CAIRO: There are several ways for Egypt to strengthen its position as a lucrative Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination for the UK, with the ultimate aim of improving the lives of Egyptian citizens, Minister of Investment Mahmoud Mohieldin said.
With his usual light-hearted tone, Mohieldin discussed current economic issues and the next steps to build upon the UK’s position as the largest non-Arab investor in Egypt at a dinner organized by the British Egyptian Business Association (Beba) Tuesday night.
“We are known to be fighters, Mohieldin said, “It is not about the World Bank, IFC, or any other report’s praise, it’s about the rights of the Egyptian citizens to reach decent job opportunities and higher income.
Egypt and the UK have enjoyed close ties for more than a century. There are currently around 670 British companies operating in Egypt. Nearly 35 percent of stock exchange participation is carried out by non-residents and “a significant part is carried out through London, said Mohieldin
“The UK is the largest non-Arab investor in Egypt, due to the low cost of labor and its favorable location, Laila El-Maghraby, Beba executive director said. UK investments have expanded beyond oil and gas companies to include tourism, financial, telecommunications and agricultural investments.
Egypt is looking to build on this relationship by launching promotional campaigns to further encourage British investors.
“Beyond investment, over one million British tourists visit Egypt ever year, he said, and thousands of Egyptian students travel to study in the UK.
Entities such as the British Council and other international corporations harness “the sustainability of our links and help them grow significantly, the minister added.
Despite increasing levels of FDI and overall economic growth, the greater aim of these investments is to improve the well-fare of the Egyptian citizen.
Nearly 20 percent of Egyptians live beneath the poverty line, and despite a decrease in the unemployment rate, there are still around nine million who are unemployed. Strict policies must be implemented to sustain growth.
“We can talk about equity and social responsibility, but growth is a challenge that requires leadership and a political government to support it, he said.
Quoting President Hosni Mubarak’s parliamentary speech, “We need to grow deeper, faster, in the heart of social dimensions and policies to help the poor and needy of this country, Mohieldin said.
Towards this aim, Egypt is working to diversify the economy’s investment opportunities, benefiting from its competitive advantage over other countries.
The government’s agenda for 2008 will focus on encouraging investments in the health and education sectors and “providing fair opportunities to get in the business race. Investors are encouraged to introduce new techniques to spur growth and encourage competition.
“The new year’s agenda will focus on public-private partnerships (PPPs) and investment zones that will help [streamline] the registration phase. Instead of registering your company in six months, it will now take only three days. It’s a one-step zone without going through a hassle, the minister said.
The first investment zone was established in Maadi to serve the ICT sector and call center services that will operate from there.