In collaboration with Egypt’s Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) inaugurated on Sunday the first innovation lab of its kind at El Waily youth center.
The inaugural event was held in the presence of H.E. Dr. Ashraf Sobhy, Minister of Youth and Sports, H.E. Ambassador Han-Maurits Schaapveld, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Egypt, Dr. Valerie Liechti, Head of the Office of International Cooperation of the Swiss Embassy, Mr. Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in Egypt and Mr. Eric Oechslin, Director of the International Labour Organization.
The innovation labs model is a new component under the ‘Meshwary’ programme.
With the support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and from the Embassy of the Netherlands, UNICEF in collaboration with MoYS will establish innovation hubs inside youth centres. Each center will be run by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The model aims at contributing to the socio-economic empowerment of Egyptian and non-Egyptian youth through promoting their social innovation, digital, and entrepreneurship skills to support them in their learning to earning journey.
In his address, Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhy affirmed that the Ministry of Youth and Sports pays great attention to the field of innovation and entrepreneurship in the current era, especially to implement innovation labs within youth centers as part of its role in qualifying young people for the labor market and helping them start small, medium and micro-projects and enterprises after graduation.
“These innovation hubs will play a big role in promoting social innovation, digital skills, and entrepreneurship in order to support these youth.”
In the same connection, the Minister of Youth said: “We want to have an innovation lab in every youth center to provide support and training for young people to find appropriate ideas for their own start-up projects.”
“This lab will support entrepreneurship and encourage young innovators in all Egyptian governorates to discover, refine and nurture their talents while directing these talents in the right paths that serve the national development,” the Minister emphasized.
At the end of his speech, Sobhi hailed the fruitful cooperation and long-term partnership with UNICEF, especially in the ‘Mashwary’ program, which spanned over 14 years, during which it was able to reach nearly 400,000 young men and women in 15 governorates representing Upper Egypt and the Delta.
Also, Dr. Sobhi highlighted that the “Meshwary” program has been able to provide youth, including the Differently Abled, with continuous opportunities for capacity building and career guidance, through two main components, the first is skills development and the second component is vocational counselling.
On his part, Mr. Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in Egypt said, “We strongly believe that all young people must have access to the right skills that will enable them to be active citizens and agents of change in a changing world.”
Hopkins continued: “Through this model, UNICEF in collaboration with MoYS and with the support of the Swiss “Youth for Future” programme and the Netherlands “Prospects” programme embassies will work on ensuring that all young people over time, have access to innovation labs such as these in which they can work on innovative ideas and enhance their skills.”
Speaking to Sada Elbalad English, Amani Mohamed, one of the ‘Mashwary’ Program ambassadors and a life skills trainer said: “The ambitious program has been supporting the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems and empowering fresh minds all over the country.”
“We are targeting young people who are between the ages of 16 to 24 years old about living and committing themselves to social service,” she said.
In total, six innovation labs are being established in Egypt with the support of the Office of International Cooperation of the Swiss Embassy and the Embassy of Netherlands in Egypt to develop social innovation, digital, and entrepreneurship skills among young people including refugees and migrants, according to UNICEF.
The innovation labs model is an extension of the ‘Meshwary’ programme that promotes youth employability and empowerment.
It’s worth mentioning that ‘Meshwary’ has been under the auspices of the Prime Minister since May 2021 and has been led by the Ministry of Youth and Sports since its inception in 2008. It has reached 400,000 young people with life skills, and employability skill as well.