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Coworking is on the rise in Egypt: country manager at Regus
Egyptian government has, it seems to me, right strategy, trying to facilitate national entrepreneurship and steps for investment from abroad, says Tarek Abou-Zeinab
Published in Daily News Egypt on 10 - 03 - 2020

To have a better understanding about the coworking market in Egypt, Daily News Egypt interviewed Tarek Abou-Zeinab, country manager at Regus for Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Gabon. Regus is a multinational provider of serviced offices and coworking spaces. Abou-Zeinab spoke about his company's renovation plans and how he saw the coworking situation in Egypt.
Over the past seven years, Regus has opened more than 100 business centres in more than 15 countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Abou-Zeinab was graduated from Empire State College in New York. He has 18 years of multifaceted experience across the real estate value chain, facilities management, and hospitality in the Middle East and Africa. He is an expert in marketing, sales support, customer service management, team management, and cross-functional team coordination.
Regus Egypt has recently announced the redesigning of its business lounge in Cairo located in Nile City Towers, with an area of 1,400 sqm.
Regus previously said it will support this new entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cairo by offering access to ready-to-use offices and by strengthening emulation between project leaders who share the same workspace.
Regus, a subsidiary of the International Workplace Group (IWG), was established in Egypt in 2001 and now already has 10 business centres in the country. Regus was originally founded in 1989 with the main objective of helping companies choose the most suitable way of working for their teams.
The historic brand of the IWG offers a variety of flexible working spaces including private offices, coworking spaces, meeting rooms, and business lounges for all types of businesses: from startups to global groups, with an emphasis on site accessibility and building quality.
A wide range of turnkey services are available: telephone secretarial services, mail management, meeting rooms, and essential high-speed Internet access. The teams at the IWG centres welcome customers in several languages and run the site's various operations.
First, could you tell us how did the company start in Egypt?
We've been operating in the market for about 30 years, and started the coworking movement back in the UK. The company is a subsidiary of the IWG, and it exists at present in 120 countries with 3,400 sites and 2.5 million customers. Regus was established in 2001 in Egypt. Over the years, we have built a network of 10 business centres in Cairo and New Cairo to support the dynamics of Egyptian and international companies.
Could you elaborate on the company's operation and funding?
The company is listed on the stock exchange. We continue to invest in our national networks to attract and retain an ever-greater share of the world's workers and businesses. Workspace needs are changing for every sort of business; from major corporates to small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs), startups, and individual entrepreneurs. We have the vision, the will, and the growing global infrastructure to cater for all of them.
What about the company's renovation plans?
This renovation is designed to provide a new customer experience for our coworking members. The objective of creating these special spaces is to provide an open environment that facilitates exchanges. In Africa, we like to say “we are together”. That could perfectly sum up coworking. Coworking is a place to share and a source of emulation. Entrepreneurs meet in common workspaces to share best practices, learn from the experience of others, and develop their own business and address book.
How much is the company's investment in Egypt?
We are a company listed on the stock exchange, so we only provide aggregate and area data. What I can say is that we believe very strongly in the dynamism of the Egyptian market by investing to improve our services and network.
What makes Regus Egypt special?
It goes without saying that Regus sets the standards for its success around the world: flexible, functional, and à la carte workspaces with a warm atmosphere. Of course we also adapt to local conditions, for example, when organising events. Local culture is very important. Regus' richness lies in its members. We are the house of entrepreneurs. A customer should be able to find the same quality of service anywhere in the world. The Egyptians attach a certain importance to the comfort of the facilities. We have to be beyond reproach.
What is the company's strategy in Egypt?
Regus' strategy in Egypt is quite simple: first of all, it consists of delivering a satisfactory occupancy rate in our centres by making our customers satisfied. The flexibility of our spaces requires us to have an excellent quality of service to build customer loyalty. Moreover, with the good economic prospects in Egypt and its essential position, we are studying new locations.
Do you plan for new expansions in 2020? And what are Regus' recent accomplishments?
We are continuously upgrading our property portfolio – investing in state-of-the-art "green" buildings and closing inefficient, outdated centres. This is reducing our carbon footprint. But far more significant is our pioneering role in accelerating the growth of ‘outer-city' locations: taking "flexspaces" to where people live, cutting pollution, reducing inner-city congestion, and boosting local economies everywhere. For 2020, we are working on different options. If they materialise, we will be happy to talk about them when the time comes.
How do you market Regus' services in Egypt?
Our know-how for 30 years identifies us in turnkey office market. Thus, for foreign companies wishing to set up in Africa and who know us in their local market, there is an obvious reflex. Our marketing strategy consists also of having a good referencing on the digital, organising events with the chambers of commerce and the actors of the entrepreneurship, and buying advertising spaces.
We have a battery of tools that we deploy. Finally, we have a smartphone application, My Regus, which gives information about our workspaces in real time. If you want to book a meeting room at the last minute in Cairo or New Cairo for an appointment, nothing could be simpler!
How do you see the coworking space market in Egypt? And what do you recommend for developing it?
There is a good dynamic in Egypt. Entrepreneurs, who need to have places to start up and develop, have recourse to this economical and flexible solution. The Egyptian government has, it seems to me, the right strategy, trying to facilitate national entrepreneurship and the steps for investment from abroad.
From you point of view, what are the challenges and opportunities of coworking spaces business in Egypt?
Our challenge is to find available space in the best locations, to position ourselves in the new cities that are about to blossom, to be as close as possible to our customers by going as far as the residential areas in order to avoid travel. In my opinion, flexible workspaces are on the rise and the Egyptians are increasingly using them.
Do you have any partnership plans with the government?
We are in contact with the official authorities. We are at the early stages, but we are on the right direction.
What do you think of the entrepreneurship market in Egypt? And what are the fields that need to be more focused on?
With more than 100 million inhabitants, 60% of whom are under 30 years old, the stakes around digital technology are colossal. In Egypt, we find the same features as in many African countries: a desire to undertake and create one's own work, and access to financing for startups which must be further simplified and facilitated.
The banking rate in Egypt is 15%. That said, much progress has already been made to develop infrastructures. A startup ecosystem has emerged over time with nuggets such as Swvl and Egypt Uber Bus. I am very confident about this new generation of entrepreneurs.

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