The Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) is aiming to improve its investment climate, said chairperson of the General Authority for the SCZone, Ahmed Darwish.
“I think we are successful in terms of what we can do to create a friendly business environment, especially in the southern part of the zone,” Darwish stated.
He added that the SCZone provides an attractive opportunity for investors as it provides them with access to very large markets, given Egypt’s trade agreements with Africa, Europe, and the Arab world.
Darwish explained that, despite Egypt’s wealth in human resources, an important factor is missing, namely the educational system’s reliance on theoretical concepts rather than market needs, creating a gap.
In an attempt to invest in the Egyptian people and simultaneously incentivise investors who cannot find the suitable calibre they are seeking, the authority is planning to apply the concept of directive training. This means that investors specify the labourers they want to work with, which will then be trained at the expense of the authority.
Darwish stated that within the next six months, the SCZone Authority will identify its targeted sectors and the key industries it will be approaching. “By the end of the first quarter next year, we will have an excellent idea of the sectors we will target,” he added.
Furthermore, UK trade envoy to Egypt Jeffrey Donaldson explained that the UK is interested in investment opportunities in the SCZone, adding that the stability of Egypt is a top priority and that he recognises the strategic importance of the country in a very troubled region.
“I very much endorse the reform agenda being taken forward by the government in Egypt. We want to be a strong investor in the Suez Canal Economic Zone. Egypt is one of the fastest growing populations in the world, but this is also a big challenge. Many young people join the work force every year, not only for economic prosperity, but also as a social priority. We recognise the SCZone as a vital project,” said Donaldson.
He added that the SCZone will provide a very good location for trade across the Middle East and Africa. Donaldson ensured that the UK is an “education nation”, priding itself with prioritising not only academic, but also skills-based education and training, and assured that the UK is interested in sharing that expertise with Egypt to develop the needed work-force.
“The UK is an ideal partner for the Suez Canal Economic Zone. We can bring investments and expertise in training, and create job opportunities,” Donaldson concluded
On the other hand, chairperson of the parliament’s Economic Committee, Ali Mosselhy, stated that Egypt should be more realistic and address what we can actually do, according to the master plan of the zone’s development. “We know what needs to be done there concerning marine industries and logistics, but we need to focus on labour,” he asserted.
Mosselhy added that he thinks Egypt has physical resources, and the required budget could be available, but a large number of young people should be trained according to what the SCZone needs, after the targeted sectors are identified.
When asked about how the political situation could negatively affect the business ties between Egypt and the UK, Donaldson stated that politics should facilitate and encourage business, not get in its way. “Post-Brexit, there is a lot of focus on how the UK can be effective in trading with the world. We will be negotiating bilateral trade with Egypt, because for politicians, economic prosperity is essential,” he explained, adding that “the UK continues to be the biggest foreign investor in these countries, through all the difficult times that both our countries went through.”
On prioritising training and education, Mosselhy elaborated that the government’s role is to establish the strategy of the educational system, while the parliament either accepts or rejects it.
He added that there is no future without real major change in education, and that having a huge deficit is not an excuse.