Macron's visit to Egypt: Boosting Franco-Egyptian business links

Nesma Nowar , Thursday 31 Jan 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Egypt this week saw the signing of many economic agreements between the two countries

Franco-Egyptian Deals
Presidents Sisi and Macron witnessing signing of MOUs in CAiro this week

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Egypt this week has resulted in the signing of a number of agreements between the two countries in the fields of education, social protection, health and transportation.

Egypt’s Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr said that a total of 40 agreements worth 1.6 billion euros had been signed during Macron’s visit.

On Monday, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and President Macron witnessed the signing of agreements including three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) signed by Nasr and Executive Director of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) Rémy Rioux.

The first involved a strategic partnership in economic and social development from 2019 to 2023, while the second included a facilitated-credit agreement with a loan of six million euros to support social protection in Egypt.

The third MoU was a facilitated-credit agreement to support small, medium-sized and micro enterprises owned by women with a loan of 50 million euros, in addition to a one million euro grant to Egypt’s Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development Agency to serve a similar purpose.

The Egyptian and French sides also signed a 336 million euros loan agreement to fund the fourth phase of the Cairo-Heliopolis Metro.

In addition, some 32 agreements were signed during an economic forum jointly organised by Egypt’s Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation and the French Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

The agreements included MoUs, cooperation protocols, declarations of intent and investment contracts in the fields of renewable energy, transportation, health, supply, communications, entrepreneurship, and social protection, among others.

Nasr said that the government had worked on creating an encouraging investment climate, adding that Egypt aspired to attract more French investment and to partner with French companies to execute national projects including the Suez Canal Axis, the New Administrative Capital and new smart cities.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher, secretary of state at the French Economy Mnistry, said that France was one of the biggest investors in Egypt, with total investments surpassing $5 billion, according to a press statement.

French investments span various fields, including food industries, chemicals, building materials, car manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

Pannier-Runacher said that since Egypt had passed its new investment law, French investments had doubled, now amounting to $2 billion in current and future investments. Egypt passed a new investment law in 2017.

She referred to the recent move by Orange, a French telecommunications company, to increase its investments in Egypt by some 750 million euros and to the investments pumped in by France’s ENGIE power company through a consortium that includes Orascom Construction and Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corporation to build a 500 MW wind farm in Ras Ghareb.

She also referred to a capital increase by Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation, of 20 million euros.

Schneider’s vice president of ‎international operations, Luke Remont, said in a press conference on Monday that his company would pump new investments into Egypt. He said it planned to double the production capacity at its factory in Egypt by June 2019.

Gamal Bayoumi, a former assistant minister of foreign affairs, said that France was the sixth-largest foreign investor in Egypt, having around 160 companies that employ more than 30,000 workers, according to the French Embassy in Cairo.

The investors are attracted by the size of Egypt’s domestic market as well as its multiple free-trade agreements with the Arab world and Africa that provide them with customs-free access to these markets, Bayoumi said.

He added that Macron’s visit would help to boost tourism because it would send out the message that Egypt was a secure destination.

The French media coverage of the visit, especially Macron’s visit to Abu Simbel, was free promotion for Egypt,” Bayoumi told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Trade between Egypt and France increased by 21.8 per cent in 2017, when Egypt’s exports to France rose by 25.4 per cent, reaching 617.3 million euros, according to the French Embassy in Cairo.

Egypt’s most important imports from France include electrical appliances, computers, transportation equipment and agri-food products.

More Energy Investment

FIVE memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed on Monday to establish five off-grid electricity projects using solar panels in five villages in Upper Egypt and South Sinai, reports Ahmed Kotb.

The agreements were signed between the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the French multinational company Schneider Electric (SE). The off-grid projects will help the villages gain access to solar-powered electricity, which is cleaner to the environment, and the batteries used will allow energy to be stored during the day and released during the night, thus providing a stable and efficient source of energy.

“The growing number of development projects and an improved investment environment have encouraged us to pump new investments into Egypt,” said Luke Remont, executive vice president of international operations at Schneider Electric.

“Thanks to the government’s national development plan, Egypt is offering many investment opportunities in major projects, and SE wishes to scale up its investments in the country,” Remont said during a press conference in Cairo as part of the business delegation accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron on his visit to Egypt.

He added that the main fields of cooperation included renewable energy, smart cities, and seawater desalination. He also said that SE, which specialises in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, is planning to double the production capacity at the company’s factory in Egypt by June 2019.

“The Egyptian market is a strategic one for SE because of its capacity and potential to grow faster than any other market in the region and the access it provides to other countries through free-trade agreements,” Remont said.

“We are manufacturing in Egypt and exporting to other markets,” he said, adding that SE was exporting to 12 countries in the Middle East region through its factory in Egypt.

“We are going to participate in the development of infrastructure in the new cities being built in Egypt, which are considered mega-projects that cater to the needs of the growing population and growing industry as well,” he added.

SE would help to upgrade the technologies used in the energy projects of the new cities to make sure they work in the most efficient way, he said.

The company provides technologies that can help save about 30 per cent of the energy used by industry, which in turn contributes to lowering carbon emissions and helps the environment. “Energy efficiency is a priority when we provide our technologies for infrastructure projects,” Remont added.

Walid Sheta, SE’s regional cluster head for North East Africa and Levant, said that local components in upcoming projects would exceed 60 per cent, adding that SE was working with local partners and integrating its technologies into the electricity market and the industry and transportation sectors.

He said that SE was eager to increase the volume of its business and investment in Egypt as a key market for countries in the region, especially given the improved economic conditions.

SE’s investments in Egypt over the last 32 years have amounted to approximately 315 million euros.

The company has worked with the government to offer energy-efficient infrastructure solutions in development projects such as the New Administrative Capital, the New Alamein City and the solar park in Benban in Upper Egypt.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 31 January, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Boosting Franco-Egyptian business links

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