Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Looking to Africa

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s tour of four Sub-Saharan African countries signals Egypt’s desire to bolster its role across the continent,
writes Azza Radwan Sedky

Africa is at a crossroads. The image of a needy, deficient continent is slowly eroding only to be replaced by the image of a region enjoying rapid growth, endless possibilities and economic potential.

This is why “conquering Africa,” as the old saying goes, still holds but with a novel twist: you must give in order to take. And other countries are eyeing Africa’s prospects and venturing into the continent with their full weight behind them, not only to support but also to gain. It’s a win-win situation.

China, Israel, India, Brazil and many other nations have sought to expand their presence in Africa. Over the last 20 years, Chinese trade in Africa has increased 150 times, and today China is the largest trade partner in Africa. From almost no trade in 2000, trade between Africa and China has reached over $200 billion, with approximately one million Chinese entrepreneurs settling in Africa.

Israel, too, realising Africa’s geopolitical importance and growth potential enjoys a strong presence in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and western Africa at large.

In the light of the efforts made by other countries to utilise the current African boom, it is important to bolster Egypt’s role in Africa. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Rwanda, Tanzania, Gabon and Chad is fundamental in cementing Egypt’s role and rekindling the lost connections that existed during the era of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

The Ethiopian Dam conflict, Nile Basin challenges, terrorism and security threats, and border issues are all key points of discussion, in addition to improved ties and trade ventures. To facilitate trade and investment in the continent, Egypt has already opened commercial offices in Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Djibouti and Ivory Coast.
TANZANIA: During his press conference in Tanzania, Al-Sisi said that “Egypt aspires to increase mutual investments and trade, especially in the fields of agriculture, energy, pharmaceuticals, metallurgical wealth and sustainable development.”

He also cited development projects that Egypt is carrying out in Tanzania, especially in the areas of construction and infrastructure. The health sector is also getting its share of cooperation as Tanzanian hospitals have twinned with the Shatby Hospital in Alexandria under the auspices of Alexandria University.

In an article entitled “Revived Relations Promise Benefits,” the Tanzanian Daily News said that the “trade volume between Tanzania and Egypt stands at 78 million US dollars, with Egyptian companies’ over about 900 million US dollar investments creating 956 jobs for Tanzanians,” which should now increase further.
This is Al-Sisi’s second visit to Rwanda. His first came as part of the African Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, in 2016.

As Rwanda is part of the Nile Basin Initiative group, the visit aimed at clarifying Egypt’s views on Nile Basin issues and ensuring water security.

Commenting on the visit, Al-Sisi said he had discussed ways to improve cooperation between the private sectors of both countries, mainly in the fields of telecommunication, tourism, agriculture and energy.

According to Rwanda’s The New Times, “as of 2015, statistics show that Rwanda earned about $30 million in exports to Egypt annually, while Egypt made about $64 million from exports to Rwanda.”

These are numbers that should increase. “Rwanda’s earnings from exports to Egypt are likely to rise in the coming days, following the latter’s pledge to continue supporting trade ties and with the growth of the Made-in-Rwanda campaign,” the paper said.

GABON: The third stop on the tour was Gabon, the first visit to the central African country by an Egyptian president. It came in response to the several visits to Egypt by Gabonese President Ali Bongo, the country’s deputy prime minister, and several Gabonese ministers.

Bilateral relations, investments and trade were discussed. Gabon enjoys diverse natural resources such as oil, wood and mineral wealth, which could open investment opportunities for both countries, and a trade cooperation agreement between Egypt and Gabon in the timber industry was signed.

The talks also focused on the contribution that Egyptian companies can make to infrastructure development in Gabon.
CHAD: Chadian President Idriss Déby visited Egypt in 2014, and president Al-Sisi is returning the visit.

Sharing a border with Libya, Chad falls within the reach of the Islamic State (IS) group in Africa. As fleeing militants leave Libya, they could easily cross into Chad, and already Chad has deployed troops along its northern border.

Egyptian medical, educational and agricultural collaboration with Chad is strong. Déby confirmed Chad’s keenness on encouraging Egyptian investors, exempting them from entry visas to Chad.

Apart from Al-Sisi’s African tour, Egypt will be hosting the Africa 2017 Forum, entitled “Business for Africa, Egypt and the World,” in December this year. In his welcome message on the Forum’s Website, Al-Sisi says that the Africa 2017 Forum is a landmark platform that will bring together political and business leaders to discuss ways to enhance pan-African international trade and investment.

As other nations attempt to charm Africa into beneficial trade agreements and joint ventures, Egypt must exert similar efforts to regain and sustain improved relations with the continent.

The writer is an academic, political analyst and author of Cairo Rewind: The First Two Years of Egypt’s Revolution, 2011-2013.

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