Top Ten Tips on Doing Business in Eygpt

The NextWomen is happy to be able to provide information on doing business in Egypt through knowledge partner HSBC.

Business in Egypt is dominated by men. It's a reminder of how things used to be in the United States or Europe a few decades back. Many of you reading this were possibly not around then and so may not fully appreciate the fact. But it's true nonetheless. In the 1950s and 1960s, women were regarded principally as home makers and raisers of children, much like in Egypt now. However, in today's globally-connected world, business is changing, even in conservatively-Islamic Egypt, and women, both foreign and national, are becoming ever more involved.

Having said all of that, Egypt's business and banking infrastructure is most definitely 21st century in both implementation and outlook. Banks are as focussed on supporting business success as their Western counterparts. For example, payments and cash management services in Egypt, vital in the day-to-day running of any business, are the equal of similar services offered by US or European banks. And that's good news for you, or for anyone else looking to expand their business into the country.

Indeed, many of the multinational banks operating in Egypt should be well known – HSBC, Barclays, Citibank immediately spring to mind – but there are also many excellent home-grown banks, too, with proven track records in the business banking world. So if cash management and making business payments, whether online or on the telephone, are important to you in terms of getting things done, then Egypt's banks have it all well and truly covered.

Business meetings are as important in Egypt as they are in the US or the UK. However, understanding the cultural nuances is critical.

So is wearing suitable business attire. For men, that means jacket, shirt and tie, and long trousers. Shoes should be well polished. Hair should be short and tidy. For women, the guide is to dress modestly, which means not wearing anything low-cut or figure-hugging. Arms should always be covered. Skirts should be of a reasonable length and never short. Never wear any 'native' clothing either as that may cause offensive.

When sitting down, don't cross legs and keep both feet firmly planted on the floor. It is considered an insult to show someone the soles of your shoes.

Don't point or make a thumbs-up sign either because both are considered rude and offensive.

Here are 10 top tips for doing business in Egypt from WorldBusinessCulture:

1. 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.

2. When doing business with an Islamic oriented organisation, do not overlook the potential impact of religious issues on any decision-making process.

3. Business is driven by relationships and therefore a great deal of resource and time should be allocated to the development of key contacts.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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).

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Initial meetings can be very time-consuming and appear to deliver very little in terms of tangible returns.

This article was made possible through HSBC. The NextWomen is not responsible for the views or opportunities expressed in this article.

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