To Build It Campaign cover photo - To Build It official Facebook page
CAIRO – 24 December 2017: Filling in the vacuum created in Egypt’s civil society after January 25 revolution, ‘Alashan Tbneeh’ (To Build It), a public campaign broadly aiming to support Egypt’s stability and development, kicked off in September with the short-term goal of convincing President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of running for a second term as President of Egypt.
Three months after its launch, the campaign has 168 offices in 27 governorates in Egypt and 36 offices abroad. Commenting on this, Mohamed Shaaban, the campaign's co-founder and an independent lawmaker said, “[To Build it] dreamt of only 27 headquarters, one in each governorate. We got 67. People allocated some places to the campaign for free.” This, along with the 12,132,460 signatories (another 239,361 petitions were null and void due to filling issues), suggests that the campaign succeeded in its short-term goals, and may have even started on the path to its long-term goals.
Given its significant success, it is important for Egyptians, as well as foreigners, in Egypt and abroad to understand how the campaign functions, its relation to the state, and its short- and long-term goals.
Egyptians signing To Build It petition - To Build It official Facebook page
What are the short- and long-term goals of ‘To Build It’? Why was it launched?
The ultimate goal of the campaign is to support a stable Egyptian state. To do so, the campaign, which functions as a grassroots movement, aims to push for transparency and better communication between the state and the people, including those in remote areas.
The campaign aims to battle wrong information spread via social media or different news agencies that have ulterior motives by speaking to people face-to-face and explaining to them recent accomplishments, particularly those that affect them, and how the hard economic decisions taken will eventually lead to development.
To Build It, as mentioned before, also aims to fill in the vacuum in civil society and civil services left because previous social providers and actors did not necessarily believe in the idea of the state. Those actors used their role in civil society to mobilize political support and rally people. On this front, although To Build It has, at least to an extent, political directions behind it, its main goal is to create a social movement to protect the state and support Egypt’s growth and development. To Build It believes that presence in civil society will reduce wrong information spreading between Egyptian citizens and will provide them with their needs.
During a conference organized by the campaign, named “Mowaten Yada’am Al Raees” (A Citizen Who Supports the President), campaign leader Fawzy Ramadan stated that the movement believes that President Sisi is Egypt’s best shot at fighting terrorism and overcoming the economic and regional, as well as international, challenges currently facing Egypt. Sisi, as the signatories and the movement sees it, is the man for the job when it comes to economic growth, political development, social stability and state security, as well as securing Egyptian interests at home and abroad.
As Ahmed al-Khatib, a member of the founding committee of the campaign, put it in the press conference announcing the launch of the campaign, “In recognition of the magnitude of the internal and external challenges that beset the nation, the critical stage of our region and the world, the national responsibility towards our dear people, the campaign was launched out of confidence of its founders in the loyalty of the President.”
“We made sure as founders of the sincerity of Sisi and his keen interest in reforming the Egyptian economy and addressing its structural crises, risking much of his popularity, and he is destined to take fateful decisions,” he continued.
“Sisi dealt with all issues and cases with a strategic vision. He went beyond partial solutions, especially in unprecedented national projects, dealt with the social justice file and continuously sought to provide a decent standard of living for low income citizens, and made solid attempts to counter corruption,” explained Khatib.
The reasons for the campaign’s support for President Sisi boils down to the idea that another term means the continuation of megaprojects, further development of the country’s infrastructure, increased connectivity between cities, better relations between Egypt and different countries, preservation of national security, more steps aimed at countering terrorism and enhancing education, health and administration systems more.
As the first statement by the movement explained, the president did not let the possibility of losing popularity stand in the way of taking hard but necessary economic decisions, including the economic reform program. The statement read, “[President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi] risked everything and stood strong while taking several historical, fateful decisions, trusting that Egyptians will understand the reasons behind them.”
“He [Sisi] was aware of the importance of the social justice’s file and prioritized it. He stood firmly in the face of corruption and paid huge attention to women’s role within the society,” the campaign’s statement added.
Further supporting this claim is parliamentarian and campaign spokesperson Karim Salem, Ph.D. “The projects were not announced until they were complete,” Salem stated. Salem’s statement further conveys and proves that Sisi is not aiming to increase his popularity or create positive propaganda for himself. Instead, he is working hard to ensure a better future for Egypt and Egyptians at home and abroad.
