U.S. Soy and industry partners established Soy Excellence Centers (SECs) with the vision to build relationships with protein industry professionals in emerging markets by providing professional development programming and resources. Three years ago, Stan Born, a soybean farmer from Illinois and U.S. Soybean Export Council Vice Chair, attended the launch of the first SEC in Egypt, which operates as the Soy Excellence Center for the Middle East and North Africa (SEC MENA). Recently, he returned as part of a delegation of grower leaders to experience the impact the program is having in the region, witnessing that the opportunities for shared experience, collaboration and partnerships have taken off.

“Egypt is an important market for U.S. Soy; it’s the third largest market for our soybeans overseas and it is growing rapidly,” says Born. “With the existing and growing capacity [Egyptian producers] have in poultry and aquaculture, they have an extreme preference of U.S. Soy, they understand the value and are making a lot of room for continued growth. As a soybean farmer, that excites me.”

The programming provided by SEC MENA over the last three years has been robust. Facilitation has included in-person sessions, while also offering more and more sessions virtually, particularly since the onset of Covid-19.  During the visit, Born and his colleagues participated in SEC MENA’s 38th Aquaculture Training Program and 29th Poultry Production Program, spending time to visit with some of the trainees. The effectiveness of the program continues to shine through, supporting these protein-industry professionals in a variety of ways.

“It’s clear we are making an impact,” adds Born. “I was able to meet with people who have participated in several of the sessions. Their passion is hard to miss, and they shared how much we’ve helped them raise the productivity and professionalism of their operations in Egypt.”

From the beginning, SEC MENA has partnered with local government and industry to tailor programming that will increase capacity in poultry and aquaculture within the country. These partners provide resources and advisory that help the program’s ability to increase not only the knowledge, but the leadership and management abilities of participants.

“These sessions are great for everyone from fresh graduates and farmers to others who work in the aquaculture industry. The [training programs] help secure jobs within the industry, we’ve hired people ourselves,” says Doaa Fawzy, HR & Training Manager for WorldFish Egypt and member of SEC MENA’s Aquaculture Advisory Council. “From my point of view as a training manager, I hope [U.S. Soy] continues these programs because they’ve made a big impact in development for this sector. This type of practical training doesn’t happen elsewhere.”

For Born, the recent visit made it clear that the program is truly living out its vision to identify and support the up-and-coming stars of Egyptian agribusiness.

“One thing that really stuck out to me was that I saw what the future looks like,” says Born. “We met with students that have participated in the program. What a dynamic and intelligent group!  We definitely have a bright future here in Egypt.”

Both Mr. Born and Ms. Fawzy noted that the skills and knowledge gained through the SECs are unmatched. For Egypt, the program plans for continued growth and expansion through new partnerships and new enrollment in both the aquaculture and poultry industries. SEC MENA is preparing for a full slate of poultry and aquaculture programming for prospective participants in the region throughout 2022. In addition, past participants will have an exclusive opportunity to network and continue their education with others in their field from around the globe through the newly launched online community, available at soyexcellence.org.

-This story was funded by the soy checkoff.