Interview: Mohamed Abdel Wahab
To what extent will the global outbreak of Covid-19 affect Egypt’s economic progress?
MOHAMED ABDEL WAHAB: In terms of expected growth rates, international trade and the labour market, there will be inevitable change in the global investment map for years to come. However, the economic reform programme that Egypt has implemented since 2016 has created an environment that will help to protect against the most significant repercussions of the crisis.
Current projections, including IMF forecasts, suggest that Egypt will continue to see positive economic growth in contrast to other markets in the region. The relatively stable outlook will help the country to remain the largest destination for foreign direct investment in Africa, a metric that increased by 11% in 2019 to reach $9bn. Despite the significant challenges it presents, the pandemic also offers a number of sizeable opportunities. It has encouraged the migration towards new technologies that can not only assist in confronting such crises directly, but also contribute to the continued growth and success of local businesses in a range of sectors, from manufacturing to retail and logistics.
In what ways can Egypt stand to benefit from the lifting of lockdown measures, and what are the long-term implications for trade and investment?
WAHAB: Several courses of action were put in place while formulating the action plan for investment in the post-Covid-19 future. First, we targeted local and foreign firms that are looking to expand, and discussed their needs and the procedures required for expansion in coordination with the appropriate government authorities. In light of these efforts, a number of firms operating in Egypt have recently announced their 2020 investment expansion plans, including companies in vital industries such as oil, automotive wires, communications, petrochemicals, garments and food.
Second, we have encouraged major projects operating in free zones by granting privileges and preferential conditions during the first years, and offering support in promoting and marketing products abroad.
Third, we are helping investment zones to increase occupancy rates and develop the surrounding areas so that, for example, pharmaceutical companies can operate and store medications within the Banha Investment Zone. We are also streamlining investment procedures through the implementation of GAFI’s electronic portal so that it will no longer be necessary to visit the investment centres in person. Moreover, all external government bodies providing services through investment centres are being linked under one e-portal.
Lastly, we are re-prioritising target sectors and promotional tools, with an equal focus on local and foreign investment. We are particularly looking to promote key industries such as chemicals, textiles, ICT and food, with the aim of reducing dependence on imports.
In light of the shift in global supply chains, how can Egypt capitalise on its location and logistics infrastructure to compete as a regional hub?
WAHAB: There are great opportunities to attract investment in the coming period, provided that we have the skills to present ourselves and seize the opportunities presented by the shift in the global economy.
In order to attract foreign investment, we need to capitalise on Egypt’s increased imports from abroad, which can cumulatively contribute to the country’s development as a centre for supply chain management and logistics. The Suez Canal and Suez Canal Economic Zone are the foundational infrastructure needed to attract investment in a variety of fields. By pursuing a policy of clustering and developing investment zones around the country, investors can benefit from efficient supply chains and business-friendly policies.
Egypt’s trade agreements with 74 countries around the world makes it an ideal centre for connecting investors to developed and emerging markets, and enables Egyptian products to reach a wider base of consumers.
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