Author: Iman Khattab, Media Manager, Egyptian Steel
2 Dec 2015
Building an empire from scratch, venturing into a difficult market dominated by family businesses, and creating a strong entity amid political and economic turmoil are not easy tasks. Ahmed Abou Hashima, CEO of Cairo-based firm Egyptian Steel, which he co-founded in 2010, is a self-made global entrepreneur who has worked in the steel industry since 1996. After the January 2011 revolution, while most investors were pulling out of the Egyptian market in fear of what the future could bring, he took a calculated risk and pumped $1bn into Egyptian Steel.
Named one of the world’s 100 Most Powerful Arabs by Arabian Business, Abou Hashima has been the recipient of many awards, locally, regionally, and on a global level. He was chosen for the CEO Middle East Young CEO Award and the Arabian Business Best Visionary Award. He’s also the recipient of the 2014 Executive of the Year Award – Manufacturing Industry at the International Business Awards in Paris, in addition to an honorary Golden Award in the same ceremony for Rising Businessman of the Year. In 2015, he received the Responsible Leadership Award from Entrepreneur Middle East in Saudi Arabia, the Rising Star Award from Platts Global Metal Awards in London, and the Young Arab Entrepreneur Award from Murex D’or in Beirut, as well as the Unique Success Story Award, also presented in Beirut.
In 2014, Abou Hashima took a decision to halt all TV adverts for Egyptian Steel, and to redirect this whole budget (approximately $10m) for improvement works in the 20 poorest villages in Egypt
An unexpected path
Abou Hashima’s dream as a young man was actually to become a professional footballer. He landed a spot in the Egypt under-18 team, and played more than 40 international matches until he got a knee injury that changed the course of his life. The dream of becoming a footballer was shattered, yet he considered it merely the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, and decided to find a new dream to pursue. As a college student, he worked in a bank. It was there that he realised that a desk job was not what he envisioned himself doing. He developed a passion for the steel industry, and started off as a trader. “I used to sell steel cheaper than everyone else. I was losing money just to build a name and reputation for myself in a market that is totally dominated by family businesses”, said Abou Hashima. As the years passed, his name in the steel trade became known, respected and trusted. “I couldn’t stop there. I yearned for more, and manufacturing became my new target”, he added.
In 2002, he bought a small share in a steel factory, devoting himself to gaining industry experience. He finally realised his dream in 2010 with the establishment of Egyptian Steel, in partnership with Sheikh Mohamed Bin Suheim, Abdallah Al Shahin and Essam Abel. That was only months before the January 2011 revolution broke out in Egypt. “I had no choice. I was already in the middle of the sea. There was no option but to keep faith in Egypt and to continue our investment. It was a calculated risk we had to take, and fortunately we made the right decision”, Abou Hashima reflected.
Egyptian Steel produces durable, high-quality steel using efficient, innovative techniques, with an eye toward energy efficiency, long one of Abou Hashima’s top priorities. The company uses state-of-the-art, eco-friendly technologies in order to conserve and increase the availability of energy in Egypt. Two mega projects are currently under construction, with launch dates in 2016. Both are massive steel factories, each with a capacity reaching 830,000 tons of rebar annually, enabling Egyptian Steel to acquire approximately 20 percent of the steel market in Egypt.
Prior to the revolution, Egyptians had several unfortunate experiences with businesspeople, which created a negative impression about any person who managed to be a business success. Abou Hashima has taken it upon himself to change this image. He is involved in philanthropic work in his community and across Egypt, and he encourages personal and professional development among Egypt’s youth, who view him as a role model and a symbol of success. Their positive involvement on his social media channels shows that he has, in fact, managed to mend some of the bridges between business figures and the wider Egyptian populace.
In 2014, Abou Hashima took a decision to halt all TV adverts for Egyptian Steel, and to redirect this whole budget (approximately $10m) for improvement works in the 20 poorest villages in Egypt. Egyptian Steel partnered with Dar El Orman Charity to totally renovate and rebuild these villages, as well as providing cattle to the villagers so they can have a steady income to support themselves. “I am proud of what I have accomplished so far. However, nothing gives me a sense of satisfaction and inner happiness as much as the smile I see on the villagers’ faces when they move into their new homes”, said Abou Hashima.
In September 2014, he fully sponsored the ‘New Egypt’ campaign in New York, to promote Egypt as a growing economy and a perfect destination for investment, and to encourage tourism. The campaign included digital ads on the NASDAQ tower, as well as digital billboards and murals across New York. The campaign also continued in Davos during the World Economic Forum, with the ‘Invest in Egypt…The Future’ campaign, and in Berlin in June. Later, in September 2015, the campaign was relaunched on a much wider scale in New York, including coverage in a special report about Egypt in The Wall Street Journal, and a short movie about Egypt being displayed on three of the most prominent towers in Times Square. There was also a street performance, where performers dressed as Ancient Egyptians roamed through New York educating people about Egypt and encouraging them to visit.
Egyptian Steel also conducted print campaigns in African countries such as Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa after the 2013 revolution, to ensure a positive image of the revolution and to make sure that the African community saw the bond between Egypt and other African countries as unbreakable. Abou Hashima has also shown support for the Egyptian economy by donating $7m in cash to the Egypt Support Fund, as well as donating $9.5m worth of steel.
In recognition of his generosity and achievements, Abou Hashima has been honoured by Rotary for his CSR initiatives. He supported and has sponsored the Egyptian Paralympic football team and honoured Egypt’s top 40 students for academic achievements during individual ceremonies in 2013. Additionally, Abou Hashima has worked with Nahr El Kheir, a charity project that supplied clean tap water and sanitation to 1,500 Egyptian homes in rural areas in 2013.
The small dream of a young man who wanted to be a football player took a magical twist, turning him into one of the most prominent figures in the steel industry, a role model for young people who want to emulate his success, and a philanthropist who does not believe that the business world only revolves around materialistic gains.