Microsoft's shrewd bet brings hope to Egypt

On April 4th 1975, when Bill Gates founded Microsoft, he could hardly have predicted just how wired society would become.

On April 4, 1975, when Bill Gates founded Microsoft, he could hardly have predicted just how wired society would become.

In staking US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) on one the most important companies to the future development of Egypt's economy and society he is making a similarly savvy bet on the future. OCI is billed as a construction and fertilizer company - two sectors of the economy about as far removed from touchscreen wireless devices as you could possibly get.

But there are certain things Egypt, indeed the majority of the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, needs in spades.

The so-called demographic bulge - the economists' term for the tens of millions of young adults on the outskirts of Mena society seeking a viable future - must be fed, housed and put to work. A construction and fertilizer company takes care of all three.

In the countries of the Arab Spring - Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and perhaps one day Syria - the need is acute and the untapped potential is vast. If Egypt succeeds in securing the $4.8bn it has asked the IMF to provide for rebuilding the country outfits such as OCI will be first in line to benefit.

And in attracting characters such as Mr Gates and listing the new company in the likes of Amsterdam and New York, OCI has engineered a major coup to hopefully ensure the ranks of international investors in Egypt will swell and further bolster the ailing country's coffers.