It is important to research any company before approaching it in order to determine whether it is state-owned or private and secular or Islamic in orientation.
When doing business with an Islamic oriented organisation, do not overlook the potential impact of religious issues on any decision- making process.
Business is driven by relationships and therefore a great deal of resource and time should be allocated to the development of key contacts.
Who you are and who you know are important issues in Egypt; therefore it can be difficult to break into business without access to the right initial contacts.
In order to help develop the all-important initial contacts it is often necessary to appoint a go-between who can arrange meetings and act as a bridge into the culture.
It may be necessary to appoint a number of different go-betweens who know the locality (i.e. one for Cairo and one for Alexandria).
Egyptian companies tend to be hierarchical and power usually rests in the hands of a small number of key senior managers who make all the major decisions.
Managers tend to give direct instructions and subordinates are not expected to show initiative. If something is not specifically requested, it may not get done.
Meetings can involve sitting in rooms with unknown people who are simultaneously meeting your contact. In effect, several meetings may take place at the same time.
Initial meetings can be very time-consuming and appear to deliver very little in terms of tangible returns.
Time is very flexible and meetings may start very late (if at all) and last for many hours. It is difficult to schedule a series of meetings on the same day.
Meetings may start with coffee and a great deal of non-business related small talk. Do not try to rush this process
It is important to offer lavish compliments to your host – and be prepared to receive them in return.
Do not try to do anything on Thursday or Friday and avoid key issues during the month of Ramadan.
People may stand much closer to you than you are comfortable with. Try not to back away as this can seem stand-offish.
Levels of eye contact are very strong as it denotes sincerity and trustworthiness.
Avoid touching anybody with your left hand or pointing feet at people as both of these are seen as extremely rude behaviour.
Do not comment on the political situation in the Middle East or make any adverse comments about the influence of Islam.
Women are less prominent in business than in the West but play a more prominent role than in some other Middle Eastern countries (i.e. Saudi).
Dress conservatively, but very smartly. You will be judged partly on your appearance.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Egypt. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Egypt and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: