A New Start during COVID-19
How one of the beneficiaries of "Meshwary" overcame challenges and started his project during COVID-19 pandemic
Among the precautions taken by the Egyptian government to curb COVID-19 was to limit the activity of many sectors, especially restaurants and cafes. In April 2020, a decree was issued to stop dine-in services at restaurants and limit their services to home delivery. This caused severe financial losses. Many businesses were forced to lay off workers, reduce their wages or shutdown.
In such difficult circumstances, Salah Al-Bassal, 23, was working in a restaurant in Zagazig governorate. Salah says: “Half of the staff were laid off. I was among the other half who were told that next month's salary is not secure. I thought: why do I put myself in such situation? Will I keep working for someone else forever?"
Salah had already started preparing for his own project a month before the restaurant management's decision. Leaving his job was just the beginning of acceleration.
In January 2019, Salah joined “Meshwary”, a project supported by UNICEF in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) and funded by the Netherlands Embassy in Cairo to train children and youth to become more economically and socially empowered.
Salah and his fellows received trainings on life and employability skills as well as project management. He also benefited from career counseling services by different facilitators. Salah says: "This professional advice was very useful to me. I come from a village with limited opportunities. It's hard to start a business or get a job that's a bit untraditional. I had a project idea long time ago, but I could not find guidance before "Meshwary"."
Deeper look at the crisis
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Salah noticed that ecommerce was flourishing because of the lockdown. He decided to make use of his passion and previous work experience as a shipping representative. Using 1000 Egyptian Pounds he had saved from his previous work as a capital, he partnered with some friends to sell some products through a Facebook page.
Benefiting from what he had learned in "Meshwary", Salah studied the current market very well. He says: "Few people trust online products in Egypt. With the current financial situation, I expected they will not buy expensive items. I started by products which are most affordable and convenient for the long stay at home."
Salah's selection of the first products proved to be successful. Within two weeks of creating the page, he sold many laptop tables that were in high demand because of working from home. He divided work with his partners to follow up on the page's requests and orders, customer service throughout the day and delivering orders while adhering to safety precautions.
Shifting to online training
In May 2020, "Meshwary beneficiaries received news that trainings that had been suspended in youth centers due to the pandemic would be replaced by skills development sessions and online training for the youth beneficiaries.
Salah's success in his own project made him eager to help others benefit from "Meshwary" through the internet. With his friends, he created a team of volunteers to advocate for participating in " Meshwary" online trainings among youth to develop their skills online and communicate with each other for support and assistance.
Continuing the journey
Salah spend the long stay at home communicating with coaches and trainees and interacting with his new clients on social media. On the next step, Salah says: "I dream to turn that Facebook page into a company. I sketched the office space I have in mind, pinned it in my room and used it as a background for my phone because I believe you should be able to 'see' your target in front of you all the time."
Find out more about what UNICEF Egypt does for adolescent development.