The real estate sector in Egypt has had a reputation for being a “boys club.” But an increasing number of women are working to change that, while training the next female generation to excel, too. Invest-Gate presents three instrumental females in the sector who are disrupting the male-dominated status quo and changing the face of Egypt’s economy one step at a time as they develop residential communities, advance the banking sector, and expand the mortgage finance market.
Being one of the few women who have climbed the ranks in the mortgage finance sector in Egypt, Maha Abdel Razek broke some serious glass ceilings by commencing a mortgage department at HSBC Bank and Bank Audi, soon after she moved back to Egypt eighteen years ago.
“After I came back from the United States, I realized no one knew anything about mortgage financing. Since I am passionate about this field, I worked on Egyptian-izing it so it would suit the needs of my country,” Abdel Razek tells Invest-Gate.
“I was lucky because, at the time I was starting my career, this sector was still not developed. It was a great opportunity for me to delve into it at this specific time,” she adds.
Graduating from Cairo University with a bachelor’s in accounting, Abdel Razek currently trains mortgage professionals at the Egyptian Banking institute (EBI) as part of an initiative led by the Central Bank of Egypt and the Arab Academy for Banking and Financial Sciences.
“Being chosen to train means that I proved to be respected, competent, and knowledgeable enough in the sector to pass on all what I have gained throughout my professional journey,” Abdel Razek elaborates.
Despite the limited number of women working in mortgage financing in Egypt, she believes that females have “an edge” working in this sector and hopes to see the number increasing in the forthcoming years.
“[Women] would add great value if their thoughts were brought together. A woman generally loves her home, she spots details and notices aspects that not every man can easily identify,” she says. Holding onto her assertions that challenges existing in the mortgage finance field are general, and have nothing to do with one’s gender, Abdel Razek wishes to bring up a future generation that trusts mortgage financing to work in the field, and also to benefit from it.
“The successful people can easily shine, it is all about what everyone adds,” she says.
According to Abdel Razek, 60-80% of individuals who purchase real estate globally buy it through mortgage financing, however, the rate in Egypt is much lower, amounting to just 0.5%.
“I wish I can achieve this target someday through the training sessions I give. I try to pass on all my practical and theoretical expertise to the younger generations, so they are able to make policies based on correct financial basis,” she says.
Throughout her professional career journey, Abdel Razek attained a real estate, insurance, and annuity license in the state of California, and also received a certification in Islamic banking from Bahrain. She worked as the former advisor to the Minister of Local Development and currently volunteers at the ministry for “Mashrou’ak,” a microfinance project.
Running now Al Oula El Taamir for Mortgage Finance as an assistant managing director, she shares with Invest-Gate her extraordinary business acumen and weighs in on why the mortgage finance market is still unpopular.
She explains that along with the insufficient market awareness, the fact that consumers finance off-plan
remains an obstacle. “The mortgage financing system, in general,” according to Abdel Razek, “is not conducted properly in Egypt as a construction loan is needed first, followed by a bridge loan, and finally the mortgage financing comes as a final step.”
She adds that another major problem is Egypt’s rampant informal economy, as it leads many people to lack official income statements, consequently impeding them from a chance of receiving mortgage finance.
Nevertheless, Abdel Razek’s sky is the limit. Constantly having her kids as her “backbone,” pushing her to achieve more, she believes that balancing the personal and professional life is vital for success, as well as, the determination to solve whatever obstacles life throws our way.