Interview: Abdel Fattah El Sisi

What are the government’s priorities for continuing to improve the business environment?

ABDEL FATTAH EL SISI: The government is committed to facilitating the work of investors according to the best international standards. The economic reform programme has contributed to realising stability on several levels, positively reflecting the current economic situation. The adoption of fiscal and monetary reform policies has been praised by international institutions. It has also positively impacted the business environment and have improved many types of economic indicators.

In addition, several laws and regulations that are pertinent to improving the Egyptian economy have been issued, such as the new investment law, which offers more incentives and guarantees for investment. The establishment of logistics centres, the restructuring of bankruptcy, financial leasing and factoring laws, as well as amendments to the law of companies, the capital market and their executive regulations will streamline bureaucracy and improve the performance of the private sector compared to the past.

In this context, I would like to confirm Egypt’s interest in attracting foreign investments in different fields. Egypt is keen to overcome obstacles that could hinder economic and social development, especially as Egypt possesses promising investment opportunities and offers incentives in all sectors, especially industry, agriculture and IT. I would also like to highlight Egypt’s keenness to upgrade the necessary infrastructure to receive huge investments, and realise a leap in the energy sector through the diversification of energy sources and the creation of a work plan to develop electricity generation and distribution networks. This includes the expansion of current stations, the purchase of new transformers and the delivery of gas and basic facilities to industrial and investment areas, in addition to the significant improvement of road and transport networks, all of which have led to the improvement of Egypt’s indicators in the global ranking for infrastructure. We are working hard within an institutional framework to consider the social dimension and provide protection to the neediest segments through a comprehensive social protection system that is constantly being assessed and developed.

We are also focusing on overhauling the educational system at both the pre-university and university levels by partnering with the best universities in the world. In addition, we are emphasising the health sector by undertaking health initiatives like the programmes to eradicate hepatitis C and detect non-communicable diseases, which aim to reach 55m citizens. We want Egyptian citizens to receive better access to decent health and educational services.

How would you describe Egypt’s economic and diplomatic role in Africa, especially given its chairmanship of the African Union (AU)?

EL SISI: Egypt shares close and historic bonds with Africa. We are integral to the continent and pride ourselves on belonging to it. Our economic relations with the brotherly African countries have been growing and we constantly work on strengthening them. During Egypt’s chairmanship of the AU, we will seek to focus on a multitude of top priority issues that have already been stipulated in the AU’s Agenda 2063, as well as other specific work priorities. Within this framework, we have set a package of priorities in numerous areas, including peace and security. Egypt will work on enhancing African mechanisms for reconstruction and development during the post-conflict phase and on launching the AU Centre for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development in 2019. This is in addition to supporting AU efforts to complete its peace and security architecture, reform the AU Peace and Security Council, and enhancing intra-African cooperation with the aim of combatting terrorism and drying up sources of extremist ideology. Egypt will also seek to boost its efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, as well as launch the Aswan Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development. At the economic and social development level, Egypt will strive to leverage the potential of Africa’s youth, develop the African manufacturing system, promote regional value-added chains, enhance the African agricultural system and expand fisheries projects in order to attain food security. On economic integration and regional amalgamation, Egypt will place great focus during its AU chairmanship on accelerating the entry implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA). This is in addition to supporting the implementation of trans-border infrastructure projects in Africa with the aim of achieving economic and regional integration and enhancing intra-African trade.

To what extent are trade agreements central to building intra-continental trade?

EL SISI: We are optimistic that the AfCTA will vigorously enhance intra-African trade and will achieve higher economic growth rates in Africa, after removing Customs among African countries. This is in addition to facilitating the movement of the factors of production, which will increase the industrial growth rate, and thus achieve the desired technological development, enabling African countries to compete at the global economic arena. I would like to emphasise that Egypt is fully prepared to mobilise its human and technical resources to realise the interests of the African continent, turn it into a hub for foreign direct investment, and better integrate the continent into regional and international value-added chains.

How is the private sector improving Egypt’s domestic and international business climate?

EL SISI: We believe in the importance of the private sector in continuing the improvement of the overall business climate. This sector plays a vital role in creating jobs and enhancing the quality of services provided to citizens. Therefore, policies to generate an attractive and competitive business climate have been adopted, we are establishing a regulatory framework to stimulate investment, enacting a broad-ranging package of legislation, preparing a comprehensive investment map covering all sectors and intensifying efforts to combat corruption. Egypt is considered as one of the main promising markets that holds multiple opportunities in the MENA region. It is the largest strategic market in the Middle East with a population of more than 100m and enjoys a strategic geographic location.

As one of the most diversified Arab and African economies, it also enjoys a pool of skilled and low-cost labour, comprising of more than 27m workers. Products manufactured in Egypt also enjoy great advantages and have the opportunity to access European, African and Arab markets through signed agreements. Therefore, we are keen to establish more free zones that are specialised in certain industries across the country in order to support exports and facilitate investment procedures.

What are the remaining priorities for Egypt with regard to continuing to improve security?

EL SISI: We live in a world mired by division, and the impact of this has increased lately. Egypt’s diligent efforts over the last few years to maintain stability and to invigorate the economy have been sustained under difficult circumstances, especially in a region threatened by tension, wars, insecurity and political instability. This is the result of the Egyptian people’s solid determination to protect their country and their rejection of throwing Egypt into the unknown. This mindset is the best guarantee for all forms of investment. Stability in Egypt does not merely stem from the military and security procedures that have been adopted to counter terrorism and extremism, but it originally stems from the people’s will and determination to entrench it. We will continue to fight terrorism and reinforce stability by providing a climate that is conducive to investment, economic growth and our sustainable development.