Opinion: Why Egypt Is So Keen To Connect With Sub-Saharan Africa

Opinion: Why Egypt Is So Keen To Connect With Sub-Saharan Africa

From NewVision. Story by Karim Sadek.

Karim Sadek is Africa managing director at Qalaa Holdings, an African investment firm listed on the Cairo Stock Exchange that specializes in energy, cement, foods, transport, logistics and mining.

Sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt share many things in common. We are at a similar level of development to many African countries, with a massive young population which is highly aspirational and tech savvy.

Like many sub-Saharan countries, Egypt also struggles to find productive employment for many of its young people, with youth unemployment at 38.9 percent as of 2013 according to the World Bank. Many countries across the region also have an abundance of natural resources, and our governments all have big visions for the future.

Furthermore, the private sector in Egypt – as in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa – is growing. Local businesses are catching the eye of international investors looking for reputable and experienced local partners.

In recognition of these similarities, Egypt has been working proactively to bring new impetus and focus to its engagements in Africa, strengthening ties across all spheres – politically and commercially; bilaterally and multilaterally. The strong showing by African nations (at the recent Egyptian Economic Development Conference) in Sharm el-Sheikh demonstrated that such outreach is welcomed.

Over the past year Egypt has been reaching out to African countries through visits and diplomatic missions — most recently to Addis Ababa and Nairobi — to build on historic relations and create new economic ties. Currently it is estimated that approximately $1 billion has been deployed into the rest of Africa from Egypt.

The free movement of goods and people…may be significantly accelerated with the development of mega infrastructure projects such as the Suez Canal Zone project.

The Suez project is Egypt’s largest national public-private partnership, designed to turn the canal area into an international industrial and logistics hub. With over 100 square kilometers dedicated to maritime and logistics facilities and over 400 square kilometers earmarked for industrial development, the Suez canal’s historic status as a global trade artery linking Asia and Africa to Europe and the U.S. will be reimagined for the 21st century.

The decrease in crossing time for ships and tankers should facilitate trade to and from the ports of Eastern and Southern Africa and enable African traders and countries to benefit from the logistics facilities to stock their produce such as tea, coffee and maize for trading globally.

In order to realize the potential trade boost from strong transport networks, political engagement must also be prioritized. After two years of stalled negotiations, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan recently reached an agreement on the basis of assessing and mitigating any adverse risks of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam. Long a source of tension between the two countries, this agreement paves the way for greater cooperation in the future.

Sharm el-Sheikh was a powerful reminder of how Egypt’s future growth and stability is tied to Africa’s. As the tens of billions of dollars announced in new investments moves from commitments on paper to actual execution over the coming months, the real prize will be in working out how to leverage this to drive wider trade and investment opportunities across the region as a whole.

Read more at NewVision.