The Canada Egypt Business Council (CEBC) and the Egyptian Council for Sustained Development (ECSD) hosted a special event and panel discussion featuring Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment H.E. Mounir Abdel Nour.
Eng. Motaz Raslan, Chairman of CEBC and ESDC, and Dr. Sherif El Gabaly, Chairman of the Committee of Exporters, FEDCOC and the Chamber of Chemical Industries, moderated the discussion, which focused on the challenges and opportunities pertaining to industries, the investment environment, and promising sectors.
Over 300 notable attendees were present at the event. The attendees were ministers, ambassadors, CEBC and ECSD members and guests, among whom was former head of the Constitution-Amending Committee Amre Moussa, Cairo Governor Dr. Galal Saeed, former ministers Hassan Younes, Hany Helal and Osama Heikal. Also present were ambassadors of Canada and Italy, among others.
Chairman Raslan delivered the opening remarks for the event expressing his optimism that following the presidential elections (slated for the end of May), the economy will witness improvement. He added that despite the recent events, the economy is still capable of growing, thanks to the diversity in its industries. He also called for increasing incomes and production to raise growth rates and meet society’s needs.
In his speech, Minister Abdel Nour tackled the contentions issue of using coal for electricity generation. He confirmed to the audience that the use of coal would be a temporary solution, adding that it would only be in use until the year 2017 - 2018. He explained that around that time Egypt's production of natural gas will increase, and renewable and nuclear energy would be also be used. "We do not have the luxury of waiting and seeking other sources of energy now" the Minister said, describing the current energy crisis in Egypt. The Minister said that using coal in cement factories alone, would save Egypt around 450 million square feet of natural gas a year.
The Minister expressed his optimism regarding the Egyptian economy, saying that it is on the right path. The Minister highlighted that foreign investors' confidence in the country’s economy is gradually being restored, and added that investments are flowing in from East Asian countries, China and Gulf countries, especially the United Arab Emirates. In this regard, Abdel Nour announced the establishment of a joint Egyptian-Emirati investment company, involving the private sectors and governments of both countries. He pinpointed the government's efforts to improve the investment environment through providing investors with more facilities, and amending the Investment Law, to allow for even more facilitation and eliminating bureaucratic obstacles facing both local and foreign investors.
The most prominent among the investment-attracting sectors are the mining and petrochemical sectors, the Minister said. However, he criticized the public sector in the field for suffering from chaos, citing Helwan Iron and Steel Factory (HISF), as an example. He added that HISF needs massive funds to resume activity. The Minister also announced that cooperation with an English company is being considered for the development of companies similar to HISF. The development would also cover major textile public sectors factories.
Among other issues tackled by the Minister are the apportionment of lands and the bankruptcy of factories. He said that there is a suggestion to establish an agency concerned with the appropriation and pricing of land, as well as resolving related disputes. Abdel Nour further noted that there are ministerial meetings taking place to find ways to work on the issue of bankrupt factories.
Before the Minister's speech, El Gabaly said that Egypt is the world's richest region for rare minerals, which have been recently discovered in Abo Tartour. He confirmed that renewable energy is quintessential, saying that Egypt is quite late in this field.
As the three-year transition period draws to an end with the upcoming presidential elections only a month away, businessmen, economists and politicians are bracing to get the economy back on track. Progressive strategies by top officials and foreign interest in the country’s economy add to their enthusiasm and persistence to overcome the gigantic challenges facing Egypt at this critical stage.