The number of Danish investment funds are actively eying new investment opportunities in the Egyptian market especially in the energy, infrastructure, transport, and food sectors, Denmark’s ambassador to Egypt, Tomas Anker Christensen, said.
“A Danish investment fund owns 10% stake in Benban Solar Park. It has invested in Aller Aqua fish feed company, which is an Egyptian Danish joint venture. This investment fund is looking for new investment projects in Egypt,” the ambassador shared.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Christensen to learn more about the Danish-Egyptian relations in terms of trade, investment, technical cooperation, and tourism, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What are the cooperation updates between both countries in terms of investments?
On the economic side, Egypt has gone through very difficult times over the past years. Yet, we think that the situation is improving now. Egypt has undertaken very strict economic reforms which are highly appreciated by foreign investors.
Egypt precisely followed its economic programme’s benchmarks that was set by the authorities and coordinated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The accurate implementation of the programme has given the confidence to international investors that Egypt is serious about its reforms.
The GDP growth of Egypt is picking up which is positively reflecting on investments. Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, pays attention to the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDG2030). When the plan is fully implemented, it will help Egypt create more jobs, improve education, health, the situation for women, and many across sector improvements.
In general, Egypt is coming from a very difficult position, and fixing it will take some time.
What are the reactions of Danish investors toward the reforms in Egypt?
The reaction that I get from the Danish businessperson on Egypt’s business climate improvements is very positive. The Danish businessperson is looking very carefully at the Egyptian market.
There are key elements that impact the international investors’ decisions including stability, regulatory certainty, and long-term stable policy. Egypt is coming where those conditions are met.
The ease of doing business is very important in terms of getting the production inputs and materials, clearance of the customs policy, and licensing.
We are very active with the Egyptian authorities in helping Danish companies manage the difficulties they face in the Egyptian market.
What about the interest of Danish investment funds in Egypt?
Danish investment funds are actively working in Egypt and are considering new opportunities. There is a large investment fund managed by the Danish government (IFU) focusing on investments in the sectors of the sustainable development goals.
What are the difficulties that Danish companies face in Egypt?
There are some difficulties that faced Danish companies while operating in the Egyptian market. Egyptian authorities are very supportive and cooperative. There is a government policy to assist investors who face issues.
Every time we discuss any of the issues with the ministers, there is a clear interest in solving it. This policy positively reflects on our relations. There are many business opportunities in Egypt for Danish companies who work in energy, food health care, and transport.
I have a positive experience with several Egyptian ministers to solve investors’ issues. When Danish investors face an issue, there is always an open door for actual solutions from Egyptian ministers.
How many Danish companies are operating in the Egyptian market right now?
We don’t have the precise number of the Danish companies in Egypt. We have the Danish Egyptian Business Club, with more than 20 members of the largest Danish companies in Egypt.
Over past three years of 2015, 2016, and 2017, Danish companies injected about $1bn in new investments in the Egyptian market.
One of the largest Danish companies in Egypt, is the transport company Maersk. It is the largest investor in the Port Said area with very large containers terminal. Maersk is the largest employer in Port Said with 3,000 persons and its investment in the port ranges from $850m to $1bn.
In addition to the investments and because of shipping in the Suez Canal, Maersk pays about $1bn in fees to Egypt every year.
I know that you met the Chairperson of the Suez Canal authority, Mohab Mamish, several times. What are the results of these meetings?
Because Mamish is head of both authorities of the Suez Canal Authority and the General Authority For Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone), he is a close partner for us, especially because of Maersk, and also more generally due to Denmark’s leading role in the shipping industry.
Denmark is one of world’s biggest shipping nations. We have the fifth largest ship fleet in the world. We are a small country, but shipping is one of the sectors that is a core part of our economy. Our close cooperation with the Suez Canal is crucial for us.
The Suez Canal authority is an investor in Maersk’s terminal in Port Said and it has a certain stake in it. So, we have ongoing conversation to the way that the port is running, its state of competitiveness, new investments into the port, the regulatory circumstances, and other discussions.
We also have received a very kind invitation to the opening of the new tunnels in Ismailia which I attended. I have been driving through the tunnels a number of times. It is a very impressive new megaproject that ties Africa to Asia. It’s a very big vision to the future of the whole canal area and Mamish is leading that work in a very impressive way.
You are actively meeting with Egyptian ministers; can you please elaborate on these meetings and their results?
Egyptian Ministers are very generous with their time with us. I have been fortunate to meet Finance Minister, Mohamed Moeit, a number of times. I’ve also met the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, Sahar Nasr, the Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Mohamed Shaker, the Minister of Antiquities, Khaled El-Anany, the Minister of Tourism, Rania Al-Mashat, and the Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad.
We discuss with Egyptian ministers business cooperation, government relations, political policy, and technical projects. For example, I met with the minister of electricity and renewable energy, to discuss a new technical programme in wind power.
In Denmark, we generate about 60% of our energy from wind. Egypt has a very ambitious programme to generate more than 43% of its energy from renewables by 2035.
Denmark has very experienced engineers in terms of integrating wind into the energy systems. We have some of the best engineers in the world. We offered Egypt a capacity building and knowledge transfer programme.
We will have an energy advisor who will come to the embassy starting next October and his job will be to work with the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity and Renewable energy and its affiliated agencies on this planned programme.
With the ministry of finance, we have been working on a number of issues that relate to taxation fees and customs that faced Danish companies while working in Egypt. We had very successful discussions.
We also are coordinating with the ministry of environment on climate change issues. Egypt is getting ready for the summit of the UN Secretary General on climate change that will take place in September. Meanwhile, Denmark is leading the track on the climate change issues, so we have very close cooperation on environmental issues.
What about future meetings with Egyptian ministers?
We have an ongoing dialogue with a number of officials. Nothing is planned right now, but I hope I will meet the Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly, soon, and Finance Minister, Mohamed Moeit again.
Since we have a new government in Denmark, we will coordinate a meeting between Denmark’s Foreign Minister, Jeppe Kofod and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, during the general assembly annual meeting in New York.
Shoukry sent Kofod a congratulatory note on the occasion of Kofod’s assuming office recently. I hope they will meet in New York.
According to Forbes, Denmark is one of the best countries to invest in. How can Egypt benefit from this experience?
There are a number of reasons that make Denmark one of the best environments for business. Our population has a very high level of education. Our government takes care of citizens and gives them social protection. Denmark enjoys a flexible labour market. In Egypt, it’s very difficult for employers to fire employees, while in Denmark, it is very easy because the government protects citizens when they don’t have a job.
In Denmark, it’s easy to open a business and it’s easy to close it. Denmark enjoys a dynamic labour market, very stable economy, very good regulatory framework, and very predictable and long-term policies.
For example, when we change governments, we don’t shift policies. Investors can predict what will happen in the next five years. Our policies are a combination between a social welfare state and a free market economy.
Let’s shift to another key point of the Danish-Egyptian relations which is trade exchange. What are the latest statistics of trade exchange between both countries?
Over the last three years, Danish exports to Egypt reached about $1bn. Egyptian exports to Denmark are less than that, but they are picking up especially agriculture products including the Egyptian potato. There are many Egyptian potatoes in the Danish market due to its good quality that is getting even better.
The biggest sector for exports is health care products because of the Novo Nordisk, which is one of the biggest Danish companies in health care. It has a very big market share in Egypt.