Viewpoint: Abdel Fattah El Sisi
Pandemics require the world to unite and act promptly to curb the spread of diseases and find vaccines. Vaccines must be available to everyone when they are developed, because protecting humanity against such health threats is the responsibility of the world as a whole. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, Egypt has provided assistance to a number of countries to help alleviate the impact of the pandemic. This has displayed global solidarity.
Egypt has also successfully implemented mandatory vaccine programmes that have contributed to reducing common childhood diseases and mortality rates. We are ready to share this knowledge and experience with other countries. Furthermore, Egypt is ready to contribute to scientific research, manufacture vaccines, train medical staff, and conduct clinical trials of new vaccines and immunisations.
A new phase of comprehensive health coverage is being rolled out for all Egyptians, keeping in mind that primary health care is an essential human right. A healthy population is key to a thriving economy. In addition, continued economic growth is important for the well-being of Egyptians – as it is for citizens of countries around the world – so it is necessary to implement measures that allow businesses to successfully return to their normal activities. This must be done while ensuring that the virus cannot continue to spread and that health care facilities are available to those who need them.
In a broader economic sense, the reform measures undertaken with the backing of the IMF were difficult – but necessary – for the health of the economy going forwards. The steps taken to improve the regulatory framework and reduce bureaucratic inefficiency were important and will continue to be a priority. This is because improving the ease of doing business creates jobs, and allows families to improve their lives and the lives of their children. The fiscal measures taken have strengthened the government’s financial position and have enabled it to manage the effects of the pandemic. These reforms will move ahead as planned. However, additional consideration needs to be given to policies that could place additional pressure on businesses that are struggling – whether directly or indirectly – due to the pandemic. Measures should be taken, when possible, to reduce business costs and ease access to financing because the private sector needs to be the engine of Egypt’s economic growth.
On a regional level, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement was a landmark development in terms of continental integration. It covers around 1.2bn people and the GDP of involved nations is valued at $2.5trn. The agreement provides an opportunity to scrap more than 90% of Customs tariffs to contribute to a higher economic growth and more income for the average African citizen.
Meanwhile, intra-African trade currently does not exceed 15%. Enforcement of the African Free Trade Zone in eastern and southern Africa will increase trade and investment between countries on the continent, and help them overcome hardships. These circumstances make it necessary for us to find effective ways to transform the continent into an international centre for industrialisation, provide millions of new jobs, attract more foreign direct investment and raise growth rates.
Africa has the capability to reach targets set for sustainable development. This necessitates acceleration of our work to build modern infrastructure through the trans-border projects listed as priorities of the African Union, such as the Cairo-Cape Town Highway, north-south power linkages and the Lake Victoria-Mediterranean Sea linkages. I call on international and regional institutions, investment banks, and local and multinational companies to invest in Africa. The continent is rich in opportunities, and contains consumer markets with many resources.
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