Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )
Tuesday,12 December, 2017
Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Egypt, the future

The Egypt Economic Development Conference will not only give the country economic momentum but will help it to re-assume its leading political role at the regional level, reports Doaa El-Bey

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The number and level of attendees at the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) is a political test for Egypt, Hussein Haridi, former assistant to the foreign minister, said. “It is a vote of confidence for the future of the country and direct support following 30 June.”

The main objectives of Egypt’s foreign policy after 30 June 2013, when nationwide protests ousted the Islamist government, were outlined the following month by then foreign minister Nabil Fahmi.

Those objectives were to portray the correct and proper image of Egypt to the international community and to work to restore the role of Egypt in the Arab world, Africa, the Mediterranean region and the international community.

Fahmi added that Egypt must diversify its portfolio of strategic economic relationships and that the overriding strategy of Egyptian foreign policy is closely related to Egypt’s economic needs and political priorities.

In that context, the EEDC is important to Egypt in general and its economy in particular.

This explains the massive efforts made in the last few weeks to ensure that the conference provides the required economic momentum and shows that Egypt is on the right track on the economic as well as the political level.

The Foreign Ministry stated on Sunday, five days before the opening of the conference, that representatives of 80 countries and 23 international organisations will attend.

The ministry’s spokesman, Badr Abdel-Ati, explained that the participation of several countries at the official as well as the private sector levels reflects Egypt’s status on the international arena and the positive outlook for the future of the country’s economy.

“The wide-scale participation also indicates the determination to take advantage of investment opportunities in Egypt, in light of the important measures taken by the government during the last period to resolve the problems of investors and restore confidence in Egypt’s economy, including the government’s approval of the unified investment law,” Abdel-Ati said.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and the government, especially the Foreign Ministry, exerted intensive efforts to ensure the largest possible participation, Abdel-Ati added.

Al-Sisi brought the issue of the conference and its importance to Egypt and the region in all his recent meetings, including with King Salman of Saudi Arabia early this month.

The Foreign Ministry brought the same issues to the table at various recent meetings held by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri with foreign officials. Shoukri’s senior assistants also had periodic meetings with ambassadors in Cairo to encourage their countries to participate, and at a high level, at the conference.

During his visit to Sudan last week, during which he met President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, Shoukri renewed an invitation to Al-Bashir to attend.

Guaranteeing the biggest possible participation was also one of the main aims of Shoukri’s five-day tour that took him to Tunisia, France, Russia and China late last month. Both China and Russia promised to send high-level delegations during the visit. He received the same promise from Saudi Arabia during his meeting with his Saudi counterpart in Paris.

Interest in the conference is remarkably high, Haridi said. “The high level of participation, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, is a strong indication that Egypt is on the right track. It also gives a positive signal to the government. The participation of some 2,000 private companies is another positive sign,” he added.

In the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, Abdel-Ati said the level of state participation ranged from heads of state, royalty and heads of governments, to the ministerial level, deputy ministers, senior officials and ambassadors accredited to Cairo.

He pointed out the participation of major international companies, in addition to officials from the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Abdel-Aty confirmed the participation of many international and regional organisations, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Commission, the Arab League, African Development Bank, COMESA and the Union for the Mediterranean, United Nations Development Programme, International Telecommunication Union, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, Kuwaiti Development Fund, Arab Monetary Fund and Arab Fund for Development.

Haridi sees the large participation as a chance to improve cooperation and investment in conventional fields, as well as introducing new technologies to the Egyptian market.

“The conference can boost economic cooperation and investment in conventional fields like energy and transportation. In addition, it is a chance for initiating cooperation in more sophisticated fields like IT,” he said.

Egypt’s economic conference will start tomorrow, 13 March, and will last until 15 March, and be held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. There are high hopes that the conference will bring investments badly needed to revive its economy, which has been hit hard by four years of political unrest.

Although the economic targets may take time before yielding results, improving political relations and boosting Egypt’s role in the region and the international community is likely to reap some fruits sooner than others.

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