Egyptian startup turns shipping containers into COVID-19 clinics

Special Egyptian startup turns shipping containers into COVID-19 clinics
Two Cairo millennials have brought shipping-container architecture to Egypt, converting 20-foot-long metal hulks into everything from pop-up restaurants to corporate offices. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 September 2020

Egyptian startup turns shipping containers into COVID-19 clinics

Egyptian startup turns shipping containers into COVID-19 clinics
  • Qubix specializes in converting shipping containers into everything from restaurants to corporate offices
  • The metal hulks can be rapidly deployed as medical centers in urban and rural locations on demand

CAIRO: Two Cairo millennials have brought shipping-container architecture to Egypt, converting 20-foot-long metal hulks into everything from pop-up restaurants to corporate offices.

The pair have now turned their talents to creating a portable medical center that can be transported anywhere and rapidly deployed in urban and rural locations where access to conventional healthcare services is difficult and doctors are hard to find.

“Q-MED is a fully furnished, turnkey space already packed and set up with the medical equipment needed to provide any medical service, from dentistry to general practitioners,” said Youssef Farag, 28, co-founder of Cairo’s Qubix.

With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic far from over, Q-MED could prove to be a life saver, he says.

“Patients will have access to professional and high-quality healthcare from healthcare providers who take the opportunity to dive into new and underserved markets and demographics for a relatively low initial investment on their part,” said Farag, who is also Qubix’s chief operating officer.

Expanding Egypt’s medical services is of vital importance: The country languishes at number 63 in the World Health Organization’s global rankings despite considerable achievements in reducing infant mortality and increasing state healthcare spending.

Qubix is in talks with healthcare institutions and medical equipment suppliers to deploy Q-MED facilities in Egypt.

Farag and fellow Qubix co-founder Karim Rafla, 27, have been best friends since they were infants. After graduating from university, the duo worked in their respective family businesses before deciding to launch their own company in 2016.

Inspired by the shipping-container buildings that Rafla had seen while a student in London, the pair arranged for one to be shipped to Farag’s backyard. “We had no engineering background at that point and literally had no idea what we were doing,” Farag said.

Yet, he and Rafla proved fast learners: In the space of four years, the company has gone from being an idle idea to delivering over 200 shipping-container projects and employing a team of designers, engineers, salespeople and skilled workers.

“The one thing Karim and I have always had in common was that from a very young age, we always craved uninhibited freedom and independence,” said Farag. “We always knew that we wanted to do something of our own; we were adamant that we did not see ourselves working 9-to-5 jobs.”

Qubix can build virtually any kind of building a client requests, but the most in-demand projects are food and beverage outlets, as well as retail premises and offices of varying sizes.

The company has delivered units all over Egypt, although sales are concentrated in Cairo and the north of the country. Qubix has also received orders from North America and the wider Middle East.

Shipping containers “allow us to build better, faster and in a more cost- and time-efficient manner than traditional methods,” said Farag. He believes these advantages would make the units, which can be joined together modular-style, an ideal structure for residential homes, providing an affordable solution to Egypt’s chronic housing shortage. According to World Bank estimates, the country needs at least 3 million more affordable homes.

“We allow our imaginations to drive our ambitions, so our vision of expansion is quite daring. We are expanding our product lines, our geographical reach, our production and our strategic partnerships domestically and abroad,” Farag said.

“I really love that in Qubix, creativity and problem-solving come first, then comes the beautiful orchestra of operations designed and aligned to make sure these creations see the light of day and actually change the way people do things.

“Our innovative solutions help people to either live better or work better, and that’s the identity we want the Qubix brand to be synonymous with.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.