INTERVIEW: Egypt gateway to African, European, ME markets for trade, investment: Korea’s KOTRA’s director general

Doaa A.Moneim , Monday 6 Nov 2023

The Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), in cooperation with the South Korean Embassy in Cairo and the Korea Water Partnership, organized a conference and one-to-one business meeting with 10 South Korean Companies operating in water industry development between Egypt and Korea.


The two events focused on exploring the possibility of boosting cooperation in the “project sector” with the relevant Egyptian ministries and authorities, especially the Ministry of Housing and Utilities, the Ministry of Environment, the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater (HCWW), and the Construction Authority for Potable Water and Wastewater (CAPW).

During the event, Ahram Online interviewed the Director General of Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency in Cairo (KOTRA), Sukho Lee, who shed light on the trade and investment ties between the two countries and the importance of such events amid the ongoing challenging economic situation.

South Korea and Egypt have been partners on the economic level since even before the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1995, with KOTRA, which is affiliated with the Commercial Section of the Korean Embassy in Egypt, establishing a presence in Cairo in 1974, 21 years before the establishment of official diplomatic relations, and has been helping with the promotion of trade and investment between both countries.

“The total volume of Korean investments in Egypt has reached around $845 million as of June 2023, pumped by mostly large companies in the manufacturing sector, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and Hyundai Rotem”, Lee told Ahram Online.

He added that around 40 Korean companies are actively operating in the Egyptian market.

On the future steps of the Korean companies in Egypt, Lee told Ahram Online that some Korean companies consider Egypt a gate to the Middle East and Africa, taking advantage of the strategic location of Egypt and its extensive Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) network. 

“I think the future of cooperation between our two countries is promising, and both countries have strengthened cooperation in many fields, such as politics, economy, defence industry, and culture and have even agreed to establish a comprehensive cooperative partnership in 2016”, according to Lee.

During the Egypt-Korea summit held in January 2022, an MOU was signed for joint research on trade and economic partnership, and it is expected that the mutually beneficial relationship from trade to investment will be further strengthened.

“Korean companies are investing in Egypt in many sectors, most importantly in the electronics, defence, transportation, chemicals, and textile industries, and an agreement was also signed to supply 320 trains for Cairo metro lines. Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation signed the $460 million agreement with the Korean Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) to implement a project for co-manufacturing and providing trains for the Cairo Metro lines 2 and 3”, Lee further noted.

He added that South Korean companies are also involved in modernizing the railways’ signalling systems, with the first phase including the modernization of signalling systems from Nagaa Hamadi to Luxor and the second including the modernization of these systems from Luxor to Aswan.  

Responding to Ahram Online’s question about the key sectors Korean investments focus on in Egypt and the potential sectors they are willing to tap, Lee stated that sectors appealing to South Korean companies for investment in Egypt include electronics, transportation, defence, and infrastructure projects like water and wastewater projects.

Other sectors include chemicals, textiles, parts and materials, and veterinary vaccines, among others, according to Lee.

On the commercial level, trade volume between Egypt and Korea reached $3.1 billion in 2022 due to a surge of exports from Egypt valued at $1.6 billion. Egypt’s exports of natural gas and naphtha – its two main export items to South Korea – increased in 2022 by 705 percent and 107 percent, respectively, compared to 2021.  

“Other products exported from Egypt to Korea include sugar cane waste, used in Korea to feed livestock, minerals, textiles, clothes, fruits and cement, etc. Egypt, on the other hand, imports from Korea automobiles, synthetic resins, semiconductors, auto parts, and petrochemicals, some of which work as feeding items for Korean companies operating in Egypt”, Lee explained.

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