Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi opened a two-day forum on business investment in Africa in Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday, telling attendees that “achieving development is one of the main challenges facing Africans, which requires developing the mechanisms of joint action.”
El-Sisi also said Egypt is looking forward to the future establishment of the African Free Trade Zone.
A number of African heads of states, including Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, are among participants at the Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the World conference.
Under the umbrella of the African Union's commission, the event was organised by the Egyptian ministries of investment, trade and industry, international cooperation and foreign affairs.
In June, Egypt hosted Africa's three major regional economic committees (RECs) during a tripartite summit in Sharm El-Sheikh where a free trade agreement across all three RECs was launched.
The Continental Free Trade Area brings together the 26 African countries that are members of COMESA, EAC and SADC, and gives Egypt free trade access to seven new African nations.
It aims to create free trade zones for goods immediately and the hope of introducing services and intra-continent investor opportunities at a later stage.
President El-Sisi discussed main key points that would represent a platform for action for the African continent in the coming period.
In a speech, El-Sisi stressed the importance of developing human capacity, along with giving adequate attention to African youth, education and its development in a way that would provide youth with the necessary skills to engage effectively in the labour market.
El-Sisi also discussed the importance of raising productivity, growth and a focus on the transition to knowledge societies through development in the fields of research and innovation.
He added that achieving development, which is considered the main challenge that all African countries face, requires that countries work on the development of mutual mechanisms through regional integration models, especially with the close link between the requirements for economic development in Africa and the need to execute large regional projects in several fields, including infrastructure.
El-Sisi said that the size of Egyptian investments in the African continent reached more than $8 billion, which helped in creating tens of thousands of job opportunities, especially in the fields of construction, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, mining, communication and information technology.
He added that the size of trade with “our African brothers” reached $5 billion, which Egypt aims to double in the next five years.
"We hope such efforts contribute towards doubling intra-African trade, which only represents 12 percent of the size of African trade with the world, a number that does not correspond with the potential of economic integration between our African countries," El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi said he looks forward to the logistic and industrial zones that will be established in the Suez Canal zone, describing it as a “major and aspiring project that will contribute to pushing the African trade movement with international markets.”
He expressed Egypt's anticipation to continue with the construction of the Cairo-Capetown Highway, a road network that connects Egypt and South Africa, along with other African countries in between.
"I call on my African brother leaders and our partners in development to put together the first building blocks to launch several projects and developmental initiatives in a frame that ensures a needed balance between the legitimate aspirations of the sons of the continent for a better tomorrow and the aspiration of our partners in development to incentives and rewards that open new horizons for more investments and capital flows," El-Sisi said.