Internet clicks come with a cause in Egypt

2016-04-24 14:42
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Al-Jendaya - Egyptian mother Aaz Menhom cups her hands under a running tap in her yard to let her young children Atef and Nada drink.

"It's a blessing from God. I was bathing them once every four days, now they can wash every day," she says, beaming broadly.

Menhom, 27, whose family share a sparsely-furnished one-room home with her sister and five nephews, used to have to ask for water at neighbours' doors.

Armed with a bucket, she had to repeat the exhausting process several times a day just so she could do her daily chores.

But all that has now changed as a result of clickfunding, a concept launched in Egypt by a startup business, Bassita, that has transformed Menhom's life for the better.

Bassita, which means "simple" in Arabic, is harnessing the growing Internet penetration in the country and raising funds through social networking campaigns.

It posts photos and videos of micro-development projects, and sponsors undertake the funding once a certain number of shares and "likes" are raised.

"You're one click away from changing the world," reads a banner on the bassita.org website, founded in 2014 by two Frenchmen in their 30s who have settled in Cairo, Alban Menonville and Salem Massalha.

The goal is to "revolutionise" online advertising, said Menonville.

"If I want Facebook advertising to reach a million people, Facebook will ask me a price," he said.

"Instead of paying it to Facebook the idea is to pay it for something positive, and the Internet user will provide visibility," he said.

"The user becomes a philanthropist," said Massalha, who is of Egyptian origin. "As far as we know, no one else uses this model."

The company has also boasted success in other fields.

Partnered with a Cairo optician, it campaigned in 2014 to fund 1,000 pairs of spectacles for craftsmen and women, including embroiderers in the impoverished Fayoum province, southwest of Cairo.

Clicks for water 

The dramatic improvement in Menhom's life came through a joint campaign with the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to supply running water to 1,000 homes in southern Egypt.

About 7.5 million people in Egypt have no access to clean water in their homes.

A video showing the comedian Maged al-Kedawny, along with the Arabic hashtag "a click connects to water," was viewed on Facebook more than two million times in three days after the campaign's launch in February.

One hundred homes have been connected to piped water since mid-March, according to UNICEF.

"In the next six months, 1,000 homes will be connected to water in four provinces," said its Egypt representative, Bruno Maes.

Several companies are financing the $170 000 project, which includes a hygiene awareness programme.

Among the sponsors are US giant SC Johnson, Egypt's Wadi Degla and the Emirati ride hailing app Careem.

"In the end everyone is a winner, there will be more people who see the campaign, and the more money invested, the more partner companies gain visibility," said Careem's director in Egypt, Shalaby Hadeer.

Bassita, which won a 2015 Orange Prize for African social ventures, wants to export its success story.

"Europe needs environmental projects, Africa perhaps more in health and transportation. This model can apply to all those problems," said Menonville.

Read more on:    egypt  |  north africa  |  social media

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