Resent in memory of my late father, Dr. Ahmed Fouad Sherif.
Friends on this day, August 6 1976, my father, Dr. Ahmed Fouad Sherif, died unexpectedly at the age of 50. He was truly a brilliant man who was an international scholar and can only be described as a genius by any measure. He had two Ph.Ds from the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics. He won the Wall Street Journals prize for finance in his early 20s and was a pioneer in every respect. He created the National Institute for Management Development, NIMD, now the Sadat Academy, and is known to this day for his pioneering work on executive training and capacity building.
He became Minister for Cabinet Affairs and Administrative Development in 1976, at the age of 49 and later that year died in office. He had amassed a library of over 30,000 books, and trust me, he read them all. Our house was always books floor to ceiling, and like most extra ordinary people, he was one of a kind. I think the most I ever saw him sleep daily was four hours, maybe more likely three. I would go to sleep while he was reading, I would wake up and find him in the same place with the book half way complete.
I remember being told when he left the United Nations to become a Minister in Mamdouh Salem's cabinet, that he was Egypt's last hope, that he was Egypt's Kamal Ataturk, and his return to Egypt, after effectively being exiled for a decade was the country's best hope for a bright future. You have no idea how many times I hear this today. Continuously, even from people not of his generation, I hear repeatedly that if he had lived Egypt would have been a different place.
As he worked tirelessly in his last days as a Cabinet minister, hardly ever sleeping, I found what he was reading constantly to be out of place. He wasn't reading advanced texts on economic development, or finance, let alone writing his own works as he had published an untold number of books and articles in his life, he was reading a litany of books on sociology.
For years after his passing, I struggled to understand why. Seeing Egypt today, I get it. Having worked on development in over 20 countries myself, I now comprehend his immurement in the topic of sociology . Any economy that has transitioned to a state of advanced development did so by developing a social fabric that promoted productivity and productive behavior. Economic success is predicated on having a populace that works individually yes, but as a collective advances the development of a state. Failed states, have societies that hold them back, with individual behaviors that do not promote the public good. Remind you of anything?
More than anything today, what I see as one of Egypt's biggest challenges is a society whose social fabric is broken, in search of an identity, and that search is pushing Egypt back, not forward. A society whose productivity is among the lowest in the World, whose work ethic has been tainted by what people now see as entitlements, things you can get for free without having to work for them, a welfare state in a vicious cycle of failure.
With all of my father's education, his experience, and his dynamism, he always believed Egypt could one day be great, an economic power house. To get there, he knew that all this was predicated on people, their education and their work ethic. Nothing has changed today.
I remember listening to him in public forum talking about the Egypt of tomorrow, so well spoken, so charismatic, and believing then there was so much hope for the future. He gave you that confidence always. More than anything else, these are the leaders we need today, leaders that can inspire, that can give us hope and leaders that can understand that it isn't just raising the level of investment that will make the difference, it all begins and ends with people. This great man, this visionary may have died today many years ago, but his life's work awaits a generation of pioneers that can continue his legacy.
Remembering my father today is remembering a man of the highest ethics, a passion to help others, a visionary, and a person whose love of country trumped everything else. He lived for Egypt, and he died for Egypt. I am blessed to be the son of this great man, and God gave my father everything, brilliance, excellence, charisma, a love of country unparalleled, but not length of years. Allah Yerhamo.