The Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reform of Egypt Hala Helmy Elsaid Younes gave an interview to News.ru during the Russo-Africa Summit and Economic Forum and shared her thoughts on the prospects of economic and investment cooperation between Cairo and Moscow and the resumption of the direct flights to Egyptian resorts.
— Did you met with Russian officials during the forum and what issues did you discuss?
— We discussed several issues with our Russian colleagues. Moscow and Cairo have long-lasting cooperation and our relations have been developing in political, economic and cultural fields. One cannot ignore the fact that Russia has great achievements in science and technology. While in Egypt, a large-scale economic reform is underway which provided the country with a 5.6% GDP growth. Several economic zones were established and one of them was reserved for Russia. Russian companies will base their production output on its territory and the produced goods will have Egyptian markings. Due to existing trade agreements, these goods will be sold to the African market. In this way, Russian exports to African countries will be ensured.
Both Moscow and Cairo benefit in this situation because Russia will be able to export its products to African countries while Egypt will become part of the production of goods which will help to ensure further economic growth and increase the volume of foreign investment in the country. It will also provide more jobs.
In addition, as part of the project, we are discussing technology development cooperation. We are also working on establishing collaboration between Russian and Egyptian universities. Many Egyptians know Russian and received education in Russia. We want to increase the number of scholarships at your universities, especially the ones with a focus on technology and satellite systems. We also discussed the possibility of implementing joint research projects and the think tanks' cooperation.
— The Russian industrial zone in Egypt should start operating in the first half of 2020. What results do you expect to get from this project?
— At the moment we are talking about 24 companies that will set up production in Egypt. The volume of infrastructure investments is $1.5 billion and $ 7–8 billion will be invested in technology, equipment and production. In my opinion, economic zones benefit the economy because existing tariff and non-tariff barriers can come in the way of economic development.
— Speaking of the economic reform in Egypt: what measures does Cairo take to facilitate Russian companies' entry into the Egyptian market besides creating an industrial zone?
—We are providing many incentives for foreign direct investment. Some of them are carried out through the provision of preferential taxation to technological production. Our new investment law also gives many opportunities that benefit foreign investors. But the most important measure is the simplification of the procedures which is easy to implement through the creation of economic zones. We also established the Egypt Sovereign Fund which will work with the Russian Sovereign Fund on joint investments and financing to increase investment in both countries. Perhaps, joint projects in African countries will also be launched.
— Do you have a forecast regarding Russian investments in Egypt?
— The biggest part of Russia's trade with African countries, which is about 30%, falls on Egypt and we have many production sectors. Over the past four years, we have invested a lot in infrastructure. The country is ready for new projects. We have done one more important thing over the past two years: we have invested in human resources. This is the key to sustainable development: any successful relationship between countries should be focused on people to ensure fruitful interaction.
— You mentioned scholarship programs with Russian universities. Which universities do you cooperate with?
— This is the Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University which has long-established relations with Egypt and The Peoples' Friendship University of Russia. I think that the cultural and humanitarian ties between our countries should be strengthened because politically and territorially Egypt is one of the largest countries in Africa. We have 100 million people 60% of whom are under 35 years old. There are prospects not only for developing humanitarian ties but also for digital technologies and online education.
— Everyone expected that the charter flights from Russia to Egypt would be restored at the end of the Russia-Africa summit but this did not happen. What are the overall prospects for resuming direct flights?
— For our part, we have brought security measures to the necessary standard. All airports have been modernized and we follow all security protocols. Recently the British government has lifted the ban on flights to Egypt, so the ball is on the Russian side now. I think that the resumption of flights will be announced soon. The Russian citizens also await this decision in order to get a chance to spend time in Sharm el-Sheikh.
— Can we expect flights to be resumed before the end of the year?
— I hope this will happen very soon.