Young assistants for top executives

03-12-2014 02:46 PM

Amira Ezzat

It took less than three years for Egypt to go through two revolutions, both spearheaded by the country’s young people. The first was the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011; the second was the massive, corrective revolution of 30 June 2013 which rid Egypt of the Islamist rule that had come to power following the Arab Spring. All along, the young people clamoured for a real role in running the country and participating in the decision-making process of the executive apparatuses.
It looks as though, finally, Egypt’s young are getting what they aspired for. A decision by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi that State ministers should appoint young assistants or aides, with the aim of giving the young an opportunity on the ground to lead and share in decision-making, is already taking form.

Advisory not mandatory
So far, however, only three ministers have implemented the decision: Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Khaled Hanafi, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hussam Mughazi, and Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz.
Seven young men and women have been chosen to act as assistants or aides to the Minister of Supply and Internal Trade. Among them has been Iman Moussa who earned a degree in political science from Cairo University in 2009, diplomas in international negotiations and feasibility studies, and is in the process of finalising a Masters degree in business administration. Ms Moussa told Watani that a competition was announced at the ministry to choose minister assistants whose age ranged between 30 and 40. Fifty ministry employees applied. The top seven were picked; four were appointed as aides to the Minister and three as assistants.
“We have regular meetings with the Minister, and join him on field trips,” Ms Moussa said. “We submit to him reports on the work we do, and we offer proposals that would lead to better performance by the ministry or to the resolution of certain problems. But our recommendations are advisory not mandatory.”
Muhammad Saeed has also been picked to act as assistant to the Minister of Supply and Internal Trade. Mr Saeed holds a degree in engineering, and joined the Ministry in 2010. “As minister assistants,” Mr Saeed told Watani, “we are each assigned one or more portfolios to work on. Mine has been the holding companies of food industries, as well as product development. A competent team works with me. We have been conducting market surveys and public opinion polls, and we also canvass the views of retailers and warehouse owners, with the aim of attaining better supply chains and consumer satisfaction.”

Full support
The three ministers who appointed young assistants set almost the same rules for their selection. The applicants were required to be on the ministry’s employed staff, aged between 30 and 40, qualified and well-experienced.
Three young assistants were chosen to work with the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation. Watani talked to one of them, Usama al-Zaher. Dr Zaher holds a PhD in engineering; his thesis was concerned with small irrigation canal networks in Egypt. He also trained on water projects and mega hydraulic works in Germany, Italy, Kenya, Greece, and Lebanon. “I have been assigned to the study of large projects in the ministry,” he said. “My job is to propose new ideas and innovations.” He submitted a proposal to the Minister to relegate the task of managing the canals and improving the quality of water to private sector firms and contractors, while the Ministry assumes the role of supervision and control.
The Minister of Youth and Sports has appointed five young men and women as his assistants. Two of them, Muhammad al-Shazli and Youssef al-Wardani are concerned with youth affairs, whereas Ahmed Mustafa, Ahmed Hamdy, and Dalia Reda are concerned with sports. Watani asked Mr Wardani whether the assistants handled real tasks or were merely appointed to fulfil the President’s decision. Mr Wardani said that the role of the assistants was to propose new ideas to the Minister, especially on complicated issues that require innovative solutions. “We also have to follow up on the implementation of the Minister’s decision. At a meeting with him, he told us we were a regiment of trouble shooters; ‘we’ll help and support you to succeed in this essential role,’ he said.

Why the delay?
Mr Wardani is a good example of the highly qualified young people chosen to act as minister assistants. With a degree in economics and political science from Cairo University in 2002, he secured a job at the Ministry of Youth and Sport the following year. He went on to earn two Masters degrees and several diplomas from Egyptian and international universities in topics that range from studies on youth to financing, and is currently waiting to defend his PhD in European studies. He has represented the Egyptian government in nine international conferences, including the African diaspora summit held in South Africa in May 2012 and was one of the experts in youth affairs on the UN’s African economics committee, and in the regional bureau of UNESCO in Beirut.
Watani needed to find out why other State ministers had not appointed young assistants, so decided to contact two ministries to hear what they had to say about that. Upon calling the Ministry of Education, the spokesperson Hany Kamal told Watani that a date will be set shortly for the submission of applications for the post of minister assistants. The delay, he claimed, was on account of the fact that the ministry had been overburdened with the task of recruitment of new teachers.
As for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the ministry spokesperson Ali Reda said that the ministry had already announced the date and conditions for application for posts of minister’s assistants, but that the matter was taking time since the ministry was one that included “too many departments and sections”. Meaning that the ministers who already have young minister assistants have few departments? Food for thought!

Watani International
3 December 2014

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