New ideas and connections were shaped as Egyptian pioneers in sustainable development joined up for the first part of DEDI Green Gate project. Two upcoming workshops will bring them together with Danish counterparts.
By Rasmus Boegeskov Larsen
In 2071 the son of Elon Musk is in control of the planet’s development. Technological advances have allowed the world to halt global warming, but it has come at the price of submission to the master of technology. Citizens all over the world have had his chips inserted into their hands.
That was one of the visions for the future, when 12 of Egypt’s pioneers in sustainable development were asked to predict how the world will look like in 50 years. While the young changemakers are full of hope that they can make a difference, they are in no denial that the future is likely to be a challenging place to live in.
Another look in the crystal ball produced a scenario where much of Egypt had been submerged in waters of the rising seas. However, innovators had managed to find a way to sustain Egyptian agricultural production by moving farming on to the surface of ships sailing in the huge lake that used to be the Nile Delta.
“Our visions for the future can seem quite dystopic. I think the reason for this is that we all have our hands deep into the problems of sustainability. We know well it won’t be easy. This knowledge restricts us and could easily make us disillusioned, but I have strong hopes that we will keep fighting for change”, says Adham Mohamed Youssef, a biomedical engineer and consultant, working for Habiba organic farm in Sinai and the waste management company, Biomasr.
He is part of a group of Egyptian entrepreneurs and community organizers working with sustainable development that have been selected for DEDI Green Gate project. They met for the first time at DEDI’s offices in August 2021 for a workshop on visionary thinking and sustainable business models.
Different context and similar perspective
Looking into the future was one of several exercises meant to introduce the participants to each other and ignite their first interactions. In parallel with the meeting in Cairo, 10 Danish pioneers in sustainability met in Aarhus and also travelled together to the future. In one of their scenarios the world had also been flooded which caused people to live in small tribal communities that traveled and moved around by canoe.
In the next phase of the program, the Danes will travel to Egypt in October 2021. They will join the Egyptian participants for a week-long program of workshops, meetings and field visits to explore innovative projects by youth movements and companies. The plan is that the exchange will be reversed in November when the Egyptians are supposed to travel to Denmark for another week of learning, inspiration and cooperation.
The goal of the Green Gate project is to support and promote sustainable pioneers through partnerships and dialogue.
“We want the young entrepreneurs and practitioners to exchange their experiences, views and knowledge, and to expose them to the real-world challenges in sustainable development. Our hope is that it can lead to cooperation across borders and generate innovative solutions for the local and global challenges facing the Danish and Egyptian communities”, explains Rana Khamis, program manager at DEDI.
Such a platform for exchange of ideas and experiences is a unique opportunity for the participants.
“Our field is very dynamic and it is all about getting new ideas and then trying to translate them into something you can carry out in reality. Therefore, it is very beneficial to learn how others are doing this. Even a small idea can light up spaces in your brain that wasn’t lit up before”, says Ahmed Yassin, co-founder and marketing strategist with Banlastic, a social enterprise based in Alexandria that tries to tackle the problem of plastic pollution.
“We really need such a platform where we can meet people in similar situations. Not because we all think the same way, but because we can understand the way each other thinks. It gives me hope to be with people who are always looking for solutions, even when they are imagining the most dystopian scenarios”, he continues.
The peer-to-peer exchanges in DEDI Green Gate program are also meant to advance the design and implementation of sustainability prototypes and strengthen planning of strategies for outreach and community coverage. These are some of the most challenging phases for green entrepreneurs.
“I have studied environmental engineering, so I have the scientific base. But I lack the application. I believe this social experience is very important. It is not just about science and business. You need to be able interact with a lot of different communities and individuals”, says Salma Enan, an environmental engineer working with Egypt Solid Waste Management Center of Excellence.
“It will be great to learn how they have done things in Denmark, and how they got to where they are today. And similarly, to learn from other Egyptians how they implement their ideas and interact with different communities around the country.” She added.