While I was in Cairo, I talked at length to one of the country’s leading businessmen, a pillar of the community, a confidante of President Abdel Fatteh El Sisi, a serial entrepreneur who made a success of most of his ventures and a pile of money besides.
He was brutally frank about the challenges that lie before Mr El Sisi’s Egypt, most of them problems caused by bureaucratic
– corruption and
“Till the late 1990s,” he told me, “30 people had to sign off on 14 forms before my goods could be released from customs. If you cut down the number of forms, you were cutting out their rice bowls. Things are a little better now but there’s still lots to be done”.
Egypt comes 119th in the World Economic Forum’s global-competitiveness index and Mr El Sisi will need more than international summits and goodwill to get foreign investors to put their money where their conference commitment was. At the March Sharm El Sheikh economic conference called by Mr El Sisi, many foreign companies announced massive new commitments in Egypt’s energy and real-estate sectors. BP went so far as to describe it as such, saying its new $12-billion project was “a vote of confidence in Egypt’s investment climate”. Coca-Cola said it would spend $500m in Egypt within the next three years.
The outlook may look bright. But, as my prominent businessman interlocutor told me just last week, there are three key blockages that Mr El Sisi must clear if he is to reap the benefits of cast-iron international investor confidence in Egypt: allow businesses
– ease of entry
– ease of exit
– cast-iron legal protection
Egypt has a ways to go.