This article originally appeared on the Carl H. Linder College of Business at the University of Cincinnati website and can be found here.
Professor Charles H Matthews witnessed the Cairo protests while participating in the 1st Annual Mideast Council for Small Business & Entrepreneurship conference and assisting in the development of Entrepreneurship Centers and university courses at Egyptian universities.
Arriving in Cairo on Friday, Jan. 21, 2011, Charles H. Matthews, PhD, professor and executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Education & Research in the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Business noted that there was little warning of the sweeping changes that would ensue by the time he
left Cairo on Jan. 30. “I was focused on preparing for the mid-year Board meeting of the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) and to participate in the 1st Annual Conference hosted by the Mideast Council for Small Business & Entrepreneurship (MCSBE),” commented Matthews. “When meeting with the conference organizers, we knew that some protests were planned to coincide with the national police holiday set for Tuesday, January 25. Everyone was glad that the conference was scheduled for Monday, January 24.”
Dr. Matthews was also part of a five-member ICSB delegation representing three U.S. universities (the University of Cincinnati, University of Central Arkansas, and the George Washington University), one European university (Turku University School of Economics, Finland), and one South American university (Centro de Desarrollo del Espirtu Empresarial ? Universidad Icesi, Columbia) working to establish a memorandum of understanding with Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and ICSB, for developing entrepreneurship curriculum and entrepreneurship centers for higher education in Egypt.
“After a very successful conference with over 275 delegates on Tuesday, January 25, the national police holiday, the storm clouds began to build and by Wednesday Tahrir Square was abuzz, but we still went on with our meetings at Cairo University and Nile University,” says Matthews. “Thursday, January 27, we actually met with the Minister of Higher Education to pursue an MOU to help Egyptian Universities develop Entrepreneurship Centers in Cairo, Alexandria, and Helwan,” added Dr. Matthews. By Thursday night, however, the positive element of the protests gave way to less benign forces. “Earlier in the evening, I did venture out onto Tahrir Square, my hotel was just one block away, and took a few pictures. Friday, January 28, I went to the Cairo airport at about 6 a.m., but my flight was cancelled and I was stuck until late Saturday evening, when I managed to get onto a flight to Amsterdam and make my way home from Amsterdam late Sunday, January 30. It was quite the experience.”
Matthews also commented that given the changes sweeping Egypt, there would be an even greater need to foster the development of Entrepreneurship programs and courses and to re-focus from just job creation to business creation. “While there has been a much needed change in government, I am confident that the solid educational foundation will emerge to support a growing entrepreneurial economy. With a focus on business creation, the economy is better positioned to grow. We went to a friend and colleague’s house for dinner on Thursday and while there was much uncertainty and strong feelings to push forward with the protests, it was a force for positive change and a promise for a stronger economic future.”