After 30 years in investment banking, Hisham Tawfik felt confident he could spot a winning venture. He had led one of Egypt’s largest asset management funds and served as a longtime member of the board of directors of the Egyptian Exchange. Even amid the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the subsequent years of economic turmoil, he kept his clients’ balance sheets steady.
So when Egyptian authorities began to voice interest in renewable energy in 2014, Tawfik leaped at the can’t-miss opportunity to bring solar power to his sun-drenched homeland. Ready for a change of profession, he put the bank on hold and enrolled in a technical workshop in Canada. On his return to Egypt, he established a company, Cairo Solar, and took on five employees. “We were excited by the possibilities,” Tawfik said when we met at his offices in New Cairo, a sprawling desert suburb of the capital. “The industry all looked very promising.”