A journey that started back in 1930, abounding with ceaseless work and effort, overcoming the obstacles it encountered, made steps out of stones, through which the traveller ascended towards the greatest of successes. So, he deserved to be a role model of self-made man, who built up himself by himself, starting from scratch more than once, establishing, through toil and sweat, the most successful companies! He is a man who has embodied the concepts of real struggle, with his steps becoming a motive of hope for every striving man hindered by life difficulties: He is the late engineer Onsi Naguib Sawiris, one of the most prominent businessmen in Egypt, the Founder and CEO of Orascom group, the man who has played a huge role in supporting the Egyptian economy, on both local and global levels.
Engineer Onsi Sawiris was born in Sohag on 14/8/1930, the youngest among his siblings: Mr. Murad, Mr. Mukhtar, and Ms. Samiha. He inherited strength and wisdom from his mother, Mrs. Badi’aa Atallah, who was quite known for her strength, firmness, rectitude and wise decision making, that the whole family used to appreciate and respect her opinion. He also inherited her love for the homeland, she was aware of several political affairs, speaking before him about Al-Wafd and Moustafa Al-Nahhas, besides her compassion and love for God, which she has enrooted deeply in her children.
Since his graduation at the Faculty of Agriculture, Cairo University in 1950, he set off with steady steps led by his God-granted wisdom. In 1953, he married Mrs. Yousriya Louza, the daughter of Mr. Lawyer Nassef Louza, through the interference of his close friend Fathy George, she was his perfect companion along his difficult journey, he said about her: “She has the capability of bearing and adapting with the problems… She witnessed with me very harsh days after the nationalization, but she fulfilled her mission perfectly.” They were granted three boys: Engineer Naguib Sawiris, Engineer Samih Sawiris and Mr. Nassef Sawiris.
Engineer Onsi’s early set off launched in the fifties after his graduation at the age of twenty, he chose his beloved field of contracting; he met the late Mr. Lam’y Yackoub and established together “Lam’y and Onsi Contractions”, a company which worked in paving the roads and digging the irrigation canals. In 1961, the company was nationalized partially, then wholly, with Engineer Onsi remaining its chair for five years. Afterwards, he travelled to Libya where he spent 12 years in as a professional in the works of agencies and contractions until the mid-seventies.
Engineer Onsi Sawiris decided to return to Egypt, founded Orascom for General Constructions and Commerce, which afterwards became Orascom for Construction Industries, starting with three employees including his niece, Ms. Nabila Al-Manqabadi and Eng. Sherif Fanous, and two rooms and a hall. In the course of days, the small company has turned into a huge economic entity which embraces thousands of workers. The company’s activity has expanded to include tourism and hotels, as well as technological systems services, to become one of the greatest Egyptian conglomerates.
One of the secrets behind the success of Eng. Onsi is his belief in the importance of education; he was concerned with teaching his children in the most elevated universities around the world, despite all the difficulties he passed through. Eng. Naguib Sawiris states: “It was one of the greatest early decisions my father had taken to lay huge investments in our education, and to provide us with the best levels of experience, he knew that his children are his real capital.” Thus, Eng. Naguib was sent to Switzerland to join Poly Technique Institute, famous for graduating leaders and senior management men in Europe. Eng. Samih was sent to Berlin University, and Mr. Nassef to the University of Chicago specialized in business and money, as it is said: “If you are planning for one year, plant rice. And if you are planning for twenty years, plant trees. But if you are planning for a hundred years, educate people.” Hence, it was not strange to see his care to provide scholarships for educating others. Among his words: “I have always believed that education offers promise of a better life.” And … stories in beautiful Egypt never end!
The General Bishop
7 July 2021
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center