The government has been making many efforts to boost investment in Egypt and remove obstacles in the way of doing business in the country.
The latest of these is the establishment of new investor services centres that aim to reduce bureaucratic measures and offer electronic services to investors.
The new centres bring together all the agencies that an investor might need in one place, including the Real East Registration Office, the Commercial Register, the Chambers of Commerce and the Financial Regulatory Authority.
The main centre is located at the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation in Cairo’s Heliopolis district, with branches to be opened soon across the country.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi visited the main centre last week and stressed the need to remove unnecessary hurdles facing investors in Egypt. He also inaugurated a branch centre in 6 October city and another branch in the Daqahliya governorate by video conference.
According to Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr, speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the number of people using the centres had increased by 24 per cent since their announcement last year.
The number of established companies had also increased in the second quarter of fiscal year 2017/18 by 71 per cent, she added.
Local investor Sultan Al-Semman said that efforts to establish investor services centres where investors could obtain approvals and licences from one place were to be applauded and would help encourage investment in the country.
However, he stressed the importance of following up on the performance of the centres to ensure their efficiency.
A previous effort to offer a one-stop shop for investors had not always been effective, he said. “I used one of the one-stop shops in Sohag in Upper Egypt, but unfortunately I was not able to get things done,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
He said the centres should spread across Egypt, especially in governorates where obtaining approvals could sometimes require travel. Nasr issued a decree on Saturday to form a committee to follow up on the performance of the new centres.
During his visit to the Cairo centre, President Al-Sisi requested a weekly report on its work to facilitate procedures for investors on the ground and remove obstacles. Other centres are expected to be opened soon in Minya, Luxor, Port Said and Hurghada, according to Nasr.
Egypt has been working on improving its business climate through a strategy based on pushing forward legislative and institutional reforms, drawing up an integrated investment map, establishing new free investment zones, developing infrastructure and accelerating procedures for investors.
Investors in Egypt have long complained of lengthy waiting times for obtaining needed approvals, with the World Bank ranking Egypt 122 out of 190 countries on its 2017 Doing Business Index, partly because of difficulties obtaining permits and licences.
In order to address this problem, a new law issued this year, the industrial permits law, will reduce the waiting period for obtaining industrial licences to set up new facilities from 600 days to between seven and 30 days, according to Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Kabil.
In a bid to rectify other problems facing investors, Egypt also issued a new investment law last year. The law offers foreign investors a bundle of incentives that include tax breaks and rebates. It also deals with bureaucratic problems and promises the simplification of procedures, as well as guarantees for investors.
Egypt also approved its first bankruptcy law in January. The new law abolishes prison sentences in bankruptcy cases and limits punishments to a monetary fine. It also aims to minimise the need for companies or individuals to resort to the courts and to simplify post-bankruptcy procedures.
In a further effort to ramp up investment, the Investment Ministry has launched a global campaign to attract foreign direct investment featuring business leaders. The campaign includes reassuring messages to investors from leading business figures.
Egypt has recently seen increased investment pledges, with several new investors promising entry to the Egyptian market. A joint US-Saudi Arabian investment worth $3.3 billion is scheduled to establish a Disneyland-style amusement park in Marsa Matrouh on Egypt’s North Coast.
Nasr said the new park would be the largest foreign investment project agreed after the adoption of Egypt’s new investment law and executive regulations.
The UAE-based Al-Ghoreir Group also recently signed a $1 billion investment project that is expected to meet 80 per cent of sugar consumption in Egypt.
With the announcement of the new investments, Egypt hopes to be on track to maintain its investment targets for this year, put recently at $12 billion instead of the earlier figure of $10 billion.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows reached $8.7 billion during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, up 26 per cent compared to the $6.9 billion in the previous fiscal year.
*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly