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Egypt: the furniture industry generates jobs and wealth in Damietta


As the early morning sun lights the roofs of Damietta, the Egyptian city’s streets begin to come alive. Children are off to school, motorbikes fill the avenues, and shop doors begin opening to welcome their first customers.

It is early in the morning, but the excitement can already be felt in the “Masoud Elkholy Furniture” workshop. Forty people work in the 3,000m2 building, starting up machinery to create wooden furniture. Along with his two brothers, Elsaied Elkholy runs Masoud Elkholy Furniture, the brand founded by his father.

“My father started this workshop. Today, my two brothers and I manage the company. Business has never been better. We’ve progressed a lot over these past ten years,” general manager Elsaied explains.

Since 2009, this furniture brand has grown considerably, and its revenues have literally quadrupled. This growth is due in part to the support program for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) financed by the African Development Bank. “The Bank has let us participate in three trade exhibitions. That’s given us the opportunity to show our work and opened doors for new sales,” says Elsaied Elkholy. “We are faced with many challenges, and the biggest is the lack of experience in design. I build a product that meets my clients’ needs. I have to be up on the latest trends to increase my ability to market my products …” he continues.

And as for design, thanks to the project, local skills have become available. Twenty-year-old Mena Elgalmi, a graphic artist, says, “Because of this project, I’ve been able to participate in a workshop and learn more about woodworking. One day, I hope we reach the stage where we can supervise our own creations. My daughter already likes designing and looking at the images of what we’ve created … I think she has a future in this field.”

 In Egypt, the vast majority of the private sector consists of MSMEs. They employ nearly 80% of the country’s working population. “Damietta represents one of the largest groups in the Middle East and North Africa. Ninety percent of its population works in the furniture industry. Our goal is to sustain these businesses and develop this industry in Damietta,” emphasizes Mohamed Rashad, local representative of the Egyptian Development Agency for MSMEs.

Entrepreneurs in Damietta are among many. Working alongside the Egyptian authorities since 2003, the Bank has contributed by offering consulting services, financing and technical assistance to Egyptian entrepreneurs. The goal is to free up the private sector’s potential to create wealth and jobs.  

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