Q&A with EBCC chairman on Egypt-UK trade relations, new mutual trade accelerator

Doaa A.Moneim , Sunday 25 Oct 2020

Total trade volume between the two countries has steadily increased over the last few years and crossed the £2.1 billion mark in 2019

Ian Gray

On 5 October, the UK-based Egyptian-British Chamber of Commerce (EBCC) launched the online B2B platform Trade Accelerator, which aims to bring the professional community of both countries together in one digital space to make it easier for companies in the UK and Egypt to access curated information and find trustworthy trading partners.

Trade Accelerator is a professional social media platform that allows direct interactions between all members via private messaging, wall posts, viewing of other member profiles and the sharing of relevant publications. The integration with other platforms means that members can share posts across social media platforms, including embedding Twitter posts and uploading YouTube videos, the chamber said in a statement.

In an exclusive interview, held virtually from London, EBCC chairman Ian Gray shared with Ahram Online details concerning the new accelerator, and his thoughts and forecasts regarding trade relations between Egypt and the UK.

Ahram Online: How has the trade flow between Egypt and the UK been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis?

Ian Gray: The trend for Egyptian exports to the UK showed a steep decline in value terms during the second quarter of 2020 (-37 percent Y-o-Y), which is understandable when this was the period when the UK had a lockdown. The entire UK economy faced the largest slowdown in recent history. Initial figures for the third quarter of 2020 show a more encouraging trend (-15 percent Y-o-Y) until end of August.

UK exports were also affected in the first quarter of 2020 (-9 percent Y-o-Y), but recovered in the second quarter of the same year (+3 percent Y-o-Y).

From our conversations over the past few months with UK exporters and various chambers of commerce in the UK regions, we anticipate a further recovery in the third quarter this year, as exporters view Egypt as a market that has coped well with the Covid pandemic compared to other export destinations.

What is the total trade volume between the two countries?

The total trade volume has steadily increased over the last few years and crossed the £2.1 billion mark in 2019 (raised by +9 percent compared to 2018 levels). Total trade volume in 2020 until the end of August recorded £1.2 billion.

What is the total of British investments in the Egyptian market?

Egypt’s economic reform programme has supported increased inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) from the UK which reached $6.3 billion in 2018/2019. While the majority of inflows are in the upstream exploration sector, we are witnessing gradual diversification of investment in sectors ranging from construction, agriculture, health, manufacturing, renewables and transport.

What is the number of British companies operating in the Egyptian market?

There are already over 900 UK-invested companies operating in Egypt, according to GAFI, the Egyptian General Authority for Investment & Free Zones. Well-known names include BP, Shell, Vodafone, HSBC, GSK, AstraZeneca and Unilever, among many others. In particular, there are now many UK retail brands trading successfully in Egypt. Matalan opened its doors in Egypt earlier this year.

Will the expected Brexit deal have an effect on UK trade and investment in Egypt?

The UK has had a long relationship with the EU and that will continue even if some of the rules and tariffs change. However, the UK is looking to develop bilateral agreements with other countries, including Egypt, that reflect the best interests of both countries without having to compromise or be restricted by some other EU country political priority. Egypt offers opportunities of a talent pool, partnerships through to the rest of Africa and the Middle East, and a rapidly developing economy, all of which are attractive to UK companies. The chamber is working hard to help make that come to life!

What are the reasons behind launching the Trade Accelerator between the UK and Egypt?

The web now offers such wide access to people and companies it is sometimes difficult to find potential partners or customers who have the same priorities. The Trade Accelerator is focused on the UK and Egypt so that companies and people looking for contacts or hearing about opportunities in the two countries can find those opportunities and find each other much more easily.

What are the future plans of the chamber for UK trade and investment in Egypt?

The chamber is working with the British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) in Cairo as well as other business groups (the Egyptian Businessmen Association, Egyptian Junior Business Association, etc) to ensure that any companies wanting partners to do business across the two countries can find each other. Large companies always find each other, but mid-sized companies find this difficult. We help companies of all sizes talk to each other and work with both governments to understand priorities and help companies take advantage of this. Both the UK and Egypt have made Green Economy a big priority in the next few years, and with all the sunshine and wind available in Egypt, the chamber is really excited about what can happen and what our two countries can do together.


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