Egypt’s business community is pinning high hopes on the economic conference called for by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and scheduled for 23-25 October. The aim of the conference is to listen to the inputs of economic experts and fellow businessmen with a view to revitalising the economy.
Samir Aref, head of the 10 Ramadan Investors Association, said the business community’s priority is to facilitate the import of raw materials and spare parts for Egyptian industry. It is demanding the halt of the imports of commodities and production materials that are manufactured in Egypt and is looking for a solid strategy to boost local production, he said.
Unlicensed factories that do not commit to recognised production standards or pay taxes should be shut down or properly regulated, he said, including by their integration into the formal economy.
The current situation made competition unfair between factories that pay taxes and those that do not, he said, pointing out that the government has already presented a set of incentives for factories to regulate their affairs.
The government has been endeavouring to legalise the affairs of unlicensed factories for some years, and in 2020 a law on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) offered incentives to unlicensed factories once they presented their documents.
It was when he was inaugurating maritime units on the Suez Canal on 8 September that President Al-Sisi called for the convening of an economic conference “to discuss the future of Egypt’s economy with the participation of investors, industrialists, and businessmen.”
A series of preparatory meetings was held for the conference over recent weeks.
Aref said it was important to reduce bureaucracy and facilitate paperwork for investors, admitting that the government has already implemented a number of procedures towards this end. It should also give incentives to employees who finalise their papers, he said.
Moharram Helal, head of the Federation of Investors Associations, said the federation is drafting a list to be presented at the conference containing its vision of ways to reinvigorate the economy and the steps that should be adopted.
Aref suggested that to make more foreign currency available the government should provide incentives to expatriates, such as allowing their vehicles to enter the country with reduced customs fees. This would boost Egypt’s hard-currency income temporarily until it could attain the target of $100 billion in exports set out by Al-Sisi, he added.
Kamel Abu Ali, head of the Red Sea Investors Association, said Egypt should intensify efforts to attract more tourists from its regular markets, including the UK. British tourists are still limited in number despite the resumption of flights more than two years ago, he stated.
Tourism is one of the country’s major foreign-currency earners and generates a large number of job opportunities. According to earlier statements by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, the country is targeting $30 billion in annual revenues from tourism, with the help of the private sector and developers, in the coming few years.
Abu Ali suggested banking on the World Cup that will be held in Qatar in November to promote Egyptian destinations by launching charter flights between Doha, the Qatari capital, and Egypt’s Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh resorts.
This would allow football fans to enjoy the matches and Egypt’s attractions at the same time, he said.
Egypt has been facing difficulties earning foreign currency due to the repercussions of the Ukrainian-Russian war. Net foreign reserves decreased to around $33 billion at the end of August, dropping from around $41 billion in January 2022.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 6 October, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.