Sunday, 17 October 2021 12:02 GMT

Entrepreneurs call for swift access to funds to unlock more private sector investments in Egypt & accelerate the continent's development


(MENAFN- Mid-East.Info) Cairo, Egypt: Opportunities abound for international financial institutions (IFIs) in Egypt and the rest of Africa, and the appetite for funding is there, alongside a vast number of opportunities that can unlock and accelerate the continent's development agenda.

That was the message of the final session of the first day of the inaugural Egypt-International Cooperation Forum (Egypt-ICF),a two-day event championing the role of multilateralism in the pursuit of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Entitled 'Dialogue with the Private Sector: Towards Inclusive Partnerships', the concluding discussion featured some of Egypt's most prominent business leaders as well as representatives of global funding institutions, who discussed the huge potential still waiting to be unearthed in the country and the wider region.

There was consensus on how far Egypt has come politically and economically in recent years, which has begun to offer a sense of comfort to the IFIs.

“What has happened in Egypt in the last five to six years has never happened anywhere in the world,” said Ahmed Elsewedy, President and CEO of Elsewedy Electrical.“We used to have electricity that would shut down after three or four hours, but now the infrastructure is unbelievable; the roads, the bridges, we've seen 24 new universities built in the last three years, and there have been improvements in each sector.”

Osama Bishai, CEO of leading Egyptian conglomerate Orascom, which has construction and power interests, agreed.“In the last six to seven years, the credibility of Egypt has been improving, and the funding community is excited about our infrastructure projects. It's really a no-brainer when you look at a country with a population of 100 million people, many of whom are young,” he said.

Pakinam Kafafi, CEO of TAQA Arabia, applauded the role of development finance institutions (DFIs) in securing funding for the landmark Benban Solar Park, which inspired more international finance institutions to look at Egypt.“It changed the whole game,” she said.

Dr. Heike Harmgart, Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Region at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), also applauded the nation's sustainability goals, which had been laid out by Egypt's President H.E. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during his opening speech at the event.

“There are opportunities in Egypt, and not just with the government but with the private sector, too, particularly in regard to the country's green agenda,” she said.“Renewable energy is competitive in Egypt, and there is both desalination and green technologies. The opportunities are here, and that's why we're here.”

Sherif El-Gabaly, agricultural entrepreneur and Chairman of the African Affairs Committee in the Egyptian parliament, advised that,“you can't have a strong industrial base without SMEs, so we need a roadmap for SMEs. There also needs to be funding for professional training, and institutional funding to introduce new technology to agriculture. There's a lot more work that needs to be done,” he said, shedding light on the opportunities.

Walid Labadi, Country Manager for Egypt, Yemen and Libya at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), supported this view, and said funding institutions need to make bolder choices when it comes to providing finance.“We can't wait for people to come to us. We need to be proactive. We need to take our clients to places they'd never thought about going.”

Solomon Quaynor, Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization at the African Development Bank, countered that by saying he was ready to work with any private sector entity, especially to mitigate risk, but infrastructure was still a key priority. He elaborated that developing power and transport and power would enhance competitiveness in African industry.

The panel concluded with an appeal for governments to facilitate public-private initiatives and then empower the private sector to deliver. Hassan Allam, CEO of Hassan Allam Holding, an engineering, construction and infrastructure company, said that when it comes to infrastructure projects, what the private sector needs is empowerment to establish projects.

Offering a final thought about the collaboration between the public and private sector, Jeffrey Schlagenhauf, Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) emphasized that“getting the trust of citizens is job number one” in moving forward.

About the Egypt – International Cooperation Forum :

The Egypt — International Cooperation Forum (Egypt — ICF) is a two-day global event that convenes the international community to drive a sustainable recovery through multilateralism.

Organized by Egypt's Ministry of International Cooperation, the Forum is being held in Cairo, Egypt, between 8-9 September 2021 in a hybrid format – allowing both physical and virtual attendance.

The Egypt — ICF provides a unique global platform in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, to bring together international policymakers, multilateral and bilateral development partners, private sector stakeholders, civil society and think tanks to collaboratively reboot international cooperation through economic diplomacy in the post-pandemic era.

The Forum aims to foster a collective international commitment to accelerate the transition to a green and inclusive global recovery, catalyze social mobility in Africa and tackle climate change.

The Egypt — ICF is co-organized with leading international development institutions, including: the United Nations, the World Bank Group, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

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