Geopolitics

Egypt In His Hands? Snapshot Of General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

The Egyptian Army Chief and Defense Minister had ordered the ultimatum to President Morsi, and then followed through. A portrait of Egypt's strongest strong man.

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Véronique Kiesel

“Morsi isn't our president any more. Sisi is with us!”

These were the public cries for the unlikely new hero of Egyptian revolutionaries: General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, chief of the Egyptian Army and Defense Minister, gave off quite a stiff impression in his tight outfit, as he took his first steps on the international stage.

On Monday, when he ordered a 48-hour ultimatum for Mohammed Morsi, he became the central figure and the new symbol of strength in the political crisis Egypt continues to face.

During his televised speech on Monday, General al-Sisi had threatened that “if the people’s demands are not met,” the armed forces “would announce a plan and measures to supervise their application.” The army “will not tolerate and will not forgive anyone who avoids facing his own responsibilities.”

The remarks where cheered by the crowds in Tahrir Square. “The army has joined the people,” declared the opposition movement Tamarod, which has organized the recent massive demonstrations.

Back in late 2012, General al-Sisi had already tried to promote a national consensus during the crisis of the new Constitution, but the Muslim Brotherhood refused to negotiate. This time he showed more authority.

The 59-year-old general was virtually unknown to the wider public before being nominated in 2011 by Marshall Hussein Tantawi -- the army chief at the time -- as head of military intelligence within the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, whose mission was to handle the post-Mubarak transition.

He came to be seen as the symbol of this transition, notably in August 2012 when Morsi, just elected President, named him army chief and Defense Minister. He replaced Marshall Tantawi, the man who had served deposed President Hosni Mubarak for more than a decade. The Egyptian press has declared that the nomination of Al-Sisi at this strategic position was made “with the blessing of the Americans and the Saudis.”

American military school

Al-Sisi graduated in military science at the Egyptian military academy in 1977. As an infantry officer, he continued his studies at a British military school in 1992 and an American military school in 2006. It is not an unusual path for Egyptian officers, as Egyptian and American armies maintain very tight relations.

Since the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel of 1979, the yearly subsidy given by Washington to the Egyptian army has been $1.3 billion. As a further sign of his closeness with Washington, al-Sisi was Egypt's point man in working with American intelligence services in the fight against terrorism in the region. He was also a military attaché in Saudi Arabia under Mubarak's reign, and is said to still maintain excellent relations with the high dignitaries in the Gulf.

People had pointed out his affection for the Muslim Brotherhood when Morsi chose him as army chief: he remains a very pious man, his wife is veiled and his uncle, Abbas Al-Sisi was an important figure within the movement.

Still, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi remains most of all a military man, a great admirer of former president Gamal Abdel Nasser, an army colonel who led the revolution that gave birth to modern Egypt.

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Future

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.


Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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