The international congress of the AIESEC global youth organisation was held in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada earlier this month and saw the participation of more than 700 young people from 120 countries.
The AIESEC International Congress, which aims to celebrate youth leadership worldwide, was held under the auspices of the Egyptian presidency, the youth and sport ministry, and the tourism ministry.
Abdel-Rahman Ayman, AIESEC’s first Egyptian global president, said at a press conference at the start of the event that holding this year’s congress in Hurghada represents a significant opportunity to promote Egypt as an ideal investment and networking platform for business leaders, start-ups, and jobseekers.
This year’s congress was held under the slogan ‘Egypt, where it all begins.’
On Facebook, the AIESEC global page has more than one million followers and the AIESEC Egypt page has more than 240,000 followers.
Ayman also highlighted the non-profit organisation’s expansion in Egypt, from representation in three universities in 2013 to almost every private and public university, in addition to its expansion across 18 cities in the country over the span of three years.
With the international event being hosted for the second time in Egypt, Ahram Online had the opportunity to interview Ayman, who spoke about the organisation’s role, goals and achievements in Egypt.
Ahram Online: What is AIESEC in a nutshell?
Abdel-Rahman Ayman: AIESEC is a leading global youth organisation founded in 1948 and has been present in Egypt since 1984. It is currently present in more than 122 countries around the world and aims to promote peace and develop the capabilities of youth worldwide.
The organisation offers three kinds of programmes for youth aged 18 to 30 to develop their leadership skills abroad; the Volunteer, Entrepreneur and Talent programmes.
The organisation is based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
AO: What are the criteria upon which an AIESEC member is selected globally or in Egypt?
AA: There are a set of tests, assessments and tasks for AIESEC applicants, in addition to personal interviews to determine the skills and capabilities of the applicant and their areas of interest.
AO: Does AIESEC in Egypt aim at marketing ideas by the youth?
AA: The primary focus of our voluntary programmes is related to the development programmes of the United Nations in Egypt and the country’s sustainable development plan for 2030, which include improving education methods, encouraging youth leadership and creating equal opportunities using advanced technologies.
The second aspect involves providing training opportunities at multinational companies abroad for Egyptian youth, so they can return and benefit the country by joining the labour market and creating social awareness and sustainable entrepreneurship.
The third aspect is developing entrepreneurship, and this falls under developing leadership skills for youth in general.
AO: What are the mechanisms for applying to join AIESEC?
AA: The application is submitted by students to the organisation’s representative, usually twice a year in universities at the beginning of the first and second semester, or online at any time during the year through the organisation’s website.
AO: How can AIESEC, an organisation with no political affiliation, control political affiliation or views inside the organisation?
AA: Members or applicants who join AIESEC undergo personal interviews. However, a member’s political views are their own private business, as long as they do not express or promote them within or through the organisation.
AO: What are AIESEC’s sources of funding in Egypt?
AA: Funding in Egypt is done in three ways. The first is through members who travel abroad on their own expense and are not funded by the organisation.
The second way is through company payments to trainees from the members of the organisation.
The third way is through interested businessmen, although this has been relatively unsuccessful in Egypt so far.
AO: How many members are there in AIESEC in Egypt and internationally?
AA: There are 2,000 members of AIESEC in Egypt, which is a big number for the organisation.
The number of members differs from one country to another; there are some countries with only five members. Globally we have 50,000 members in all AIESEC countries.
AO: What is the reason behind AIESEC's boom over the past five years?
AA: Increasing awareness among Egyptian youth in the last five years has increased significantly, the institution provides the youth with this opportunity, especially after the recent major political developments in the country.
AO: How did AIESEC manage to convince official institutions to host the event in Egypt, especially amid the tight security situation due to the ongoing war on terrorism?
AA: When young people are tasked with organising an event this big, it is their responsibility to ensure that the conference is secure of any dangers. The organisation cannot contract a private security company, hence it was the role of state institutions to support the hosting of such a conference, which in return will convey a message of peace from Egypt and reflect its safety and stability on the international level.
AO: How can you deliver a message to the world on the reality of the situation in the country?
AA: In 2013, there was a proposal to cancel the AIESEC international congress a few weeks before it was held in Sharm El-Shiekh due to the security situation in Egypt; however, we insisted that the conference be held in Egypt.
The conference having more than 700 people from over 120 different countries can send a message; when these people return to their countries they will convey the message that Egypt is safe.
AO: How do AIESEC members communicate?
AA: There are two meetings for Middle East and North Africa AIESEC members every year, in addition to the annual international congress meetings.
AO: Do all AIESEC branches in the world operate under one system?
AA: Of course, there is a general charter for the organisation; however, the internal rules differ from one country to another according to the laws and regulations of each country.
For instance, in Egypt, AIESEC is affiliated with the Ministry of Social Solidarity as it is a non-profit organisation.
AO: What are the obstacles facing AIESEC Egypt at the moment?
AA: Sometimes there are some problems at some universities that prevent the admission of our representatives due to administrative bureaucracy procedures or the suspension of student activity at some universities.
AO: What is AIESEC Egypt's vision in the upcoming years?
AA: The main goal of AIESEC in Egypt is to expand its base among the youth and reach different social classes, as there are certain groups that cannot bear the expenses of travelling abroad.
The organisation does not receive funds from any political institutions so we are seeking alternative financing options.
For example, we reached an agreement with EgyptAir last year to pay in instalments for travel tickets for members.