INTERVIEW: Egypt and Singapore — Vast opportunities ahead

Dina Ezzat , Monday 18 Apr 2022

Ahram Online recently sat down with Dominic GOH — Singapore’s ambassador to Cairo — to talk about the many economic opportunities that his country and Egypt have for one another.

Dominic GOH
Ambassador of Singapore to Egypt Dominic GOH (Photo by Sherif Sonbol)

With a volume of around $1 billion in investments, Singapore is arguably one of the larger Asian investors in Egypt. Certainly, nowhere near China, but ahead of both South Korea and Japan.

Economic affairs has always been the cornerstone for bilateral relations between the two countries since they first established diplomatic relations in 1966.

Today, GOH says there are vast economic opportunities that the two countries have to offer for one another and there is enough political will to bolster cooperation.

The ambassador said that the exchange of visits between President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his Singaporean counterpart Tony Tan Keng Yam consecutively in 2015 and 2016 allowed for a new commitment to give bilateral relations a push ahead.

Clearly, during these past years, the volume of trade and investment between the two countries has seen a significant increase of over 30 percent.

Last month, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said that there was a renewed commitment to further facilitate the chances for economic cooperation between the two countries while on an official visit to Singapore.

Initially, Shoukry planned to visit Singapore in the winter of 2020, however, the trip had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the Egyptian top diplomat visited Singapore as part of an Asian tour that included Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Pakistan.

During the visit, Shoukry invited Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to take part in the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP27) that Egypt will be hosting in Sharm El-Sheikh this November.

According to GOH, both Singapore and Egypt have a shared interest — along with other developing countries — to encourage developed countries to honour their commitments to providing financial assistance for climate adaptation purposes as was promised in the COP26 that was held in Glasgow last November.

Without this assistance, he argued, poor and developing countries would not be able to contribute effectively to the fight against climate change.

Beyond discussions regarding the COP27, the ambassador also noted that Shoukry’s visit to Singapore allowed for an exhaustive exchange on boosting economic and trade relations.

He explained that currently, Singapore has a relatively diverse profile of investments in Egypt, including the operation of a large warehouse providing various facilities in 10th of Ramadan City, adding that there are plans to expand this logistical assistance to other parts of the country.

Moreover, he said that a Singaporean plastic bottle manufacturer that has a $200-million-operation in Egypt is considering expanding their business with the aim of exporting their products from Egypt to other African and Middle Eastern countries.

The same could be said about a manufacturer of instant noodles whose business has been remarkably successful in Egypt.

“Egypt is a strategic hub, and some companies are considering using the country as a base for their operation across Africa now that security has been re-established,” he said.

“We want to encourage more companies to come to Egypt,” he added.

In the meantime, Singaporean companies may expand their current business in the service side of oil and gas that is conducted in cooperation with Egyptian companies.

“There is a purification module that Egypt is interested in that we can provide the know-how for,” he explained.

“Then there are the investments of the Singapore Wealth Fund, which has already made a significant investment in Mabarat El-Assafera in Alexandria,” he said, adding that further investments may include other facilities in the health sector or other sectors.

Furthermore, the ambassador said that education and culture have also been two growing areas of interest for both countries in terms of cooperation.

In 2010, Egypt had an ambitious plan to seek Singapore’s assistance in passing over the know-how to upgrading education systems. The scheme was, however, interrupted over the past ten years and is yet to resume.

Furthermore, during the past years Singapore has been consistently sending Muslim students to Al-Azhar University in the pursuit of accessing “education on moderate Islam”. Currently, there are around 200 Singaporeans who study at Al-Azhar University.

For a multi-racial country like Singapore, GOH said, issues of moderation and tolerance are simply essential, as “we made a conscious decision that no race or religion will be favoured over another.”

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