For over 6000 years, people have lived along the western banks of the Nile River in what is now known as Upper Egypt. Cities there thrived during the time of the ancient pharaohs, connected by vibrant culture and a robust system of commerce still admired today.
In more recent times, however, the effects of colonization and political upheaval have left modern Egyptians with high poverty rates and widespread unemployment, especially among young people. A series of government reforms in 2015 have helped stabilize the economy, though in Upper Egypt’s rural villages millions remain jobless, with limited services and infrastructure.
Social entrepreneur Sameh Seif Ghali is helping to change that.
After decades working with relief organizations including UNICEF and Catholic Relief Services, the community development expert founded Together Association for Development and Environment (TADE) in 2006, focusing on improving the lives of its mostly rural citizens. In 2014, TADE became Kiva’s first Field Partner in North Africa.
Ghali’s first enterprise was to implement a series of low-cost sewage and water treatment systems across Upper Egypt, including in his native town of Minia. The program’s model of community accountability and low-interest financing quickly found success, earning its founder accolades from the social impact world.
Since then TADE has expanded its services to support entrepreneurship around the region, especially for the younger population, including:
- Microloans and other financial services
- Business classes and coaching
- Sustainable agricultural training and husbandry
- School sanitation and maintenance
- Environmental education
Driving the progress of TADE’s programming is the participation of the people it serves. Each sanitation project, class schedule, and environmental assessment is based on input from individual communities and families, adapting Ghali’s model to meet their needs and improve livelihoods.
Ensuring that entrepreneurs have access to capital is a vital way to build economic stability and reduce unemployment in Upper Egypt. And the stories of those who have taken out loans with the help of TADE and Kiva show how life changing it can be on an individual level.
How Mohammad filled a niche
After Mohammad, a father in his 30s, was unable to pay for law school, he learned how to sew fashionable clothes and repair sewing machines. Figuring his skills would be in demand around Minia, he saw an opportunity to open a business in a part of town with no other tailors or repair shops and obtained a small Kiva loan to procure his supplies.
Mohammad was so successful at filling this niche that after he paid off the first loan, he took out another one, powered by 96 Kiva lenders, to buy fabrics and a more advanced sewing machine. This helped generate so much business that he was able to hire his sister—the business now supporting two households.
Demand for repairs grew enough that he had to rent a separate workshop next door, employing three others to help—creating enough revenue that Mohammad was able to buy the entire building.
Growing up in the poverty of Minia, Mohammad had no idea his “undeveloped project” could grow to support so many others, and he gratefully acknowledges the role Kiva lenders and TADE have played in his success by “their belief in him and his story."
“All thanks and respect to both TADE and Kiva's lenders around the world who helped me take the loan and train me to choose the right project and study it well.”
For women in Upper Egypt, employment is further out of reach. Seventy percent of women in the region are unemployed, and illiteracy rates are twice as high as their male counterparts. Notes the World Bank, “almost all young women in Upper Egypt with no formal education are jobless.”
For Dalal, finding work that would suit her obligation to her husband and four children proved challenging. The family needed more money than what her husband brought in, but she didn’t know where to start. After attending TADE’s business and management sessions that helped her explore her options, she decided to try her hand at animal husbandry. A Kiva loan helped her buy a few cows to fatten and sell for meat and milk.
A year later, Dalal had repaid the loan and was ready to expand her business. With her established credit, she was able to take another loan to buy more cattle. The profits helped purchase a tuk tuk that her eldest son uses to cart and sell dairy products around the city, and she hopes to soon grow even more to breed and sell calves.
“All thanks and respect to both TADE and Kiva's lenders around the world who helped me take the loan and train me to choose the right project and study it well,” says Dalal, who was able to achieve this stable source of income through the power of microfinance.
A sustainable future
As TADE continues to broaden its sanitation and educational services, it relies on a interconnected web of experts in specialized departments:
- Financial management
- Engineering management
- Project management
- Technical support
- Institutional capacity-building
- This network in turn helps rural citizens build infrastructure, receive education, and pursue financial opportunities that turn Kiva borrowers into thriving entrepreneurs.
It’s a model that has already made an impact on the region and can continue to bring prosperity—as long as citizens keep in mind those who will follow them.
In order to create lasting change, Ghali admonishes, we must “believe in sustainable development—meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
You can help create lasting change by lending as little $25 to a Kiva borrower.