Al-Ahram Weekly Online   13 - 19 October 2005
Issue No. 764
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


WEF in Sharm

THE MINISTRY of Foreign Trade and Industry last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Economic Forum (WEF) marking the official start of preparations for WEF on the Middle East which will convene in Sharm El-Sheikh next May.

WEF will be inviting world leaders to discuss a raft of political, economic, and social issues. The gathering in Sharm El-Sheikh will pay particular attention to the Middle East, and to Egypt's security, and reform policies throughout the region.

"The Forum welcomes this focus on the business agenda and is committed to work with the Egyptian and Middle East business community to support the region's efforts to position itself competitively in the global market," said Sherif El-Diwani, director of the Middle East and North Africa section of the World Economic Forum.

"The decision to bring the Forum to Sharm El-Sheikh sends a clear signal: Egypt is open for business and the international community is prepared to support Egypt as it strives for change," said Minister of Foreign Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid.

Deals made

AS PART of the assistance offered by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to Egypt, Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul- Naga has signed three grant agreements totalling $67.9 million.

The agreements comprise the third amendment to the Strategic Objective Grant Agreement (SOGA) for basic education which amounts to $62.3 million. The amendment aims at supporting the Egyptian government's plans for educational modernisation. The programme focuses on the Ministry of Education's drive to improve secondary education while continuing other ongoing activities for which $105.9 million were allocated as part of the accord. The activities include the training of teachers, school administration and involvement of civil society and private sector in education.

The second agreement involves increasing assistance to the Egyptian financial sector by $10 million to reach $57.7 million. The money is aimed at offering technical assistance and training to help the government carry out its plans to modernise financial markets, streamline commercial and investment services and implement reforms needed to support private sector participation.

The third agreement aims at increasing the amount of the grant allocated by the SOGA for governmental administration initiatives and the partnership programme by $4.6 million in order that the total comes to $12.3 million. Its purpose is to provide legal services in criminal and family courts as well as to train judiciary and public prosecution officials. Training is meant to expedite the settling of disputes, particularly in commercial courts which are involved in investment lawsuits.

Win-win technology

"AS THE WORLD shrinks to become an ever smaller village we must become more productive and competitive," said Rachid Mohamed Rachid, minister of foreign trade and industry, at last week's opening of the first German-Egyptian Technology Symposium and Trade Fair (GETS). Sherine El-Madany attended. "We can do this through a strong technological infrastructure that will increase the potential of our human resources and enhance our economic performance."

Organised by the German Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GACIC) in cooperation with the Federation of Industries,GETS aims to promote the transfer of German technology to a range of local businesses and help match make partnerships between German and Egyptian companies.

"Egypt, with its relatively diversified industrial base, its human resources, large market, as well as its favourable geographic location, has the potential to become a haven for foreign investors, a place where technology is not only bought from abroad but is produced at home," said Peter Göpfrich, CEO of GACIC. "The economic policies being pursued and endeavours to modernise Egyptian industry are succeeding in attracting local and international investment to Egypt."

The symposium brought together German and Egyptian policy-makers as well as individual companies, business associations and educational institutions. They presented technological solutions to problems in the energy, healthcare, education, and information technology sectors and highlighted methods of training and enhancing human resources.

Tarek Kamel, minister of communications and information technology highlighted that German investment in the field of ICT began in the mid-1970s, when Siemens started to actively transfer telecom information and skills. Partnership in ICT was pushed further when Giesecke and Devrient (G&D) began investing in the Egyptian market, working on the National ID project and smart card technology.

The symposium suggested ways of helping Egyptian products meet international standards and thus enhance their exportability, and highlighted opportunities offered by educational institutes in Germany to Egyptians seeking specialised professional training.

"Building on technological education and transfer will increase trade ties between Egypt and Germany," said Mustafa Samaha, managing director of G&D Egypt and chairman of the newly established ICT Committee at GACIC. GETS, he believes, has succeeded in developing a win-win partnership, allowing German companies access to local markets while helping Egypt export to German and European markets.

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