Cairo - Egypt’s exports should grow about 10 percent this year to reach $22 billion, Trade Minister Tarek Kabil said on Tuesday, as the country lures foreign investors keen on setting up manufacturing following economic reforms. He also told Reuters in an interview that China was set to be the country’s fastest growing investment partner. Egypt has been looking to plug a gaping trade deficit that stood at $42.64 billion last year but which has been narrowing in recent months, helped by a currency float that halved the pound currency’s value, making Egyptian goods cheaper abroad and buying more expensive.
“Exports will be higher than last year, we expect about $22 billion,” Kabil said. Last year, they were at about $20 billion. Earlier, he told a Euromoney financial conference that the trade balance this year had been reduced by 37 percent, with imports down 23 percent to almost $30 billion and exports growing by 11.5 percent to $15 billion. Egypt has been trying to market itself as a manufacturing hub for foreign investors, with easy access to European markets, relatively cheap labour, and economic reforms tied to a $12 billion International Monetary Fund lending programme it hopes will instil confidence in investors, many of whom fled after the 2011 uprising. Foreign direct investment for the fiscal year that ended in June hit $7.9 billion, but Cairo is hoping a new investment law offering a slew of incentives which is expected to be active within weeks will help it top $10 billion this year. Kabil told Reuters he expects China to be the fastest growing investor in coming years, with Egypt positioned to reap major investments from its Belt and Road initiative, a global development project aimed at expanding links between Asia, Africa and Europe.
“Currently (the European Union) is the biggest but I think China investors will grow rapidly... We’re in discussion with major players in terms of textiles and automotives. Those are two main projects we are in discussions with,” said Kabil, without providing more specific details. Egypt and China this month signed a memorandum of understanding for Beijing to finance a rail link worth about $739 million to serve a new administrative capital, a large portion of which is expected to be constructed by Chinese developers.