The Role of Technology in Egypt’s Future

By Takreem El-Tohamy

Takreem El-Tohamy, GM, IBM Middle East and Africa
Takreem El-Tohamy, GM, IBM Middle East and Africa

IBM has been doing business in Egypt in 1954, and we’ve continued to invest in the country and support our clients ever since. We’re committed to helping Egypt develop a world-class tech infrastructure, even through the turbulent changes in government of the past few years. I’m proud of that track record, both as an Egyptian and a long-time IBMer.

I believe information technology is essential for Egypt to fulfill its potential as a peaceful, diverse society, a thriving economy and a business hub for the region.

We renewed our commitment to Egypt this week when CEO Ginni Rometty made a three-day visit to Cairo to meet with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and other top governmental leaders. She and her senior management team also exchanged views with government and industry leaders at an IBM ThinkForum, one of the conferences that we hold around the world to explore seismic shifts in business, technology and society. This is Ginni’s and her team’s third trip to Africa in the past three years.

Egypt is a major market opportunity for us. With 85 million citizens and one of the largest economies in Africa, there’s strong demand for our  technologies, services and business advice – especially cloud, analytics, mobile, social, mobile and security. It’s imperative that we succeed there.

Building a long-term business in developing countries requires a combination of patience, fortitude and optimism. When challenges emerge, you can’t wait around for things to get better.  You must act as a catalyst for progress.

Today, we announced a three-year agreement with the Egyptian government to make new investments in our operations that will add roughly 800 jobs over the next three years.

We’ll establish a new digital sales center in Cairo that will serve as a hub for IBM’s online sales, marketing, customer relationship-building activities throughout the region.

IBM already has a significant presence in Egypt–employing not only sales and marketing teams, but also software programmers, technical and business consultants.  Together, they serve the local, African and global markets.

Indeed, over the years, our Egypt team has have played pivotal roles in successive government initiatives, including the national personal ID program, the social insurance system, and the passport and visa systems. Within the private sector, operate core systems on behalf of most banks, airlines and retailers. IBM is essential to the country’s technology infrastructure.

IBM has also created one of the largest digital archives in the world for the Egyptian National Archives, with over 90 million documents.

Last year, President el-Sisi launched a major new initiative, the Suez Canal Area Development Project, with the goal of increasing the canal’s role in international trade and developing three new cities, each with its own modern industries. The project is modeled on the success of Singapore. We plan to take part.

We’re not just a supplier of advanced technology. We also form partnerships with governments and business communities to help them build healthy business ecosystems and to foster innovation.

In the early 2000s, we operated major call center operations in Egypt, and though we later divested that business, we remain committed to helping Egypt achieve its goal of becoming a major global outsourcing hub.

Now, Egypt aims to build a large software industry capable of developing products not just for Egypt but for all of Africa and the Middle East. We’re supporting that effort in a variety of ways, including a program we run with the government that’s designed to help independent software companies develop services to run in cloud computing centers.

The cloud model is still in early stages of adoption in Egypt, but it has great potential here–and could make it easier for local companies to expand their reach to new geographies.

When I joined IBM in Cairo in 1984 as a fresh college graduate, there were only a few information technology jobs available in Egypt and there was no home-grown tech industry. Now, the landscape is shifting. For the 500,000 students who graduate from Egyptian universities each year, opportunities are opening up in technology and business careers. Ambitious young people can become entrepreneurs. In fact, they can become anything they want to be.

Just as IBM helped me launch my career in 1984, it’s helping thousands of other Egyptians fulfill their dreams today–not just IBM employees, but people who benefit from new technologies and from the growth of the tech industry.

I live and work in Dubai now, but when I return to Cairo on business or to visit with family, I see the potential for Egypt and its people. I know Egypt has a bright future, and I’m proud IBM is helping the nation achieve its aspirations and potential.

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