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Young Egyptian entrepreneur wins Mediterranean award  

​ARLEM award for environmental conservation enterprise reflects local-government concern to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Manar Ramadan of Banlastic Egypt, an environmental conservation company based in the city of Alexandria, has won the ARLEM Award for young entrepreneurs, beating contenders from over 50 other new small businesses from around the Mediterranean.

The award, which has been presented annually since 2019 by the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), celebrates both the work of entrepreneurs younger than 35 and efforts by local authorities to foster business-friendly policies.

Banlastic Egypt offers alternatives to single-use plastic bags and provides green services that foster awareness and responsible consumption, by supporting start-ups, by running campaigns, and through partnerships with local government and the public sector. Its overarching mission is to ban single-use plastics.

Ms Ramadan, who is 33, said: "We work for the plastic ban in three different ways. The first is to develop alternative products to single-use plastics, like eco-friendly shopping bags with oriental designs, eco-friendly eating sets and so on. The second is that we realised that if we have the product but don't have an aware customer, then still the mission will not be achieved. So we worked on awareness. The third part, which is the most important one, is that we work on policy-making. So we connect with the policy-makers to support what we do and what other activists in Egypt do, towards plastic bans."

The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, who was in the jury, congratulated the winner: "As the eyes of the world are on COP27 and on the decisions that will be taken to save our planet, we need to support and promote the efforts of those that everyday are pushing the boundaries and delivering concrete actions across the world. Manar Ramadan, a young Egyptian entrepreneur, is an inspiring example for those who believe that change is possible if we tackle global challenges locally."

ARLEM brings together local and regional politicians drawn from the 42 countries in the Union for the Mediterranean, and the award was developed with the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). The award was presented to Ms Ramadan on 8 November at ARLEM's annual plenary , held this year in Izmir in Türkiye, and in the presence of the UfM's Deputy Secretary-General Abdelkader El Khissassi. The award forms part of a series of events to mark the Day of the Mediterranean, created to mark the foundation of the Barcelona Process that led to the creation of the UfM and a new effort to strengthen ties in the region.

The ARLEM award, which is open to entrepreneurs from the EU's partner countries in the Mediterranean, drew applicants from 11 countries: Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, and Türkiye. All the companies have been active for three years or more.

Five other entrepreneurs were shortlisted for the ARLEM award: Ahmed Aouti of DrillSERV, a water-management company in Tunisia; Khaled El Sadi of Blue Filter, a waste-management company in Palestine; Monther Fadel, whose company, Darb Trading, manufactures robots that clean solar panels; Shlomit Gopher from Israel, whose enterprise, Apri Aprons, makes products for children with special needs; and Secil Yurtseven of Integral Yem Gıda, whose company produces animal feed. In all, there were 53 applications from 11 countries.

The applications came from a wide spectrum of business, including: a pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturer from Algeria; an arts association that promotes women's empowerment in Lebanon; and an apiculture enterprise in Morocco.

The evaluation committee included representatives from: the Union for the Mediterranean ; the European Training Foundation ; the European Commission's Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations and Joint Research Centre ; MedCities and the Inter-Mediterranean Commission of Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions ; Eurochambres; Womenpreneur ; and Anima Invest. The evaluation committee was chaired by the European Committee of the Regions , which serves as the secretariat of ARLEM.

The award was won in 2021 by Erilda Krasi of 1001 Albanian Adventures, a tour operator based in the city of Berat. The first two awards went to fashion business for women – Zimni Jadeed – based in Tripoli, Libya, and to a date-processing business – Rima Dates – in Ghardaia, in southern Algeria.

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