SC&T Office Spotlight: Cairo

Having spent some time in Samsung C&T Trading & Investment Group’s Riyadh Office in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, we now head to the Egyptian capital as we stay in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region for this latest edition in our SC&T Office Spotlight series.

Steeped in some of the world’s most intriguing history, Egypt is also home to Samsung C&T’s Cairo Office. Around 30 minutes from Cairo International Airport, the office is located in New Cairo, which was developed in the 2000s to ease congestion.

Let’s shine our customary spotlight on the Cairo Office.

Diverse passions and professional interests

Like the Riyadh Office, the Cairo Office comprises four team members. They divide tasks according to their expertise, focusing on trading businesses such as steel and synthetic resins.

Their personal passions also provide an interesting opportunity to bond. For instance, one of the team is a passionate football fan – and Egyptian football itself has been enjoying a global spotlight in recent years, not least because of the national team’s star player Mohamed Salah. Another member of staff is a keen diver, and Egypt is renowned for some of its scuba diving locations. Water-based activities are a reminder of the contrast between coastal areas and the desert that covers most of the country’s land.

It is also fitting for a trading company that Egypt hosts the Suez Canal, a vital waterway for container ships with around 12 percent of global trade said to pass through the canal that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

Facing challenging times together

It’s fair to say that the Cairo Office has faced one challenge after another since Seo Pyeong-shik took up his position as office head in 2020 – the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which raw material prices soared and financing projects became more difficult.

There has been a foreign currency shortage in Egypt, which has led to the imposition of import regulations. But Seo remains optimistic, pointing out that the country “also had its strengths.”

“First of all, Europe, a large market, is close, and logistics are made easier by our location next to the Suez Canal. It also helps that Egypt has free trade agreements ​​with many countries in Europe, Turkey, Africa, and the Middle East,” Seo explains.

The Cairo Office has adapted to the foreign currency shortage by focusing more on exports of steel and synthetic resins. The support of Samsung C&T’s global network of dozens of trading offices has helped with this process, according to Seo and his team.

Suez Canal as a metaphor for life

Seo says that negotiating challenges and adjusting to living and working in Cairo “has sped up the opening up of a new chapter” in his career and life, just as the Suez Canal allows ships to avoid a much longer journey.

As his stay in Egypt is coming to an end, Seo reflects on his family’s sadness to be leaving after discovering a good life and many friends in Cairo. It’s been quite a transition compared with their arrival, when Seo admits it was “hard to adjust.”

For example, he remembers having to get used to different mealtimes. “We have lunch after 4 p.m. and restaurants only open from 1 p.m. When I first came here, I was setting up a lunch meeting with a client, who suggested 6 p.m. When I asked him about dinner instead, he asked me to meet him at 10 p.m. That was surprising to me!”

Our SC&T Office Spotlight series continues to show how such cultural differences become opportunities to discover new ways of living, just as hurdles present chances to leap. Seo has done exactly that, while preparing to smoothly hand over operations to his successor “so they can expand the business without any burden.”

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