Feature: Mobile coffee vans help tackle youth unemployment in Egypt
INTERNATIONAL - "It's profitable business that doesn't require a certain place or time," said Islam Mohammed, an owner of a coffee van that sells hot drinks in three areas on the outskirts of Cairo.
Mohammed, 29, told Xinhua he started his small business five months ago with aid of his father who financed the car and the equipment for making coffee.
In addition to Turkish coffee, he also serves tea, cappuccino, Nescafe and some different Egyptian traditional drinks like sahlab (milk mixed with starch and peanuts.)
For youth, food and drinks carts, bikes and vans are an escape from unemployment and an attempt to increase their income.
The food carts have always been a familiar scene in Egyptian streets but usually with senior uneducated people. But it has become common to see the middle-aged males and females start to use their private cars to sell coffee near the malls, universities and big markets.
The university graduates have decided they will no longer cry over their dusty certificates, and take matters into their own hands, often turning their own cars and trucks into mobile cafes.
"Unexpectedly, the clients are increasing day by day," said Mohammed who hired an assistant to work with him for eight hours per day. When he started his project, Mohammed spent only 3,000 Egyptian pounds (181 U.S. dollars) on the components, materials and mugs.
For Mohammed, selling coffee now has become his main job, but for others who work in governmental work, it's only a method to increase income.
According to money-makers website, the project of coffee vans costs 8,000 pounds for equipment without the prices of the car. Mostafa Samir, a 38-year-old accountant, sells the coffee after finishing his work at 4 p.m.
"My wife encouraged me to use our own car and I bought the drinks-making-machine with 5,000 Egyptian pounds," Samir said, explaining his business flourished around Cairo University, where students prefer to buy hot drinks without sitting in local coffee shops that serve Shisha and cigarettes.
However, getting the license is still a problem for those young people which force them to change their locations to escape penalties from the municipal authority. In 2018, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had instructed to legalize the situation of street vendors.
The parliament later approved for the first time a law that regulates and legalizes the situation, making it possible for youth to pursue that well-needed new source of income.
The law grants the right to operate a food cart, after getting a license from the respective administrative authorities. The license would only be granted to Egyptian citizen over 18 years old, who hasn't been convicted of any criminal offense.
The license will be only valid for three years, and is subject for renewal with costs up to 5,000 pounds. Paying the fees of the license is the simplest step, Samir said explaining that the most difficult time is the paperwork that must be finished from many authorities like the traffic, the health department for the food and then the municipality for the location.
In case of violation, the law sets a number of penalties up to one month's imprisonment and a fine of 20,000 pounds for anyone who works on a mobile food cart without that license.
While his small business income helped in paying his children school fees, Samir sees such kind of projects will reduce the unemployment rate that has reached 7.5 percent, according to an official statistics published on Thursday.