The power of Egyptian expats for economic growth

Ahmad Abdel-Tawwab Sharafeldin
Thursday 4 Apr 2024

Egypt can harness the power of its diaspora to drive sustainable economic development and propel the nation towards a brighter future.

 

Egypt has a long history of emigration, with millions of Egyptians now living abroad in countries all over the world.

These expatriates, or "expats," have long been a valuable resource for their home country, both in terms of the remittances they send back to family members and the skills and knowledge they bring back when they return.

According to the World Bank, Egypt received over $31 billion in remittances in 2022, ranking it among the top remittance-receiving countries globally.

This influx of foreign currency plays a crucial role. First, it provides a vital source of income that meets the basic needs, such as education and healthcare, of millions of Egyptian families. It could also be used to start small businesses, which fosters economic activity at the grassroots level, stimulating local markets and businesses.

Second, remittances bolster Egypt's foreign-exchange reserves. They allow the government to manage its import-export balance and stabilize the pound. These reserves can also be used to invest in infrastructure projects, education, and healthcare, further propelling economic development.

Egyptian expats also often gain valuable skills and expertise while working abroad. This acquired knowledge becomes a national asset when they return home or collaborate with businesses in Egypt. For instance, an Egyptian engineer working in the tech industry in Silicon Valley in California can bring cutting-edge technological know-how to Egyptian startups. Similarly, an Egyptian doctor trained in a prestigious European hospital can elevate healthcare standards in Egyptian hospitals upon his or her return.

This knowledge transfer fosters innovation, competitiveness, and productivity within the Egyptian workforce. It also reduces the dependence on foreign expertise in certain sectors, leading to a more self-reliant and robust economy.

In addition, many Egyptian expats often possess valuable business acumen and access to international networks. These factors make expats ideal candidates for investing in Egypt's future.

Therefore, some expats may choose to establish their businesses in Egypt, creating jobs and fostering entrepreneurship, or serve as angel investors, providing vital seed funding for promising Egyptian startups.

Moreover, expats can act as promoters of Egyptian goods and services abroad, opening doors for increased exports, and connecting Egyptian businesses with potential investors and partners in their host countries, thus facilitating foreign direct investment in Egypt.

Similarly, the success stories of Egyptian expats across various fields – from medicine to engineering to the arts – project a positive image of Egypt on the global stage and foster respect and admiration for Egyptian talent and ingenuity.

Furthermore, successful expats often serve as role models for young Egyptians, inspiring them to pursue educational and professional opportunities abroad. This creates a cycle of ambition and talent, further strengthening Egypt's human capital and economic potential.

On the other hand, the government has a critical role to play in maximizing the impact of Egyptian expats on the national economy. First, it could establish a dedicated agency to facilitate communication and collaboration with Egyptian expats. Second, it could organize business forums and conferences to connect expats with potential investors and entrepreneurs in Egypt. Third, it could offer streamlined procedures for expats who wish to invest in Egypt, including tax incentives and simplified regulations. Fourth, it could create programmes to encourage the transference of knowledge and expertise from expats to the local workforce.

Many Egyptian expatriates are also eager to actively engage in philanthropic activities, supporting social development projects, education initiatives, and healthcare programmes. Egyptian diaspora organizations also play a crucial role in fostering cultural exchange, preserving heritage, and promoting tourism.

To capitalize on Egypt’s diaspore, the government has launched initiatives, such as the "Egypt Can" campaign, and established dedicated institutions, such as the General Federation of Egyptians Abroad, to facilitate and strengthen the relationship between expatriates and their home country.

In conclusion, Egyptian expats are a valuable asset, not just for their financial contributions, but also for their skills, knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit. By fostering a more welcoming environment and implementing strategic initiatives, Egypt can further harness the power of its diaspora to drive sustainable economic progress and propel the nation towards a brighter future.

 

*The writer is an educational consultant in the UAE

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