Tales of Corruption from USAID-funded Bamyan Media, with #ElMashrou3 Part I

After the striking wave of criticism the launch of ElMashrou3 was received with from entrepreneurs and despite all possible PR and Advertising tricks the money can buy; the opinion of professionals and obvious impact assessment have shown a great failure to a potentially massive project to Unleash Entrepreneurship in Egypt, for which the United Sates Development Agency seeded Bamyan Media with a $4.1 Million Cheque.

My blogs in this regard started as an observation to the feedback shared by entrepreneurs and knowing only little of behind the scenes from what I experienced with Bamyan Media, this topic evolved into an actual investigation as each communication I received led to another and ended up with mega stories of what is really going on there. The scope of corruption and deceit with which Bamyan Media dealt with their surrounding is extremely unbelievable.

Not to repeat myself, please refer to my other post Who is really behind El Mashrou3, to tack down the evidence of the entity controlling the project and its background.

There goes a lot of in-depth look of the work of Bamyan Media and it’s first ever project, El Mashrou3 in Egypt:

  • Strategy
  • Track record
  • The Funding
  • Production Industry
  • Media Agency
  • Entrepreneurship / Egypreneur
  • Contestants
  • Waste of energy and resources


The business strategy of Bamyan Media is quite clearly stated in the LinkedIn profile of David Elliot, the one actually running Bamyan Media, I understand it might be quite sensitive to state that as David Elliot is obviously doing everything possible to make his daughter, Anna Elliot, feel like in charge, but her lack of any basic CEO skills  make this extremely obvious.


Bamyans Approach is to access resources directed towards social entrepreneurs around the world and supposedly channel these resources, through some kind of “media platform” into social entrepreneurs. If we search for definition of Corruption and Mismanagement well find that most cases of corruption in development around the world is about entities that access large pools of resources and misdirect, mismanage or use these resources for private gains.

If we briefly survey entrepreneurs in Egypt whether they have sensed the $4.1 Million USD or whether it directly or indirectly contributed to Unleashing Entrepreneurship in Egypt, the response will be very obvious, if we add to it the fact that the non profit corporation Bamyan Media and its founders own a Limited Liability Company in Egypt that was created based on the assets of their project in Egypt, we will know who is really profiting from this.

Corruption is positioning yourself as a receiver of “donor” funding that you are not only unable to manage, but you abuse the whole surrounding in the process of trying to make use of it, the business strategy of Bamyan Media as stated by David Elliot is a perfect example of positioning for corruption.

Track record

Bamyan Media was awarded a $4.1 Million USD grant to “Unleash Entrepreneurship in Egypt”, Bamyan Media established in 2010 as per their website, had absolutely no track record in performing any of these activities, though, the only argument is that Anna Elliot, the daughter of Mr. David Elliot and presumably CEO of Bamyan Media was the “executive producer” of a similar TV Show in Afghanistan executed by USAID.

This part is covered in my post: Who is really behind El Mashrou3, makes it obvious that the show in Afghanistan was executed by USAID itself with funds from ASMED project which was managed by David Elliot, furthermore, by this time Anna Elliot was a student at Hampshire university and part time bar-tender she didnt qualify even as a junior producer to be credited as a the executive producer of a TV Show.

Meaning that the only supporting reason behind bringing Bamyan Media to Egypt was the fact that David Elliot managed a $54 Million USD funds for USAID in Afghanistan, part of which was used in funding a pilot season TV Show there, then with his daughter they set up Bamyan Media to continue running the same model at different environments where there are any “grant” money directed towards entrepreneurship according to the strategy above.

This is very striking in USAID’s approach  in contracting entities for impact, which obviously known to be former consultants with no experience or linkage to the economy who can cover up all their shortcomings through clever PR machines and creating a network of beneficiaries who would be interested in covering up on these cases of corruption and mismanagement for pieces of the pie.

