From heroic activists to kickass social entrepreneurs and scientists, Egyptian change-makers dominate the magazine's annual list after the UAE, which scored the highest. Characterised by their impactful initiatives rather than a bulky bank account, these are the 15 Egyptians to look out for in 2016.
Arabian Business’ annual '100 Under 40' list, which features international celebrities such as Amal Clooney and Palestinian star Mohammed Assaf, includes 15 Egyptians who are rocking internationally across different fields, from outspoken media leader Waleed Aly to kickass social entrepreneur Yasmin Helal, to tireless political activists such as Mona Seif and Hossam Bahgat.
Egypt is, in fact, one of the countries that dominate the list, following the UAE, whose 23 young change-makers gave the Gulf country the highest score. Even though some figures are repeated from last year’s list, this year’s protagonists are characterised not by heavy bank accounts, but rather their impactful initiatives.“They are a generation of heroes,” the report says. The top ranking figure, author and journalist Chaker Khazaal, is a 28-year-old former Palestinian refugee who immigrated to Canada and released the internationally acclaimed novel Confessions of a War Child in 2013, the first of a trilogy of fiction inspired by true stories of refugees and war around the world.
The list is also tainted by the different conflicts engulfing the region throughout 2015, such as the war in Iraq and Syria. “There is a somewhat dark mask over this year’s selection of the most influential young Arabs: conflict and/or repression has affected the experiences of no less than one-fifth of those on the list,” says Arabian Business’ Courtney Trenwith. Chosen for their game-changing efforts and heroic struggle, these are the 15 Egyptians leaving a mark on the Arab World and beyond in 2016.
1. Seif Abou Seid, CEO of Tahrir Academy
Ranked 8th, Abou Seid leads one of the Arab world’s most prominent e-learning platforms, empowering 160,000 young Egyptians and Arabs through stimulating educational videos. He also co-founded Agency for Development and Enhancement, which aims to train young people between the ages of 15 and 35, and the Nabadat Foundation, a non-profit that uses technology to boost education and political awareness.
2. Lina Atallah, Founder of Mada Masr
A prominent journalist and former coordinator for the BBC World Service trust, Atallah founded Egypt’s leading post-revolutionary independent newspaper Mada Masr in 2013. Launched in the midst of mass demonstrations against former president Mohamed Morsi, Mada Masr was Atallah’s seventh news venture, as several previous ones were halted by the authorities’ attitude towards critical journalism.
3. Yehia Abugabal, Co-Founder of the International Cancer Research Center
The 28-year-old researcher jumped to notoriety this year as Forbes listed him amongst the world’s top 30 under 30 change-makers of 2016. His institution sets out to transform the medical landscape in a country where 90 per cent of records are not electronic and statistics are nearly inexistent. “The problem is that, in Egypt and the Middle East, we are mostly applying what researchers in the USA and Europe discover. We need to personalise knowledge and the approach for each patient in our region,” he told CairoScene last February, as he aims to build the equivalent of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in the Middle East.
4. Yasmin Helal, Founder of Educate.me
Recently featured as one of CairoScene’s 15 real influencers of 2015, the medical engineer, basketball player, and social entrepreneur founded Educate.me in 2011. It grew from an initial fundraising effort to a full-fledged supplemental educational centre, approved by the Ministry of Education, which has served 800 students this year and boasts a team of 40 employees to develop a curriculum that gives every child not only knowledge but also skills for self-realisation. The winner of the MIT Negma competition, the King Abdullah II Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement, the Pioneers of Egypt award, and currently a RISE fellow, Helal was featured by BCC and ESPN for her tireless efforts to help every Egyptian child take control of their own education.
5. Waleed Aly, Host of Network 10’s The Project
The Australia-based journalist gained notoriety this year after his talkshow editorial about ISIS went viral following the Paris attacks last November. The powerful four-minute monologue outlines strategies to stop ISIS, stating that “ISIS is weak.” With 13 million views on Facebook alone, the TV presenter is ranked 23rd on Arabian Business’ list.
