Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1292, (21 - 27 April 2016)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1292, (21 - 27 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Fresh French funds

Major deals were signed between Egypt and France during the official visit to Cairo of the French president, reports Nesma Nowar

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Al-Ahram Weekly

French President François Hollande’s visit to Egypt this week has resulted in the signing of financial and trade agreements worth some 1.8 billion euros in the fields of transport, renewable energy, vocational training and social protection.

Hollande arrived in Cairo on Monday for a two-day visit. With him was an economic delegation including more than 60 French businessmen. The visit was the second leg of a three-stop Middle Eastern tour that started with Lebanon and ended with Jordan.

International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr signed financial agreements with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) worth a total of more than 300 million euros during the visit, including a 50 million euro loan to fund the Regional Energy Control Centre in the Delta region, a 68 million euro grant to connect homes to the natural gas grid, and a 50 million euro senior loan to finance a wind power station in the Gulf of Suez with a capacity of 200 megawatts.

Another 60 million euro loan to establish a water treatment unit in Alexandria, a 80 million euro loan to fund rehabilitation on the Ramses-Heliopolis tram line and a 70 million euro loan (guaranteed by a grant from the EU) to supply natural gas to Egypt’s poorer areas were all signed with the AFD.

In addition, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Hollande witnessed the signing of a trade agreement worth 1.2 billion euros between Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels and the French joint venture Vinci and Bouygues to build 17 kilometres of phase three of Cairo’s third metro line, which is currently under construction.

There was another 250 million euro agreement signed by the Electricity Transmission Company and the Alstom Grid-Rowad Modern Engineering Consortium to build an electrical substation in Egypt.

The visit comes at a time when Egyptian relations with the European Union have been strained over the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found bearing signs of torture on the outskirts of Cairo on 3 February.

Earlier this month, Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt, accusing the Egyptian authorities of failing to fully cooperate in a joint investigation into the death of the student.

However, Hollande’s visit may show that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Gamal Bayoumi, former assistant minister of foreign affairs, said that the economic agreements signed during the visit were the result of Egypt’s intensive efforts to show that the country is back on track and that it is open for business.

“It’s a win-win situation. Investors benefit a lot from investing in Egypt,” Bayoumi told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that Hollande’s visit also sends a message to tourists across the globe that Egypt is safe. He said that the French media coverage of the visit was “free promotion” for Egypt that showed that the country is safe and open for investment.

During the inauguration of the Franco-Egyptian Economic Forum on Monday, Al-Sisi said that Egypt is looking forward to partnerships with French corporations on major national projects such as the Suez Canal Development Zone, and he reiterated the importance of the country’s economic partnership with France.

France is Egypt’s ninth-largest trading partner, with a total traded volume worth 2.6 million euros and total investments worth 4.3 billion euros in 2015. It is Egypt’s sixth-largest investor, having around 150 companies that employ some 33,000 workers, according to the French Embassy in Cairo.

Figures from the Central Bank of Egypt, however, show that French net investment in Egypt declined by 33.7 per cent in the financial year 2014-2015, to stand at $230.2 million compared to $347.4 million in the previous fiscal year.

This week’s visit is Hollande’s second to Egypt in less than a year. The French president visited last on 6 August 2015, when he attended the inauguration of the New Suez Canal.

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