The Funding

In this official document from USAID Egypt Entrepreneurship Fact Sheet, its confirmed that Bamyan Media, with no track record was able to secure $4.1 Million USD for their operation in Egypt. It is not an easy job for anyone around the world, but it sounded like a piece of cake for the Elliot’s. When I first met David Elliot on a one-on-one basis which resolving a strategic conflict he did everything possible to claim that he just joined his daughter after she started Bamyan Media which recently while looking at the background of the organization proved to be completely false. Why so keen on hiding this background?


U.S. State Department try to reflect pride in big numbers for supporting youth and entrepreneurs in Egypt and region, while USAID comes along as a PR initiative that doesnt mind, intentionally or unintentionally wasting potential for the sake of a few good mouths and a few articles in western news sites that doesnt take the effort to investigate real impact on the ground.

The funding which was granted for a non-profit was then used in setting up a Limited Liability Company, EL Mashrou3 LLC, registration number #63834 that its founders and cashing out from right now, even more, as they had no understanding of what they should be doing with the funds, Bamyan Media abused an unbelievable number of professionals, local entrepreneurs and even one of the largest media agencies in the world on their way to graduating El Msahrou3.

Below are some of these cases:

Production Industry

I interviewed exactly 7 producers who repeated the same story of the manipulative, amateurish, unethical approach of Bamyan Media. Beside David Elliot and Anna Elliot, Bamyan Media was joined by Asim Haneef, he was credited as the Executive Producer for the show, but practically speaking he was as far from production as it can be, following the same pattern of crediting Anna Elliot as Executive Producer of the TV Show in Afghanistan, Asim Haneef is obviously trying to use his journalistic background in building the image of Bamyan Media and expand their business in different countries.

My first accidental interview was with Mohammad A., the producer of the popular Khawater TV Series, he mentioned to me that when they arrived to Egypt, they tried to reflect their preference to work with him, while they shied away from presenting the TV Show produced in Afghanistan, as of being amateurish, Mohamed worked on formatting the concept for production, while is almost equivalent to starting from the scratch, meaning, they came with nothing, he also managed to  introduce them to a TV Network which accepted the project.

As the reformatting was done and introduction to the channel made, Bamyan Media turned their back on Mohammad A. and proceeded with their project then when they wanted to access the TV Network, they were turned down by the network which didnt knew them rather they approved the project for him, they were forced to get back to him and as he states it as a result of their manipulative, unethical approach he unreasonably increased the production budget to turn them away and he preferred to keep a cool personal relationship away from work.

What happened with the producer of Khawater was repeated dozens of times with the rest of the production industry in Egypt to the extent that Mr. Hisham Mahmoud former Vice President of ONTV mentioned that Egypt always had a mature, decent media industry, such abusive, unethical behavior was never witnessed in his years of experience.

Hisham Mahmoud former Vice President of ONTV also had more serious experience, he was brought aboard as a Senior Producer with the mission to aid the work on raising corporate funding for the production of the TV Show, Bamyan Media intended to use the $4.1 Million granted from USAID for its own operation and rather as its easier once you have the setup raise the production cost from corporate sponsors, initially a budget of 10-12 Million EGP was estimated, then reduced into $1 Million dollar.

Mr. Hisham states that they had colorful promises that attracted a lot of people as the media industry is challenged since Jan 2011, yet, they used some bureaucratic limitations imposed from USAID not to commit beyond three months with their sub-contractors, which as per his saying, was only a trick to get the juice and skip the payment.

The experience of Mr. Hisham Mahmoud included using him to initiate communication with potential sponsors and skipping his commission once deals are secured against the agreement made, using the three months limitation period as a legal cover. He also goes further to mention a weird situation when he arranged a meeting with a Senior Director at a leading Egyptian Bank that was interested in sponsorship, yet, David Elliot heard about a study conducted by the bank and got unreasonably clingy in accessing information, he says, the bank turned down the offer because of Elliots suspicious behavior relating to accessing the important economic study.

I always wanted to do something about this but never had the time and focus to, Mr. Hisham Mahmoud mentioned to me by the end of our meeting, this should really be known, it should be known that we have a decent and mature media industry in Egypt, I have never in my past professional experience ran by such manipulative, unethical example, who repeated the story with plenty of others.

