Egypt seeks to drum up Gulf investments

Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, October 10, 2015 (Reuters)

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail will meet Saudi officials and investors this week in a bid to drum up more investment as Egypt seeks to revive an economy suffering from a foreign currency shortage.

The talks follow a visit by Ismail and several ministers to Saudi Arabia earlier this month to present potential projects and push forward pledges made at an international investment conference in Sharm al-Sheikh in March.

Egypt attracted $12 billion in pledges from Gulf countries at the conference, where President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged foreign investors to help Egypt recover from the turmoil unleashed after the 2011 uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak.

About $6 billion was deposited in Egypt’s central bank to help replenish its dwindling foreign currency reserves. The rest was to come as investments, many of which are still being negotiated.

Egypt’s International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr was one of the ministers to join the recent visit to Saudi.

“We had a clear road map. We had different forms of projects. We had development projects which I presented which are mainly in partnership with the Saudi Fund for Development,” she told Reuters in a recent interview.

“We have a delegation coming soon, a high level delegation from Saudi Arabia to move on the next steps.”

Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohamed Bih Salman will visit Cairo at the head of a Saudi delegation this week, the government said in a statement.

Under discussion will be a number of projects including plans for a hydroelectric plant in Assiut and plans to develop the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, the statement said.

In July, Egypt and Saudi Arabia issued a so-called Cairo Declaration, a pledge to work together on defence and improve cooperation on investment and trade. Gulf states have showered billions of dollars on Egypt since mid-2013, when Sisi removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power. They opposed the Brotherhood’s rise after the 2011 revolt.

Egyptian officials have denied speculation that Gulf support has slowed amid declining oil prices and concerns about the pace of Egypt’s economic reforms. Cairo is also at odds with Riyadh over policy in Syria.

Nasr said she was also in contact with Kuwaiti investors.

Sherif Otaifa, adviser on mega projects to the investment minister, said Egypt was moving away from direct Gulf aid toward long-term investments.

Otaifa said Egypt was also working to resolve legal disputes that had hampered investment.
“We are focusing on the private investors of the Gulf ... They are big now and they built a good experience in the operational models and they have to expand,” he said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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