Launching the trade and industry strategy for 2016-2020, supporting the industrial licensing law, and paving the way for the development of strategies for the textiles, food, building materials, chemicals and handicrafts sectors are among the highlights of an EU-funded project that wrapped up its work in Egypt this month.
The project, entitled the Trade and Domestic Market Enhancement Programme (TDMEP), has contributed to developing an integrated strategy to boost key industrial sectors in Egypt, said Ahmed Taha, first assistant to the minister of trade and industry.
Taha explained during the closing ceremony of the 20 million euros EU-funded TDMEP progamme on Sunday that it had implemented a series of activities led by European experts together with their Egyptian counterparts with the participation of the Egyptian private sector to support the ministry’s efforts at developing an integrated strategy to promote industry and trade to boost the competitiveness of key Egyptian industrial sectors to compete regionally and globally and create employment opportunities.
Ibrahim Laafia, head of cooperation at the EU delegation in Egypt, said that the EU remained the main trade partner, the main source of imports, the main export market, and the main origin of foreign direct investment for most of the Southern Mediterranean countries, including Egypt.
Infact, as Taha pointed out, the EU was one of Egypt’s most important partners in the development sector, with 1.1 billion euros directed to funding development cooperation projects annually, while Egypt’s trade volume with the EU forms about 30 per cent of its global merchandise trade.
According to Taha, the TDMEP had contributed to the improvement of structural strategies carried out in cooperation with the private sector, as well as drafting a national quality strategy for Egypt’s industry.
He also said that the TDEMP had helped enhance essential reforms at the ministry that had included launching the trade and industry strategy 2016-2020 and determining priority production sectors. This had paved the way for the development of strategies for the textiles, food, building materials, chemicals and handicrafts sectors, he said.
They had been elaborated in close collaboration with the business sector, said George Myrogiannis, team leader and trade development policy expert at TDMEP.
He added that the programme had also participated in the restructuring of the ministry, an exercise which had lasted for more than a year. “During this work, the programme supported both the elaboration of the restructuring plan and the design of human-resources development and management activities,” he said.
Through the restructuring process, new entities had emerged and the organisational development of existing ones had been upgraded. That effort had included the development of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) in support of its role in delivering services related to industrial investment promotion, industrial licensing, and single-window services.
He added that the achievements of the programme had also included supporting the introduction and development of e-governance methods in the ministry and its affiliate organisations. It had supported the establishment of a monitoring system for the ministry’s performance.
The EU-funded project had also helped reinforce the capacities of employees at the ministry and its affiliated entities and to modernise their services through training, coaching, workshops and study visits for more than 1,500 participants, with over 50 workshops implemented.
“The success of the programme has been enabled by a flexible approach to adapting existing activities or designing new ones to respond to the needs and priorities of the beneficiaries as well as external circumstances,” Myrogiannis stated, adding that its work-plan had been flexible in accommodating follow-up actions arising from the implementation of the activities.
Sherine Khallaf, head of the ministry’s Development Projects Council, said that the ministry has agreed with the EU to continue technical assistance through the second phase of the TDMEP, which is expected to start in 2021.
The second phase, according to Khallaf, aimed to enhance the ministry’s abilities in the implementation of its international trade obligations and improve the infrastructure of the quality-control system to facilitate trade relations between Egypt and the EU.
“We have reached an agreement with the EU to provide funds for the preparatory activities of the TDMEP’s second phase,” she said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.