Iraq’s ambassador to Cairo and permanent representative to the Arab League Ahmed Nayef Al-Dulaimi held a series of meetings with Egypt’s ministers of housing, investment, industry, and international cooperation last week to discuss the participation of Egyptian companies in the ongoing reconstruction of Iraq.
The meetings were followed by an announcement by chair of the African Federation of Construction Contractors Associations (AFCAA) Hassan Abdel-Aziz that seven Egyptian companies are seeking to win infrastructure and residential building projects in Iraq as part of the country’s reconstruction plans.
The projects will be financed by international bodies based on agreements “to pay for projects funded by international donors, whether through long-term loans or grants,” Ibrahim Al-Sheweimi, adviser to the Egyptian Federation of Construction and Building Contractors (EFCBC), told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“Such agreements are main sources of funding for reconstruction in any country,” he added.
The head of the Federation of Arab Contractors had estimated that Iraq needed between $150-$200 Billion for reconstruction.
“The Iraqi government welcomes Egyptian companies to participate in the reconstruction, and it has previously declared that Egyptian companies have support and priority ahead of any other foreign companies to work in Iraq. Egyptian companies have been on the ground in Iraq for many years, and they are welcomed by the Iraqi government and public,” Al-Sheweimi said, adding that as the situation stabilises, more Egyptian companies will naturally return to Iraq.
Egypt’s contractors are always looking for markets where there is political stability and financial support from the relevant government for projects. These are important factors for any company wanting to work in another country, whether in the region or beyond, said Mohamed Loqma, a board member of the EFCBC.
Loqma noted that while Egyptian companies are currently busy with national projects at home in several sectors across the country, they are also looking forward to working in promising markets abroad in the near future. The idea is to build trust and establish expertise such that they have priority once these markets open, he said.
“The political leadership supports Egyptian companies working in Arab and African markets,” Loqma said. “The best example is the way President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has closely followed up on dam projects carried out by the Arab Contractors Company in Tanzania, as well as projects at home. This is a political guarantee that the government is providing to reassure companies that they will receive their dues on time.”
“Meetings have been held between representatives of the Iraqi government and Egyptian ministers, including the minister of housing. These talks also included the EFCBC and representatives of the Arab and African Associations, most recently two weeks ago. The focus was on the contributions of the Egyptian government and companies in the reconstruction,” Ahmed Afifi, secretary of the Foreign Relations Committee at the EFCBC, told the Weekly.
The meetings concluded with the formation of a joint working group including the respective Contractors Federations in Iraq and Egypt to facilitate the work of Egyptian companies that want to work in Iraq. The group’s first task will be the preparation of a comprehensive portfolio of reconstruction projects to be proposed by the Iraqi government, whether in infrastructure or services.
The portfolio will include summaries of the Iraqi law as this pertains to labour regulations, regulations on companies and banks, wage rates, and other rules and regulations for companies operating in Iraq. It will also contain information on visas, whether for businessmen or temporary labour.
“The joint working group of the Contractors Federations in Egypt and Iraq is preparing a ‘door-knock’ mission to Iraq so that Egyptian and Iraqi contractors can meet their peers as one of the key conditions for bidding for projects is to have a local partner in Iraq,” Afifi said.
The group will also draw up lists of contractors in different fields, so companies can meet peers in the areas of power-plant construction, water and sewage plants, road works, bridge construction, airports, and other infrastructure work.
Afifi said he hoped the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) would provide support for Egyptian companies operating in Iraq by facilitating letters of guarantee and credit procedures at banks in Iraq or through representatives of Egyptian banks in the country.
These steps are also anticipated for the East African countries, which are also promising markets for Egyptian contractors, he said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly