Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1241, (9-15 April 2015)
Wednesday,22 August, 2018
Issue 1241, (9-15 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s investment appeal

What can Egypt offer international investors, asks Sayed Moawad

Al-Ahram Weekly

The success of the recent Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) highlighted many positive developments in the country. These include the political support of the international community for the Egyptian leadership, the favourable security situation, the reformist mindset of the government, the restored confidence of foreign and domestic investors and the approval of international organisations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, of the policies that Egypt has embarked on.

Before the conference, observers expected the potential investments to be some $12 billion, but what was achieved on the ground surpassed all expectations, with the total finalised deals and aid packages reaching some $72 billion by the end of the two-day event.

If all the negotiated deals during the conference materialise, Egypt will receive $170 billion in investments, almost three times what Ashraf Al-Arabi, the minister of planning, has said Egypt needs to attract in the next five years.

But what are the incentives that Egypt can provide for those interested in investing in the country?

The Egyptian market has almost 90 million consumers. Furthermore, with the current trade agreements Egyptian commodities have access to markets with a further billion consumers. Egypt is a member of the Common Market of Eastern and Sothern Africa (COMESA) and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA).

The memberships give Egyptian products tariff-free access to the markets of other member countries. Furthermore, Egypt’s EU Association Agreement provides similar treatment to Egyptian agricultural products.

Egypt is fully committed to encouraging exports through the Export Promotion Fund, a government agency, and the export councils representing the private sector. The export councils represent all production and export activities in Egypt.

Moreover, the local financial sector is strong enough to be resilient to financial shocks, as it managed to deal with the financial crisis that swept the world in 2009 as well as absorb the shocks the Egyptian economy has faced since the 25 January Revolution.

The government is serious about overcoming bureaucracy and corruption by overhauling the state’s administrative apparatus and establishing a national committee to combat corruption. As for the complexity of legislation, the government has established a Higher Committee for Legislation Reform to refine legislation and overcome bottlenecks in economic activities.

It is also high time to think seriously about industrialisation. The EEDC is a historical opportunity for the government to play the role of the capitalist state by injecting investment in the idle public sector, which has underused production capacities. One of the main shortcomings of the EEDC was that little attention was given to the industrial sector, which could be the country’s largest job creator.

Adhering to open economy practices, Egypt considers competition policy as a part-and-parcel component of its economic development. In this regard, the Egyptian government has established solid ground for integrating into the global economy by observing the rules of the world trading system managed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In order to create such a competitive environment, the government has established the Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Safeguarding Agency to protect the national economy from unfair practices in international trade. The main goal of this agency is to protect local producers from unfair importation practices.

Furthermore, the government has established the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) to protect fair competition and prevent monopolistic practices. The main goal of the ECA is to ensure that economic activities are undertaken in a manner that does not prevent, restrict or harm freedom of competition.

Most importantly, the government has established new economic courts to supervise all legislation relating to business activities and protect the rights of interested parties.

Today’s package for attracting foreign direct investment is thus totally different from previous attempts in this regard. Egypt seeks to eliminate price distortions by reducing or even eliminating subsidies, and it also aims for a high level of transparency and predictability, the rule of law, and refining the investment law to reflect the interests of all stakeholders.

Egypt is more serious than ever about combating corruption, developing its human capital, encouraging small and medium enterprises (SMEs), formalising its informal sector and creating a link between both SMEs and large industries.

However, the commitments reached during the conference will not be achieved overnight. In order not to repeat the mistakes of the past, the government must realise that comprehensive development is the ultimate goal. The conference should be seen as a historical opportunity that we must seize to achieve a great leap forward.

The writer is an international trade expert and a PhD candidate at Cairo University.

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