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Onsi Sawiris

Last Updated: 10/31/2006 10:52:27 PM

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Egyptian businessman who heads the Orascom conglomerate and one of the richest men in Africa.....


Egyptian businessman Onsi Sawiris
Egyptian businessman Onsi Sawiris

Egyptian businessman, Onsi Sawiris is one the richest men in Africa, along with his family, he is estimated to be worth approximately $5 billion by Forbes Magazine.

Born in Sohag, a predominately Coptic city in Upper Egypt halfway between Aswan and Cairo in 1930, Sawiris enjoyed an early life typical of the Upper Egyptian gentry that his family was part of, before heading off to University as part of the preparation to manage the family’s land holdings.

He however turned his attentions to constructions, setting up a contracting firm, which operated initially in Upper Egypt but later on, moved its operations to Cairo and the delta provinces.

By the 1960’s he had grown his firm into one of the largest in Egypt as he benefited from the patronage of the Egyptian government. However the 60’s also proved to be a turbulent time for Egypt and Sawiris his firm taken over by the government due to the nationalisation policies of the current regime.

After being forced to as employee of his now nationalised firm for five years; Sawiris and his family eventually left Egypt to set up in Libya, where they lived from 1966 to 1977. During this period Sawiris was able to rebuild his fortune using his construction expertise to build water works and other construction project for the oil-rich nation.

Sawiris began rebuilding his Egyptian operations upon his return in 1977, taking on complex projects throughout Egypt either as the lead contractor or in conjunction with international construction firms.

This brought about another successful spell in the Egyptian construction industry leading to the flotation of his company on the Cairo Stock Exchange in 1999. The company has since expanded into the Orascom conglomerate, which he now runs with his three sons, with global operations spanning construction, cement, telecommunications, and tourism.

Through his Orascom Construction, a joint venture with Swiss cement gaint Holderbank, Sawairis controls 25% of the Egyptian cement market. He expanded his telecommunications business last year by acquiring the third largest telecommunications company, Wind Telecomunicazioni S.p.A. in a €12.138 billion deal, 51% of which went to Orascom Telecom.


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