The Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade is seeking an agreement on free trade with Nigeria and Senegal in preparation for another agreement to liberalise trade with West and Central African economic blocs.
The agreement would contribute to the doubling of Egyptian exports of agricultural crops especially to African markets such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).
The Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, said that Egypt reached a preliminary agreement to free trade and protect investment with IMO in 2004. However, negotiations were halted and the ministry is now seeking to reach a final agreement through the current negotiations.
Abdel Nour said, in statement to Al-Ahram newspaper, that Egypt is interested in cooperation with Africa as it is the second-fastest region in the world in growth rate after Asia.
Abdel Nour added that the volume of African total product amounts to $2.5tn, that annual exports amounts to about $599.5bn and that total annual imports are worth $605bn. However, Egypt’s share of these amounts is no more than $4bn.
Abdel Nour noted that the foreign trade sector of the ministry has prepared a strategic vision and action plan to move towards Africa based on three axes. The first is to work on the re-formation of mutual interests with the African countries to change ties between Egypt and African countries from being relations based on water share of the Nile River into a new concept based on the achievement of broader economic development that ensures the interests of all continent countries. In addition, Egypt seeks to increase bilateral trade, which is currently no more than 0.06% of the continent’s total trade with the outside world.
The second axis aims at strengthening Egyptian presence in the African countries’ markets through facilitating the Egyptian commodities presence in those countries. The ministry seeks to transform the country into a major supplier of the goods needed by African countries, especially the Nile basin countries, as well as increase imports of raw materials and other intermediate goods needed by Egypt from Africa.
The ministry’s third axis is to increase the size of the technical assistance provided by Egypt to a number of African countries and others to support the governments of those countries in economic and social development.
The minister noted that the plan will depend on the benefits of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) agreement, as Egypt is one of the main members, which will allow the distribution of Egyptian exports to the COMESA markets without customs taxes.
In addition, Egypt seeks to increase cooperation with core countries such as South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria, through supporting integration efforts among the major economic blocs. Moreover, the country seeks to encourage the establishment of joint projects and develop Egyptian investments around the continent.
“The ministry implemented important steps to strengthen cooperation with Africa, including the signing an agreement with the African export-import bank for the allocation of a credit line worth $500m to finance Egyptian exports to the African markets,” Abdel Nour said. “Furthermore, encourage the hosting of expos for African products in Egypt, which took place with the Food Africa expo.”
Egypt launched on 10 June in Sharm El-Sheikh the tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement between the main three economic blocs in Africa – the COMESA, The East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – to facilitate trade between the member states.
African countries are the main importers of Egypt’s non-crude oil, petroleum gases, iron and steel, as well as engineering products such as televisions, wires and cables.