Meet Open AIR’s New and Emerging Researchers Group (NERG)

First Stop, the American University in Cairo

By the AUC New and Emerging Research Group and Meika Ellis

Under the masterful guidance of our North African hub leader, Nagla Rizk, six NERGs are currently engaged in research spanning North Africa. Our AUC hub is the lead on research into economics, innovation, and metrics (among other topics). Nagla has been with Open AIR since its evolution from the ACA2K (Africa Copyright Access to Knowledge) group in 2011 and is now looking in depth into the issue of how to measure innovation in a manner that accurately reflects what is happening on the ground in most, if not all, of the African continent.

So who are the new and emerging researchers at our North Africa hub?

Nagham El Houssamy, our previous Ombudsperson of the NERG, and Nadine Weheba are two of Nagla’s longest standing researchers. Both have been with Open AIR since 2012 and are currently working on two case studies out of the Cairo hub: “Informal Innovation via Maker Movements in North Africa” and “Power Relations and Knowledge Governance Systems at High Technology Hubs: The Case of Egypt”. Beyond her expertise in international relations and economics, you can find Nagham training in the pool, on the bike, and along the trails for her next triathlon. Nadine, on the other hand, will be pausing her research projects on topics ranging from digital entrepreneurship to metrics as a new mother-in-training, with her first little one born just this week.

Ayah el Said and Mai Alkhamissi joined the Open AIR NERG around the same time in 2016. With a Masters in Anthropology, Mai is working at the AUC as both a researcher and lecturer. Mai is also conducting research on the case study looking into high technology hubs, alongside Nagham and Nadine. While she is a part of Nagla’s team, Ayah is currently working from the UK, where she is also finishing her PhD. When not working, Mai enjoys trying “adrenaline pumping activities” like bungie jumping(!), and Ayah enjoys biking and yoga, in addition to her passion for putting on rad round-tables discussing such topics as “Cartoons and Political Satire on Arab Spring”.

Farida Kamel is currently completing a MSc in Finance and Economic Policy at the University of London. Her research focuses on mapping the landscape of entrepreneurial activities in North Africa, with a special emphasis on maker movements and start-ups. Economics aside, Farida particularly enjoys cooking and then swimming to cancel out high calorie splurging!

AUC’s newest NERG, Mohamed Hosny, also enjoys being active but as a hiker (if you’re ever in the Cairo region with a pair of runners, check out the trail Wadi el arish omash!). Mohamed has only been under Nagla’s wing for a couple weeks now, but his background on economics has made him an asset to the team. He is currently working on his Master’s degree in economic development, and will be a lead researcher on the hub’s case study on maker movements in North Africa.

As mentioned, key research at this hub, that will benefit Open AIR’s research throughout the network, is looking at more accurately measuring innovation in Africa. To help the network gather such data Ayah, Nadine, and Nagla are working closely together planning and developing survey questions for field researchers to better capture and value what is actually happening with innovation in Africa, in both the formal and informal sectors.

Open AIR prides itself on hiring strong, emerging researchers. This introduction is only the first of our series about our NERG Fellows. Stay tuned to hear from our other four hubs over the next few months.