CAIRO: The Egyptian Export Promotion Center held its first board meeting on Monday, during which producers and government officials discussed sector-specific export objectives and results for the past year as well as factors inhibiting growth.
Haytham Ahmed Deyab, the center s executive director, outlines the center s three main objectives: to double exports in the next five years, to assist export councils in the creation of their development and promotion plans and to support the private sector in preparing proposals for technical, financial and training programs.
The center is a fresh approach to an old idea. It has technically existed for nearly 10 years but until recently did little to effectively engage the private sector.
As part of its transformation, Deyab was appointed seven months ago and the center is now overseen by a board that includes the chairpersons of the export councils as representatives of the private sector as well as officials from several key governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Today, this center is not a government department, says Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid. Since exporters are the ones that are involved in export activities, they themselves have the right to put in place objectives and the direction that they want to take.
The center is in part an administrative arm of the export councils. Fourteen export councils appointed by Rachid advise the minister on policy and work to address common export-related issues. The councils are sector-specific and are intended to represent the industries in which Egypt has a global comparative advantage.
The trick is the sector-specific [approach], says Sherif El Maghraby, chairman of the agriculture export council. You get a bunch of people that do exactly the same job [together], because they understand exactly what the problems are, they know the impediments [and] they know where the advantages are.
The center is currently entirely funded by the government with a budget of LE 6 million, and Deyab plans to request LE 18 million from the government next year.
We don t have other resources currently; although we have the right to sell services for a fee we have not yet started this, says Deyab.
Most of the budget will be spent on wages and Deyab plans to increase the number of staff from the current level of 30 to 70 over the next three years.
Deyab adds that attracting the right skills at public-sector wages has been difficult. The center has addressed this by hiring staff on a temporary basis, enabling it to pay salaries that are above government norms.
One of the center s main activities is to coordinate between the export councils and 18 public and independent export service providers.
These are governmental or non-governmental organizations that support exports, such as Egyptian commercial offices [or] the Industrial Modernization Center, says Deyab. The problem is that … when exporters go to get some services from export service providers, they get lost; they don t know how to deal with their needs.
The other main activity is to provide information to support market research and policy advocacy.
While a range of issues were raised during the board meeting, difficulties with shipping logistics and branding were emphasized as significant impediments.
Today, competition is increasingly outside of factories, says Rachid, adding that logistical aspects of trade are an important competitive factor.
El Maghraby, who is also the chairman of the fresh produce business Magrabi Agriculture, describes the importance of the integration of Egyptian exporters into the supply chain of multinational companies.
I believe the key area is interaction with multinationals, to integrate with the multinational system, says El Maghraby. That means more joint ventures, more continuous supply [and] being a member of the supply chain of the multinational retailers.
This is particularly important for Egypt because the proximity to certain markets including Europe enables fast delivery of goods and gives Egypt a potential edge over China and other producers in the Far East.
Rachid also suggests that branding strategies similar to the Egyptian cotton mark used by the textile sector should be extended to other products.