Entrepreneurs in Egypt: Lamya Marafi

 In News

Young entrepreneurs in Egypt are part of a new wave of self-employment sweeping the nation, and Mostafa Shahat writes about them.

Social entrepreneurship is not only helping young people feel connected to their communities, but it also increases their ownership of their communities and encourages civic engagement. Lamya Marafi, a social entrepreneur, believes that a community is built by young people’s efforts and contributions, and when we are offer them the space to work together, creative and innovative ideas will develop. Lamya has founded one of the very few unique educational initiatives: ‘ikteshaaf’, which means in English discovery.

ikteshaaf is an educational initiative that serves as a knowledge space for learning and developing innovative ideas for emerging civic leaders. ikteshaaf aims to establish a network of Egyptian youth eager to discover their leadership potential through interactive learning and knowledge-sharing with a focus on civic leadership. The week-long educational programme offers numerous workshops in various professional and community topics for university students.


Lamya studied Middle East Studies at AUC (American University in Cairo), and she pursued her master’s degree at King’s College London, focusing on Conflict, Security and Development in 2013.

‘I wanted to study Middle East Studies despite it not being a popular field and only foreigners being interested in such a topic, but I wanted to be more connected with my community and not to feel isolated’, says Lamya.

Lamya used to write about entrepreneurship and feature entrepreneurship success stories at Community Times Magazine in Egypt and NextBillion.net. Lamya worked in several organizations that support civic society in Egypt. She was working as a Program Coordinator at Lazord foundation, which supports programmes for youth through non-profit and civic leadership engagement across the Middle East and North Africa, as it provides educational, programmatic and financial resources to partner organisations which serve youth in local areas.


Lamya has different international entrepreneurship and leadership experiences as well. She was accepted in the AIESEC exchange program where she conducted interactive workshops in five schools on entrepreneurship, leadership, culture diversity and religious tolerance in Poland. She was also accepted as a Facilitator and Project Initiator at The International Youth Leadership Conference (IYLC), which is ranked one of the world’s leading youth leadership conferences and is part of Civic Concepts International (CCI) foundation.

Lamya founded ikteshaaf in 2015, and the first programme gathered a group of Egyptian youth between 18- 24 years old. For five days, they attended several workshops and classes about civic leadership, social entrepreneurship, women’s rights in Egypt, fundraising, project management and other related topics.

ikteshaaf’s vision is to focus on community-building and ensure that those who participated in the ikteshaaf programme continue to believe in and apply ikteshaaf’s values both inside and outside the ikteshaaf community.

‘This is my most challenging experience as a social entrepreneur because community-building is focused on civic leadership and transformational leadership instead of individual transformation’, says Lamya. ‘Thus, the key challenge is to ensure that each individual can relate these values to their individual needs and motivations and still be able to contribute to the ikteshaaf community and beyond, especially given their diverse academic backgrounds and professional interests’.

One of main strategies of ikteshaaf is to continuously engage the ikteshaaf community in weekly ‘knowledge space’ circles to reflect on their aspirations and fears as civic leaders with a focus on knowledge sharing, storytelling and mentorship.


ikteshaaf is based on nine main values that reflects its vision and which its community believes in and adheres to:

  • Innovation: Encourage a creative learning journey for human growth.
  • Knowledge Sharing : Provide an educational environment for holistic learning and knowledge sharing.
  • Tolerance: Create the ability for others to accept differences constructively.
  • Empathy: Foster sincerity towards the community and understanding human feelings.
  • Social Responsibility: Build civic leaders who are dedicated to benefit their communities.
  • Hypothesizing: Inspire human curiosity for knowledge.
  • Authenticity: Promote and appreciate human originality.
  • Achievement: Focus on how to develop sustainable goals.
  • Faith: Strengthen human inner voice and trust.

Lamya is fully committed to ikteshaaf, and she is currently pursuing different grants opportunities, so she can run more programmes and sustain the organisation.

Article submitted by Mostafa Shahat, the volunteer responsible for Arabic guest bloggers in the MENA region and an entrepreneur who has established one of the most successful youth communities in Egypt, Goal Oriented Learners. Mostafa studied social entrepreneurship in USA and is currently the Middle East & North Africa representative at StudySearch (Nigeria) and the Egypt representative for All Events in City (India). Mostafa is also a reporter at Nudge Sustainability Hub. Email him at mshahat@golteam.org and check out his other blog A Syrian’s Success in Egypt and more from his Entrepreneurs in Egypt series.

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