Coworking Even In Times Of Crisis: The Emerging Market Of Egypt

Coworking has been gathering momentum all around the world; from a plethora of investment rounds, to specialized spaces, to new operators coming on board, there’s been no shortage of coworking news and presence globally speaking.

Yet, certain markets continue to dominate the news over others (ahem: US, UK, and China), and for good reason; these are the markets where operators have focused the most, and the markets where large amounts of money have been invested. But, they’re not the only markets that are seeing growth and opportunity.

Allwork caught up with Urban Station, a coworking franchise with operations in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, and Egypt; to dig a little deeper into the state of coworking in Egypt.

Earlier this year, the Washington Times reported that “Egypt’s core asset and main engine of growth is its youth,” with a median age of 23.8 years. Having a young population can be very advantageous, but only with the right conditions. “Attaining high economic growth and creating jobs through efficient utilization of Egypt’s young human capital requires the transition from an efficiency-driven economy towards a more innovative one,” the article reads.

Luckily, that’s exactly what Egypt has focused on in the last several years. In September, 2010, The Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center was founded in Egypt. Its goal is to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in order to benefit and improve the national economy. In other words, the country was providing some of the tools and infrastructure necessary to boost entrepreneurship among its vast youth.

Coincidentally, “in 2010 there was also a hike in businesses focused on the Food and Beverage Industry,” Khaled Abdel Razek, owner of Urban Station Egypt, tells us. “At the time, there was a big need to provide people and businesses with space to work in, in a convenient and friendly environment.” It wasn’t, however, until 2012-2013 that coworking started to gain significant traction in some of Egypt’s major cities.

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Fast-forward 5 years, and “the coworking market in Egypt is rising with a lot of new players coming on board. In my opinion, the competition is relatively high within the fragmented market we have here,” Khaled mentions. Still, operators in Egypt are facing a challenge that’s all too familiar to operators in other countries:

“The response to the increase amount of coworking spaces has been positive and there is an increasing interest in the shared workspace environment. However, there is still a lot of work to be done regarding awareness and understanding of the concept behind coworking and its various benefits.”

Khaled and the team of Urban Station plan on increasing this awareness by increasing their presence in the Egyptian market.

“The Urban Station business model is designed in such a way that it facilitates expansion and growth. Our goal is to have an Urban Station space in every major corner of Egypt. This will help us promote the concept of coworking, as well as support the notion of flexible work, entrepreneurship, and innovation,” Khaled commented.

That’s a tall order, but it’s not the only challenge operators in Egypt will need to overcome.

“There are challenges on the macro level that we’ve had to deal with. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the country, its politics, and the economic crisis we recently went through (and are still living with).”

Nonetheless, there remains ample opportunity for flexible workspace operators in the region. Florencia Faivich, Founder of the first Urban Station in Argentina and its franchise model, commented that “coworking in Egypt is moving forward, especially in the major cities. Entrepreneurs and big companies are coming together to form business and innovation hubs, confirming that there is a target market in the area that needs to be catered to.”

According to recent news, Egypt’s economic crisis is over. Whether this is true or not, it remains to be seen. However, if there’s one thing we’ve been able to learn about uncertainty and crisis (we’re thinking Brexit), it’s that flexible workspace operators tend to thrive in these situations, as flexibility becomes key to the success of businesses and companies look at operators are strategic allies.