Germany's minister of economy was in Cairo this week to reinforce economic ties with Egypt. Niveen Wahish
Among the approximately 50 businessmen who came from Germany to Egypt seeking business opportunities was Egyptian expatriate Mohamed Gaber, general manager of Medical Technical Development and Marketing company in Germany. He wants to set up a private medical school in Minia. The delegation is looking into a number of sectors including energy, natural gas, automotives, airport management and petrochemicals.
The businessmen accompanied Federal Minister of Economics and Labour Wolfgang Clement on a three-day visit during which he met with President Hosni Mubarak, Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, Minister of Trade Youssef Boutros-Ghali and other high level officials.
The highlight of the German minister's visit to Cairo was his inauguration of the German Tower, the headquarters of the German Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GACIC). The tower's foundation stone was laid by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder two years ago.
Clement also witnessed the signing of two agreements. The first was signed by the German Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the German University in Cairo, to provide industrial management training. The second agreement was signed between the German-Egyptian and Egyptian-German business councils to form a bilateral forum for economic cooperation and an active subsidiary body for the promotion of trade and investment.
In fact, the promotion of investment was one of the main issues focussed on by the minister. He encouraged both the Egyptian and German governments to press on with economic reforms.
German investments have been doing well in Egypt despite shortcomings in areas such as customs. German investments in Egypt reached a record high in 2001 at 354 million euros, constituting the highest level of German direct investment in the Arab world. The latest German investment is BMW's new production facility, inaugurated last week. Established by Bavaria Auto Trading -- a joint venture by investors from the Gulf, Egypt and Germany -- the factory is an investment of around $60 million and has an annual capacity of 4,000 vehicles.
RWE-DEA, another German company which has been active in Egypt in the field of gas exploration, announced in 2003 new investments of around $70 million. Over the past 29 years, RWE-DEA has invested some $2.6 billion in Egypt.
Tourism is another area that has witnessed growing cooperation between the two countries. In 2003 around 700,000 German tourists visited Egypt, ranking second after Italy.
The minister stressed the importance of peace and said that escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a severe financial burden for the entire region. He reiterated his government's commitment to finding a just and peaceful solution in the Middle East based on the road map.
Egypt is Germany's third important trading partner in the Arab world, after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. German exports to Egypt amounted to some 1,292 million euros in 2003, while its imports from Egypt came to $378.3 million during the same year.
President Mubarak visited Germany just a few weeks ago. Schroeder was in Cairo last October to inaugurate the German University in Cairo.