Dear Award Winners,
Dear Khaled Salah,
Congratulations to all the award winners, congratulations to Khaled for this event, and very big congratulations to Egypt for restoring Europe’s lifeline!
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought immense challenges to our economies around the world and on both sides of the Mediterranean. World trade is down by 20%; growth in the EU down by 7.5%, unemployment is after only one year of the highest employment in the EU’s history. Supply chains and production are hit. These are only a few of the consequence of Covid-19, a disease, that has hit the world in an unprecedented fashion in speed and scope.
Financing research and supporting the pharmaceutical industry in developing and producing vaccines was a priority, now it is recovery. The EU has launched a massive programme totaling EUR 4 trillion composed of grants, loans, the EU budget, guarantees and purchasing securities.
The private sector and in particular SMEs across Europe are at the centre of the recovery, key to employment generation. Investment will focus on the green transition; digital transformation; smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs; social and territorial cohesion; health and resilience; policies for the next generation, including education and skills.
The crisis has also affected Egypt, challenging the growth prospects over the medium term. Yet, Egypt’s economy has displayed a high level of resilience. The Egyptian government’s decisive macro policy agenda implemented prior to the COVID crisis with the support of the IMF has contributed to put Egypt in a strong position when facing the shock.
Egypt has successfully maintained macroeconomic and fiscal stability but also safeguarded citizens who are most affected. The proactive monetary policy response delivered a liquidity buffer and helped businesses to stay afloat, and the renewed engagement with the IMF has reassured international investors.
Some economic sectors experienced significant drops, such as tourism; investment and exports declined, but overall the Egyptian economy was able to close the fiscal year 2019/20 with a remarkable growth of 3.6%. Egypt’s economy showed resilience and performed substantially better than regional peers.
We laude Egypt for the ongoing reforms on public financial management, domestic revenues mobilisation and debt management. We also congratulate the first green bond emission, witnessing Egypt’s commitment to green financing.
Last month the EU adopted a new strategic vision for the future of our cooperation with Egypt and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region more widely. The new Agenda for the Mediterranean is accompanied by an Economic Investment Plan for aiming to bring about more prosperity, investment and ensure an inclusive economic recovery post COVID-19.
On top of the Agenda for the Mediterranean the EU also adopted a new EU trade policy strategy that stresses the need of developing win-win integration strategies, in particular on strategic value chains. Since the pandemic exposed challenges associated with globalisation, the EU realised the importance of making value chains more resilient by shortening and diversifying them.
This means more opportunities for Egyptian businesses with Egypt as a business hub between Africa, Europe and the Middle East taking full advantage of Egypt’s membership in the African Continental Free Trade Area and many other regional trading agreements.
Increasing Egyptian exports does require boosting national industries, internationalising SMEs, helping small enterprises to export; and supporting land, sea and air freight for exports. I am particularly happy to say that the EU is Egypt’s longstanding partners in this area and has put Egyptian export development at the core of its activities.
The EU with its 27 Member States is already Egypt’s first trading partner, representing around 25% of the country’s total trade. EU investments perform a vital role stimulating economic growth, creating jobs, enhancing technological transfer, enhancing the country’s finance and technology sectors, and increasing productivity. More can be done and I believe should be done in the near future.
Looking at the future of EU-Egypt economic cooperation I must mention the enormous potential of digitalisation. Egypt has a high potential for spearheading digital transformation in the Middle East and North Africa region. The development of successful enterprises is ever more intertwined with digital skills, digital infrastructure and the increasing provision of digital services for Egyptian businesses and citizens alike.
And we are also standing on the edge of a huge transition in the energy system worldwide. The European Union can cooperate with Egypt to produce cleaner energy from unconventional sources such as hydrogen to help meet its growing needs and find ways to use energy more efficiently.
Moving forward in the economic transformation; pursuing more inclusive growth, more participation of women and youth; and job creation, while keeping the macroeconomic fundamentals will be the right recipe.
Rest assured that Egypt, its government, its businesses and its people have a solid and reliable partner in the European Union. Let us explore new exciting opportunities to do business together, to co-develop, to co-invest, to explore opportunities in this dynamic country, region and continent.