Civil work in Egypt is a main pillar for development for both the private and public sectors. There are over 40,000 NGOs in Egypt and they naturally compete among each other. One of those NGOs is holding currently an excellence contest between a number of NGOs to present their projects and win major prizes with the aim to encourage civil work in Egypt. Daily News Egypt interviewed Tamer Badawy, vice chairperson of the Professional Development Foundation (PDF), to learn more about this contest and its conditions.
Where did the idea of organisation come from?
It started in the 1990s when we noticed the major gap between graduates of Egyptian universities and the requirements of the labour market, so we wanted to bridge it through training programmes with international institutions and we managed to reach agreements in this regard. The success rate of recruiting employees was 90%. Then, we started paying attention to training employees in various sectors in order to have them keep up with the global management systems.
Does the organisation focus on training only?
No, but it is a major part of our focus. We believe civil work is the third pillar of development and supporting civil society will be reflected on the entire state.
What are the aspects on which you focus in NGOs?
We believe that managing NGOs must be done with the same system of the private sector, which means more focus on efficiency. The private sector knows how to choose its employees and make profits. The civil organisation sector mainly relies on donations, which are not enough. The financial resources of such organisations must be developed.
Is not civil work based on volunteering?
Of course, for example, right now I work as a volunteer, but when I worked in a civil organisation, I received salary that suited my experience. Successful organisations must hire employees who have the efficiency needed. Everyone who works for us has an experience in either the private or the government sectors in his specialty.
How did the organisations cooperating with you benefit from this relation?
We have programmes prepared and given to NGOs to benefit from. Forming cooperation networks among NGOs serves very important common objectives. The response to our programmes was great.
Where did the idea of the excellence competition come from?
It stemmed from the same philosophy we rely on. We know that competitiveness contributes to success globally and always develops businesses to present better service at lower prices. This is was the idea of the competition which we presented to the Minister of Solidarity, Ghada Waly, and she was very enthusiastic about it. This is the third year for the prize.
What is the criteria for choosing winner organisations?
We have a clear criteria for evaluating organisations. We have two arbitration committees. The first is specialised in the civil work and the other includes legal experts.
Do you intervene in choosing the winner?
I only manage the process. We collect the projects of different organisations, but the specialised committee evaluate them. We have nothing to do with choosing the winners.
How are these committees formed?
We hold internal discussions to choose the members of the committees. They should include high-profile figures known for their integrity and have good reputation, as well as representatives of the ministry of social solidarity, being the governmental body responsible for supervising civil work in Egypt.
How did NGOs react to this competition?
During its first year, 140 organisations applied, 250 in the second year, and 350 this year. These numbers do not meet our ambition, even though they do increase every year. We hope to take the number to 1,000 NGOs, and instead of giving prizes to the first three winners, we aspire to make a list of top 10 NGOs in Egypt.
What are your plans for this competition in the next few years?
We hope to see more organisations participating in the competition and attract more sponsors because we only have two now. We want the private sector to contribute more to the competition.
Do you see that the number of civil organisations in Egypt, estimated at 40,000, is huge?
We must make two very important points clear. First, this figure is not big in a country like Egypt. I have been in France recently and I carried out a survey on the civil society there and found over 2m NGOs.
Second, we must consider the effectiveness of these organisations and the actual services they offer to the society. The active organisations would not be more than 2,000. In contrary, all the organisations abroad are effective. I hope we have 100,000 or 200,000 NGOs in Egypt.
Do we have a welcoming culture for civil work in Egypt?
There is a problem in how the role of civil work in Egypt is perceived. The sector was launched a long time ago, but very unorganized. I hope to see more students in civil work activities and benefit more from them, given that they would come up with projects that benefit the society.
Can NGOs be managed similarly as profit companies?
There are some similarities between the two sides, however risks is part of the private sector’s work, unlike civil work. Funds cannot be risked, so organisations cannot really put their funds in stock market. Even though, the Egyptian law regulated this issue, so NGOs can establish joint corporations with the private sector in certain activities. They would not cost a lot but will achieve good revenues for civil organisations.
Do you work in these activities?
We have already cooperated on several educational programmes with universities like Harvard. As we are a civil organisation, we obtained and offered the programme at low prices in favour of the society. We injected the profits into the organisation’s other activities. Donations, important as they are, could suddenly decline or stop as was the case in 2011.
Why do you pay special attention for education and training?
Developing human resources is one of the most important steps to guarantee sustainable development. Investing in humans is the best investment to be made.
Why the organisation stopped recently?
Because we found that the state became aware of education and training sector and has started to develop it, so now we are more concerned with developing civil society because we believe it is the future.
Why many training programmes failed?
Because they focused more on the theoretical side, without specifying certain skills to be mastered. They did not give much attention to the feedback. In training for specific skills is important to provide workers with better work opportunities. Short and long term strategies are also important in that case.
What do young people need in Egypt in order to be qualified for the international labour market?
They need to read. Young people must educate themselves instead of relying on the private or public sector to do so. They must rely on themselves. Academic degrees do not do much now, and large companies do not really care about the degree you received and care more about your skills and capabilities.
Have you taken part in the state’s development projects?
Of course, this is one of our main priorities, because it gives us as well as the state’s projects a good push instead of letting everyone work in isolation.
Was this your strategy in a specific project?
Yes, in the development project of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, we thought about training students from Ismailia, Suez, and Port Said to have the logistical skills required for such a project. We ended up training a number of individuals a needed by the project. We also trained employees from the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI).
What are the obstacles standing in the way of civil work in Egypt?
The NGOs law was one of the major obstacles. We were pleased when the president demanded making amendments to the law. It has hindered many projects with foreign partners, and we had to adhere to it, but we were glad it would be amended. The second obstacle was the mentality of those working in NGOs and their way of management which should change.
What do you expect from these amendments?
Quick and flexible working mechanisms. This is all we ask for, alongside more control and transparency.