Posts Tagged Egypt
She started out as a computer science major fascinated with technology. Today, Hanan Abdel Meguid oversees one of Cairo’s better-known online and mobile technology companies. Noting that the company now has offices around the world, Meguid tells Arabic how she bounced back from failure, how she approaches management, and what advice she would offer to would-be entrepreneurs. “Focus on what you really need to build,” she says.
An entire generation of Egyptians grew up under strongman Hosni Mubarak, and few could ever see an alternative to his rule, often quietly joking he was the ‘pharaoh for life.’ Journalist Randa Fouad says she was among the skeptics when protestors first gathered at Tahrir Square.
But the swift end to Mubarak’s military regime, she says, emboldened her countrymen to rethink Egypt’s future. Despite the country’s ongoing political and social turmoil, Fouad is optimistic, telling Arabic Knowledge@Wharton that whatever develops, “Egypt belongs to the Egyptians now. It does not belong to any regime.”
Read the full interview here: http://t.co/kusukHKz
A new direction for Middle Eastern cinema has evolved with the Arab Spring. The revolutions have provided filmmakers with fresh narratives and wider global interest in Arab film, which has dovetailed with an appetite in the Arab Gulf to invest in culture and become a new hub for the industry, one long dominated by Egypt. Interest in filmmaking in the Arab world is also driven by newfound economic potential, both in domestic production and financing international films. Hajer Ben Nasr, a Tunisian documentarian, speaks to Arabic Knowledge@Wharton about the opportunities and challenges for Arab filmmakers. “It’s not yet an industry (but) some people now see an opportunity to make money,” she says.
Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/xJphPg
With daily reports of bloodshed, veteran international negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi wonders aloud what will happen in Syria. Speaking to Arabic Knowledge@Wharton, Brahimi says the country is headed towards a broader internal conflict.
“In Syria, we are moving dangerously in the direction of a civil war,” he says. “I hope people will stop just short of that. That’s why we need a lot of creativity from the Arab League. What does it mean to observe things and people are not protected? Whether we like it or not, we have to work on solutions. If not, there will be violence.”
He does not spare the Arab Spring movement either. Despite the elections that have transpired in Tunisia and Egypt, Brahimi says voting will not solve the problems that led to the movement in the first place.
“What will sustain the movement is building a definite democracy,” he says. “You need to maintain a stable situation where progress is being made. People need to feel better off materially, and also respected. They need the development of citizenship, equality, justice, and the rule of law. As far as I’m concerned, those things are more important than an election. It’s not just about elections. The Egyptians had elections. What you need is dignity and respect for human life.”
Read the full interview here: http://bit.ly/zQycIx
With Islamist parties dominating recent elections in Arab Spring countries, the Islamic finance industry will likely find opportunities to capture large volumes of new customers and emerging infrastructure projects, according to a report by global law firm Simmons & Simmons.
Intent on maintaining a secular financial system, regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were not supporters of Islamic finance, notes Tariq Hameed, a Dubai-based managing associate with the firm, and author of the report, ‘Blue Print for Islamic Finance following the Arab Spring.’
But in elections that have seen Islamist parties come to power, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Shariah-compliant banking has been endorsed as part of a larger social and financial reform campaign. “All of the parties have gone on record saying they support Islamic finance,” Hameed says. “It reflects their beliefs.”
Hameed says at the consumer product level, there is huge potential for growth. Partly because many people in these countries do not have bank accounts — approximately 25% of Moroccans and 33% of Tunisians with bank accounts, and only 10% of Egyptians, according to his findings. “There was a lack of offerings,” he says. “Many didn’t engage with the conventional banking system.”
While expected customer growth would be in volume, Hameed notes that the majority of such accounts would likely be low-income savers. Compared to Arab Gulf countries, GDP per capita among the Arab Spring countries is low: Libya is the wealthiest, but GDP per capita is estimated at just $14,000.
In addition to creating savings products, one opportunity could come from the further development in Islamic microfinance offerings, Hameed notes. Currently there is very little being offered to grassroots Muslims, he says, but institutions will have to serve demand from rural communities and micro-enterprises. The state can act as sponsor of such an initiative, he suggests.
Separately, Islamic finance will become an option for these governments as they seek foreign investment. According to Reuters, a number of Islamic financial institutions are opening branches in Libya, for instance, as it explores the industry. Successful Islamic financing of infrastructure projects already exist in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh, Hameed says, so there are models states can study for implementation.
There remain challenges for the Islamic finance industry before they can reap the potential of these markets, Hameed adds. There are several issues that need to be addressed to ensure growth, his report notes, including the strengthening of consumer protection laws, clarifying governance, and establishing central Shariah boards for finance.
For Western financial firms and businesses seeking to be in the region, they will have to have a capability to engage in Islamic finance, Hameed notes. “If the customer wants Islamic finance, competitors will provide it if they don’t,” he says.
Arab-American technology entrepreneurs have a special role to play in helping Arab Spring nations find their way back to stability and development, according to David Hamod, CEO of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce.
Addressing an audience at the Plug-and-Play Tech Center, a well-known Silicon Valley incubator run by Iranian-born Saeed Amidi, Hamod said such members of the Arab Diaspora could provide the experience and skills needed to jump start innovation in Arab economies.
“For the Arab world to make the transition from hydrocarbon-based economies to knowledge-based economies, the next big thing in a sense is innovation,” Hamod said. “Innovation, hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship, will create those productive jobs that are so vital to growth in the Arab world.”
“There is a special role to be played in this process by Diaspora Arabs, who have made it in Silicon Valley, who have learned the lessons of Silicon Valley and who are uniquely situated to share those lessons with the Arab world,” he added.
Hamod spoke at a global forum examining ways to harness the economic potential of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolution. At a time of uncertainty as well as promise, Arab-Americans are looking inward to discover their role in helping usher in democracy and economic stability in their traditional homelands.
He told the forum attendees that technology alone is only part of the equation. “If the Arab Spring at its heart is about dignity, respect, having a voice, reducing economic disparities and being able to put bread on the table for one’s family, then there’s no time to lose in promoting innovation through entrepreneurial ecosystems,” he said.
Throughout the day some of Silicon Valley’s leading Arab-American technologists reiterated Hamod’s applause-inducing speech by creating an atmosphere that resembled a high school pep rally. There were discussions about cultivating the start-up ecosystem in MENA and perhaps most important, getting access to venture capital.
It is that final hurdle that deserves a watchful eye in the coming months as the grassroots revolutions turn to the formation of new governance. Political resolution might encourage the citizenry to return its attention to the daily duty of work. Hamod said there will be no return to the status quo, but where that leads the region to is anyone’s guess.
The forum was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the great civil rights leader. Hamod found a parallel between King’s fight for freedom in the 1960s and the protests in the Arab world that have broken the stranglehold of entrenched regimes.
He quoted from a portion of King’s famous 1957 speech delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington D.C.:
“Sometimes it gets hard, but it always difficult to get out of Egypt. The Red Sea always stands before you in discouraging dimensions. And even after you cross the Red Sea you have to move through a wilderness with prodigious hilltops of evil, gigantic mountains of opposition. But I say to you, keep moving. Let nothing slow you up. Move on with dignity and honor and respectability.”
King’s speech was meant for an African-American constituency. But it sounds less ethereal to modern Arabs, especially those who risked their lives in Tahrir Square protests one year ago, and for those who continue to grapple with how to move forward after creating unprecedented change.