In The Name Of God The All Mighty And Merciful
Many nations such as Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and most recently China, Brazil and Turkey achieved development and progress over the past one hundred and fifty years. Entrusting their unique race, culture and knowledge. This success was earned through adoption of western best practices in the areas of education, scientific research, production, marketing, etc., and it is through modernization their nations and embracing these practices that they achieved progress and not through westernization.
Does the above narrative mean the same to each one of us? Do we have common definitions that unite us with necessary significance and meaning?
Three thousand years ago the great Chinese thinker and philosopher, Confucius, said “if only I had a day to rule the world the first thing I would do is unite all definitions” How significant is this quote to what we are trying to accomplish here today.
How can we devise a plan for our revival if definitions are not understood and there is no common language with clear meaning that unites us?
Was it not Muslims that invented semantics (study of meaning) to help them determine exact meanings of vocabulary used in the Quran? Western scholars development this early work and tailored its use to meet their cultural under the name of Semantics.
We all know that meanings and definitions of certain terms and jargon can vary and this is especially true for metaphorical words such as renaissance. We will therefore try within this post to selectively choose from within commonly used definitions, to be the bases for future discussions. Perhaps these definitions through our collective effort and contribution will serve as the basis for the development of the Arab Renaissance Body-of-Knowledge and dictionary.
We have adopted the definitions of what causality and methodology can be built from it. Which means the possibility of asking the following question: How can we do that?
Renaissance is the revival of learning and revival of culture.
Culture is a combination of the following: knowledge, beliefs, habits, behavior, communication (mainly language), crafts, skills and tools to be used by a homogeneous group of people built on successfully co-existing among themselves and other people.
Civilization is the average consumption of natural resources per capita as a measure of happiness.
Language is the foundation and repository of thought and culture. Thus if undermined our cultural revival and renaissance will be weakened.
Excellence is the intention and accumulation of knowledge. This implies that excellence cannot be achieved by coincidence but through strong predetermination, true intention and an efficient accumulation mechanism.
Westernization is the adoption of Western culture in full, including all the elements of culture as defined above.
Modernization is taking knowledge, skills and tools and modifying them to conform to the rest of the elements that define culture and then become absorbed in local culture.
Knowledge is information and skills acquired through education and experience i.e. the theoretical and practical understanding of a subject.
Knowledge Process is a set of resolutions and related actions, which we undertake to produce a service or product to a third party.
Competitive Advantage is the strategic advantage that an organization or nation possesses against its competitors in a particular field or sector.
Core Competency is the factors that an organization or nation may deem essential, unique and central to effectively perform its duties or work, making it difficult for competitors to mimic.
Critical Success Factors is the term that describes the strategic management of the underlying factors of the institution in achieving its vision and mission.
Strategy is originally a military term, describing the overall work plan to achieve a particular objective or goal. It is also known as a plan of action to maintain the competitive advantage of an institution or a nation.
Strategic Management is the management and implementation of initiatives at the leadership and senior management level aimed at improving institutional performance through the optimal use of available resources.
Strategic Planning represents the process or the direction followed by an institution to determine and achieve its strategy through a decision-making process and use of available resources.
Our countries have on occasion adopted the strategy of modernization and westernization and accepted what friendly nations provided in terms of financial support and even more importantly technical support through providing expertise, technical missions and the provision of specialized training courses to deliver projects.
But did this lead to sustainable development or a renaissance?
Did we retain the knowledge, methods and best practices as applied by these foreign experts?
Did we study this knowledge and modify it to suit our needs and then develop and improve it to ensure its ownership and continuity within the society?
Are improvements accumulated with the aim of reaching perfection and excellence?
Is this knowledge passed on to our children and taught generation after generation negating the need for foreign expertise or experts for the same knowledge again and again on similar projects.
The above leads to the following fundamental question: What is the institutional mechanism that allows Egypt to compile these experiences and merge them into the fabric of culture and society, and then apply these experiences to launch a revolution in education and innovation?
If excellence means having the intention and the mechanism to accumulate experiences, how would this mechanism be able to accumulate expertise institutionally and not have these experiences in the minds of individuals risking the loss of these experiences?
Who receives and adopts the creativity and ideas of our people and efficiently studies these ideas so as not to frustrate the innovators and creators among us?
How do we set the benchmarks and performance indicators needed for our institutions in particular universities, and do we quality manage the application and implementation of this proposed mechanism, and how do we compare our performance with similar leading institutions in the world? How can we modify our path to follow and pursue excellence within the world?
In short, where will the institutionalization of the Renaissance take place and who would be responsible?
