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A loving hand
Published in Ahram Online on 16 - 03 - 2021

Al-Bazaar Exhibition for Handicraft and Home Decoration is being held for the first time, with the goal of boosting products made in Egypt.
The exhibition, from 11-20 March, is located in the Exhibition Ground in Nasr City in Cairo. It was organised by the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (MSMEDA).
According to Shehata Gharib, manager of the Exhibitions Department at MSMEDA, more than 400 producers exhibited their handcraft. The products on display are a variety of handcraft home decorations, food, accessories and clothes that promote the slogan "Made in Egypt".
The exhibition is a response from MSMEDA to Torathna Exhibition (Our Heritage) which took place in October 2020. The exhibitors sought to repeat the exhibition every three months because they said it represented a good opportunity for 90 per cent of the entrepreneurs to market their products, Gharib told Al-Ahram Weekly.
He said some entrepreneurs received direct loans from MSMEDA valued between LE5,000 and LE20,000 while others received loans from other associations and intermediate entities.
MSMEDA is a national institution mandated to supporting micro, small and medium enterprise sector (MSME) directly or in coordination with concerned governmental bodies, non-governmental organisations and international institutions in Egypt.
"We are here for the second time and we will come again," Amira Mohamed and Mona Ahmed told the Weekly at the entrance of the exhibition. Mohamed and Ahmed are neighbours from Heliopolis who found the exhibition a good opportunity to buy home decorations, gifts and encourage young investors.
Ahmed was particularly drawn to the work of one exhibitor from Al-Wadi Al-Gedid (New Valley) governorate who draws with sand. "His work is artistic and he deserves much more than the price tag on the product," said Ahmed, adding that he deserves support because he comes from a governorate that lacks many of the opportunities that are available in the capital.
For Hemmat Fouad, who has been running an upholstery business for 10 years, the reasonable rent of the booth made the price of the products affordable for most customers.
Head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt Ambassador Christian Berger visited the different heritage-based products booths of the exhibition. "Glad to be right here at this exhibition and see small entrepreneurs and artisans growing and marketing their businesses.
"This actually reflects our cooperation with MSMEDA," said Berger who also visited the Business Development Unit (BDU) that provides technical services for start-ups.
MSMEDA established the BDU to channel technical services for exhibitors and business start-ups, including professional photographing for products, design of promotional items and websites alongside business development services. MSMEDA implements the unit in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Ahmed Al-Keilani of the Industrial Department at MSMEDA told the Weekly. Al-Keilani said around 15 websites are created for the exhibitors on a daily basis.
For many, the exhibition is a good market for different types of products and success stories from all across Egypt. Zahra Magdi, 33, a 2008 graduate from the Faculty of Science, started her private business in Saint Catherine in South Sinai in 2017. "I studied medical plants and discussed with Bedouin women how they dry fruits and vegetables that grow over the mountain. Then I developed what they do for my brand, super food," Magdi told the Weekly.
Magdi focused on selling her healthy food to hikers. Then Covid-19 hit her business like many others so she found that exhibitions were a good market for her products, wishing, she added, that Bedouins would increase their harvests so business would increase as well. She encouraged her older sister Maryam to share the experience. Her sister decided to make natural soap and makhmaria (a scented body cream) from natural products and sell them online, Magdi said.
The age of the participants varies just as do their products and their governorates. From Beir Al-Abd, North Sinai, Mohamed Darwish, 60, sits in his booth surrounded by traditional Sinai attire. "I started working with my wife 35 years ago. We teach Bedouin women Sinai embroidery to keep our heritage," Darwish said.
Another example of women empowerment is Inshirah Mohamed, 70. Mohamed told the Weekly that she started her business 40 years ago with three loans from the Egyptian Small Enterprise Development Foundation (SEDF). SEDF has been funding small projects since 1988.
The foundation has 36 branches in Greater Cairo, Sharqiya and Daqahliya governorates.
Ibrahim Shata, public relations manager at SEDF, said the foundation offers short term loans at interest that do not exceed four per cent. The foundation funds projects with LE80 million monthly, he added. According to Shata, the support given to Khan Al-Khalili merchants and handcraft producers helped them overcome the financial crises they faced after Covid-19.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 March, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


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