Last week, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly met French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire and his accompanying delegation in preparation for the upcoming visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Egypt.
During the visit, Madbouly stressed the need to strengthen ties between Egypt and France. Moreover, both countries showed interest in deepening mutual cultural cooperation.
The Egyptian-French cultural year 2019 is going to hold several surprises, such as a special cultural programme will be established to reflect the scientific, historical, cultural, and artistic cooperation between the two countries, according to Egyptian ambassador to France and Egypt’s permanent representative in the UNESCO, Ehab Badawy.
Badawy praised the cultural co-operation between Egypt and France which reflects the solid ties between the two states.
French ambassador in Cairo Stéphane Romatet told Daily News Egypt that Egypt has exerted significant economic reform efforts, rendering it as one of the biggest countries in the Mediterranean region in terms of growth rates.
Romatet noted that France supports Egypt and informs its European partners that the Egyptian government is on the right track in terms of economic and social reform.
He noted that France is keen on expanding bilateral relations between Egypt and France on all levels in the current period.
Daily News Egypt interviwed Romatet to discuss his vision regarding the Egyptian economy in the new year and the French government’s efforts in supporting Egypt , the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What are your expectations regarding the Egyptian economy in the current year?
If you compare the Egyptian situation today with what it used to be even two years ago, the change is dramatic and positive, as growth is back and the deficit is down, and confidence is growing. Of course, there are some difficulties, however, inflation is down and reserves are better. French companies are seeing that things are moving in Egypt and they are now paying great interest to the Egyptian market.
Indeed, after 2011, all the Egypt’s foreign reserves faced difficulties and Egypt was not the best place to invest in, but now after the improvements in the economic situation, and with the prospects in terms of growth, along with all projects going on in Egypt, reveal that Egypt is back.
Moreover, I feel when I discuss with French companies that that they now consider Egypt as a place of investments.
Do you think that in 2019 there will be French foreign direct investments (FDIs) coming into the Egyptian market?
We are working toward that because we sent very simple messages to French companies that this the best time to come and invest in Egypt.
What are the most promising sectors for French companies in Egyptian market?
I think it is infrastructure; the field in which French companies are strong in, especially in the light of Egypt’s megaprojects and French companies should have a presence in these projects. In addition, the smart cities which are being developed by Egypt need energy and innovative models of transportation and other infrastructure. Plus, pharmaceuticals is another field of interest too.
In your opinion, what are the most important megaprojects the Egyptian state is currently developing?
All the projects of new cities such as the New Administrative Capital, New Alamein, New Mansoura and other cities that have been recently launched by the state.
There are also the megaprojects in the transportation field such as high-speed trains, the monorail, the metro as well as tramways in Alexandria, where we are working hard to present French offers.
These projects are of great interest in France, especially the remarkable cultural projects such as the Grand Egyptian Museum, as well as the museum of the city of arts that will be established in the New Administrative Capital because France is a country of culture. Therefore, everything related to culture we would be interested to work with Egypt in.
Do you think that in this year we will see a flow of French tourists coming to Egypt?
The situation is better because of the stability of the country. Recently we have modified our travel ban to Sharm El-Sheikh so we see now French tourists coming back to Sharm El-Sheikh.
Figures are on the rise and this is a good time to come back to Egypt. In 2010, French tourists reached one million and the numbers of our tourists were very low in the years following 2011. However, we hope to see 300,000 French tourist visiting Egypt in the current year. Nevertheless, I think year after year and with the improvement of the situation and the floating of the currency, will make Egypt a very attractive tourism destination.
We work hard to promote Egyptian tourism to French people as they have a passion for Egypt and we are used to saying that Egypt is a French passion. They want to come back to visit the country, especially with the improving in the security situation and its very positive economic state after the devaluation of the Egyptian pound value. All of these conditions are very good catalysers for French people to come to Egypt.
For example, this year, which is a high season after 2011, you will hear many people speaking French, who are coming back, and these figures will increase and the trend is very positive.
Therefore, I expect that French tourism will flourish again in Egypt following the political stability and security experienced in Egypt over recent years. The number of French tourists who visited Egypt last year reached about 150,000 people.
What are other educational and culture cooperation between Egypt and France?
Cairo and Paris exchange views on reinforcing cooperation in the cultural and educational arenas, including developing the French University in Egypt.
Furthermore, France is interested in enhancing its relations with Cairo, especially in educational and research joint projects.
Over and above, France is ready to provide French expertise in the health sector to Egypt.
How do you see Egypt’s current reform programme? Additionally, what are results you imagine see happening?
It was very difficult decision but it was quite courageous.
These decisions revive growth, and the global economic outlook will of course be positive, but we cannot ignore that it has some social consequences and difficulties and that is why France provides a social protection aid for Egypt as the success of the economic reforms is very important.
Noteworthy, in the coming years we will continue to support this programme and expand our cooperation with Egypt in this regard.
What is the amount of funds allocated by the French government for Egypt?
Every year we finance several projects in Egypt, namely social protection projects, budget assistance technical and strategic assistance too, in addition to supporting other developmental projects.
I hope that we can work even further in this technical assistance and financial support because Egypt needs to succeed in its reform project.
We are now preparing for our four-year programme which will be announced soon, and hopefully we to be able to do even better in term of assisting Egypt for the success of its reform programme and its vision.
What is the value of French investments in Egypt?
The French embassy is coordinating with Egyptian partners to attract foreign investments in different sectors, especially energy. Egypt and France are bound together by good economic relations. French investments in Egypt amount to about €4bn and the number of French companies operating in Egypt are about 160 companies.
Shall we expect a French businesspersons delegation visiting Egypt this year?
Yes, we are working on a big French business delegation to visit Egypt in the coming month comprising of large companies and small and medium-sized-enterprises (SMEs) in different sectors because I think that there are many opportunities are available for SMEs in Egyptian market.