When Mohamed Abdel Salam El-Mahgoub became governor of Alexandria in 1997, he took charge of a storied Egyptian city on the verge of collapse. Garbage and trash lined streets that were clogged with traffic. Roads, highways, water and sanitation systems required urgent repair. Corrupt municipal employees exacted costly bribes for business licenses and building permits. The city’s economy had slowed, as investors, put off by the city’s fading infrastructure and poor services, took their money elsewhere. Alexandria’s fortunes began to turn at the beginning of a nine-year period that came to be called “the Mahgoub era.” Determined to restore the city’s greatness, Mahgoub encouraged citizen participation, formed alliances with key groups, and won public support via high-visibility projects. He made government more business-friendly by tackling corruption that inflated the price of required documents, and he lured back investors with tax incentives and improved infrastructure. During his nine years in office, Mahgoub saw Alexandria’s economy bloom, fueled by construction projects and an improved business climate. Although some reforms lost momentum when Mahgoub was promoted to a cabinet position in 2006, his accomplishments as governor underscored the value of citizen participation in Egypt’s centralized government.
Reclaiming an Egyptian Treasure: Restoring Infrastructure and Services, Alexandria, 1997-2006
Rushda Majeed drafted this case on the basis of interviews conducted in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, in October and November 2010. Sarah El-Kazaz contributed. Case published April 2012.
engagement & communication
Building citizen support
Making services accessible
Municipal centers of government
Public service delivery
Revitalizing urban spaces
Country of Reform