Gepubliceerd op 6 november 2023

Meet changemaker H.E. Dr. Hala, Egypt's Minister of Planning and Economic Development

Changemaker Hala.pngMeet changemaker H.E. Dr. Hala, Egypt's Minister of Planning and Economic Development

Part of the ‘Solving Global Challenges Together’ campaign of the NL BUsiness Hub Network. 

H.E. Dr. Hala stands as a luminary in the realm of sustainability, climate action, and national development. With an illustrious career marked by dedication and insightful leadership, she has consistently spearheaded initiatives that have redefined Egypt's trajectory toward a more sustainable future. As a politician, her nuanced understanding of the interplay between policy, people, and the planet sets her apart. In this interview, Dr. Hala shares her personal journey, shedding light on her inspirations, her nation's progressive strides in sustainable practices, and the importance of individual contributions. From sharing her "Eureka" moments to discussing the commendable projects such as the “Green Village”, Dr. Hala provides a candid look into the heart of Egypt’s sustainable vision and her personal commitment to this cause.

What was your "Eureka!" moment, when you realised that you needed to contribute to sustainability efforts? 

Most people associate the “Eureka” moment as a sudden flash of inspiration - a magical epiphany or a lightning bolt of realization that appears out of nowhere. Yet in my case, and particularly as a politician, these moments can happen everyday when we pay closer attention to our core purpose; that is, when we pause, notice, reimagine, and ask questions about even the seemingly most familiar principles. Everyday, I find myself pondering over this very question: in the absence of imagining a different future for our people, what worlds do we stand to lose or have already lost? Sustainability is essentially a crisis of imagination. What we refer to as "vision" is really just our ability to make connections between disparate ideas, and imagine different ways of living. Changing systems and cultures also requires a new rigor - a rigor of feeling. We must feel differently, not just change the map of where we want to go. When we connect more deeply and visit communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change, we will immediately feel a shift in consciousness and awareness of the impact our actions have on the environment and future generations 

Which personal steps are you taking to make a difference? Since the very beginning, Egypt has placed emphasis on aligning national policies with international commitments, such as the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and promoting policy coordination and coherence across ministries. This is how the National Sustainable Development Strategy (Egypt Vision 2030) came into fruition, which covers a wide range of interlinked economic, social, and environmental objectives. The Voluntary National Reviews also show that a "whole-of-government" implementation is critical. As such, the formation of entities for interdepartmental and interministrial collaboration has been prompted by this recognition, which include the National Council for Climate Change and the Egyptian Business Council for Sustainability. The positive economic, environmental, and social benefits of investing in green projects must be brought to the forefront so that private investors can be competitive while investing. To achieve this, Egypt prioritised developing a portfolio of investment-ready projects that span priority interventions across sectors and reflect all investment priorities in the National Climate Change Strategy, which identifies identifies a cumulative funding gap of $94.7 billion for adaptation and $153.6 billion for mitigation. We also launched the “State Ownership Policy” document in 2022, which provides an outline for investors on the role of the state in various sectors and its exit plan, doubling the private sector's role in the economy to 65% over the next three years. It is also important to strike a balance between supply-focused (e.g., technology transfer) and demand-focused (e.g., community participation) policy instruments, which is why we’ve launched the Egypt’s Initiative for Smart Green Projects in 2022, which supported more than 6,000 startups and projects across Egypt to boost the capacities of entrepreneurs. To promote knowledge-sharing on what constitutes effective adaptation and resilience-building, we launched the Decent Life for a Climate Resilient Africa Initiative in 2022, which is based on cooperation between African countries, various partners, and stakeholders to improve the living conditions in 30 percent of the neediest rural villages by 2030.

What is a personal sustainability initiative or project that you have worked on and are most proud of, and why? 

Community empowerment is at the heart of meaningful and inclusive climate action, which is why I am particularly proud of the “Green Village” project that comes under the “Decent Life” (Hayah Karima) initiative. With an estimated $50 billion investment, the Decent Life programme seeks to enhance the lives of 60 million people nationally who reside in more than 4,500 villages and rural areas. With the help of "E-Consult" Engineering and Environmental Consulting Company and the Egyptian Green Building Association, 32 development projects in the village of Fares are being carried out as part of the "Green Village" initiative at a cost of 610 million EGP, with 77% of them involving green investments. Innovation is the central instrument in economic prosperity, as it stems directly from local circumstances, which is exactly what this project focuses on: localization. To respond to rising temperatures in Egypt, Egyptian architects are attempting to design green structures that can keep people safe and cool while reducing the emissions that contribute to global warming. One of the companies, ECOnsult, has made government buildings, banks, and coffee shops in Egypt more comfortable by using local resources and is currently a nominee for an award for innovative cooling without air conditioning. 

People often say that individually they can’t make a difference, for example by eating less meat. What is your thought on that? 

One of the biggest misconceptions about climate change is that it is merely related to large-scale irreversible effects that are hard to address in a simple benefit–cost framework. Bedouin communities in Egypt’s Sinai, for instance, carry a lifestyle that is based on developing dynamic and spiritual relationships with nature, which enables them to adapt to the changes of their environment. Each one of us can individually make a difference when we realize that embracing different lifestyles can not only benefit your environment, but also your health. One powerful step to start with is prevent food waste. When we waste food, we waste not only the food itself, but also the water and energy needed to grow, harvest, transport, and package it.The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued a warning that food waste alone is responsible for 8–10% of greenhouse gases and implores us to alter our diets to reverse the situation. Consider more thoughtfully the meals you might eat out, and prepare your grocery list in advance to prevent impulsive purchases.

 Which changemaker has inspired you? 

Clean air, safe drinking water, a plentiful supply of nutrient-rich food, and a safe place to live are all at risk due to climate change, which also has the potential to undo decades of advancement in global health. If there is one changemaker that is wholly relevant to our times today, despite being alive more than 70 years ago, it is Egyptian nuclear physicist Sameera Moussa, who advocated for people’s rights to access affordable health technology and cancer treatments. When Moussa lost her mother as a young child to cancer, she went on to pursue her PhD, which led to her discovery of affordable nuclear technology medical applications, such X-rays. Throughout her life, Moussa also volunteered at numerous hospitals in Egypt to assist in the treatment of cancer patients. Although Moussa was interested in the medical advancements nuclear energy could offer, she was also keen to warn of the dangers of its use in warfare, which is why she organised the Atomic Energy for Peace Conference. She called for this conference after becoming deeply concerned about the advancements she observed in atomic weapons, using the catchphrase "Atoms for Peace," which was eventually embraced by President Dwight Eisenhower in a 1953 speech. Today, Moussa’s spirit continues to float among us today. She was a powerful advocate for health, peace and technology, all of which are the most vital ingredients for equitable and economically viable climate solutions.

Part of the ‘Solving Global Challenges Together’ campaign of the NL BUsiness Hub Network.