Last week the Foreign Ministry hosted the first meeting of the Permanent Committee for Promoting Relations between Egypt and Other African Countries.
The committee seeks to “coordinate efforts by various ministries and the private sector to boost Egypt’s African engagement,” Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs Hamdi Sanad Loza told the press following the meeting.
The committee was formed by order of the prime minister and representatives from the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance and Export Development Authority attended last week’s meeting. A second committee meeting, scheduled later this month, is expected to include participants from the private sector, said Loza.
Egypt’s embassies in African countries are compiling a list of Egyptian companies that currently operate, whether through investments or the export of products, in African markets, as well as companies that would like to break into continental markets, to offer them the support they need to operate effectively, said Loza.
The committee meeting was held ahead of the third Africa Investment Forum and the Intra-African Trade Fair, gatherings that seek to boost trade between Egypt and Africa, noted Khaled Omara, assistant foreign minister for African affairs.
Egypt will also chair the African Union (AU) in 2019 and host the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) meeting in 2020.
The third Africa Investment Forum will provide an opportunity for project sponsors, borrowers, lenders and public and private sector investors to meet and explore investment opportunities across the continent. Supported by the African Development Bank, the event will be held in Johannesburg in November.
The Intra-African Trade Fair, the first of its kind in Africa, is a seven-day trade event that provides a forum for trade, investment and market information to be shared and enables buyers and sellers to meet, discuss and conclude business deals.
Egypt was elected chair of the AU for 2019 at a closed meeting on AU institutional reform before the opening session of the 30th AU summit in January.
Egypt previously served as president of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1964, 1989 and 1993. Cairo has long played a significant continental role, supporting the struggle for liberation by African countries throughout the 1950s.
Egypt was one of the founding members of the OAU in 1963 and when the organisation became the African Union in 2002 Cairo was one of the first Arab capitals to sign the AU’s Constitutive Act.
Egypt was suspended from the AU following the 30 June Revolution. Its full membership was restored following the election of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi as president.
Egypt also contributed to establishing COMESA and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States. With Angola, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria it is one of the top five contributors to the AU budget, providing 12 per cent of the total, and has participated in eight of the United Nations’ nine peacekeeping missions in Africa.
Egypt held the presidency of the African Union Peace and Security Council during January this year. It joined the council for three years beginning April 2016.
During its presidency Egypt focused on facilitating closer coordination over preventive diplomacy between the UN and AU on ways to enhance dialogue between the Peace and Security Council and the Arab League on issues of mutual interest.
Omara says Egypt’s current focus is on building institutions that can facilitate greater economic integration, peace and security, rebuilding areas devastated by conflict and tackling emigration.
“These priorities will all be transformed into action plans during Egypt’s one-year presidency of the AU,” he said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 October, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Priority to Africa