Egypt: poised to embark on fast growth
Numbers talk! Egypt’s growth in domestic product is remarkable: GDP 1.78% (2011); 1.6% (2012); 5.20% (2013) Foreign direct investment figures are also noteworthy: FDI $0.66 billion (2011); $3.15B (2012); $6.93B (2013)
Once Egypt’s political situation stabilizes, a more motivated citizenry is expected to drive dramatic economic growth. The country’s youth bulge is being eyed by Western businesses as a potentially lucrative market for consumer goods. As well, expectations are for massive government spending to live up to election promises.
An obvious disadvantage right now: Egypt’s political instability as it transitions to a democracy. This has led to an immediate major drop off in foreign investment and next year’s figures will reflect this drop. However, with a young, aspiring population, Egypt is poised to embark on a period of fast growth.
As in most of the Arabic world, people stand quite close to one another when communicating and many other cultures may feel that their personal space has been invaded. Arabic conversation can be very hyperbolic with much use of flowery language and flattery. This is a protocol of the language and is expected. Do not misinterpret this approach as insincerity or a tactic. Try to express yourself in a similar fashion – especially when establishing relationships.
Who you are and who you know are important issues in Egypt; therefore it can be difficult to break into business without access to the right initial contacts. In order to help develop the all-important initial contacts it is often necessary to appoint a go-between who can arrange meetings and act as a bridge into the culture. It may be necessary to appoint a number of different go-betweens who know the locality (i.e. one for Cairo and one for Alexandria).
Time is very flexible and meetings may start very late and last for many hours. It is difficult to schedule a series of meetings on the same day. Meetings may start with coffee and a great deal of non-business related small talk. Do not try to rush this process. Levels of eye contact are very strong and strong eye contact denotes sincerity and trustworthiness. Avoid touching anybody with your left hand or pointing feet at people as both of these are seen as extremely rude behaviour. Dress conservatively, but very smartly. You will be judged partly on your appearance.
In Egypt, truth and problem solving are often governed by faith and the interpretation of Islamic law. However, you may find that in a business context, empirical evidence is used more in an attempt to be objective.
Can you add to this by sharing your do’s and don’ts for doing business in Egypt?