Egypt offers new ways foreign investors can buy citizenship to attract vital dollars

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Egypt announced Wednesday it is offering citizenship to foreign investors willing to spend at least $250,000 in the country, as it struggles to fill its depleted coffers.

According to state newspaper Al-Ahram, a decision by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli published in the official gazette, says the premier can now “grant Egyptian nationality” to applicants that meet one of four conditions.

Foreigners can either buy at least $300,000 of real estate in Egypt, invest $350,000 in the country, deposit $500,000 in an Egyptian bank account or “make a non-refundable $250,000 deposit in direct revenues in foreign currency into the state's public treasury”.

It is the latest in a series of measures by the government to woo foreign investment into Egypt, which is sapped dry of dollars and battling crippling inflation.

In 2018, parliament had passed a law allowing foreigners to apply for the Egyptian nationality with a bank deposit of 7 million Egyptian pounds -- at the time around $400,000 -- or its foreign currency equivalent.

Now, however, transfers must be made in dollars, as Egypt scrambles to fill its depleted coffers.

Cairo's foreign reserves currently stand at $34.35 billion, down from $41 billion in February 2022, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine unsettled global investors who pulled billions out of the country.

Some $28 billion of those reserves are deposits from wealthy Gulf allies, who have also stepped up to acquire Egyptian state assets but stalled many deals ahead of a fresh currency devaluation, according to experts.

In under a year, the Egyptian pound has lost half of its value, propelling annual inflation in the import-dependent country to 26.5 percent in January, according to figures published in February.

Late last year the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $3 billion loan program for Egypt spread over 46 months, conditioned on “a permanent shift to a flexible exchange rate regime”.

The government also pledged to push forward with measures to transition away from subsidies on several basic goods, such as fuel.

The plan has been in place since 2016, with the most recent price hikes announced last week.

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