The Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade named Mohamed Zaki El-Swedy President of the Federation of Egyptian Industries On Tuesday.
Mohamed Zaki El-Swedy, Chairman of the Zaki El-Sewdy Group, Egyptian supplier of electrical materials, will replace Galal Al-Zorba, who has occupied the post for the last twelve years.
Al-Zorba, who rose to prominence under the Mubarak regime, was one of the architects of the QIZ agreement between Egypt, the United States and Israel. He was kept in place by the military council while ruling the country after the ouster of Mubarak. Al-Zorba also kept the position under deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
The elections of the federation’s board that took place on Monday re-opened the discussion about federation independency.
The minister of Industry was given the right to appoint the president of the federation, his two deputies and third in command of the board.
The control that the executive power imposed on the federation has kept some of Egypt’s biggest businessmen, such as the members of the Sawiris family, away from it, as they seek representation of the business community.
“This constitutes the freedom of forming organisation; both businessmen and workers should have the right to form their own organisations,” Ahmed Hassan Al-Borai, current minister of social solidarity, said.
“We cannot talk about liberalisation and free market, while business and labour associations are controlled by the state,”
Some of the federation’s members are trying to restore its position of the past, when it was an independent entity, before Nasser transformed it, along with the Union of Commercial Chambers, to a public institution in 1958.
“We have already worked on a draft law to change the nomination system to elections, but the decision has been delayed time after time,” says Mohamed Zaki El-Sewedy.
Mohamed Al-Bahey, former member of the board, explains that the federation has prepared a new draft law since the time of Rashid Mohamed Rashid (Mubarak’s last minister of Industry).
“It was supposed to be discussed in the dissolved Parliament and Shura council,” he adds.
News has been leaked to the media that some members of the federation sent a memo to the Minister, including potential candidates, in order to make nomination more democratic.
“Mohamed Zaki El-Sewedy was not among those suggested,” a source from the federation, who required anonymity, told Ahram Online.
According to the source, the memo contained the names of Safwan Sabet, owner of Juhayna and Sherif EL-Gabaly, chairman of Polyserve Fertilisers and Chemical Group.
“The two were not seen as adequate for the moment, as Safwan Sabet is considered to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood, while El-Gabaly is seen by many as having close ties to the Mubarak-era regime,” adds the source.
El-Swedy told Ahram Online that he believes elections would be better than nomination, but that the voting system should be altered by linking it to the weight of each member’s business.
“A business worth LE 10 million, for example, should not have the same weight as a LE1 million company. Otherwise, we can end up with ten small businesses controlling the Federation,” he concludes.
El-Bahei, who believes El-Swedy was a good choice, as he is young and active, does not share the same vision.
“I believe small businesses are the ones who need support. Shrinking their voting power is not right”.
El-Bahei agrees that the law, in force since 1958, should be revised. “The law gives the right to businesses with LE 5000 (around $700) to join the federation. Those figures are too low,” he adds.
The Zaki El-Swedy Group is a family business, created in 1940. The group is a supplier of electrical materials. Over the years, it has transformed into a holding company with several commercial entities and factories.