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Viewing cable 10CAIRO238, Egypt: Prime Minister Announces Center of Excellence

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10CAIRO238 2010-02-04 15:03 2011-02-16 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0238/01 0351608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041546Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0144
INFO RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO
UNCLAS CAIRO 000238 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
DEPT FOR NEA/RA, NEA/ELA, OES/STAS, OES/STC (WILLIAM LAWRENCE) 
WHITE HOUSE FOR OSTP (JASON RAO) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAO OVIP TSPL EG
SUBJECT: Egypt: Prime Minister Announces Center of Excellence 
 
1. (SBU) Key Points: 
 
--Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told the Ambassador and Science Envoy 
Ahmed Zewail that the Egyptian government (GoE) plans to create a 
center of excellence targeting entrepreneurship and innovation, 
although he did not provide a detailed timeline for implementation. 
 
 
--The Supreme Council on Science and Technology will serve as the 
lead government agency in creating a blueprint for the center. 
 
--According to Nazif, the GoE envisions the center as a joint 
US-Egypt project and is seeking a "substantial commitment" of 
financial and technical assistance outside current USAID 
programming in Egypt. 
 
2. (U) In a January 26 meeting, the Ambassador and Dr. Zewail met 
with PM Nazif and four ministers (International Cooperation, 
Finance, Higher Education, and Local Development) from the Supreme 
Council on Science and Technology (SCST). This was Zewail's second 
meeting with Nazif and the SCST, and followed his public statements 
to support Egypt in identifying key national science and technology 
priorities. 
 
------------------------------------- 
 
EGYPT'S PROPOSED CENTER OF EXCELLENCE 
 
------------------------------------- 
 
 
 
3. (SBU) After thanking Zewail for his continued focus on assisting 
Egypt in building its science and education infrastructure, Nazif 
launched into a discussion concerning a recently announced GoE plan 
to build a center of excellence targeting entrepreneurship and 
innovation initiatives.  He said the Supreme Council for Science 
and Technology had created a taskforce to develop a "blueprint" for 
the new center. The Ministry of International Cooperation would 
serve as the lead agency in these efforts. (Note: According to 
January 14 press accounts, this Cairo-based center will open in 
January 2011 and will collaborate with private companies, 
universities, and government technology organizations. End Note.) 
 
4. (SBU) Nazif stated that he envisioned this center as a joint 
US-Egypt project.  The GoE would provide the land and construction 
of the center's buildings, he said, and the USG would "allocate 
funds to run the center."  He acknowledged that the center's 
priorities are not fully sketched out, but would likely include a 
mandate to support projects concerning agriculture (defined as food 
safety), health, water security, energy, and information 
technology.  More importantly, the center would serve as a focal 
point to provide financial and technical assistance to "young 
entrepreneurs starting their own businesses." 
 
5. (SBU) Nazif repeatedly referenced the US-Israel BIRD project as 
a model for Egypt's proposed center. He said that BIRD succeeded in 
building up Israel's science and technology base - providing 
important loans and research opportunities for both countries - and 
suggested that the center could play a similar role in supporting 
Egypt's efforts to do the same. 
 
------------------------- 
How to Finance the Center 
 
------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) In response to a question from Zewail about how the center 
will cover science issues, Nazif said he hoped American and 
Egyptian universities would participate but stressed his desire 
that joint projects would focus on value-related research - 
specifically leading to job creation in important national areas 
such as agriculture and renewable energy plans.  He then pivoted to 
financing of the center, stating Egypt was seeking a substantial 
commitment to ensure the center could carry out its mission.  "$10 
million is not enough," Nazif stated.  For the center to succeed in 
the manner of programs suggested by President Obama in his Cairo 
speech in June 2009, Nazif explained the US needs to "think on a 
grand scale."  He did not offer a monetary figure but said that for 
every dollar offered by the US, Egypt would match that donation 
with one Egyptian pound.  Speaking for the SCST, he said that the 
center would enable Egypt to develop its technology infrastructure 
as the US had done in the 1960s 
 
--------------- 
 
"Go Beyond AID" 
 
--------------- 
 
7. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that the Embassy and AID are working 
to direct existing resources to Egyptian priorities but the PM 
immediately interrupted by stating that the government must "go 
beyond AID programming" and build something that currently does not 
exist in country.  The new center is crucial because the 
"scientific community needs something to build around and aspire 
to," Nazif explained.  It would ultimately serve as a focal point 
for Egypt's science and technology community.  Noting that Egypt 
remains committed to supporting President Obama's Cairo initiative, 
he said that "now is the time for action and the ball is in your 
court." 
 
8. (SBU) Comment: During his initial envoy visit, Zewail spoke 
repeatedly about his desire to build stronger collaborative 
relationships in education, science and technology and move away 
from building vaguely-defined and poorly staffed research 
organizations.  The GoE, however, is clearly seeking to capitalize 
on a renewed US emphasis on science and technology issues by 
requesting funding for a new center of excellence.  It is doubtful 
that a new physical center would advance any of the collaborative 
projects - in health, science, education - the US is already 
partnering with Egypt. 
SCOBEY