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Meet the Man Who Changed the Dynamics of CSR in Egypt

10 May, 2017
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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become the world’s way of doing good business. The business model helps transfer money, knowledge and skills to less fortunate communities. In Egypt, where proper CSR is much needed, marketing pioneer Hassan Mostafa is rearranging the entire CSR arena, and others are following his lead. BECAUSE interviewed Mostafa on the second day of his annual Egypt CSR Forum, a two-day event that brings all relevant parties together in the same room.


What inspired you to create the Egypt CSR Forum, and what pushed you to start such a major event?

The idea to start the Egypt CSR Forum came from observing civil society and the private sector, and their developmental and charity initiatives in Egypt. I noticed that several organizations are making an effort in a specific field with little to no achievement, in addition to how each organization works separately, as if they were on different islands. There was no shared vision. Even meetings were usually individual ones. Organizations would go to the government or the private sector for one-on-one meetings, which resulted in creating separate communities of partnership and collaboration. They never tried assembling themselves and working together.

In 2014, a market study focusing on NGOs, the private sector and the government showed that each stakeholder needed to work more efficiently. We found that they are all in competition with each other instead of working to become more integrated. The forum is meant to be the place for integration. To assure its continuation and effectiveness, it had to discuss real problems, not just honor people or give speeches.


What is missing or needs changing in Egypt’s CSR scene?

A lot of companies and NGOs, as well as projects funded by the international community, work on CSR, and the government puts forth a lot of ideas relating to CSR. However, there is no clear connection for them all to work along.

To give an example, if all stakeholders work together on kidney failure or cancer instead of competing, there would be a greater impact. On the other hand, eradicating Hepatitis C was a success story. Egypt now has no waiting list for Hepatitis C treatment. The government, the private sector and civil society united to combat this epidemic, and were able to do so. Why don’t we apply this experience to all fields?


What's stopping CSR initiatives from coordinating?

Everyone sees that their CSR model is the optimum one. This is the result of a lack of awareness for the need of proper integration. But with time, the language has changed.


Which company gives a good model for CSR?

PepsiCo. It applies CSR as the manual dictates. It has internal CSR for its employees, external CSR for communities, as well as governmental CSR for projects it funds and supports. It has clear directions for youth, education and otherwise. Every initiative PepsiCo adopted has succeeded.


How has the forum evolved over the past three years?

The first conference dealt with the role of the private sector in achieving real development and how it can help the government. It was divided between two parallel segments: a conversation between the stakeholders and experience sharing for those seeking CSR training or consultation. International and national governmental and non-governmental bodies, experts and institutions were present.

The second forum came in line with the government's dubbing 2016 the “year of the youth”. We don’t have a problem with the number of youth, given that Egypt has one of the largest populations of youth in the world. We have a problem with quality, and the mindset of youth. The chosen theme for that year was to make a good, productive and internationally competitive Egyptian citizen. Morals, ethics, nationalism and knowledge make better Egyptians. The methods needed to achieve these ideas are what make CSR: education, training, a good working environment and rights and laws that would aid an employer. Numerous initiatives came out of the forum, such as "We Complete Each Other", in several sectors such as education and health. Another initiative was The Sustainable Village, a village with no hunger, poverty, illiteracy or unemployment.

This year things are totally different. By the end of 2016, Egypt had signed the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreement. A plan was laid out to apply the SDGs and push Egypt toward becoming a country that could keep up with these seventeen goals. CSR comprises what’s needed on the ground to achieve sustainable development, and companies needed to comprehend what these goals are to start working on them. We set up the third forum to be in line with the government's 2030 vision. The discussion focuses on achieving sustainable development, legal and tax reforms, incentives for companies, care for SMEs and many other things.


Has CSR in Egypt changed since the first forum? How has the forum affected the field?

One thousand people attended the first forum, 1,200 attended the second and this year, for the forum’s third installment, 750 people attended just the first day. This is an unprecedented success. This shows how much value the forum adds.  

Until we launched our first forum, there was one annual conference related to CSR, that belonging to the Federation of Egyptian Industries. In 2016, the number rose to three. This year, there are more than twenty CSR conferences.

Before, the market did not have a benchmark. We set the benchmark. We pointed out how this community needed to be heard, and what services it requires.


What is next for the Egypt CSR Forum?

A new concept was put forth: the power of SDGs, focusing on which SDGs Egypt needs more, who in the market is working on which of them and matchmaking them all together. The first event in this new series is scheduled for October 23, and the focus will be on sustainable and clean energy.

Tags Hassan Mostafa CSR Corporate Social Responsibility Egypt CSR Forum