INTERVIEW – AMBASSADOR OF BELGIUM TO EGYPT

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What is your impression of the current socio-economic situation in Egypt?

The financial situation of Egypt is tense at the moment, due to the Russian war against Ukraine, and the economic climate of uncertainty.  Egypt was counting on the international short-term capital attracted by its steady exchange rate, and good interest rates to finance its economic development.   But due to the uncertain perspectives, hot money has disappeared, leaving Egypt with a financing gap.  Traditional friends have come to the rescue, though, and Gulf countries now make up much of Egypt’s financial reserves. IMF has also extended a 3 bn$ facility, that will be topped up to 9 bn $.  The world has a clear interest in Egypt’s stability ad development, and I am optimistic that Egypt will easily survive the present situation

How do you view the bilateral relations between Belgium and Egypt?

We are old friends, as modern Belgium and modern Egypt were born approximately at the same time, and Belgium had an important share in Egypt’s industrial development in the XIX century. Belgium was, and still is, seen as friendly, active, innovative, and too small to be a political danger.  Our relation is good but has been a bit underexploited in the recent years, because of COVID, and because of the international image.

What are the key sectors in which you would advise Belgian investors to invest in Egypt?

There is a global push on infrastructure investments for the moment, as Egypt is re-equipping itself with much needed transport infrastructure. Roads, cars, ports, IT infrastructure are all being overhauled. After this, will probably come massive investments in education and health.  Energy is of course front news, and hydrogen is the topic of the day

Consider also that Egypt is a dream consumer market for consumer goods.  Cairo, in particular, offers a 20 Million market 2 hours truck road away from a port.  The business environment is acceptable, but investors need patience and probably a good local partner.

The COP27 just ended a couple of weeks ago. What is your feedback on this important event? Can you give us more information about the economic content of the COP27, the role that Belgium played in the discussions, and also an overview of the partnership between Egypt and Belgium in the framework of the organization of this COP?

Egypt had a difficult challenge to be at the same time the perfect host for the international community, making progress in combatting global climate change, and the defender of its African constituency’s interests, as it was elected by African countries.

Logistically, this required a massive effort, but Egypt coped very well, thanks to its top infrastructure in the city of Charm el Cheikh.

On the substance, Europeans were of course disappointed on the little progress achieved on decarbonation, but the small Egyptian team did its best to ensure a decent outcome, and some important progress was achieved on the  loss & damage issue.

Your Embassy is the first point of contact for Belgians who are there. How do you help them? Are there other agencies that are important to be in contact with?

Flanders Investment and trade is representing the three regions in Egypt.
It has a long experience of dealing with trade in Egypt, and an excellent network.
It is certainly a good point of entry to the Egyptian market.

The Egyptian Belgian Business Association, EBBA, gathers Egyptian businessmen interested in the Belgian market.  This provides good opportunities for friendly business contacts, and expertise.

For  many  Egyptians, the symbolic value of handling with an external country is important.  Egyptians do not only deal with a company, but also with the country behind it.  Formal support from the Embassy is therefore welcome.  The team of Economic counsellors of the Ambassador can also be put to good use.

The Embassy has good working relations with the Chambers of Commerce, and the institution of Egypt.