Thursday,14 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )
Thursday,14 December, 2017
Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Enthusiasm for Egypt

Recently back from promoting Egypt in Europe as an investment destination, Mohamed Zaki Al-Sewedy, chair of the Federation of Egyptian Industries, explains investors’ thinking to Mona El-Fiqi

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Al-Ahram Weekly

As a businessman and chairman of the Federation of Egyptian Industries, how do you assess the investment climate in Egypt?

Egypt offers lucrative investment opportunities in certain sectors, especially for large companies. Such companies usually receive more attention from the government, and they rely on their wide public-relations networks.

However, the investment climate will be really attractive when it is able to accommodate small- and medium-sized enterprises as well. When this happens we will be able to say that Egypt has succeeded in removing the investment obstacles currently facing investors, at the top of which is bureaucracy.

How can the Sharm El-Sheikh Conference help in attracting investors?

It will be a good opportunity for Egypt to show the business community the reforms it has embarked on, as well as its investment potential and the new legislation that was recently issued to attract investors.

The conference in itself will not solve all our problems, however, and that is why I am not really interested which investors are participating. Our problems need time to be resolved, but I am optimistic about the future, as long as we keep working on reforms and have a real political will to change.

What is the new legislation that investors need from the government?

There are some steps that have been already taken to help boost investment. I think that the new investment law will help to attract more investors as well. Moreover, the decision that permits the private sector to participate in generating and distributing electricity will help to attract more investment. The new procedures related to regulating foreign exchange in the markets should be added to this.

Even the decision to cut subsidies means there is a new way of thinking in the government. It is time for the government to change its role and focus on providing better services in education and healthcare.

Another positive move is that the government is currently working on amending a law that can be used unfairly to convict businessmen. It does not make sense for the chairman of a big company to go to jail for any malpractice by that company, even if this is something as trivial as a spoiled yogurt container produced by his factory.

In your view, which sectors have the highest potential?

Egypt still needs huge investment across the board, but I think we should focus on investing horizontally, governorate by governorate. We should choose governorates in which to establish industrial complexes for furniture, textiles, leather products and pharmaceuticals. This would help provide job opportunities across the nation and increase added value.

Is the decision to place 80 per cent of development projects in the private sector a good way to attract foreign investors?

Foreign investors will come to Egypt only when they find Egyptian investors are satisfied with the investment climate.

How does terrorism affect the investment climate?

It depends on how we deal with it. If we ignore it and keep on working, it will not affect investment negatively, but the situation will be different if we feel afraid and do not fight terrorism.

You have just returned from a trip to Europe to promote Egypt ahead of the Sharm El-Sheikh Conference. What are investors’ impressions of Egypt?

They are very enthusiastic and eager to start projects in Egypt. However, the commercial attachés in the Egyptian embassies located in some European countries have not always done their homework in promoting the country as an investment destination to Arabs and Egyptians living abroad. There are a large number of Egyptian businessmen living in Europe, many of them investors, who do not have any idea about the investment opportunities and reforms.

To what extent could the decision to postpone the parliamentary elections affect potential investment?

It will not have any effect. I think it is better to postpone them rather than to have doubts in the future about the next parliament’s legitimacy. On the contrary, the postponement of the elections will show investors that each step on the road map is legal and transparent.

Will it be difficult for the next parliament to pass all the economic laws necessary during its first two weeks?

No. These laws are expected to pass easily because they have been carefully studied before being issued by the relevant specialised economic committees.

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