This week Nadia El-Awady ponders who we are as a country and what we want for the future.
Egypt is in need of, among a million other things, a leader with strong marketing skills or at least a leader who employs a strong marketing team. Egypt is in dire need of rebranding. We need to think of Egypt as a product. What does it mean to be Egyptian? What kind of a nation are we? What kind of a nation do we aspire to be?
We need to find a brand – an identity – that all Egyptians can relate to, get excited about, and rally behind.
Look at Egypt today and you’ll see what I mean.
Today in Egypt we have the Islamists, many of whom have turned disagreements over President Morsi’s actions, the draft constitution, and the process by which it came to be into “you’re either with Islam or against Islam”.
We have a fractured political opposition, who refuse to label their arguments as anti-Islamic yet continue to demonize the Islamists every opportunity they get.
We have the minorities in Egypt (if you ask me, everyone in Egypt is a minority) –the Christians, the Bedouins, the Nubians, the Baha’is, farmers, industrial workers, tourism workers, the illiterate – and the patronized – and more (the list goes on and on. I told you, everyone in Egypt is a minority). We have all of the above plus women, youth, and children, feeling they have been marginalized by the process of putting together a constitution, by the draft constitution itself, by the Islamists, and in many cases even by the political opposition.
I have found myself marginalized in this whole process. I cannot vote on the draft constitution because voters’ databases will not be changed from when they were updated during the presidential elections. This means that anyone who left (me) or returned to Egypt after the presidential elections will not be able to vote. Also, articles in the draft constitution prevent anyone who previously had citizenship of a country other than Egypt (I had U.S. citizenship and gave it up in the late 1990s in protest to the U.S. bombing of Iraq)from becoming president, a minister, or a member of government. To me this means inequality and it sets a horrible precedent based on our constitution for discrimination against dual citizens, new citizens, and citizens who once had dual citizenship.
With all this polarization and divisiveness, we are in need of some serious rebranding.
But who are?
Are we the land of the Islamic Shariah protectors like some people want to paint us? Or are we perhaps instead the land of moderate Islam? Are we the land that unifies Muslims and Christians? Are we a tolerant people? The answer is obviously no. But do we aspire to be? Do we have it in us to be inclusive rather than exclusive?
Do we have short-term and long-term goals? Do we want to eradicate illiteracy by 2020, for example? Do we want to ensure that every single person in the country has access to water and sanitation? To healthcare?To minimum wage? Do we want to be independent as a nation, growing our own food and making our own products? Do we want to be the world’s number one tourist destination by 2020? Do we want to welcome our guests or do we want to make them hate the religion of the mother that gave birth to them (deen om eli khalifoohum)when they visit us?
Do we want to join the economic ranks of the Asian tigers but instead refer to ourselves as the Egyptian lioness? Do we focus on us being the land of sun and waters? Mountains and deserts? Are we still the cultural center of the Arab world? Are we more ambitious than that? Do we aspire to be the cultural center of Africa and the Arab world?
In short, what does Egypt want to be when (/if) it grows up? How do Egyptians want to be perceived? Egyptians do not lack patriotism. Far from it. But they do have very differing opinions about what it means to be Egyptian. How do we create a more unified and generally acceptable brand or identity that represents our Egyptianness?
The Americans are the obvious example. People go to the United States to achieve the American dream. America is the great melting pot. President Obama’s campaign was marketed using the slogan “Yes we can”.
If you were given the opportunity to be responsible for Egypt’s rebranding, what slogans would you come up with? What big goals would you have us all rally behind? Come on, Egyptians! Who do we want to be when we grow up? Leave your ideas in the comments box below!