Can entrepreneurial attitudes and mindsets be changed? A study on effects of edutainment in Egypt

    Drew Gardiner
    By Drew Gardiner

    In Egypt, when youth were asked about their career aspirations, 65% answered that they preferred employment in the public sector while only 24% expressed any interest in starting a business. While Egypt's economy has faltered in the years since the revolution, opportunities for business are growing while the share of public sector employment is declining. How can we change the attitudes and mindsets of young Egyptians so that they begin taking advantage of these opportunities?

    Well, one of the most obvious ways might be through their television sets. Egyptians watch ALOT of tv, 99% of Egyptians have a television in their home. With that in mind, the ILO through the Taqeem project has been supporting the broadcast of a youth entrepreneurship reality TV show called "El Mashroua" (meaning "The Project"). For a closer cultural reference, think about "The Apprentice" but contestants wear hijab's instead of ties! Fourteen contestants under 30 years of age test their business ideas against eachother under the watchful eye of 5 experienced entrepreneur judges. The nationally televised show has been a huge hit in Egypt with 8 million people tuning in for the first season. The show has been produced and broadcast through a NGO specializing in social messaging and sensitization, Bamyan Media.

    But what really are the effects of such a strategy? If the goal is to change mindsets of young Egyptians and encourage them to start their own business, will business start up rates increase? Will youth led businesses grow? Can media alone change attitudes despite stagnant markets and difficult start up procedures in Egypt ?

    A team of researchers from ILO, JPAL, Silatech and 3ie put these questions to test by designing an impact evaluation to run in parallel to the TV show. A baseline of over 9,000 young people who expressed interest in starting a business were interviewed just prior to the start of the show. Since then, the respondents have been divided into an encouragement group, who receive regular text messages asking them to watch the show, and a control group, who receives a message about a different show running at the same time as El Mashroua. The differential effect between the two groups (a randomized encouragement design) will tell researchers about the impacts of the show. First results are expected in early 2015.

    Comments and questions on the piece of research are encouraged

    For more information:
    The study:
    The show (with english subtitles): Google search "Bamyan Media El Mashroua Vimeo"