Citizens receiving civil services from To Build It campaign - To Build It official Facebook page
On another level, the movement, according to Ashraf Rashad, leader of the Future of the Nation Party, aims to covey to those marginalized and in remote areas what is really happening, raise the public’s awareness concerning events and accomplishments by the government, and listen to people’s suggestions, needs and comments.
Campaign member Hazem Tawfik, Ph.D., explained in a statement that a negative response from people towards decisions made occurs due to wrong information spreading and a lack of understanding concerning the long-term benefits of hard-to-accept decisions.
Tawfik explained that the hike in prices of goods and services due to the ongoing economic reform measures has left many people baffled, as they do not comprehend why this is happening. Agreeing with this, Shaaban said that some citizens may not be able to identify the reasons behind the current economic situation, so the campaign has been a good channel to explain.
“People talk about subsidized goods, but talk less about free housing provided for people, who used to dwell in slum areas, like the social housing project of Asmarat,” Tawfik remarked.
To ensure that people understand why difficult decisions are being made, Salem explained that the campaign has, and will continue to “print out and distribute pamphlets containing statistics and achievements. These pamphlets do not have to include all projects all over the country. The residents of each governorate are interested in the projects in their respective areas.”
In a similar vein, general coordinator of the campaign, Bahaa Al-Said, stated that ‘To Build It’ aims to “enlighten the people to the achievements the president have made during the past years. It also gives the government credit for the efforts to build a strong country despite being the target of a vicious war.”
To Build It Board Members announcing number of signatories on December 24, 2017 – Egypt Today/Hussein Tallal
Adopting the slogan “Kalam Men Al Qalb” (Words from the Heart), the campaign also aims “to reflect what goes on in the minds and hearts of citizens,” according to the first statement by the movement. By doing so, the campaign ensures good communication and connectivity between social society and the government; thereby, allowing growth and development – economic, social and political – to become sustainable.
The campaign aims to leave no one behind, as most grassroots movements do. ‘To Build It’, like other grassroots movements around the world, aims to help people get out of the poverty trap. They do so by empowering people, hearing them out and ensuring that their voices are heard and that they are listened to.
Marginalized people, in economic and developmental terms, are seen to be untapped sources of strength and growth that need to be included to reap the fruit of their experience and what they have to offer. In terms of human capital and human development, the former speaks to the need to include people on the sidelines as they profit the nation as a whole and will help it edge forwards, while the latter speaks to the need to include people who have not benefited from the development of the state.
In the latter’s case, many areas had been forgotten over the past 30 years by the regimes, and so ‘To Build It’ is attempting to change this and move those people into the spotlight. They are not just making sure that they are listed to; they are also making sure that people on ground understand why some of the most complex economic and developmental decisions have been made and how they will help Egypt develop.
To help people out of poverty, ensuring positive growth and development, ‘To Build It’ has sent medical and food convoys to several parts of Egypt, including Hala’ib, Shalateen and Abu Ramad of the Red Sea governorate. The convoys comprised of specialized doctors (pediatricians, family planning and obstetrics).
FILE – Medical Convoys
How it reaches people?
To reach all 27 governorates in Egypt, ensuring it reaches people in remote, alienated, and marginalized areas, ‘To Build It’ partnered with Mosta’bal Al-Watan (Future of the Nation) Party to utilize their databases. The databases included population in villages and cities, number of electors and polling stations, percentage of people in different age groups, and much more, all of which enables the campaign to better understand the needs and vulnerabilities of people in different villages and cities.
By working with Future of the Nation Party, the campaign was able to equip itself better to reach people, especially the most marginalized, with the goal of informing people of events, challenges and achievements on the ground, and listening to their concerns and comments about Egypt and its development.
‘Alashan Tbneeha’ (To Build It) is a public campaign, independent of the state, that kicked off in September with the primary goal of ensuring the positive development and stability of Egypt. The campaign believes that President Sisi is the best man for the job; hence, its petition demanding he runs for a second term as President of Egypt. The petition has been signed by 12,132,460 people at home and abroad (another 239,361 petitions were null and void due to filling issues). The movement does not receive financial or any kind of support from the government, and does not lie within the government’s sphere of influence.