Australian Companies Urged to Invest in Egypt As It Rebuilds After the Revolution

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Egypt is urging the Australian Government to remove the travel warning for visitors and to foster agricultural investment in the country.

Foreign investment in Egypt amounted to $14 billion a year, but dried up after the revolution three years ago.

Now the country is now pumping billions into infrastructure, like the $10 billion upgrade of the Suez Canal, and urging Australians to return.

But Australians are wary of visiting Egypt, let alone investing.

Headlines have screamed ‘unrest in Egypt’, and Australia has closely watched the court case jailing Al Jazeera’s journalist Peter Greste.

Australia warned people not to travel to Egypt after terrorist attacks and kidnappings in Cairo, at Sinai and in the country’s north this year.

But the Minister of Commerce attached to the Consulate in Australia, Aiman Elabd, says 26 countries have now lowered their warnings, and Australia should too.

The consulate is on a mission to demonstrate Egypt is not only safe, but ripe for opportunities.

“To do business you have to meet people, travel, and if there’s a travel warning, people will think before they go,” Mr Elabd said.

Australia exported almost $150 million in wheat and $110 m of vegetables to Egypt last year, but halved its imports from Egypt.

Mr Elabd says Australia should recognise the potential for business with the rest of Africa, via Egypt.

“Egypt is a gate to Africa, this is number one.

“In mining, Egypt is 95 per cent desert and full of treasures. Australia is a pioneer in mining, so this is one thing.

“In agriculture, we import a lot of our food like wheat and corn. We have a market of 90 million people.

“Egypt has decided to build a coal-fired power station, and is looking to buy Australian coal.”

As if to balance the emissions from coal power, Egypt is interested in solar power and looking to Australian companies for investment.

Egypt, once a major destination for live cattle, stopped in May last year after animal cruelty was caught on tape.

Exports resumed only four months ago in May 2014, and already $5.36 million worth of cattle have returned by ship.

“Consumption of meat is growing. We import most of our needs, and we have a protocol signed with the Agriculture Minister. Egypt imports both live cattle and boxed beef.”

Travel business owner Safwat Elbanna says he used to send 60,000 Australian travellers to Egypt, but it’s dried up.

Mr Elbanna is taking a trade delegation and says it’s now easier for foreign investors to deal with a stable government, led by the former General Al Sisi.

He says Al Jezeera reports are misleading and biased in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood, against Egypt.

“This is the best time for Australian businesses and government to step into Egypt for investment because the government is creating a new system. You deal with only one body.

“Especially in agriculture and solar companies to produce electricity.”

Egypt now has an ambitious $10 billion project to duplicate the Suez Canal.

The nationalised shipping route linking Europe to Asia earns Egypt $5 billion a year. It’s expected that will double by 2023.

Egypt raised the money in 10 days, from issuing debentures and shares to Egyptians.

“It will be a big hub, not just a canal for ships. A big industrial area,” Mr Elabd said.

“If (Australian businesses) are not present in Egypt when the moment for Egypt comes, it will be very difficult to catch up with development process in Egypt.”

Source: ABC