CAIRO: New laws being implemented by Egypt’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) will allow foreign firms to buy, develop and resell land in the country’s industrial zones.
In a conference Tuesday, IDA Chairman Amr Assal said that the new investment laws would mean that multinational firms can buy and develop vast swaths of land in industrial zones and then sell them in pieces to private sector companies.
Until recently, only the government was allowed to do this.
Speaking of other reforms being undertaken by the IDA, Assal highlighted the importance of establishing more factories in the country and investing in Upper Egypt.
The IDA in cooperation with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CanCham) hosted an event Tuesday night to highlight some changes being made to trade and investment laws and to sign an agreement of further cooperation between the two bodies.
Leading participants included Assal and CanCham Chairman Fayez Ezeldin.
In the beginning of the program, Assal outlined a number of the steps he and the IDA were taking to liberalize trade and investment policy. These steps, he said, would be important in any climate but were made more critical because they stood to spur growth and investment at a time of economic stagnation.
“These recent reforms are mainly focused on enhancing the competitive capability of Egyptian industry; enabling Egyptian industrial sectors to draw level with emerging industrial nations and to target the attraction of investment from industrial powers, said Assal in a letter to potential investors.
At the conference, Assal discussed a number of the reforms the IDA was implementing.
Besides facilitating investments for foreign firms in industrial zones, Assal also discussed plans to encourage more industrial projects in Upper Egypt. The new policy, he explained, would offer land at a discount rate and help the company pay part of workers’ wages.
Upper Egypt is among the country’s most impoverished areas. Bringing industry to the region, Assal explained, was key for development.
The IDA is also undertaking efforts to ease the bureaucratic challenges of investing in Egypt. The parliament is set to consider a bill that would consolidate all industrial and investment laws into one statute. Assal is also allowing chambers in each governorate to approve industrial projects since so much of the country’s industry is located outside of Cairo.
One of the primary goals in all these reforms, said Assal, is to boost the number of factories in Egypt. The aim, he explained, was to increase the number of factories in the country from a current level of 804 to 1,000 by the year 2011.
After Assal’s discussion, CanCham and the IDA signed an agreement to encourage bilateral trade and investment between Egypt and Canada.
“We signed an agreement between CanCham and the IDA to develop trade and exchange experiences, said Ezeldin. “We are looking for Canadian business people to come to Egypt to invest.
Exchanging experiences, Ezeldin said, was the easy part. CanCham already runs a number of training programs and information seminars that do just that.
Encouraging investment between the two countries has been the tougher nut to crack.
Eighty-six percent of trade and investment flowing out of Canada, Ezeldin said, went to the US. Having lived for a long time in Canada, Ezeldin discussed how challenging it is for any other country to pull Canada’s eyes away from the US.
“Putting Egypt on the map is a big, big deal, he said.
But Egypt is on the map. In just the last four years, Canadian investment in Egypt has grown from $600 million to nearly $4 billion.
While Ezeldin worries that growth in investment may falter during the global recession, he is confident that the trade and investment relationship will continue to grow.