19 February 2018       Download

Qalaa Holdings (CCAP.CA on the Egyptian Exchange), an African leader in energy and infrastructure, showcased its responsible investing approach along with its integrated education support and human capital development programs at the fifth annual ENID/El Nidaa conference held under the banner of “Youth Enterpreneurship as a Catalyst for Growth and Employment.”

“Entrepreneurship is part of our DNA as a company. We were founded by two young, ambitious and enlightened entrepreneurs, Dr. Ahmend Heikal and Mr. Hisham El-Khazindar who started Qalaa (formerly Citadel Capital) as a two-person private equity startup in 2004. They had the education, forward-looking vision and risk appetite that was necessary to launch a company that grew to build 27 busineses creating 40 thousand jobs in 10 years despite challenging economic conditions,” said Ghada Hammouda, Qalaa’s Chief Marketing Officer.

For more than a decade Qalaa has been investing in the most vital sectors of the economy such as solid waste management, river transportation and energy, and making a sustainable impact as a responsible investor with projects and investment themes that are complimentary to the government’s economic reform agenda. Qalaa’s senior executives have also been actively advocating for private sector involvement in addressing the many challenges that Egypt faces today in crucial areas from education and human capital development, to developing infrastructure and innovative technologies that will rationalize consumption and promote efficiency.

“We aren’t here to talk about social work and volunteering, we’re here to highlight the type of innovative entrepreneurship that can provide opportunities and unlock the untapped potential in our economy. After two revolutions and a prolonged period of instability, I think there is more awareness on the part of the private sector that they need to play a more active role in ensuring that there is more social justice,” said Hammouda.

As one of the first vocal advocates for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Qalaa has been working diligently to align its core business and ESG practices with the SDGs placing a particular focus on six goals; quality education, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, responsible consumption and production, and partnerships for the goals.

“We have been on the forefront of raising awareness of the SDGs within our company and the Egyptian business community at large, said Hammouda. “We couldn’t be prouder of the work that we have achieved particularly in the area of education and human capital development (SDG#4) because we believe that developing and modernizing our education system and providing access to quality education whether it’s in Egypt or abroad is key if we want to bridge the skills gap and progress to the next level as a nation.”

What’s unique about Qalaa’s approach is that it aims to tackle the issue of education from all angles with a holistic approach that includes providing graduate and undergraduate scholarships and training for students and teachers, refurbishing infrastructure at public schools in the community, and providing technical and vocational training through Qalaa’s subsidiaries.

Qalaa has not only invested in large companies and mega projects, it has also looked across the investment spectrum and backed smaller projects launched by entrepreneurs such as Tanmeyah Microenterprise Services, a company founded by two industry veterans to provide micro loans to individuals who otherwise have no access to financial services. In 2009 Qalaa invested in Tanmeyah, a company with EGP 35 mn in capital and grew it more than 10-fold to EGP 450 mn at the time of exit in 2015. In addition to Tanmeyah, Qalaa has also backed startups such as Tawazon and its subsidiaries ECARU and ENTAG both of which are rapidly growing companies in the solid waste management sector offering waste to energy solutions by providing biomass and RDF as alternative fuels. The company is also an investor in Diwan bookstores, a first of its kind retail establishment in Egypt.

“Having gone through that experiment we are passionate about transferring our experience and knowledge to others in the broader community. We realized early on that bidging the knowledge gaps that currently exist in our country will require multiple initiatives. Whether it is the awarding of post graduate scholarships or vocational training and mentorship programs championed by our own executives and employees, our goal has always been to grow the talent pool and unlock the hidden potential within our economy,” added Hammouda.

Qalaa’s flagship education initiative is The Qalaa Holdings Scholarship Foundation (QHSF), Egypt’s largest private-sector funded scholarship program that has thus far awarded 163 merit-based scholarships for graduate studies aborad at top global universities. Each year the foundation provides approximately 15 scholarships to some of Egypt’s brightest students to pursue their dreams on the condition that they return to work in Egypt after they graduate.

“Our founders, Dr. Ahmed Heikal, a Stanford graduate and Mr. Hisham El-Khazindar, a Harvard graduate decided that they wanted to give academically distinguished Egyptian students from all walks of life access to the same types of educational opportunities that they had. So they established QHSF with an endowment that would ensure the sustainability of the program,” said Hammouda.

QHSF scholars who come from 13 different governorates (3 in Upper Egypt), are 45% female, and have graduated to become pioneers involved in cutting-edge business and cultural initiatives that are helping reshape the face of entrepreneurship in Egypt. Entrepreneurial alumni include Hisham Wahby, the Co-Founder Innoventures, an early stage venture capital firm that has worked with more than 800 companies to date, Amina Abo Doma, a cultural entrepreneur and the founder of TheatroEskendria, an art space and social hub in Alexandria, and Randa Fahmy who manages the R&D program at KarmSolar, an off-grid solar technology company that she co-founded in 2011.

Mostakbaly is another groundbreaking project launched by Qalaa’s Egyptian Refining Company (ERC) to provide educational opportunities to both teachers and students from ERC’s local community of Mostorod. ERC is also running two additional programs that provide support for women and youth in their community; Tamkeen provides both financial and non-financial support to help female entrepreneurs while Mashrou3ey is a youth empowerment program designed to support new and existing small projects developed by youth.

“One of Egypt’s most valuable assets is its youth demographic. We firmly believe that youth are the cornerstone of building better communities and a better future for Egypt,” said Hammouda. “We are equally committed to providing ample opportunities for women at both the holding company level as well as on the level of our subsidiaries,” she added.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved but we know that none of it would have been possible without the valuable partnerships that we have formed along the way with both governmental and non-governmental entities including academic institutions, NGO’s and international agencies,” said Hammouda.

The Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID/El Nidaa) was established in April 2012 to develop viable and sustainable employment opportunities in Upper Egypt with the majority of its projects focused on Qena governorate. ENID aims to replicate its approach across other disadvantaged rural communities in the country.