Tamer E., Director of the popular Ray7een 3ala Feen Reality TV Show is also one of the Directors/Producers who was brought aboard, Tamer sensed the amateurish approach early on, after being squeezed for basic information and as he described it feeling violated like never before. Tamer excused himself from further involved with an SMS communication stating that The Dynamics are Awkward.

Another production house in Maadi witnessed a repeated story, after Bamyan Media approached them to lead the production for the show and they got the word, Asim Haneef requested a one-on-one meeting with one of three partners of the firm and offered her to join on her own individual capacity, which obviously is betraying the interest and trust of her partners, Haneef didnt find any issues with repeating the same pattern with several organizations, the situation fired back as she responded in an aggressive email communication CCing her partners that this was very stupid and unethical to propose.

It seems that Asim Haneef has repeated the same approach with several other organizations, the attitude of snitching, stealing and manipulating is not an attitude of someone who want to stay, we are a small industry and everyone knows everyone, no one would work with Bamyan Media anymore after being known for deceit and manipulation, main partner of the Production House stated, while requested Asim Haneef to be brought into the office, youll find half the production industry so keen on kicking his butt as he described it.

I was given plenty of other names and contacts for producers and production houses who were brought aboard, but this was enough for me to understand how they approached the production industry.

Furthermore, I was told another awkward story from the production house they finally worked with, I never had the chance to verify it and prefer not to publish it until its verified from its source.

Media Agency

Bamyan Media strike a strategic partnership with a leading Media Agency in the states before coming to Egypt where they started working with their local office on their branding and media strategy, I followed up with a lead that founder of Bamyan Media claimed before being over charged by the agency, as I went through a print out of Bamyan Medias account with the agency in a meeting with their CEO, It was clear who is lying, plus, the fact that, probably for emotional reasons, Bamyan Media didnt pay 70% of its pending installments to the agency and they might go for a legal action from their US office.

Moreover, the Media Agency CEO mentioned that Bamyan Media repeated the same pattern of behavior with professionals and production houses with the media agency, the agency brought an expensive format editor to write the format for the show, the agency endured the cost which was supposed to be covered from sponsors, upon securing the sponsorship deals Bamyan Media cut their relationship with the agency and denied payment, the CEO said that they used a void in the contract to avoid that, given that it was their fault they didnt request payment except for direct services.

At some point Bamyan Media announced being sponsored by a Major telecom, it seems like David Elliots attitude was repeated in a meeting with the CMO of the same teleco that resulted on turning down their offer, he was crazy, shouting at the CMO of a major teleco while securing a sponsorship deal? commented the CEO of the media agency.

To be continued

So, who is really behind #ElMashrou3?

So, who is really behind #ElMashrou3?

Since my first post Among criticism from entrepreneurs, USAID-funded Bamyan Media Launches Egypts first reality TV Show for entrepreneurs I was contacted by a few people who worked closely with Bamyan Media and shared some insider stories about their experience which will be valuable in analyzing behind the scenes. Also, as four episodes aired, thats 1/3 of the show, that gives a reasonable amount of materials for analysis after the initial feedback and observations.

As the same feedback is repeated for the rest of the entrepreneurs who didnt catch up with the show early on, it became evident that the feedback of majority of actual entrepreneurs is merely the same, viewership rates getting even LOWER after first episode as most people lose interest! Formation of a circle of a few hundreds who are mostly involved with the teams behind the show for a basic form of engagement. And seems like the staff itself doesnt mind getting its hands dirty in feedback war as boiling criticism to a Shabi song they produced starts to surface, Asim Haneef, The show Executive Producer called it the best song ever. view it HERE

Though, a valuable debate also took place on the comments of the above song, with Peter Guirguis seemingly one of the song producers mentions an intellectual monopoly on entrepreneurship and captivating the concept from being commercialized and going mainstream, assuming that Egyptians are already practicing entrepreneurship on their own way from his point of view. Thats worth and intellectual debate on defining entrepreneurship and how it shall be transferred to mainstream audiences. You can view the conversation HERE

Also, as the investment on developing digital assets in the past 1+ year through aggressive advertising didnt pay off  in actual viewership, it seems like they decided to go guerilla marketing, they visit popular mainstream cafes like Downtown El Borsa, shift the channel to AlNahar and tried to encourage viewership, the funny bit is that in some of the photos shared in social networks form the exercise, it shows their team sitting to watch it, while people around paying absolutely no attention! They even called on their page for more people to join these campaigns!

