A New Egypt on the Way to Stability

07 March 2012

Scholar and business executive Moustapha Sarhank told University of Virginia Darden School of Business students that Egypt — rising from the chaos of a bloody revolution — would soon be open for business with the world.

Sarhank, a charismatic orator, said, “I know billions are ready to pour into Egypt once stability is seen.”

He is a seasoned regional executive who was born in Giza, Egypt, and graduated from the American University in Cairo. He is a scholar in the fields of leadership, psychology and religion, and is honorary chairman of the Sarhank Group for Investments — a regional holding company with headquarters in Egypt and Geneva — which specializes in oil and gas and information technology sectors and other fields.

Sarhank, who introduced Microsoft to the Middle East, is also a fellow in the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at the Darden Business School, which co-hosted his visit with the Darden Center for Global Initiatives on 29 February.

Sarhank says the revolution, which began 25 January of last year in a popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was desperately needed. “We did not accept the state of life we were living in,” he said. That life included low wages, few jobs, police brutality, corruption, and a lack of free speech and free elections. There was little hope, especially for the poor.

“People were living at sustenance levels,” said Sarhank, his voice booming at times with emphasis. “Change has now started and change will continue … I believe in my country. I believe tomorrow will be better than today.”

Sarhank, who armed himself to protect his family during the revolution in which many Egyptians were killed or injured, believes that Egypt has become a republic. “Democracy has been embraced,” he said. “But it’s a democracy of Egypt, not a democracy of the West.”

He is a Muslim who does not believe America needs to fear Islam even though the Egyptian Parliament is now dominated by the once banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. “At the end of the day, the majority of the globe believes we are all the same. Do you see me with four legs? Talking in a language alien to you? Talking to ensure you become a Muslim?” he asked.

Of Parliament’s elections, he said, “The people of Egypt have spoken. … Democracy is when somebody is elected — even if I don’t like him or her — I will follow.”

He said the Islamist leaders in Egypt will embrace globalization. “They will do normal, normal, normal,” he said. “No more dogma. Let us be a great nation as we once were.”

Sarhank is passionate about Egypt’s desire to become a world leader in business. He said Egypt is “dying for direct foreign investments. We need time though … We need six to nine months to really settle down.”

He offered tips to Western businessmen who want to succeed in Egypt. “Wash away your preconceived ideas,” he said. “You want to make money? Respect me. I will respect you back and I will make sure you make money. I am not an underdeveloped man.”

Meanwhile, Egypt, currently ruled by a military council, will hold its first presidential election 23 and 24 May. Sarhank believes the military will peacefully turn over its power.

“The Egyptian armed forces have reached a situation of enough is enough … They want to let go.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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David Hendrick
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia