Egypt, Italy ink two agreements to support SMEs, domestic leather industry

Doaa A.Moneim , Tuesday 3 Nov 2020

The two sides discussed the possibility of launching a fourth phase of the debt swap program to reduce the burden of external debt and provide adequate financing for development projects

Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat and Italy’s ambassador to Egypt Giampaolo Cantini inked on Monday two agreements that aim to support the Robbiki Leather City project technically, and boost small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); which comes within the framework of bilateral cooperation agreements between the Egyptian and Italian governments.

The first agreement is a grant of about €6 million (about $7.5 million) to finance technical assistance to complete the implementation of Robbiki Leather City, which aims to establish a city specialized in the production and tanning of leather in Badr City, encouraging and supporting the competitiveness of Egyptian leather production locally and abroad, and eliminating environmental pollutants resulting from chemicals used in tanning operations, according to Al-Mashat.

The minister added that the second agreement is to amend the protocol for the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA), which is worth $12.9 million, aiming to support financing the purchase of equipment, technology transfer, and related technical assistance.

Al-Mashat explained that the Ministry of International Cooperation seeks to strengthen the global partnerships for effective development, an approach set by the ministry, through the principles of economic diplomacy.

“These principles include regularly organizing multi-stakeholder platforms to ensure that all projects between development partners are streamlined and effectively coordinated to accelerate the pace of development for the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); adopting a consistent Global Partnerships Narrative People & Projects & Purpose (P&P&P); and mapping ODA financing to SDGs for all projects with multilateral and bilateral development partners,” Al-Mashat expounded.

The ongoing cooperation portfolio with Italy amounts to about €73.6 million, which covers various sectors that include trade, industry, agriculture, SMEs, support for children's rights, health, and economic and social development, according to the international cooperation ministry.

Meanwhile, the cooperation portfolio between Egypt and Italy within the framework of the debt swap program is worth $350 million dollars, in which $149.9 million is allocated for the first phase, and $100 million is allocated for the second phase, through which about 88 projects were funded, according to the international cooperation ministry.

The third phase was signed in 2012 and is worth about $100 million.

On Monday, Al-Mashat and Cantini chaired a meeting of the Committee for the Management of the Egyptian-Italian Program for the Debt Swap for Development, to review the third phase of the program.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed the possibility of launching a fourth phase of the debt swap program to reduce the burden of external debt and provide adequate financing for development projects.

Al-Mashat stated that 2020 witnessed the signing of two agreements within the third phase of the Egyptian-Italian debt swap program for development, including an agreement for the Social Welfare development project in Luxor worth EGP 42 million, which is implemented in partnership with the World Food programme and aims to provide an integrated package of development to support the most vulnerable families in Luxor.

The agreement was also inked to expand the projects of applied technological schools, and enhance the skills of teachers with a total of EGP 40.8 million, which is used to develop technical education, support the capabilities of graduates, and establish a network that includes a large number of applied schools that are managed through the Applied Technology Schools Administration Unit at the Ministry of Education and Technical Education, according to Al-Mashat.

For his part, Ambassador Cantini praised Egyptian-Italian relations, and the role of the Debt Swap programme for development in providing financing for development projects to achieve national priorities.

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