As I wrote in my last post, feedback is only a factor in impact assessment, but an actual impact assessment should be based on identifying and analyzing variables, its about finding the variables that matter the most and digging deeper on analyzing them. The first variable of any Impact Assessment project is defining the background and motives of organization, entrepreneur and decision makers behind whatever project being done.

In this post well try to dig down to who is really really the decision maker behind the show, next post will get more into further analysis

So, who is really behind #ElMashrou3?


If you check out their website or their social media profiles, youll see the who is behind El Mashrou3 is presented as TV network, production company, Bamyan Media and organizations working on entrepreneurship in Egypt such and such and such. Even my team noticed couple of channels where Egypreneur is still mentioned, which shouldnt be the case as we terminated partnership back in 2012, so as youre reading this fellows, take it off or would you like to get yourself a reminder?


Furthermore, in a communication they have sent to their subscribers and shared on their page labelled The Story behind El Mashrou3, they seemed to be doing everything possible to cover up on the reality of the ownership and funding behind the show and just mention that a bunch of Egyptian youth with a few Khawaga, Arabic word for foreigner who produced the show in Belad Barra which is usually used to refer to the west and developed countries to actually refer to Afghanistan.


So, why are they so keen on covering up on that and how truthful is the way they present themselves with? And what is the nature of involvement with these partners?

As I get back to my email archive April 2012 as Bamyan Media was starting its operations in Egypt, they presented other entrepreneurship-focused organizations with a basic partnership, I was only asked for approval on using Egypreneur logo on the brochure below and approved it, by then the way the partnership was presented was fairly professional and straightforward. Though, they have used this approval to post our brand in every possible channel without permission afterwards.


Well, obviously Bamyan Media was gaining legitimacy by using these organizations brands, it is a straightforward market entry strategy, you want to befriend those already with good reputation and track record and get their support in what youre doing, a potential massive exposure through TV is a good point to start. Then use that to sell on others that you already have everyones support and that this thing is actually co-created and approved by everyone, which might not be the real case,  some of the visible feedback from my last post was from founder of entities presented as partner organizations.

What happened to partnerships afterwards was quite amateurish and superficial, when only numbers matter, even if you run a starting student activity you can get your logo as a show partner and you count as vote of confidence on the show. As its shared by Omar Aysha, I can understand the motives behind such a move as at some stage they were trying to hide the massive USAID involvement, as it might fire back as they go mainstream, they started sticking any logos they get their hands on, so if you want to, you cant find someone to blame!

The point is, none of these partners has any decision to take regarding the show, they might be invited to nice events and focus groups but its only done as much as it serves the objectives of the owning company, Bamyan Media, which hired a team to polish their image within the community and attract beneficiaries who, knowingly or not knowingly, will back their mission and even defend them in return for direct benefits. Add to it the fact that the community working on entrepreneurship support in Egypt still didnt reach the maturity to decide and the critical thinking to accept and reject, often no one will reject anything from anyone while struggling with finding their own next steps.

Truth is, the TV Network is just a TV Network that hosted the show and offered it a standard promotion package, the production company was just a production company hired to produce the show, partners except for USAID and Silatech are just a logo exchange and superficial involvement, mostly to gain legitimacy in front of main sponsors and strategic partners.

For critical analysis, we have to look for ownership, who has the power for decision making and influence.

