Doing business in Egypt

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Egypt, a captivating country known for its ancient wonders and the majestic River Nile, holds a significant place in history and culture. Throughout its long and diverse history, Egypt endured various periods of foreign occupation. In 1922, the country gained independence from Great Britain, leading to the establishment of the Kingdom of Egypt. However, a military coup later transformed Egypt into a republic in 1953.

With a population of approximately 100 million, Egypt stands as one of the most populous nations in Africa and the Arab world. The bustling capital, Cairo, is home to over 20 million people, making it a vibrant and dynamic metropolis.

Egyptian society is characterised by its rich diversity, encompassing different ethnicities, religions, and cultures. While the majority of the population practices Islam, there is also a significant Coptic Christian minority. Arabic is the official language of Egypt.

Business culture in Egypt

Egypt's cultural values are deeply intertwined with its historical heritage, ancient civilisation, as well as its Islamic and Coptic Christian traditions. Some of the core cultural values that shape Egyptian society include:

Family and Community: Egyptians highly value family bonds, emphasising close relationships with extended family members. Additionally, community support and solidarity are of great importance.

Hospitality: Egyptians are renowned for their warm and welcoming hospitality, considering it an honour to invite guests for meals or to host them in their homes.

Honour and Pride: Egyptians take pride in their country's rich cultural heritage, demonstrating their patriotism through religious celebrations, festivals, and national holidays.

Relationships and Trust: Building personal relationships and trust is paramount in Egyptian business culture. Taking the time to establish rapport with potential business partners before discussing business matters is essential.

Respect: Egyptians hold great respect for individuals in positions of authority, including government officials and religious leaders. Hierarchical structures are prevalent in most companies, where decision-making can be deliberate and proceed at a slower pace.

Understanding Egyptian business etiquette and practices is crucial for working successfully with your counterparts. Use proper titles and show respect for the managerial status of individuals. Calling Egyptians by their first names should only be done if they offer it first, unless working in a more informal global organisation.

Business meetings in Egypt often commence with small talk and socialising. Allow time for this, before proceeding with your main agenda.

While Egyptians have a more relaxed attitude towards punctuality, it is still important to arrive on time and respect the other party's schedule. Egyptians generally prefer a polychronic work style, where discussions may cover multiple topics simultaneously.

Meetings and negotiations tend to be lengthy, involving extensive discussions and back-and-forth exchanges. Interruptions are normal and should not be seen as a lack of interest. Patience and respect are crucial during negotiations, and aggressive or confrontational tactics should be avoided at all costs.

Communication tends to be more direct than in other Arabic-speaking cultures, with extensive use of gestures and body language. Frequent physical contact is common, while pointing at people or objects should be avoided. Direct eye contact is considered sincere and helps build trust but adjust it accordingly in certain situations.

When interacting with people from more conservative backgrounds, it is advisable to avoid discussing taboo subjects such as religion, politics, sexuality, and any form of criticism of the country. Caution should also be exercised on social media platforms, as negative comments can have severe consequences.

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Inspired? If you want to learn how you can work more effectively with your Egyptian colleagues, clients or supplier, contact us for a 'Doing business in Egypt' sample course outline.  All training is tailored to meet your needs and delivered at a location of your choice.

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