|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
5 - 11 October 2000
Issue No. 502
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Elections Region International Economy Opinion Culture Focus Features Travel Living Sports Profile People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
No U-turns on reformOUTLINING Egypt's economic strategy for the first quarter of the century, Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said boosting Egypt's involvement in multilateral economic agreements is high on the government's list of priorities.
Speaking to members of the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Moussa said, "To talk about this [Egypt-EU] partnership agreement and give it its due importance is, in my opinion, one of the basic lines of policy that have to be followed and consolidated."
Moussa emphasised that this agreement will not be at the expense of an active role for Egypt in other regions, highlighting trade and investment within the framework of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) in Africa, and east Africa in particular. Moussa said, "As for the Arab integration policy, we believe it is a must."
Responding to concerns that Egypt has lost ground to other Arab countries such as Morocco and Tunisia by having delayed its signing of the EU partnership agreement, Moussa explained, "We do not think we are losing time or money. We are using time in a very good way in order to explain the terms of this huge and very fundamental agreement to all who are interested in it, whether from the Egyptian business and intellectual communities or from among the Egyptian people in general."
Affirming the Egyptian government's support for the partnership, he said, "What is important is that the political decision and the intention to sign the agreement is there. I trust that it will come [the signing], very soon."
Calming businessmen who expressed reservations about the proposed partnership agreement, Moussa said that "With this partnership agreement we will be one of their [Europe's] major trading partners, and I trust that in the final analysis the Egyptian business community will benefit from this agreement. It will benefit due to modernisation [of its industries] and opening of markets. These results will be favourable for the Egyptian economy in general, and the business community in particular."
Moussa said that for the agreement to yield positive results, "there should be no U-turns in Egyptian policy for economic reform. The policies of liberalisation and privatisation have to continue."
Power is the secretMULTINATIONAL companies were out in force at a major power exhibition in Cairo last week.
The second Middle East and Africa Oil and Gas Exhibition (MEAOGE), held at the Cairo International Conference witnessed the participation of international power industry companies from 14 countries including Italy, Germany, Britain, Russia and France.
According to El-Desouqi Mohamed Ali, chairman of the board for Egypt's rural electricity authority, the exhibition was held within the framework of the government's plans to encourage the participation of private capital in this sector.
Already participating in this field, on a consultative basis, is Electricité de France, a leading French company in the electric power sector. This company's activities in Egypt are only part of its involvement in a wider programme that includes a number of countries in the region. Alan Regnier, Electricité de France deputy manager for the Mediterranean and Middle East, said, "the first step was the EIJST [a network comprising Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Turkey]. The eventual plan is to link Middle Eastern countries with the countries of North Africa and Europe, creating a Mediterranean loop to facilitate distribution of power in the region."
According to a report by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Egyptian petroleum sector is a "driving force for economic growth." This sector, it continues, "constitutes eight per cent of the Gross Domestic Product of the country, covers 39 per cent of Egypt's requirements of primary energy, and accounts for around 40 per cent of the country's total export revenues."
While energy production in Egypt has increased by approximately 11 per cent during the last 10 years, consumption has increased by 28 per cent.
Construction onlineMISR for Construction and Building Information, (MCBI), has recently announced the inauguration of its Web site in collaboration with Microsoft Egypt.
Ahmed Samir, MCBI business development manager said, "This site is the first specialised portal to provide consultants, suppliers and contractors with reliable information regarding Egypt's building and construction sectors."
MCBI, affiliated with the Egyptian Federation of Building and Construction Contractors, is owned by the Arab Contractors company and several companies affiliated with the Cabinet Information and Decision and Support Center (IDSC).
He added that MCBI's site (www.rccnet.net), is in Arabic and English and it contains "all the information" needed by a supplier or a contractor about tenders in this sector in Egypt and in the Middle East.
MCBI's Samir said the company is currently working with Microsoft to upgrade the site to offer facilities for online auctioning.
Currently 2,000 companies subscribe to MCBI's site. Web site construction and online recruiting of engineers are two of the services provided to subscribers. Under a partnership with CareerEgypt.com, a separate section was constructed on MCBI's site to which unemployed engineers can submit their CVs. These are sent to MCBI's subscribers who are looking for skilled personnel.
Tourism onlineIn conjunction with International Tourism Day, a conference held in Cairo discussed the use of technology to further develop tourism, reports Shaimaa Labib.
"Information Technology (IT), has become an essential tool for gaining the necessary information needed to enhance economic development," said Ali El-Hefnawi, adviser to the minister of telecommunications and information technology at the conference.
"Egypt can benefit more from tourism if it depends more on IT," he added.
"Egypt has always depended on tourism of historic sites. Activities need to be expanded further to include types of tourism that have already become popular in other parts of the world. This goal cannot be accomplished without depending on IT," El-Hefnawi told the conference held last week.
Other kinds of tourism cited by El-Hefnawi include trips to stay at a spa or to attend a conference. "To develop a new kind of tourism, we need to acquire the necessary information related to its supply and demand in the international market. The gathering of much of this information can be done through the Internet," he said.
Ahmed El-Khadem, general manager of the Egyptian Federation of Tourism Chambers, said, "if the tourist company is not online, it is as though it does not exist."
He added that IT can facilitate links between different parts of the tourism sector such as hotels, travel agencies and restaurants which helps to minimise the costs associated with the preparation of itineraries and following up on them. "However, we cannot benefit from these advantages as long as information on these kinds of businesses is not available on the Internet," El-Khadem said.
According to Tarek Heiba, general manager of Compaq Egypt, the availability of the Internet is one of the criteria upon which tourists choose a hotel. "International statistics conducted by tourism institutions in different parts of the world reveal that 66 per cent of hotel guests prefer to stay in a hotel offering Internet connections to one that does not," Heiba said.