Thats what matters and thats when we are driven back to where it started:

Anna_Afghanistan2Courtesy of http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com

In 2007, while David Elliot was working as a Senior Development Consultant for USAID in Afghanistan, his daughter Anna Elliot, 23 years old student at Hampshire University and part time Bartender came for a visit to Afghanistan, observing the popularity of Reality TV Shows at the time, with American-style Afghan Star and others. Anna had an interesting conversation with her dad regarding doing a similar show focusing on entrepreneurs.

As per his Linkedin Profile, at that time, David Elliot was managing a $54 million USAID project for Afghanistan Small and Medium Enterprise Development (ASMED). After the US-led war on Afghanistan starting 2011, the US government directed lots of Aid money into rebuilding Afghanistan, obviously, it seems that senior USAID consultant David Elliot didnt find it hard to secure $500K USD to fulfill his daughters ambition to launch an American-style reality TV Show for social entrepreneurs, probably at the least competitive and non-transparent market, Afghanistan. This Devex page explicitly shows USAID as the organization executed the show.

Surprisingly the only official videos from the Dream & Achieve TV Show produced in Afghanistan was hosted on the YouTube channel of the ASMED fund Mr. David Elliot was leading, showing even that the project might have been funded by funds he personally managed for USAID, checkout the USER NAME of the hosting channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ASMEDInfo/videos

Anna Elliot seemed to postpone her studies and get involved with producing a Pilot series of her Reality TV Show, managed under the umbrella of USAID, the show was hosted on Afghanistans most popular TV Network TOLO TV Wikipedia shows a 41% of viewership market share while the owning company itself claims 59% viewership share HERE, the TV Network claim to have 17 Million constant viewers (NBCNews).

It is claimed that the pilot series attracted 7 Million viewers in Afghanistan, which while looking good for PR, technically speaking, even if the claim is true, given the hosting TV Network statistics, it means that 10 Million constant viewers to the channel has either switched off their TV or shifted to another channel as the show aired, comparably to another TV Show hosted on the same channel Afghan Star they are claiming 11 Million viewers per episode.

But anyway, relying on the pilot series a PR campaign was launched in Western media and the show seemed to gain coverage from media outlets like Fast Company and New York times.

Something here to note that at this time, US media companies, seemed to working on dominating the scene in Afghanistan, a virgin market created after the war on Afghanistan, according to this NBC News Article Why Afghanistans election campaign may look familiar to American TV viewers, it shows that Afghanistan has become a comfy bed for US media companies and aspiring media entrepreneurs.

 This entry on USAID website itself, claims that the show was a success story and promises a second season that never came to be and of course shows the muscles of the US development agency in creating entrepreneurial revolutions where it is needed the most: http://www.usaid.gov/results-data/success-stories/afghan-entrepreneurs-%E2%80%9Cdream-and-achieve%E2%80%9D

Though this KabulPress.org article seems to disagree, entitled American corruption and mismanagement threaten Afghanistan’s future under headline Suspect American AID projects in Afghanistan, it lists the TV Show by the Elliots as one of the projects USAID claims has created impact while its  not actually sensed on the ground. As per Wikipedia (KabulPress) is Afghanistans most read news site.


I found it extremely difficult to track any proper digital footprints resulting from the show in Afghanistan. I was even told by a producer Bamyan Media worked with when they came to Egypt that they didnt want to show him the produced show in Afghanistan, because it was very amateurish. Furthermore, on the tongue of Anna Elliot herself, she stated that the show was boring but 7 million people watched it before one of her team members intervene to mention that she is just not good at selling herself.

In 2009, Anna and David Elliot established Bamyan Media to take the concept further and launch the show in different countries, Bamyan Media uses a mix of a non-profit and for-profit business model to launch the same format of the TV Show in different countries with market for entrepreneurship, mostly developing countries in transition. 

But did Bamyan Media drop the USAID umbrella the project started through?