6. Dina El Mofty, Founder of Injaz Egypt
A pivotal agent in the entrepreneurial revolution in Egypt, El Mofty has grown Injaz Egypt to an accelerator supporting the most promising businesses among young students, helping over 40 Injaz teams elevate their businesses, including the Riseup Summit Co-Founder Abdelhameed Sharara. El Mofty also serves on the US-Egypt Business Council and is the Co-Chair of the Women in Business Committee at the American Chamber of Commerce. Last year, she was featured as one of CairoScene’s 11 female entrepreneurs breaking the mould.
7. Hossam Bahgat, Founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
A columnist and leading advocate of freedom of expression, Bahgat headed the highly respected human rights organisation between 2002 and 2013. In November 2015, he was detained by Egypt’s military intelligence agency in connection with a report he published describing criminal convictions against 26 military officers for plotting a coup. He has also served on the boards of the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Fund for Global Human Rights.
8. Jawad Nabulsi, Social Entrepreneur
Ranked first on the list last year, Nabulsi has been consolidating a career where activism and social entrepreneurship meet. Having lost his eye to a gunshot during the 2011 uprising, he launched the Nebny foundation and provided medical assistance to 2,200 people during the uprising. He then rejected a post-revolution offer to become Minister of Youth and dedicated his time to providing Cairo’s slum poor with education, medical assistance, micro-loans, and business advice. His foundation was chosen by the World Bank from among 40,000 Middle East non-governmental organisations. Last year, he contributed to countering the hatred speech following the massacre of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, USA, when he co-authored an article titled A Call for Tolerance and Understanding, published by the Harvard Muslim Society.
9. Mohamed El Dahshan, Economist and Activist
Ranking 35th on the list, Mohamed El Dahshan is a regional economist at the African Development Bank who works to help establish links between the bank and private sector partners to further Africa’s development goals. El Dahshan is also a prominent activist whose coverage and analysis of the 2011 Egyptian revolution earned him the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Journalism Award for traditional and social media. He also co-authored Diaries of the Revolution, a collective memoir of the uprising.
10. Minoush Abdel-Meguid, Founder of Egyptian Young Bankers Association
The senior investment banker founded the Egyptian Young Bankers Association, an NGO aiming to support the careers of young bankers. Ranked 43rd, Abdel-Meguid is also CEO, Chief Investment Officer, and Managing Director of Union Capital, a fund for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Egypt. She was featured by Arabian Business last year, too, and was selected as a Young Achiever of the Year by the Global Leadership Congress.
11. Radwa Rostom, Engineer and Social Entrepreneur
Featured on this list in 2015, as well as on CairoScene’s 11 Egyptian female entrepreneurs breaking the mould, Rostom pairs sustainability research with social work through her project Hand Over, part of Egypt’s government-backed Ezbet Project, which aims to improve education, housing, and healthcare in Cairo slums. The social entrepreneur founded the programme in 2014, when she was granted a fellowship from The DO School in Hamburg, Germany.
12. Ayman Mohyeldin, Foreign Correspondent and News Anchor for NBC News
Based in Los Angeles, Mohyeldin was reportedly one of the first Western journalists permitted to report on the trial of the deposed former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. His master thesis, entitled The News Media Paradigm in the War on Terrorism, was accepted by the International Association of Media Researcher’s Conference in Barcelona, Spain, in 2002.
13. Mona Seif, Political Activist
She co-founded the campaign “No to Military Trials for Civilians,” which pushes for the release of those detained during the Egyptian revolution, and manages a blog called Tahrir Diaries - Diaries Under Military Rule. In 2012, Seif was a finalist for the Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk, and in 2013 she was a finalist for Geneva human rights prize - the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, presented by Human Rights Watch.
14. Omar Samra, Social Entrepreneur and Record-Breaking Traveller
Known as the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits, Samra has been breaking record after record, as he skied to both the Geographic South and North Poles. A former columnist for CairoScene, the Egyptian hero reached the highest point on Earth in 2007 and completed the Seven Summits challenge in 2014, becoming the first Egyptian to complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam. Last year, he gained popularity once again as he was featured by Humans of New York's founder Brandon Stanton, where he shared the heart-wrenching story of the loss of his wife.
15. Sherine Abdel Wahab, Singer and Actress
The famed Egyptian singer and actress acted as judge and coach on the Arabic version of The Voice (The Voice Ahla Sawt). Just before the airing of the season finale, she made newspaper headlines when she criticised US presidential hopeful Donald Trump for his pledge to temporarily ban Muslims from entering America.