With Egypt’s international reputation stained over recent years, one Egyptian CEO has nevertheless displayed
determination to see both his company and his country succeed
Ahmed Abou Hashima – today one of the Middle East’s most influential tycoons and CEO of the Egyptian Steel Group – has not only taken his young company (established in 2010) to become one of the leaders of the country’s most integral industries (the steelmaking sector), he has also been reinvesting profits towards reviving the economy and repairing the damaged perception of Egypt overseas.
While the rapid growth of Mr. Abou Hashima’s Egyptian Steel Group over the last five years has helped stir competition in the country’s steel manufacturing industry at a time when the country has been suffering from deep crisis (boosting productivity in a sector that has taken on greater responsibility due to the decline of tourism revenues), the CEO has been resolute in making an even bigger difference as Egypt now begins its long road to recovery.
Keen to do his bit in re-attracting American visitors and businesses to the country following the years of political and economic turmoil that had driven them away, Mr. Abou Hashima decided to sponsor a high profile advertising campaign that promoted the ‘New Egypt’ on the streets of New York.
Coinciding with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to the United Nations to attend the 69th Session of the General Assembly last September, the ‘New Egypt’ campaign – of which Egyptian Steel was the sole sponsor – endorsed Egypt as a country of peace, prosperity and growth, with huge advertisements spread throughout Manhattan.
Following the huge success of this campaign, Mr. Abou Hashima and his Egyptian Steel Group were again the company behind a new endorsement launched at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The ‘Investing in Egypt…The Future’ campaign also promoted business and tourism in the country with numerous ads displayed across buildings in the city of Davos, which advertised the forthcoming Egypt Economic Development Conference to be held in Sharm El Sheikh on March 13-15th.
“It’s my duty as an Egyptian citizen before being a businessman to correct and improve any misconceptions that could be made about my country,” says the patriotic CEO. “The campaigns we launched in New York and Davos were the minimum we could have done. I believe Egypt’s image abroad is gradually but steadily improving.”
Mr. Abou Hashima’s commitment to helping his country get back on track doesn’t end there. In March 2014, the businessman was bestowed the ´Best Visionary’ award at an Arabian Business event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which was granted for his pioneering work on an economic and industrial initiative known as The Dream Project. The brainchild of Mr. Abou Hashima, The Dream Project aims to dramatically boost the Egyptian economy by focusing on the development of strategic industries and tackling the country’s energy deficiency problems. Aimed at attracting $10 billion of local and foreign – particularly Arab – investments to Egypt over a period of six years, the project will generate around 300,000 direct jobs, and 1 million indirect jobs.
Mr. Abou Hashima – who at the age 40 is one of Egypt’s youngest and most successful CEOs, and also owns stakes in a prominent news website – is evidently not afraid to put his own money where his mouth is. On top of his work to make ‘The Dream Project’ a reality, in August 2014 he donated a further $7 million to the Long Live Egypt Fund. Launched by President Al-Sisi, the fund calls on all Egyptians to donate a sum of money – small or large – to help recover the economy and build the nation’s future.
“I am a firm believer in the future of Egypt,” says Mr. Abou Hashima. “My faith in this bright future was manifested through investing $1 billion in a heavy industry such as steel after the revolution. In my opinion, this was a calculated risk.”
Indeed it seems a risk that is destined to pay off. Although the Egyptian steel industry is expecting low profits from 2014 due to a rise in steel imports, since Egyptian Steel Group broke on to the scene in 2010, it has been very successful in penetrating the steel market (of which there is a growing domestic and international demand). Having contracted the Italian firm Danieli – leaders in steel plant technology – to construct and operate new production plants, ongoing expansion projects are designed to further boost the company’s presence in the steel production industry. When the group’s four new factories are completed and in full operation by 2016, it aims to achieve a production capacity of 1.8 million tons per year of rebar and coils and 1.7 million tons of steel billets, or 20% of Egypt’s market share.
“After we have completed our projects in Egypt, we are looking to duplicate these steel plants in other African countries that have potential,” explains Mr. Abou Hashima. And as Egyptian Steel continues its impressive growth, the CEO hopes to reinforce the company’s solid track record for sustainability and environmental and social responsibility in the future, after being given a number of awards in 2014. “We’ve received ‘Best Industrial Group in Egypt’ from Amwal Al Ghad, a prominent Arabic publication in the Arab world; a golden award for ‘Leading Activities in CSR, Environment Standards, and Sustainable Development’ from the Federation of Egyptian Industries; and a silver Stevie award in Paris for ‘Best CSR Program of the Year for Middle East and Africa’. My plan is to keep this standard throughout the next five years.”