This is how Egypt can fulfil its powerful economic potential

Ahmed Galal Ismail
6 Min Read

That is according to a forecast from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which predicts future GDP growth as measured by purchasing power.

The country has undoubtedly made significant economic progress over the past three years as it emerges from a challenging period which has included substantial economic reform and a currency devaluation.

Now, the country has been described as the “best reform story in the Middle East”. And it has the fastest growth rate in the Arab world, almost rivalling India.

For Majid Al Futtaim, the potential we saw many years ago in Egypt is being realised and today the country is recognised by investors and government partners alike as a compelling investment destination.

Having invested in Egypt for two decades, it is our strong belief that investors should sit up and take notice of the outsized potential of this emerging market.

Growing momentum

A significant part of Egypt’s enormous potential is underpinned by the secular trends of positive demographics, urbanisation and middle-class potential.

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world. It is blessed with a young and well-educated population who are digitally savvy and ambitious. This generation will drive the country’s economic renaissance unleashing significant amounts of disposable income and demand for high quality goods and memorable experiences.

The World Bank reports that retail and real estate sectors are among key drivers of Egypt’s growth. But it’s not just domestic demand that is driving overall growth. Last year was also a record for Egypt’s important tourism industry with 11 million visitors to the country. Tourism receipts surged to $14bn , the biggest increase ever for an industry that has been attracting visitors for 4,000 years. 

In a further endorsement of the country’s rich cultural heritage, The Independent ranked Egypt at the top of the list for travel recommendations in 2020.

In my view, the momentum we are witnessing across diverse sectors of the economy is representative of the deeper confidence reposed in Egypt, not just from tourists, but from consumers, domestic and foreign investors, and bilateral and multilateral partners.

At Majid Al Futtaim, we have invested EGP 26bn in the country across a range of sectors including real estate, retail, leisure and entertainment. We are excited by our future pipeline of projects that will enable us to put additional capital to work bringing our deployed and future investments to EGP 44bn .

If investors were to consider Egypt as a true G20 economy, we could well envisage other private sector partners deploying similar amounts of capital as we have done. Consider the possibilities for economic and social progress if Egypt were to receive EGP 500bn in investments. 

The opportunities, in my view, would be transformative.

Standing out from the crowd

Smart investors will take the long view, looking as far out as 2050, or even beyond. But what does it take to understand and capture the opportunity? In my perspective, there are three primary factors.

First, investors must dig deep into the nature of the market. A local lens is critical for success. For example, there are many opportunities for new retail offers in the country, which is one of the most underpenetrated in the world.

Second, customer experience is critical. You need to think about both the customer experience, as well as the sustainability of the assets that you create.

Third, differentiation is critical. Millennial and next generation customers will be more discerning and more demanding than the generation before because they’re more connected to the world. T

A collaborative approach

As we shape these investments, we must anticipate the size of the future opportunity, making sure that what we create now is fit for purpose in 10 to 20 years’ time.

The Egyptian government has laid out a clear vision for growth and private sector collaboration. In our view, private capital and public partnerships must work together to ensure that economic and social developments in Egypt benefit the communities they serve.

A thriving society

At Majid Al Futtaim, we don’t just build for profit but for the positive impact that our assets and offerings will have on communities. We innovate to create bespoke experiences that have a positive economic and social impact and one that will be long-lasting.

We take a view that all developments play a big role in improving people’s health, well-being and overall lifestyle. This is hugely important for each individual concerned, including our 7,400-strong team in Egypt, the 126,000 indirect jobs our investments created over the past five years, and the 37 million customers we serve in our assets.

I am looking forward to playing our part in this incredible growth story, and seeing Egypt become one of the world’s leading economies. The time is right and the opportunity is now.

Ahmed Galal Ismail is the Chief Executive Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Properties

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