By: Annie Baptiste
On Saturday morning the 29th of March, I found myself flying over the desert on route to Cairo, Egypt. Len Haasbroek and Franchising PLs had been invited by the Egyptian Banking Institute to conduct a series of workshops to Egyptians banks on the advantages of financing franchises and how to structure such deals.
The sunrise over the vast expanse of nothingness was quite impressive. Not as impressive, though, as the opportunity that lay stretched out below me. I was going to get rich in Egypt! What I could see from the airplane window and then later from the hotel shuttle, was city block upon city block crammed full of grey, unpainted, ten story buildings.
The opportunity was clear. I was going to get stinking rich supplying paint to Egypt.
En route from the airport I had my first encounter with Cairo traffic. I am by no means a novice when it comes to heavy traffic and free-for-all driving. I pride myself on having survived New York, Rwanda and even the mother of all disasters, Lagos! But Cairo is extra special! A three-lane highway quickly becomes a five-lane disaster and everybody just goes forward whether there is space to or not. We were never in any incidents but I did not see one single car without a dent or scratch.
The opportunity was clear: I was going to get stinking rich by bringing the Dent Doctor franchise to Egypt.
I quickly came to the realization that the biggest problem I would have in becoming stinking rich in Egypt, was not the current unstable political climate or even the fact that the average Egyptian is fairly poor, but that they: “Just don’t give a damn!” This sentiment is in inverted commas because it was not my thinking, but the exact words from a few of the locals we were working with every time I mentioned my plan. Apparently the apathy towards road rules and various other aspects of daily life has only been in effect since the 2011 revolution, when millions of Egyptians marched in the streets to protest the then government of Mubarak. Their economy came to a screeching halt and apparently Egypt basically did not have a police force for two years.
The Egyptian Social Development Fund and the African Development Bank have identified SME development as a way to create employment and thus also grow the economy. Hence the creation of a special fund that is solely for the funding of SME’s and franchises. Just as in South Africa, the financing institutions quickly realized how much less risk there is in financing franchises rather than single SME’s.
Even though Egypt’s franchising market is still small, there are less than 50 franchised systems currently operating in Egypt, there are many local businesses that are enthusiastic about using franchising as an expansion mechanism.
Having recently been to Dubai and having spoken to many companies that are either expanding into or from the MENA region, there seems to be many opportunities in Egypt. I was gob-smacked by the latest retail additions to the Cairo landscape. I saw a huge IKEA and the City Stars Mall in Heliopolis was a sight to behold (see picture below). This mall consists of six stories of retail bliss, hidden under a glass pyramid, which was still teeming with customers at eight o’clock at night.
I had to giggle at a few of the sights and it reminded me that Egypt is still a part of Africa, even though it is on the opposite end of the continent. This KFC looks like it should invest in a gallop-thru! Horse-drawn carts were a regular sight, even on the highway.
Cairo was a melting pot of contrasts: Unfinished grey buildings with luxurious interiors; Roadside fruit traders next to the most sumptuous mall. Horses and camels resting next to American fast food chain outlets; The best quality fresh fruit and vegetables in the hotel, just a stones through away from the dessert; State of the art main-street retail outlets next to heaps of building rubble.
I have come to the conclusion that even under the surface of a seemingly chaotic Cairo there is an economic revival waiting for the outcome of their elections. It seems the whole country is at a tipping point. I suspect that no matter what the outcome of their election, Egypt is set for huge economic growth and the world has started investing, hoping to be at the forefront of this boom.
I, however, am going to have to satisfy my desire for becoming stinking rich by selling a new paint colour name to Plascon or Dulux. It is the colour of Cairo buildings, sand, roads and basically anything else that is outside, and I am going to call it: Cairo Morbid. Maybe they will give me something for this idea?
The opportunity is clear: Franchising Plus will be continuing their work in the MENA region and with our extensive network of contacts we will be able to assist with taking local brands there. Please feel free to contact Annie Baptiste on firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.