Dear Mr. Wissa, thank you so much for making the time to share your views and insights with us today.
You have been an Egyptian diplomat for over 30 years. As the Managing Director of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Egypt, how would you describe the current relations between France and Egypt, that French President Macron has labeled publicly on many occasions as «Extraordinaire»?
In recent years, Egypt has become an increasingly important investment destination and trade partner for France. In the past three years, Egyptian and French officials signed over 40 agreements worth € 8 billion, covering infrastructure projects for the new administrative capital, electric vehicle production, education, economic and social development, healthcare, culture, women’s empowerment and energy.
In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), France was the fifth highest investor country. Total French investments in Egypt stand at EUR 5.5 billion, and mutual trade reached EUR 3 billion – without counting the military deals.
There are approximately 160 French companies in Egypt with a total workforce of 30,000 people. Among the 160 French companies implanted in Egypt, we note that most of the Blue Chip French companies (CAC 40) are present in the Egyptian market.
In light of this, we could say that we are living a “French moment”, in which the investment climate is very favorable to French companies.
Moreover, since 2016, Egypt’s growth story is anchored by a robust commitment to delivering price, fiscal and currency stability, a policy which will be a catalyst for future expansion. Its Vision 2030 outlines ambitious goals to nearly triple GDP growth to 12%, reduce unemployment to 5% and advance within the list of top 30 countries in terms of doing business.
In which fields and sectors would you say that those positive relations outstand, and what else do you think could be done between the two friends nations to further enhance and develop their strategic partnership? And which Great Projects being undertaken in Egypt currently could benefit the most and result more attractive to French investors?
The fields that are yielding the most today in Egypt, and in which French companies are investing in are the following:
• Oil and gas exploration, particularly after the “Zohr” mega gas field was recently discovered in the Mediterranean Sea.
• Infrastructure: The Government is on a continuing drive to upgrade its roads, bridges, tunnels, sewage, and water infrastructure.
• The continuing public investment in transport, especially the completion of the Cairo Metro, and the modernization of the ancient railway system.
• Power generation, increasingly in the renewable sector, wind and solar.
• The building of a new generation of cities, including the New Administrative Capital east of Cairo, and Alamein.
• Other fields that have potential are the following sectors, textile, auto part manufacturing, electronics and electrical goods, food manufacturing, and financial services.
• French Tourists continue to have their fascination for ancient Egyptian civilization.
Notwithstanding these sectors, let us not forget that Egypt is the sixth largest country in the Arab World in terms of size. and by far, the largest in terms of population, Egypt counts 104 million persons, representing around 25% of total Arab World population. Its population is currently growing at 2.5% annually, a rate that is undoubtedly alarming from a demographic point of view, but one that could represent a growing economic opportunity and a huge consumer market.
Attending the Africa Forum CIAN-L’Opinion can be a very fruitful investment for Egyptian companies wishing to enlarge their network and influence with high level contacts not only with top French Companies and Government officials, but also with key representatives of the state and the Private sectors of the rest of the EU and the African countries. What do you think would be the most relevant benefits that Egyptian companies could make out of this event of strategic influence at France/EU/African level?
Egypt presents French companies with a compelling investment opportunity: strong population growth, a strategic location and substantial natural resources. Add to these a growing economy, an educated workforce and favorable government policies, and the case for investing now becomes unequivocal.
2022 could be «The Year of Africa» and even more the year when Egypt rises in leadership in the African content, exposing its competitive advantages as the New Modern Egypt being constantly reborn as we speak, not only in the frame of Africa but a global level?
In my opinion, one of the most important element to achieve is to consolidate the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is a free trade area founded in 2018, with trade commencing as of 1 January 2021. Among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.
The agreement, aiming at creating a single market, deepening the economic integration of the continent, initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent. The agreement went into force on May 30 and entered its operational phase following a summit on July 7, 2019.
What are the main aspects and competitive advantages in which Egypt could gradually build this rising leadership role of in the frame of the African Continent?
This year, in November, Egypt will be hosting the COP27. It is primoridial for Egypt to lead the integration of African countries into the global economy, ramping up foreign investment across the continent, and supporting developing countries in their green transition — all of which are key action points for COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh this November.
In which sectors of the Egyptian economy do your see more potential for development and growth towards the rest of the African & EU countries?
Since my last post as Egypt’s Executive Director at the World Bank, and these four four important sectors have been identified as key to growth and sustaib-nable development:
(i) Energy: diversified and renewable energy supplies;
(ii) Transport: multimodel freight and integrated mass transportation across the continent;
(iii) Water: wastewater management and water desalination; and
(iv) Agriculture: efficient production and supply
How would you evaluate the Egyptian companies current potential interest to further penetrate the French/EU/African markets, in order to generate new business opportunities, new potential Joint Ventures, new clients and/or distributors, therefore increasing their influence, business volume and sales in those markets?
French companies should seize this “French moment” I have spoken about earlier to use Egypt as a hub for their operations in Africa. With its strategic location, burgeoning start up scene, now competing with India, relatively cheap energy prices, French companies should establish their base in Egypt, and use the many trans-continental trade agreements, namely Agadir and AfCFTA, Egypt adhered to, to export to Africa. Moreover, French companies should partner with Egyptian companies already working in Africa. A number of Egyptian companies have been working for decades in Africa and know the market very well. Since I arrived at the CCIFE, I have witnessed a growing interest in French companies wishing to partner with French companies and vice versa is also true.
What would be, in your opinion, the main objective for Egyptian companies to achieve, the best outcome possible for Egyptian companies deciding to participate in the Africa Forum CIAN & L’Opinion?
One of the most important element for a successful business venture is networking. I believe the forum organized by the CIAN/L’Opinion is a perfect opportunity to consolidate this tripartite networking between Egyptian, French and African companies.
Thank You Very Much Mr. Wissa
February 16th, 2022
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