The Chairperson of the United Bank Ashraf El-Kady, said that the achievements of the economic reform programme are promising internally and externally, pointing out that monetary policy and solidity of the banking system have played a key role in boosting the Egyptian economy to record growth rates.
Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview with El-Kady, whereby he said that raising the credit rating of Egypt and the confidence of investors and international institutions is the most important achievements achieved with the start of the implementation of the economic reform programme.
He noted that the major projects, the national road network, the development of the Suez Canal, the new cities, specialised industrial cities, and the stimulation of exports are bright spots in the Egyptian economy at present. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
Can you share your vision of Egyptian economy currently? What strengths, weaknesses present in it?
The Egyptian economy witnessed a great change and reorganization of all its components internally and externally since 2014 to make record leaps in infrastructure projects and industrial and real estate cities.
The impact of economic reform programmes in the state budget has been reflected in the improvement in the rates of the GDP, balance of payments, trade balance, investment, and tourism movement, low unemployment rates, and the continued strengthening of social protection programmes for the neediest class.
This was in the framework of monetary policy and strong mechanisms of action of the banking system under the leadership of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), with the aim of achieving growth rates that allow the operation and improvement of services that the Egyptian citizen deserves.
Hence, the experience of the Egyptian economic reform has been praised in various international reports.
Egypt’s credit rating improved several times in improving the ranking of the Egyptian state in terms of global competitiveness in the period between 2014 and 2017, which included the quality of infrastructure, the number of procedures required to establish companies, low inflation rates, and the rise of foreign exchange reserves to over $44bn.
All the previous indicators contributed to the creation of an attractive investment climate and unprecedented development rates reached more than 5% exceeding all expectations of the World Bank and a number of major international institutions. This has also increased the confidence of the international community in the sustainability of economic improvement, which reinforces investor confidence in the seriousness of economic reform programmes.
This improvement was accompanied by a strengthening of the mental image of the Egyptian state and the Egyptian economy in general, with a reduction in the prices of the yields on
the Egyptian dollar bonds, which indicates the low-risk rate surrounding the Egyptian state and increased demand for the movement of purchases of Egyptian bonds abroad.
The Egyptian State has paid great attention to the major national projects, including the development of the Suez Canal Economic Zone as a large industrial export platform and a transit area for goods and services in
the Middle East and North, Central and South Africa, as well as the road and bridges network which improves domestic and international trade, thus benefiting sustainable development.
The idea of transforming Egypt into a regional energy centre has been a major driver in the development of the national economy, especially, following the series of discoveries in the Mediterranean and the interconnection project
between the countries of the region and European countries, as well as plans for expansion in renewable energy.
There is also a series of initiatives to establish small and medium-sized enterprises and empower youth, as well as the initiative to support defaulters from the owners of companies and individuals, the Mortgage Initiative, the Tourism Sector Support Initiative, all of which have created a recovery in domestic economic activity.
Can you mention most important challenges facing Egyptian economy now after implementation of large part of banking reform programme?
The main challenges facing the Egyptian economy are finding a balance between the continued success of economic reform programmes and taking into consideration the social dimension of the disadvantaged and marginalised sectors.
In this context, the Egyptian State, supported by the efforts of civil society, has extended social welfare programs to this class in the governorates of the republic, as well as finding sources of funding and rehabilitation of this segments for production, which contributes to the empowerment of youth, women, and families.
Meanwhile, the efforts of the state, represented by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and its affiliated bodies, have begun to increase the competitiveness of the industrial and agricultural sectors and improve the quality of the Egyptian product, thus increasing Egyptian exports and raising the slogan of Made in Egypt, but we need further increases in production and opening new markets for Egyptian goods.
It is also necessary to work on improving the quality of tourist services provided and agreements with foreign countries to increase tourist inflows to Egypt, as well as granting tourists’ incentives to increase the inflow further.
What role your bank plays in supporting financial inclusion in Egypt?
The state supported by the plan of the CBE is working to extend the system of financial inclusion to include all segments of the Egyptian society.
As for the United Bank, we have covered a great distance in the CBE financial inclusion initiative over the past two years. We have offered products that match the target community segments to reach all different segments in different geographical locations and include them in the banking system.
The bank has also expanded its offering of smart banking products that attract different segments of the Egyptian society and contribute to the integration of the parallel economy, including the digital wallet, which enables the customer to pay the outstanding bills, recharge the mobile phone, transfer funds internally from the portfolio to another portfolio, pay for goods through the portfolio directly, deposit money in the portfolio from bank accounts, query transactions, recharge prepaid cards, get an electronic statement, withdraw funds from the portfolio through member merchants.