Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
9 - 15 December 1999
Issue No. 459
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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COMESA in Cairo

THE COMMON Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will hold its first ever conference in Cairo next February.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Amr Moussa announced that the conference, organised by his ministry in cooperation with Egypt's International Economic Forum and Euromoney Organisation, will be inaugurated by President Mubarak and attended by the presidents of Kenya and Zambia.

Some 2,000 delegates are expected to discuss means of boosting trade and economic exchange among member countries.

Member states, whose combined population is more than 380 million, represent an important market for Egyptian products. The annual volume of COMESA foreign trade is $60 billion. Egypt, in meeting its commitments to the organisation, reduced duties on 90 per cent of COMESA imports in February 1999. Customs duties among the member countries are scheduled to be abolished completely by October 2000, provided at least 40 per cent of the imported items are locally produced.

Six more months

THE CHAIRMAN of the General Authority for Investment, Mohamed El-Ghamrawy, announced that businesses in the free trade zones are to be granted a six month grace period, after which they will be required to meet targets that include the export of at least 50 per cent of their production.

Failure to meet the targets once the grace period has passed will result in the withdrawal of incentives granted under investment law no 8/1997. These included tax exemptions on profits, duty reductions on imports and on the value of traded items.

Eurobond issue

LAKAH Group last week issued $100 million worth of Eurobonds -- an unprecedented move for an Egyptian company. The issue, which targets European markets, matures in 2004 and pays 12 per cent interest.

Proceeds from the issue will be used to upgrade the group's health care businesses which expanded after its acquisition of a 51 per cent stake in Intermedica.

Earlier in the year the group issued bonds worth LE400 million, following its receipt of a high credit rating from the British rating agency Fitch IBCA.

Other companies are expected to follow Lakah's lead. Market experts expect that the second Egyptian company to tap the international markets will be El-Ezz for Steel Rebars, which recently announced plans to offer $130 million of convertible bonds divided between the local and international markets.

Meanwhile, the government has been studying the possibility of floating its sovereign debt overseas for some time now.

Girl power

AN AGREEMENT was signed last week by US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer and Saadeddin Ibrahim, director of Ibn Khaldun Center for Development (ICD) -- a non-governmental organisation -- under which a US grant of LE17,600 will be provided for the project, "Empowering Egypt's young girls through micro-credit".

This project, launched in 1998, aims at helping Egyptian girls aged between 15 and 20 in starting small businesses through providing them with loans ranging from LE300 to LE1,000. Under the project, girls are trained in the workings of micro-credit mechanism and bookkeeping. They also attend literacy classes and receive help in getting their identification card (ID).

The embassy contribution targets 50 girls living in poor urban areas such as Munira and Imbaba. Activities undertaken by the girls include cloth sales, grocery, ironing, and olive and lemon pickling.

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