September 27 2013 Martin TRONQUIT

Back From Cairo, Egypt

Working on Infomineo‘s expansion plan, I had the occasion to make a business trip to Egypt recently and wanted to share a few impressions.

First of all, if I hadn’t known about the recent political events I would probably not have noticed anything. The city is roaring, people are busy and you don’t see protesters or flags or any traces of violence (at least where I went, including in Nasr city which is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood). The only light sign is that there are a few checkpoints here and there, for example on the road to the airport, but with today’s global terrorist threat you see this is many cities, from Paris to New York or Casablanca. There is no consensus among the people I spoke to, including supposedly well-informed journalists, on whether the situation will stabilize or will, on the contrary, evolve to more violence.

On another note, before I went to Cairo I thought I had seen big cities, like Paris, Tokyo or New York, but Cairo seems to be on a different scale. I am not sure where this impression comes from but it is probably linked to the impression of chaos the city gives, given the anarchy of construction, the horrendous traffic (it is not uncommon to be blocked in a jam for 1 hour without moving more than 100 meters), and to its very large surface (you can drive 50 kilometers and still be in the city).

The contrast between most of the city and the few places aimed at modern business is all the more impressive. When you are in the City Stars complex in Heliopolis, in the Smart Village next to Giza pyramids, in the Twin Towers next to the Nile or to a lesser extent in the Maadi Park in the city center you can only be impressed by the quality of infrastructures, feeling like you are in Dubai!

The economy shows a sharp contrast between the current depressed economic situation, with 30+%  unemployment among the university graduates, a falling tourism sector, a not so efficient administration, and the quality of the people you can find. In fact, most of the Egyptians I have seen seem sharp, creative, ambitious, open (especially to the Gulf region) and speak a very good English. That makes me very confident in the country’s ability to develop into a services hub for the region if the political situation remains stable and the government develops a pro-business policy.

On a lighter and final note, I have to say that one point unimpressed me when I was in Egypt, which is probably linked to the fact that I am a Frenchman living in Morocco: food is not a strong point of Egypt. It seems that when you have had a chich taouk and a Turkish coffee you tried all there was. But that may be what someone should be ready to accept to have the chance to live or work in this great place!

Martin TRONQUIT, Managing Partner, Infomineo.

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