A successful Egypt is at the heart of the vision that both the UK and the UAE have for this region. But this is not just about Governments. British and Emirati companies working together have unique potential now to power Egypt’s recovery as it moves from aid to investment and growth.
Both the UK and UAE believe that a strong, reviving Egyptian economy is the essential foundation of all else that we and Egyptians want to see: stability, job opportunities for all, and an open, modern society with empowered citizens and accountable institutions. In the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, our support for Egypt “is not a favour, but a duty”.
The UAE has been an unwavering supporter of Egypt during difficult times, not least since 2013. Britain too has long played a central and strong role at the heart of the Egyptian economy and that role continues to strengthen. Britain is the largest foreign investor in Egypt with almost 50% of FDI into Egypt last year and $24bn in the last five years. British companies help drive Egypt’s development, by creating jobs, generating wealth, and transferring skills and knowledge – among them BP, BG, Unilever, HSBC, and Vodafone – the largest payer of corporation tax in Egypt.
So it was no surprise that when thousands descended on Sharm el Sheikh earlier this month for Egypt’s Economic Development Conference, the British and Emirati contributions really stood out. Britain’s BP signed a deal to invest $12bn over the next 5 years producing 25% of Egypt’s current gas needs – the biggest foreign investment project in Egyptian history. Others like BG announced billions more. And the UAE announced a multi-billion dollar package of support, including a $2bn Central Bank deposit and planned investments by Dana Gas, Majid Al Futtaim, KBBO, Aabar, Capital City Partners and Swaidan Trading Co.
Following the Sharm El Sheikh conference the Egyptian government is picking up the challenge to implement its reform vision and deliver on the major projects announced. And these world-class British and Emirati companies can show the potential of international business to power the Egyptian economy as it moves from aid to investment – supporting Egyptian excellence, creating Egyptian jobs, building Egyptian skills and delivering the power and infrastructure that Egypt so urgently needs.
During the conference, the Egyptian Government unveiled a number of mega-projects, like the Suez Canal Regional Development Project and the new Capital City, as well as opportunities for investment in many sectors, including rail, ports, retail and power generation. As details of these projects emerge, it is clear that, over the next five to ten years, there will be huge opportunities in Egypt for Emirati and British companies. The Egyptian Government has demonstrated that it is open for business. And with its strategic geographical location and young, growing population of some 90 million, the Egyptian market is an attractive prospect for world-leading companies prepared to take bold decisions.
But the time to build is now. Egypt has got the world’s attention. Over the next few weeks the British diplomatic and commercial teams in Cairo, Alexandria, Abu Dhabi and Dubai will identify the opportunities for British, Egyptian and Emirati companies to work together to deliver the new investment. And we are convinced that strong partnerships between UK and UAE companies will be hard to beat. Together we are uniquely placed as Egypt’s investment partners, and together we can maximise the potential of Egypt’s investment opportunities.
Great examples already exist, such as Al Futtaim-Carillion’s construction of Cairo Festival City retail complex, which was backed by the British Government through UK Export Finance. UK Export Finance has a long history of working with UK and Emirati companies. Their team will visit Egypt this week to look at how they can offer additional support. British companies like BP and Shell already have long-standing joint venture partnerships with ADNOC, ADCO and Dana Gas. Leading British and Emirati companies have joined forces on successful projects in the renewable energy, transport and infrastructure sectors, and are well placed to deliver ambitious projects in Egypt.
Of course, it is not just about money and investment. In order to achieve inclusive, sustainable economic growth, Egypt needs to implement major economic reforms and take concrete steps to improve the business environment. The UK and UAE have a wealth of experience and expertise to offer, and are already working closely together to support Egypt’s economic reform programme. As close friends and partners, the UK and the UAE are committed to helping Egypt as much as we can. There has never been a better opportunity for UK and UAE business to partner, invest and prosper. It’s not simply a case of win-win, but win-win-win – for the UK, the UAE and Egypt.
John Casson and Philip Parham are Britain’s ambassadors to Egypt and the UAE.