Egypt's Ambassador to Canada, and former foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid - FILE PHOTO
CAIRO - 6 July 2019: Egypt's Ambassador to Canada, and former foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid wrote an opinion piece in the Canadian Diplomat Magazine, discussing Egypt's extensive economic reform plan to attract investors, achieve self-sufficiency and guarantee social inclusiveness.
Below is the article as published on the Canadian magazine:
Amid the political turmoil in the Middle East and its devastating impacts on stability, Egypt has managed to overcome many persistent challenges by embarking on a major socio-economic transformation. This transformation comes with the sustainable development strategy — Egypt Vision 2030 — adopted in 2015. This vision works towards inclusive development, trade, investment promotion and social justice. It also offers a road map for maximizing competitive advantage to achieve Egyptians’ dreams and aspirations of a dignified and decent life.
In light of the turmoil Egypt endured after the 2011, and after the election of a new president, the government undertook a series of bold reforms, including lifting the energy subsidy and floating the currency. As a result, economic and financial indicators are more positive and stable, with growth reaching 5.3 per cent in 2018, reducing inflation and unemployment rates to 12.2 per cent and 9.9 per cent respectively, raising foreign reserves to $44.5 billion and augmenting foreign direct investments. In recognition of reforms, Moody’s credit rating agency recently changed its outlook classification of Egypt from stable to positive, while Fitch rating agency upgraded Egypt’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to B+ from B, with a stable outlook.
Alongside the financial and economic reforms, the government adopted an extensive and ambitious modernization plan focused on implementing mega projects, such as the Suez Canal Development Zone, the Golden Triangle economic zone and the new administrative capital. Other projects include housing,under which the government built 11 new cities;transport, in which it added 1,100 kilometres to the national road network since 2014; electricity, with an addition of 25,000 megawatts between 2014 and 2018. Work is also underway to build the Benban Solar Park in Aswan, which once completed, will be the largest solar installation in the world. These projects undoubtedly provide many investment opportunities for Canadian companies.
On the energy level, following the discoveries of large offshore gas reserves in the East Mediterranean,particularly the Zohr gas field, which produces 2.3 billion cubic feet per day, Egypt has achieved self-sufficiency in gas. This was followed by an ambitious plan to make Egypt a regional energy hub, which included drafting a new law aiming to liberalize the gas market by 2022. The culmination of this policy helped in boosting foreign direct investment in the energy sector to US$20 billion in 2018. It also led to the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in January 2019, which acts as a regional gas market.
In light of this economic transformation and the positive investment environment, I encourage the Canadian private sector to take advantage of the investment and trade opportunities in Egypt and benefit from the investment-facilitating measures adopted by the Egyptian government, especially the new investment law. Let’s boost Canadian investments in Egypt beyond the current amounts of US$2.3 billion.
On the trade level, Egyptian trade with Canada amounts to US$1billion, but it could be stronger with more trade missions, and the establishment of a joint business council to act as a catalyst for trade and economic co-operation. Egyptian Exports to Canada are mainly precious stones, textiles and fruits and vegetables, while Egyptian imports from Canada are machinery, coal, paper, and iron ores. I believe the Canadian market can take more fruits and vegetables from Egypt, especially since Egypt's production significantly increased in 2018.
Moreover, Egypt has invested in its citizens in order to enable them to flourish and play a constructive role in advancing their society. The government adopted a national strategy to empower women. Today, women make up 25 per cent of Egypt’s cabinet and 16 percent of its Parliament. In addition, the government is focusing on skills development and micro-financing for women and youth empowerment.
Egypt has also launched social solidarity initiatives such as the Takafol program, which aims to provide poor families with children under 18 years old with health care. The Karama initiative, meanwhile, targets those more than 65 years of age and those with disabilities.The government also adopted a social housing initiative through which more than 300,000 social housing units were built over the past four years to provide affordable housing to the most needy.
The new Egypt wants to become economically advanced and socially inclusive. In fulfilling these objectives,Egypt reaches out to its partners, including Canada, to achieve common benefits and continue to build a modern state that improves the quality of life of all Egyptians.