To build back a more resilient economy post COVID-19, Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation is pushing the frontiers of collaboration with multilateral and bilateral partners through strengthened public private partnerships in designing financing initiatives through a common platform supporting Egypt’s inclusive growth, in line with the National 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The role of renewed, inclusive multilateralism is key to move ahead in unity to harness the po-tential of the private sector and civil society and direct them towards achieving national goals.
In this case, it is connecting Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ambitions with support to Egypt’s private sector, where there is a greater focus on enablement rather than just delivery. It aims to cultivate the right conditions to unleash the domestic workforce through an ad-equate legal and regulatory framework, effective infrastructure and services, and reliable and clean energy supplies.
To enhance its effectiveness in forging this new social compact, International Cooperation is centered on a “nexus” between improving human lives and implementing projects that are in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Partnerships to Achieve the Goals
The Ministry of International Cooperation is collaborating with multilateral and bilateral part-ners to develop segments of the economy in line with its Global Partnerships Narrative, People at the core & Projects in action & Purpose as the driver (P&P&P).
Egypt is a founding member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) which have invested over €6.5 billion in 116 projects that cover all sectors of the economy, from infrastructure to manufacturing and services, and from agribusiness to banking and capital markets.
With the Ministry of International Cooperation, EBRD is also supporting the Government of Egypt to unleash the economic potential of the country via fundamental and sustainable re-forms.
EBRD has been investing in the Egyptian economy for over eight years, aiming to improve the lives of the Egyptian people. The Bank is applying an expertise it has built up over 30 years in the development of market economies driven by the private sector.
Decent Work and Economic Growth
Rethinking goal 8 of the SDGs on Decent Work and Economic Growth, it is seen to have wider impacts that cover social, economic and environmental dimensions. Thereby, the goal of the private sector does not just generate wealth or create jobs, but can also ensure social inclusion, food security, environmental conservation, and most importantly, reduce poverty.
The country has potential to achieve wider public goals by leveraging on the synergies of its businesses. For example, small businesses, which are considered to be the backbone of the Egyptian economy, are too often held back by lack of access to finance, and regulations.
The EBRD has made small business support as one of their key priorities via investment and advisory support funded by the European Union. Recently, the bank signed substantial loan agreements of US$ 850 million with local banks for on lending to domestic enterprises and to support trade transactions. The financing was extended as part of the EBRD’s response and recovery “Solidarity Package” which is helping countries across its regions deal with the impact of the pandemic.
Under the response package, the EBRD is providing urgently needed liquidity, working capital, balance sheet restructuring, trade finance and infrastructure support. A financial package to lo-cal banks in support of local enterprises under the Solidarity Package provided to Egypt, to mit-igate the impact of the sharp slowdown in economic growth because of Covid-19 but which, according to latest forecasts, is expected to avoid a recession.
Supporting small businesses was also carried out through the Star Venture programme to help accelerators embrace innovation, entrepreneurship and business development. Youspital lately joined the programme, which is a booking platform for discounted healthcare that targets un-derserved or uninsured citizens. During this pandemic, Youspital launched a free hotline for medical consultations on Covid-19, as well as home visits for laboratory tests that will help re-duce the spread of the disease.
To tap on the potential of future generations, which is part of the Ministry’s strategy to invest in human capital, the bank also rolled out a youth employment programme that provides voca-tional training, addresses skills mismatch and creates jobs. The bank started a technical cooper-ation project supported by SECO to enhance skills standards with the El Sewedy Technical Acad-emy (STA) in Cairo.
Centering human rights in development, Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” with the World Economic Forum and the National Council for Women, the first in the Middle East and Africa.
The accelerator serves as a public private multi-stakeholder platform that streamlines efforts and mobilizes financing to construc-tively address the Gender Agenda in Egypt. It has also been keen in working with EBRD to re-duce gender gaps in the labor market.
In 2015, EBRD launched its Women in Business programme in Egypt, where it has become an important driver of growth for a more inclusive and sustainable society. Thirty four percent of small Egyptian businesses accessing their advisory projects were women-led and since the be-ginning of this year, ten female entrepreneurs were the first to finish a Women Corporate Di-rectors’ Certification Programme after following an in-depth training organised by the bank and funded by the EU on the key duties, roles and legal responsibilities of board directors.
Egypt has recently won the EBRD 2020 Sustainability Award for Gender and Inclusion; for the Egyptian National Railways (ENR) contribution to safe transport, which is essential for women’s economic inclusion, enabling them to access education as well as economic opportunities. It was also recognized in the “EBRD-Women 20 Gender and Crisis Recovery: Building Back Better” webinar as an exemplar can, for being the first country to issue a policy paper on women.
Affordable and Clean Energy
Affordable energy for households is critical to not only safeguard people’s lives, but also their livelihoods as it is interlinked with education, transport, health and jobs.
Egypt’s successful progress in achieving affordable and clean energy was achieved collectively with its bilateral and multilateral partners. Almost half of EBRD’s investments have been in sus-tainable infrastructure, including its financing for the 1.5 GW Benban Solar Park.
The park is providing renewable energy to more than one million homes, and is expected to reduce car-bon dioxide emissions by 900,000 tonnes a year. The EBRD was the largest investor in this pro-ject and has worked closely with the Egyptian authorities to create the right conditions for pri-vate sector investment in the renewables industry.
Egypt was also awarded by the EBRD Sustainability Awards for Sustainable Energy; for the com-mitment of the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) to innovation, promoting equal opportunities and “green skills” for women in the country’ renewable energy sector.
In 2019, the EBRD with the Ministry of International Cooperation supported EECT with a sover-eign loan of €183 million to develop a more resilient and robust electricity grid across Egypt, through the integration of 1.3 GW of new renewable energy, as well as reducing electricity losses, thus saving 77,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Pushing the Frontiers of Economic Diplomacy
The Ministry of International Cooperation launched Multi-Stakeholder Platforms, consultation meetings, in coordination with sectoral line ministers to operationalize “Global Partnerships for Effective Development Cooperation”.
These platforms provide the priority list of projects that the country needs in the period ahead, across various sectors. The platforms include all multi-lateral and bilateral development partners to ensure alignment, harmonization and comple-mentarity of interventions to maximize impact and achieve sustainability. A new approach to scaling up development efforts in Egypt, led by collaboration and innovation to advance a “green and inclusive” recovery.
By working together, we can rebuild better. And now is the time. We are not only thinking about returning to a world we once had, but creating and advancing to the world we want to live in.
*Dr. Rania Al-Mashat is the Minister of International Cooperation
*Heike Harmgart is the EBRD Managing Director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean region