For nearly four decades, Egypt has remained one of the United States’ closest allies in the Middle East. Since the 1978 Camp David Accords, Egypt has played a pivotal role as a cornerstone of security in a volatile region. Bound by a lasting friendship based on shared values, neither side has lost sight of their common interests over the years. This has allowed disagreements to occur without derailing that relationship. The fundamental goals -to promote regional security, stability and prosperity- have not altered and have only increased in importance in recent times. That is why the upcoming strategic dialogue between the United States and Egypt could not be more timely, or more critical.
If Egypt was an indispensable partner for peace and security in the late seventies, it is only more true today, as the country finds itself facing a triple threat from violent extremists in northern Sinai, on the border with Libya and from those importing terror to Egypt’s heartland. The partnership between Egypt and the United States remains fundamental to Egypt’s ability to effectively confront these groups that share a single distorted ideology and to remain a bulwark of stability upon which to realize a tolerant, peaceful and prosperous Middle East.
While the security alliance remains essential and unwavering, the strategic dialogue is an opportunity to broaden the parameters of the relationship to other areas that are equally important, primarily the economy. Egypt’s economic development is vital to its success as a nation and to US interests in the region. Last November the largest delegation of US businesses ever to visit Egypt sent a clear signal to the global business community that now was the time to invest. This prompted a powerful US and global presence at the Egypt Economic Development Conference in March. One of the signature deals to come out of the conference was an agreement by GE to supply 2.6 gigawatts of power generating capacity by August- a massive undertaking that the company completed on deadline and under budget. GE’ s contribution to Egypt’s power grid helped avoid power cuts and brown outs this summer and contributed to Egypt’s first ever power surplus.
As the United States and Egypt prepare to sit down for what is their first strategic dialogue since 2009, I hope that it becomes a regular event that can constructively shape this vital relationship for the region and the world. I also hope both parties continue to focus on the economic dimension of their enduring relationship. Standing at the nexus of three continents, Egypt exercises an outsized influence on economic growth beyond its borders. The United States recognizes Egypt’s potential in particular as the gateway to Africa, as almost a third of US private sector investment in the continent flows through Egypt. In 2014, specifically US direct investment in Egypt was $2.1 billion, representing 32 per cent of all US DI in Africa.
Building on this solid foundation for growth in Egypt is both an urgent necessity and a window of opportunity. Growth equals jobs, jobs equal prosperity, and together they mean stability in a region that sorely needs it. Ultimately economic growth, well paying jobs and increased prosperity are the most powerful antidote to the bankrupt ideology of extremism that threatens the region. The terrorists fear opportunity, because it removes the incentive to join them.
H.E Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Head of the UAE/Egypt Liason Office in Egypt.