x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim to use book profits to fight poverty

He was the face of the Egytian revolution, now Wael Ghonim is planning his next venture to help Egypt.

Wael Ghonim addresses a crowd inside Tahrir Square in Cairo in February. Reuters
Wael Ghonim addresses a crowd inside Tahrir Square in Cairo in February. Reuters

Wael Ghonim, the activist who became the face of the Egyptian uprising, will use the proceeds of his upcoming book to help the fight against poverty in the North African country.

The 30-year old, who is taking a break from his posting as Google's regional head of marketing in Dubai, says his recent publishing deal will help to fund a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that will launch next month. Mr Ghonim said his new venture would employ technology to improve education and spur economic growth after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from the Egyptian presidency.

"We want to create online products that focus on fighting poverty, fostering education and spreading human rights awareness," he said. "We will create content that people can share."

He expects the organisation also to help other NGOs gain access to technology. "We don't want to be in competition with other NGOs," Mr Ghonim said.

The venture will launch in a "matter of a few weeks", with the name to be revealed at that time.

Two other board members are involved, but Mr Ghonim declined to name them, saying only that they were "highly respectable Egyptian figures known for their contribution to technology". Mr Ghonim recently signed a deal with the New York publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and his book Revolution 2.0 is set to be released on January 25, the first anniversary of the start of the Egyptian revolution.

"The NGO is primarily funded by the proceeds of the book I'm doing," he said.

Profits from the NGO would be donated to the "martyrs" of the revolution, added Mr Ghonim.

"Part of the proceeds will be given away to the families who lost their loved ones or were injured during the revolution. A lot of these people are already facing financial problems."

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been credited with playing key roles in the uprisings that have been called the Arab spring. Mr Ghonim feels the use of the internet could spark a revival of the struggling Egyptian economy.

"Governments can become much more efficient using technology," he said. "I think that Egypt is going to adopt technology to improve efficiency."

Mr Ghonim expressed confidence about the future of the Egyptian economy.

"There is no civilisation or change that happens through people who are pessimistic," he said. "I force myself to be optimistic."

bflanagan@thenational.ae