The Way Forward
When the revolution in Poland succeeded in breaking the ruling Communist Party, the comments of experts at the time stated that Poland needed seventy years of planned hard work to accommodate a free market economy and to catch up with Europe. Poland also needed to develop a strategy for its revolution and to build institutions, systems, modern laws and efficient administration more than it needed financial support.
A number of Arab countries have adopted a free market system for many years now, and many socialist Arab countries stirred towards capitalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We have therefore already provided many of the years required to transform towards Renaissance. We can assume that we need thirty-five years to reach a clear quantitative goal to be at equal footing with countries like South Korea, Malaysia, or Turkey at the end of this period. We can rely on performance indicators such as per capita income, international educational standards, health services such as deaths per thousand births, etc. At this point I would like to invite our fellow economists to contribute and add/develop other performance indictors.
Let’s think together of parallel paths and routes to achieve an immediate sustainable renaissance.
• Short term – Quick results between one year to two years
• Medium term – Tangible results between five to ten years
• Long term – We begin recognizing the positive results after fifteen years. when institution building is complete. We would be able to compare our results with target nations after thirty-five years once we have completed our investment.
Change of Governments and heads of State within a democratic system is important and essential to stop us falling back into dictatorship. However during the medium and long term renaissance period’s this system raises important questions such as:
Who is responsible for the Renaissance and the achievement of its objectives?
Are achievements of a particular elected government compatible with the renaissance’s plan? Whether in cause or proposed solution?
Who works towards developing strategic emergency plans?
Who supports spending on long-term projects that show results in the era of future governments?
Governments cannot monitor themselves, and they will not be monitored by parliament as long as the elected government is majority in parliament. We can see now in many democratic countries irresponsible and unsustainable debt levels that eventually led to their bankruptcy and the need for bailouts and rescue plans such as in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and others.
Governments tend to borrow and buy their popularity in elections. Once the opposition is in power they do the same providing their people with a false sense of wellbeing.
Let us suggest the establishment of a distinct solution for our revolution and call it the “House of Nahda”, an independent institution funded by the state, and follows an independent judiciary without the interference of political parties, government or parliament.
The characterization of “House of the Nahda” include the following:
• Composed of strategic management, strategic planning and economic experts and has a database of diverse specialists with a proven track record in their respective scientific filed. These individuals are to be nominated by educational institutions, universities, trade unions, associations, and others.
• The House of Nahda develops the strategic destination of the state with its clear competitive advantages. This is submitted to parliament for review and approval.
Globalization and opening of the markets to competition using a number of means especially Free Trade Agreements has unfortunately favored developed countries at the expense of the underdeveloped. This adoption of free trade instigates that protectionist controls such as customs be dismantled and replaced with sale tax that does not distinguish between foreign and local products.
Products of poor underdeveloped countries are unable to access developed markets for a number of reasons, such as specifications, standards and quality. How can companies in weak economies with limited resources adhere to strict specifications, standards and provisions?
We need to find unique strategic competitive advantages that make our economy unique and distinctive, for example:
• Historical tourism in Egypt
• Religious tourism in Saudi Arabia, including Hajj and Umrah
• Building Arab and Islamic knowledge content in Egypt, because of ample presence of Arab languages, theology and information technology scientists.
• Agriculture in Egypt, Syria, Sudan and Morocco
• The oil industry in oil producing countries
• The development of strategic objectives and the sharing of the outcomes of already set quantitative performance measures over a number of years based on available state funding.
• Auditing government authority and ministries plans against the set strategic objectives and its measures.
• Gather and assemble best global practices and making them available to quality assurance bodies within government institutions and the private sector.
• Publish periodic reports to illustrate the extent of government’s commitment to the overall strategic direction of the state.
• Adoption of a public university to become the “University of Nahda”. One of its aims would be the production of qualified human resources in strategic management
• Storing, documenting and publishing knowledge systems and processes for all government at strategic, management and operational levels
• Provide scholarships for higher education to improve these processes and their implementation
• Provide training courses to government employees to ensure they are qualified to assume positions of public administration
• Build and sustain dictionaries of public administration
• Create a knowledge bank to make best practices available in governance and the accumulation of experiences and knowledge
• Identify the tasks and objectives required from trade unions, associations and institutions of the state and the integration or cancellation of which is redundant and has no role in the Renaissance.
We will in a dedicated post explain the long-term track for renaissance to identify and clearly explain the role of the “House of Nahda”
As a temporary measure we must set an institution responsible for achieving the Renaissance’s goals until the completion and building the “House of Nahda” allowing it to assume its long-term goals. It is a proposed innovative tool for our renaissance that provides competitive advantages and unique solutions allowing us to compete.
In the next post we will discuss the ideas for the fast track.
We ask God for help and guidance.