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Egypt set for Economic Development Conference; attendance levels signal investment interest

A total of 112 countries will be represented in the conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, 13-15 March, of which 30 heads of state are expected

Ahram Online , Wednesday 11 Mar 2015
File photo: Builders work at a new construction site in Cairo, February 28, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
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As Egypt gears up for the Economic Development Conference due to start Friday, attendance figures from around the world are set to exceed expectations, signalling interest in the country’s investment opportunities.

What started out as a call from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah for Egypt to host a donor’s conference has become an economic development event aiming to bring back investors to an economy battered by four years of political upheaval in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising.

A total of 112 countries will be represented in the conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, of which 30 heads of state are expected, Minister of Planning Ashraf Al-Araby said in a televised interview Tuesday, calling the representation a success in itself. 

Some 2,000 delegates, including state officials and executives of multinational companies and economists, have registered to attend, Ministry of Investment spokesperson Mohamed Kamel said Wednesday.

Foreigners will make up 55 percent of the attendees, said Al-Araby.

Since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have showered Egypt with $23 billion in aid to support Egypt in its political transition. 

But Egyptian officials have acknowledged repeatedly that Egypt needs to count on its own resources to achieve its economic growth potential, and the government has initiated a series of economic reforms.

Egypt needs to attract $60 billion in foreign direct investment to achieve its growth target of seven percent over the next four years, Al-Araby said earlier this week. 

Since El-Sisi’s election in July 2014, Egypt has started implementing fuel subsidy cuts and introduced new taxes to rein in its swelling budget deficit.

Other reforms in laws governing investment, competition, electricity and civil society were begun. 

The Egyptian Central Bank has also managed to practically eliminate the currency black market recently by devaluing the pound and introducing restrictions on dollar cash deposits.

Besides presenting its economic vision, the government's aims for the conference include presenting investment opportunities in a variety of sectors, and proposing specific projects, according to Minister of International Cooperation Naglaa Al-Ahwany.

Egypt's government will showcase a total of 60 projects at the event, Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman announced last week.

Keynote delegates expected to take part in the economic conference include World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati and the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Top executives include the chief executive officers of Coca-Cola, Siemens, Unilever, Majid Al-Futtaim, General Electric and British Petroleum.

Chief economic advisor of Allianz and chair of President Obama's Global Development Council, Mohamed Al-Erian, will be a keynote speaker at the conference.

The preparations for the conference have thus far cost LE100 million, a figure expected to rise in the coming days, with $12 million in sponsor contributions, the state-run Al-Ahram news website reported Tuesday, quoting an official.

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