Egypt is primed and ready for business

| October 4, 2012 | 0 Comments
The Suez Canal puts Egypt at the crossroads of Afro-Eurasia trade.

The Suez Canal puts Egypt at the crossroads of Afro-Eurasia trade.

By Wael Aboul Magd

In 2014, Egypt and Canada will mark 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. During that time, our bilateral relationship has been founded on mutual interest in peace and stability in the Middle East, trade and development and cultural diversity. The latter is partly the function of a vibrant Egyptian-Canadian community, which has served over the years as a bridge between the two countries while contributing to Canada’s socio-economic development, prosperity and cultural diversity. This important human dimension not only gives the bilateral relationship a special character, but also provides the backbone for a stronger partnership in the future.

To create a stronger partnership, one of my priorities is to strengthen bilateral economic co-operation. Egypt and Canada are already reliable trading partners. Two-way trade reached $1.15 billion in 2011 — a 28 percent increase over the previous year and an 85-percent increase over 2001. Of that, $699 million is the value of Canadian exports to Egypt, made up mainly of agricultural products (wheat, lentils, dairy products and maize), minerals, lumber products and civil aviation aircrafts. In the same period, the value of Egyptian exports to Canada reached $455 million, marking a staggering 60-percent increase from 2010, concentrated mainly in gold (at 74 percent), textiles, chemicals (largely fertilizers) and foodstuffs.

These figures are promising and reflect an upward trend, but much more can be done to realize the full potential. Egypt still wants access to Canada’s textile market (apparel and home textiles), ICT products — the fastest growing sector in Egypt, yet hardly visible in Egyptian exports to Canada — home furnishings and food products. Egypt welcomes Canadian exports in machinery and equipment, especially those with high-tech components; grains, mainly wheat and lentils; wood and timber products.

Our strong partnership is seen in numerous success stories. Vidéotron and the Egyptian Contact Center company Xceed, which created the first Canadian call centre in the Middle East, have an outsourcing agreement. Bombardier, SNC Lavalin, RBC Financial Services, IMAX and fertilizer giants Methanex and Agrium all operate in Egypt. Egyptian telecom giant Orascom teamed up with Globalive Communications Corporation for an advanced wireless services (AWS) spectrum auction in Canada and won a licence in 2008 to establish Wind mobile network. Research in Motion (RIM) is set to open a centre in Cairo’s Smart Village, its first research and development centre in Africa and the Middle East. And these are just a few examples of the unlimited opportunities for mutually profitable co-operation.

Egypt is considered one of the leading emerging markets, thanks to its attractive investment opportunities. For Canada, areas of interest include energy and renewable energy, ICT, petrochemicals, financial services, mining and mineral resources. And there are others not currently being explored by Canadian corporations. These include aerospace, infrastructure projects (including water systems, bridges, and roads) and environmental projects.

Egypt is well-positioned to attract new investments. The past decade has witnessed landmark reforms to the investment environment, mainly at the macro-economic level, including the introduction of legal reforms and streamlining of bureaucratic procedures towards a more attractive investment milieu.

The strategic Suez Canal waterway helps Egypt reinforce its position at the economic crossroads of the Afro-Eurasia region. Its diversified economy, proximity to Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia, aided by a young and vibrant workforce, a modern road and telecommunications infrastructure and a sophisticated business community, position my country as a gateway for Canada into neighbouring markets.

There are short-term challenges facing the Egyptian economy as the country undergoes democratic transformation, but reports by international financial institutions put Egypt’s economy on a high-growth trajectory in the medium and long term, predicting a 5.7-percent growth rate in the near future, according to a recent report by HSBC. The report noted that Egypt will be among the world’s 30 countries with the highest growth rates and, by size, its economy will be 20th in the world by 2050. Such confidence in Egypt’s economy is not without ground — we’ve grown at a robust 7 percent annually in the last decade, uninhibited by the world recession. Egypt’s economy has withstood the challenges and has proven its structural foundations are sound and solid. There is no doubt its location and advantages ensure it will remain a strong market and favourite destination for investors and business people looking for revenues in young markets.

Neither political developments nor short-term economic challenges should impede a deepening of Egypt-Canada relations. The solid foundation has been established and joint efforts should be focused on realizing the mutual benefits inherent in this relationship. As Canadian companies are discovering they cannot solely rely on domestic demand, diversifying risks through foreign expansion is vital to ensuring long-term growth. Egypt is open for business.

Wael Aboul Magd is Egypt’s ambassador to Canada. Reach him at egypt4931@rogers.com or (613)-234-4931.

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