After launching the pilot season, Anna Elliot was being celebrated in western media as a hero who went to Afghanistan to empower its entrepreneurs and was even being hosted in a conversation at The While House 


What a second target after Afghanistan would it be other than Egypt post 25 revolution? Yes, that was it, Bamyan Media presented USAID with a proposal to move to Egypt with the backing of USAID funds and it seemed they were able to secure a big check to get their operation started, the deal is supposedly to cover 2-3 years of operating costs for Bamyan Media to initiate their TV Show and business in Egypt.

I can claim having insider information at this part, because at this time, I was working on a similar TV Show for entrepreneurs in Egypt through Egypreneur, that was not an idea or a hunch, but a production-ready concept with agreement with a TV Network and initial agreement with a major sponsor.


The TV Network was sold after the revolution and I was left alone searching for alternatives, passing the 6 months mark in formatting the researching options to produce the show to trigger the entrepreneurial energy of Egyptian youth post 25th revolution and part of a strategy to setup Egypreneur as an independent institution that supports entrepreneurs in Egypt. I was approached by USAID employees who offered support and accordingly was given details about what Im working on.


In the process of communicating with USAID around my TV Show project, I was forwarded an email that was sent by Anna Elliot March 17th 2011, which was a thank you note for USAID support an a promise of follow-up on next steps. I skipped it as the attached format targeting social entrepreneurs didnt seem close to what we have arrived at at that time. 

But it seems that it wasnt the case, a few months later, I heard that USAID contracted Bamyan Media to execute a Reality TV Show for entrepreneurs in Egypt, getting busy and overwhelmed with other initiatives we started at Egypreneur, I decided to learn from the experience and completely ignore the matter, but it didnt seem to want to ignore me.

The newly established Bamyan Media out of a spin-off from a USAID project, was able to secure a three years contract with USAID to initiate  and replicate their model in Egypt, Omar Aysha, former editor at wamda.com claims a $5 Million USD check was given for their project in Egypt, having no source to confirm or deny, what can be confirmed is that USAID was committed to providing the operating cost for Bamyan Media for 2-3 years, meaning you have 40 employees, 8 services contracts per month, USAID just pay the bills for Bamyan Media allowing them to get cozy while working on their project for two to three years?

Anyway, Bamyan Media created a for-profit company El Mashrou3 LLC through which it handle its operations in Egypt, well, some people might have issues with getting funded as a non-profit then using this money to create a for-profit business, but entrepreneurially speaking youre fine to do whatever you wish as long as you are not breaking the law or any business or personal commitments, I was told that Bamyan Media owns 99% of El Mashrou3 LLC.


Accordingly the controlling element in all activities and actions related to #ElMashrou3 comes from Bamyan Media and El Mashrou3 LLC which received enormous backing from USAID, it seems that Bamyan Media are doing some PR efforts lately to present the involvement as an Egyptian company called El Mashrou3 LLC, which is nothing but an interface to Bamyan Media in Egypt to expand on its commercial benefit. According to their website, Bamyan Media seems to be working hard on expanding the operation of El Mashrou3 to be Pan-Arab reality TV Show for entrepreneurs. 

With very little impact and massively low viewership created by the show, added to a few cases of misconducted by Bamyan Media that made one of their former contractors mention to me in a private communication that they are the most horrid unprofessional scam bags I have ever worked with.

It seems that Bamyan Media have got very arrogant given the massive backing from their government money that they not only felt comfortable enough to screw up for two years, but they choose to violate interest and intellectual property of local entrepreneurs on their way to complete dominance on the MENA entrepreneurship landscape.


The questions that comes to our mind as we analyze the leadership behind the show is, are they qualified with a track record to run this kind of thing? Do they have actual pressing desire to create impact through their TV Show, real one? Is the way in which they secured funding for the show and the way they dealt with their contractors and local entrepreneurs represents a social enterprise seeking to create positive impact? 

To be continued

In hindsight, Anna Elliot’s reality TV series might seem like a media mogul’s strategy to build market share in developing countries. Source: Milton Magazine


Courtesy of Bamyan Media on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: Information provided is available on public channels, reference is provided for the most part, no personal offense was intended and no ones privacy was violated in the process of carrying out this research/analysis.