Usama Elsayed, managing director for Africa at NCR Corporation, emphasised that Egypt always overcomes its problems, and comes out much stronger.
Elsayed explained in his interview with Daily News Egypt that NCR has been operating in the Egyptian market for 80 years, and that it experienced similar situations over the past years. However, Egypt has remained strong and is committed to its reform programme.
The instability of the US dollar exchange prices and the currency scarcity is one of the major challenges facing the company in Egypt, but the Egyptian government is moving positively to resolve that problem.
NCR is an international company specialised in the self-service banking and automated payments industry. Its most popular product in the Egyptian market are automated teller machines (ATM). The company provides other services, such as ATM networks monitoring and management, processing, maintenance, and cash management.
NCR deals with 36 banks in the Egyptian market, and supports almost 90% of the ATMs in the country.
How do you evaluate the development of the Egyptian economy in the current period?
In the beginning, I would like to note that the point of view that I will explain does not only express my personal point of view, but also the point of view of the NCR Corporation.
NCR has been operating in the Egyptian market since 1936, and it’s the oldest multinational company in Egypt, especially in the financial technology field.
Throughout this long period, the company witnessed various eras and market conditions in Egypt, and we don’t think that the current stage is the most challenging one. We have gone through tougher times.
The company believes that Egypt always overcomes its adversities and comes out much stronger. This is reflected in the company’s commitment towards the Egyptian market, and the scale of investments that the company injects into the market.
NCR has an optimistic vision for the Egyptian market. The company has never stopped its investments in the country under any circumstances in the recent years.
The company’s branch in Egypt is one of the largest branches in the Middle East, and through our branch here, we oversee our operations in a number of African countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
The corporation has no intention to reduce its investments in Egypt, despite the challenges we are facing—on the contrary, there is an ambitious plan for expanding in the Egyptian market in the near future. We believe that the current stage is suitable for investing in Egypt.
We are currently hiring large numbers of Egyptians to take charge of the company’s operations in and outside Egypt, such as network management and outsourcing to other banks in a number of African countries from the company’s regional headquarter in Cairo.
The company is currently increasing its new technological solutions offered to the Egyptian market. It is known that each new technological solution requires injecting new investments, because it requires recruiting more resources, training teams, certifying the new solutions, and customising them to suit the conditions and requirements of the Egyptian market.
What is the nature of the challenges the company is facing in the Egyptian market?
Like the rest of the companies working in the Egyptian market, we face some challenges. The most prominent one is the instability of the US dollar price, and the discrepancy in prices between the formal and parallel markets, in addition to the unavailability of the dollar that is needed for the resumption of business operations.
The other challenge is the unclear vision of the state’s short-term monetary and economic policies. Obviously, the company is impacted by what is said about the possibility of issuing certain decisions during the upcoming period. Working in this climate is usually difficult compared to stable times.
Besides these challenges, we also face bureaucracy and lengthy processes. This is another area where we see the state taking wide strides, but nevertheless, more effort needs to be exerted in that area.
How is the company overcoming the lack of US dollars in the market? Do you resort to the black market to cover your needs of foreign exchange?
A group of our clients in Egypt helps us cover part of our US dollar needs. Nonetheless, for the bigger part of our foreign currency supply, we have to stand in line and be on the waiting lists.
One of NCR’s greatest advantages is its flexible credit terms with our parent company, and this flexibility helps us avail to the requirements of our clients without having to wait for the foreign currency to be available. This is an advantage that our local clients realise and benefit from, and it is another testimony of NCR’s confidence in the Egyptian economy and our commitment to support the market as it goes through these challenging times.
It goes without saying that the company cannot resort to alternate channels of foreign currency supply, apart from those permitted by the Central Bank of Egypt and the relevant authorities. Ethical business conduct is a core value of NCR, and we have zero tolerance when it comes to abiding by the rules and regulations of any country we operate in.
Has the lack of currency impacted the volume of your investments in Egypt?
No. So far we have been able to manage together with our esteemed clients and partners to avail the required resources to continue supplying the market with its needs and providing the Egyptian consumer with very high standards of service. I believe it is evident that the ATM services provided across the country have maintained very high standards and have not been affected by the economic challenges.
It is worth mentioning that we see tremendous growth in the number of cards, the number of ATM transactions, and the amounts dispersed by the ATMs, yet the end users have not seen any degradation of the services provided to them through our ATM networks.
This is a reflection of the continuous investments by our clients and by NCR.
What is the volume of the company’s investments in the Egyptian market?
Our investments reach more than EGP 500m annually. There is a plan to double the number over the coming few years.
What is the company’s role in serving the Egyptian economy?
The company focuses on two main areas. First, improving services provided by the banks and reducing the costs of doing so. We also benefit from technological solutions that help achieve financial inclusion, which we believe is a main aspect to developing the Egyptian economy.
To achieve financial inclusion, many important elements should be present, like facilitating dealing with banks and helping them be present in the largest number of places possible at the lowest cost, which is what the company is already doing through ATMs and digital bank services.
When do you expect Egypt to get over its current crisis?
Despite the economic conditions Egypt is experiencing, the company is very optimistic about the future. Egypt has great potential which will not only help the country recover, but will also help solidify its competitive advantages over other countries in the region.
In addition to the great human potential in Egypt that makes it a major market, we know that Egyptians accept technology at great speed. They can also tolerate and accommodate different conditions. This is an advantage that not many citizens of countries around the world have.
We believe that Egypt needs two more years in order to overcome the crisis it is going through. In order for this to happen, we should position ourselves well on the correct path towards economic recovery.
The Egyptian government is taking positive steps and correct procedures in this matter, even if these procedures have certain short-term impacts on citizens. In the future, they will surely have a positive effect on them.
We need to rationalise spending and focus on investing and utilising the funds we obtain to achieve a quick recovery and shorten challenging times.