British business delegation faces Egyptian apathy

Sara El-Essawy and Ahram Online, Monday 13 Jun 2011

Group visiting Cairo to discuss prospective investments in cars, health and energy fails to meet much enthusiasm from Egypt's business community


A delegation of British businessmen visited Egypt Monday to discuss the feasibility of four major investment projects in the automobile, health and energy sectors.

The delegation convened at the General Authority for Investment (GAFI) headquarters in Cairo where Egyptian attendance, especially among businessmen, was limited. Osama Saleh, GAFI chairman, introduced the British group to an audience of government employees and journalists.

British interests make up the largest foreign contribution of investment in Egypt, with 1,119 companies and a total capital of US$5.9 billion spread amongst the industrial, services, construction and agriculture sectors.

The first project suggested by the delegation was a proposal to produce a 100 per cent Egyptian-made car, a dream that has remained out of reach for manufacturers in Egypt since the 1960s.

CGI, a British IT firm, suggested the project would be implemented via an alliance between several companies, each manufacturing specific car components, which would in the end be assembled into a car designed for the local market – and possibly other markets overseas.

Another company, Modas, proposed building mini-hospitals in various areas around Egypt; stating that it needs at least five of these hospitals projects to be approved before it would embark on building a factory serving Egypt and Middle East.

Two others ventures for producing solar energy and converting waste into energy were presented. However, there were no real discussions of the projects due to the absence of Egyptian partners.

Taher El-Sherif, president of the Egyptian British Chamber of Commerce, introduced the idea of building an Egyptian mall in London where Egyptian products, including textiles, ceramics and building materials, would be sold. But El-Sherif indicated that Egyptian firms were reluctant to embark on such a project but would participate after full implementation by someone else. A UAE-based company later adopted the project.

Ahram Online met with representatives of Skanska, a multinational construction company worth $73 billion, which pulled out of the Egyptian market in 2010 after a dispute about non-payment for a building project in Egypt's Media City which reached international courts. The company was invited to the event in an effort to resolve the problem with the Prime Minister and GAFI.

A company spokesman said that Skanska will be willing to resume operations in Egypt once the dispute is resolved.

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