Invest NI is an agency that promotes economic development by connecting Northern Ireland exporters with companies from India, the Middle East, and Africa (IMEA). Sameh Ahmed, explained in his interview that Invest NI's objective is to assist companies in expanding exports from Northern Ireland to Egypt and the broader North African region by facilitating the discovery of business partners and identifying opportunities in Egypt.
Ahram Online: Can you introduce Invest Northern Ireland, its role in Egypt, and how it can improve collaboration between Egypt and Northern Ireland?
Sameh Ahmed: Invest NI is Northern Ireland's economic development agency, promoting the growth, export, and competitiveness of existing companies as well as attracting and supporting new international companies to the region. With its business-friendly environment, competitive operating costs, skilled workforce, and strategic location, Northern Ireland has a proven track record of success, with over 70 percent of investors reinvesting in the region.
In 2022, Invest NI expanded internationally in the IMEA region by opening an office in Egypt, alongside the British Embassy in Cairo. With this new base, we can now explore opportunities in North Africa, including Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, across various sectors such as Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, Aerospace, Life and Health Sciences, Food and Drink, and Education. Our aim is to enhance trade relations between Northern Ireland and the thriving North Africa region.
AO: What is the current amount of trade relations between Northern Ireland and Egypt?
SA: In 2022, Northern Ireland exported goods worth 37.5 million pounds to North Africa, with Egypt accounting for 42 percent of the total exports (15.5 million pounds). Food and drink made up the highest share of exports (7.5 million pounds), followed by specialized machinery products (4.8 million pounds) and medicinal and pharmaceutical products (1.9 million pounds). *HM Revenue and Customs statistics – UK Government.
AO: What is the current number of Northern Ireland companies operating in Egypt, and in which sectors?
SA: Egypt is an attractive market in North Africa, with a rising number of Northern Ireland companies expressing interest in doing business there. These companies can meet the local demand by offering products and services in advanced manufacturing, engineering, and technology sectors, presenting several opportunities for Egypt and Northern Ireland businesses to collaborate.
This region of the UK has a rich engineering legacy and global recognition for its expertise in sectors such as aerospace, automotive, technology, energy, and space. Additionally, Northern Ireland is a center for ground-breaking research and innovation in the Life and Health Sciences sector, with specializations in precision medicine, MedTech, and clinical trials.
We prioritize traceability and quality in the food and drink industry, and our commitment to food safety has earned us a worldwide reputation. Our food and drink products are sold in over 70 countries, reflecting our heritage and innovative practices. Northern Ireland has been ranked as one of the top 15 digital economies of the future by fDi Intelligence.
AO: How do you evaluate the Egyptian economy and the new reform programme?
SA: Northern Ireland companies can find lucrative business prospects in Egypt, which is a stimulating and appealing region. The future holds strong and sustainable opportunities for NI companies.
Egypt's strategic location provides a favorable position for companies to engage in business activities in the Middle East and Africa. In 2022, Egypt's GDP reached $475 billion, making it the only country in the region to register growth in 2020. The country's economic reforms have led to a rise in foreign reserves, a decrease in unemployment, and notable investments in infrastructure and education.
Egypt is making strides with its ambitious "mega projects," which encompass a vast industrial and logistics zone centered on the Suez Canal, the development of a new national administrative capital, a 1.5-million-hectare agricultural land reclamation scheme, construction of petrochemical plants, refinery upgrades, and improvements to transportation infrastructure such as ports and airports. Additionally, Egypt aims to exploit mineral resources in the Golden Triangle economic zone situated between the Red Sea and Nile River.
We are responsible for equipping Northern Ireland companies with the necessary resources and guidance to pursue business prospects in Egypt.
AO: Are you involved in the government privatization programme for the stock market or Strategic Partner/PPP/JV model in Egypt?
SA: Invest Northern Ireland's objective is to enhance the economy of Northern Ireland by promoting international competitiveness for new and established companies, attracting fresh investments to the region, increasing exports, fostering international partnerships, and generating greater prosperity for this UK region.
Egypt's Vision 2030 aims to position Egypt among the top 30 nations in terms of economic and social development. The 2030 vision involves building essential infrastructure, including a national road network with 133 bridges, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, improving water resources, enhancing the rule of law, and elevating overall quality of life indicators. Northern Ireland, with its diverse capabilities across various sectors, can expedite Egypt's efforts to realize its 2030 objectives.
Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry boasts a distinct group of inventive solution providers with top-tier products in sectors ranging from construction, mining, and quarrying to ports, agriculture, and recycling, including construction, demolition and waste recycling. We are presently assisting companies in this industry who are keen on exploring opportunities to operate in Egypt.
AO: What about Invest NI’s future plans for the Egyptian market?
SA: Invest Northern Ireland's regional office is forging stronger ties with stakeholders in various sectors in Egypt, including advanced manufacturing and engineering, construction/infrastructure, fintech, healthcare, and food and beverage. The goal is to enhance exports from Northern Ireland to Egypt and the wider North African region by assisting companies in finding business partners and identifying opportunities in Egypt.