President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi led a delegation to India this week to participate in the 18th G20 summit. India, the fifth largest economy in the world, is the current G20 chair and Al-Sisi was among several non-G20 leaders invited by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the event.
Al-Sisi participated in his capacity as the president of Egypt and as chair of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a socio-economic flagship programme of the African Union (AU) that aims to eradicate poverty, promote sustainable growth and development, integrate Africa in the world economy and accelerate the empowerment of women.
According to Ahmed Fahmi, presidential spokesperson, Egypt’s main focus at the summit was on issues concerning Africa and developing countries, including mobilising international efforts to integrate developing countries into the global economy and fulfill climate finance pledges made to the developing world, and the activation of a comprehensive African programme for agricultural development to support the continent’s food security.
During a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Al-Sisi underlined Egypt’s strategic ties with the European Union (EU) which funds a number of major infrastructure, energy, and green transition projects in Egypt.
Reviewing the EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities Document 2021-2027, Von der Leyen noted: “We are closely working with each other to push the partnership with Egypt in all directions in the coming few years.” Following her meeting with Al-Sisi on Saturday, she posted that “there is good momentum in European-Egyptian relations and we should keep it going.”
A meeting between Al-Sisi and European Council President Charles Michel highlighted the importance of coordination between Egypt and EU on issues such as the Russia-Ukraine war and how to mitigate its negative economic impact, particularly in Africa.
During a mini-summit between African and European leaders, Al-Sisi underlined the negative impact of the global economic crisis on food security and the importance of finding solutions to the problems facing developing countries, especially its debt burden.
“The president was clear in calling upon international lending institutions to respond more effectively to help African countries solve their debt problems without imposing strict financial conditions,” said Fahmi.
In his speech to the mini-summit, President Al-Sisi said that as chair of NEPAD he is in constant consultation with other African leaders on ways to address the continent’s growing food crisis. “We are working together as African leaders to achieve economic integration, accelerate the implementation of Africa’s free trade agreements, and urge the international community to address Africa’s debt crisis,” he said. He praised the AU formally joining the G20 as a progressive and positive step which will help raise African issues on the international agenda.
During the closing session of the G20 summit in New Delhi on Sunday, Al-Sisi again emphasised the urgent need to address the escalating debt burdens of developing countries, saying “there is a pressing need for action on the part of the international community to prevent the debt crisis spiralling out of control.”
He also warned of the negative social and economic consequences of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on developing countries which depend on labour-intensive industries. In a nod to optimism that technological transformation will help double productivity and generate new jobs for growth and investment, he said more needed to be done “to narrow the technological gap between the advanced and developing world in order to avoid exacerbating inequality and to guarantee a better future for humanity.”
In his capacity as the chair of the UN Climate Change Conference COP27, Al-Sisi reviewed Egypt’s efforts since the holding of the COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh last November “to reach a balanced agenda on climate change through introducing the concept of just transition to a green economy and calling for creating a fund to address climate losses and damages.”
During his speech he stressed the importance of committing to the Sustainable Development Agenda and the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which “oblige us to stress the importance of the international financing system and multilateral development banks increasing their lending capacity by providing concessional finance and not allowing climate finance to overlap with development finance.”
He recalled that on the sidelines of the COP27 Egypt announced the launch of an international forum for financing green hydrogen projects and highlighted the steps being taken to turn Egypt into a regional energy hub hosting the headquarters of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.
At the end of his visit to India on Sunday, President Al-Sisi held a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, their first since the decision to restore diplomatic ties and reappoint ambassadors in July.
According to a Turkish presidential statement on X (formerly Twitter), Erdogan hailed “a new era of relations between Egypt and Turkey” and emphasised the importance of the Egypt’s support for Turkish investors and companies.
The meeting between Al-Sisi and Erdogan came on the heels of steps taken to end a decade of tension. Relations between Egypt and Turkey collapsed in 2013 after Egypt’s former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was removed from office in a popular uprising. According to Turkish media, Erdogan told Al-Sisi that Ankara is keen to revive cooperation in the fields of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and nuclear energy.
Al-Sisi also met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The two leaders discussed ways to boost German investment in Egypt and ongoing cooperation in transport, manufacturing and energy projects and reviewed developments in Sudan, the war between Russia and Ukraine and efforts to combat illegal immigration.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 September, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly