in the idea geographic location. The city is positioned at the crucial nexus point between Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean Europe—subsequently, Cairo-based startups enjoy the benefits of three unique markets and a diverse range of customers with their own preferences/needs and tastes.
5. A local business culture that fosters a forward-thinking, innovative mindset.
Egypt’s break with its old government gave way to the emergence of a highly progressive business culture in Cairo. With a steady supply of qualified labor, the emergence of a handful of highly successful startups, and increasingly tech-savvy consumer base, the country and its burgeoning tech scene is currently a hot topic amongst Egyptian and foreign entrepreneurs/investors alike, eager to stake their claims.
4. A recent track record of tech startup successes.
Heard of Slickr, Instabug, Zex, Usertalk, Eventtus, or Tennra? How about Swipe ‘n Tap, Filkhedma, or WallStreetChamber? These popular digital offerings are the brainchildren of the best minds in Egypt’s budding tech scene and have been making waves both domestically and internationally.
3. A multilingual city and country, proficient in the world’s major languages.
No Arabic? No problem—though you might want to brush up on yourColloquial Egyptian. The country is refreshingly multilingual with great numbers of English, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Chinese, and Korean speakers, among others. Of course, most dialects of Arabic—as well as several African languages including Swahili and Amharic—are well represented as well.
2. The rapid rise of the local e-commerce space.
Like most other aspects of Egypt’s tech industry, ecommerce is one of the fastest growing consumer spaces still open to market entrants. In fact, the local ecommerce space is projected to grow at a rate of 35% over the next couple years.
1. A rich local culture situated in one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
Of course, Egypt’s rich and ancient history has been the subject of global fascination for centuries—but on a day-to-day level, Egyptians are famous for their their hospitality, warmth, humor, and generosity. New entrepreneurs from abroad will find that locals go a long way towards creating a comfortable and welcoming climate for doing business.
In short, Cairo is well on its way to becoming the premier tech hotspot of the Middle East. Be sure to keep your eye on this dynamic city as it evolves into the Silicon Valley of the Nile Valley. Yalla bina Masr!