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The One Man Show: Talaat Harb’s Legacy in Egypt

March 24, 2022

A story of entrepreneurship for the books: Talaat Harb was a man moved by his love for his home country, a driven entrepreneur that built an empire in Egypt. Harb, known as the father of Egyptian economy, was a pioneer whose legacy lives up until this day.

A visionary, Harb, a capable financier with a law degree, spearheaded the establishment of Banque Misr, Egypt’s first national bank with Egyptian financing in 1920. Harb initially obtained his law degree in 1889 before starting his career as an economist.

The start-up capital for Banque Misr was EGP 80,000 (USD 5,000) with the idea of creating national savings into an investment. A decade later, the bank grew to be ranked as the best Mandated Lead Arranger and the third best Bookrunner across Africa in Bloomberg’s Global Syndicated Loans League Tables for the first half of 2018.

Today, Banque Misr’s geographical outreach has put it on the maps, with paid-up capital amounting to EGP 15 billion (USD 1 billion).

The bank has more than 620 electronically integrated local branches, as well as five branches in the United Arab Emirates and one branch in France. In addition, the bank boasts a regional and global presence, with subsidiaries in Lebanon and Germany, as well as representative offices in China and Russia and a global network of correspondents.

Harb’s fervor to create did not stop at Banque Mir, rather, he went on to establish companies operating in varying industries such as spinning and weaving, textiles, insurance, shipping, and others.

Egypt’s Hollywood Studios

Image via Rawi Magazine

A man of many interests, including the arts, Harb established Studio Misr in 1935. Studio Misr emerged as a hub of cinematic creativity for local filmmakers, where many of Egypt’s classic films were edited, shot, and produced there.

In 1935, Studio Misr, financed by industrialist Talaat Harb, emerged as a hub of cinematic creativity and produced many of Egypt’s film classics, such as Umm Kalthum’s Wedad in 1936 and Salama fi Kheir (Salama is Safe) starring Naguib el-Rihani in 1937.

The studio became the Egyptian equivalent to Hollywood’s major studios, a role that the company retained for three decades.

Since its inauguration in 1935, the studio retained its reputation as the mirror replica of Hollywood’s studios until it was nationalized in the 1960s.

The Star Alliance Member

Image via ABC News

The country’s flag-carrying EgyptAir was established by Harb in 1932. A forcible trio, formed of pilots Kamal Elwi and Mohamed Sedki, and the pioneer Talaat Harb, called for the establishment of EgyptAir.

Established to enhance aviation in Egypt, a decree was issued on 27 May 1923, establishing EgyptAir as the first airline in the Middle East. It became the seventh carrier in the world.

Today, EgyptAir is a member of the Star Alliance Network, the leading global airline network. Being a member of the alliance reflects EgyptAir’s high deliverance of excellent customer service, security, and technical infrastructure.

Its approximate 50 direct flights can land as close to Athens and Istanbul and as far as Tokyo and Washington DC.

A Maven Economist

Image via Watani Net

Harb also contributed to the establishment of Al-Ahly Sporting Club, home to one of Egypt’s most beloved football teams. Amongst the maven economist’s legacies are the Egyptian Printing Company, the Misr Paper Manufacturing Company, the Egyptian Cotton Ginning Company, Misr Company for Film Industry, and the Egyptian Real Estate Company.

He also co-founded a newspaper, Al Jarida, which was the official organ of the Umma Party. The newspaper was one of the publications that shaped Egyptian culture that had been intertwined with Westernized elements.

In remembrance of his legacy, Egypt’s Talaat Harb Square is situated in the heart of Cairo. The square’s main feature is the striking statue to the square’s namesake, Talaat Harb Pacha, who was a significant influence towards establishing an identity for Egypt beyond colonial rule.

Image via Pinterest

Harb was a brilliant investor who saw a vision for the modern future for Egypt, and used Banque Misr as a platform to invest in various fields, spanning the full spectrum of the economy and Egypt’s identity.



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