Sharm El-Sheikh, Asharq Al-Awsat—A major Egyptian investment conference has begun in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm Al-Sheikh, with a number of prominent foreign officials and business figures expected to attend.
“Between 22 and 25 Arab and international leaders, from kings to emirs to presidents and prime ministers, are expected to participate in the summit,” Egypt government spokesperson Hossam El-Kawish told Asharq Al-Awsat.
A number of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have sent high-level delegations to attend the Economic Investment Conference. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi personally welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz to Sharm El-Sheikh on Friday.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri said that the Saudi Crown Prince’s presence at the conference represented an important sign of the “comprehensive coordination” between Cairo and Riyadh.
The summit aims to showcase Cairo’s latest fiscal and legal reforms and restore investment confidence in the North African state following a politically tumultuous few years since the 2011 revolution.
Egypt expects to sign deals worth 15 to 20 billion US dollars at the conference, Investment Minister Ashraf Salman told Reuters on Friday. He said the deals would cover power plants, real estate, agricultural projects and infrastructure.
Officials, entrepreneurs and companies from around the world are attending the conference at the invitation of Sisi.
Local media is reporting that around 2,000 delegates from a total of 112 nations, including 30 heads of states and CEOs of multinational companies, will attend the event this weekend.
Speaking on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry called on regional and international business executives to invest in Egypt, praising Sisi’s latest “bold” economic reforms.
In comments to the US Chamber of Commerce in Egypt on the sidelines of the investment conference, Kerry said that Egypt has the potential, with strong private investment, of securing in excess of 10 percent annual growth. Kerry also pledged US support for further economic reforms to facilitate foreign investment in Egypt, cutting down on government bureaucracy and red tape.
“The United States is eager, ready and willing to be a catalyst in Egypt’s economic development and we respect the efforts you’re already making and we want to help,” the US Secretary of State said.
He tweeted: “Look fwd to busy day in Sharm el-Sheikh. Key focus on efforts to promote shared prosperity in Egypt & across region,” earlier on Friday.
While Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, speaking on state TV, stressed that Cairo is committed to ensuring a transparent and credible environment for foreign investment in the country. “Egypt is the future. It has a lot of undiscovered potential and, God willing, it will be one of the leading economies in the world,” he said.
A number of prominent agreements have already been announced on the first day of the conference. General Electric announced a 200 million US dollar investment in a manufacturing and training facility in Egypt’s Suez City, according to Reuters. While the African Development Bank also announced future investments in Egypt, including in the energy sector.
Aly Abou-Sabaa of the African Development Bank told State TV: “What we are currently trying to accomplish through our negotiations with the government is to diversify Egypt’s energy sources,” citing a solar energy plant in Upper Egypt’s Kom Ombo and a wind farm in the Gulf of Suez.
Abou-Sabaa confirmed that the African Development Bank is set to invest 500 million US dollars in Egypt over the course of 2015, adding that the bank could match this figure annually over the next four to five years.
Ten projects related to the Suez Canal Logistics Hub worth a total of 15 billion US dollars are set to be presented at the conference later today. The focus of the projects will be on manufacturing, telecommunications, ports and logistics, local media reported.
Reporting by Sawsan Abu Hussain, Ahmed Ghamrawi and Ahmed Ramzi.