VENTURES AFRICA – A team of 100 senior executives from 50 US companies including Cisco, Citibank, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Microsoft and ExxonMobil, will visit Egypt this weekend to scout for investment opportunities as part of the US government’s efforts in helping revive the country’s devastated economy.
The trip comes barely a week after reports emerged that the US government was finalizing an agreement with the Egyptian government to relieve $1 billion of debt. Egypt’s current debt to the US is more than $3 billion.
US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the trip will identify new business opportunities and partnerships for U.S. companies, express the country’s business confidence in Egypt and demonstrate a commitment to Egypt’s long-term economic development.
According to Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, Egypt needs about $45 billion in investment this year to meet its 4-5 percent growth target.
The US last month sent senior government officials to Egypt led by Robert Hormats, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.
“With a president, a prime minister, and a Cabinet ready to engage, now is the moment for Egypt and the United States – and indeed the wider international community as well – to work together with renewed commitment and energy on several levels and in several ways,” Hormats said during the trip.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde also visited capital Cairo and held talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Egypt is currently discussing a $4.8 billion credit with the IMF to rejuvenate its economy.
Last month, the Qatar government loaned Egypt $2 billion to revamp its economy. Egypt however, needs an estimated $12 billion in external financing.
Investors from the West are looking to Egypt which has massive investment opportunities in oil and gas. British energy giant BP is set to invest $10 billion in a deep-water natural gas production project in Egypt’s Mediterranean basin. BP will extract 1 billion square feet of natural gas per day.
According to BP’s chief executive Robert Dudley, the project is expected to produce 40 percent of Egypt’s natural gas output. Egypt has Africa’s third-largest gas reserves, after Nigeria and Algeria.
The North Africa country also has numerous opportunities spanning across finance, energy, technology, education, infrastructure, fast moving consumer goods and tourism.
President Morsi and his Islamic movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, have a daunting task of reviving the economy of Egypt, which has a population of about 85 million people.
Egypt’s economy suffered a severe blow in the 2011 uprising which scared away foreign investors. During the crisis, the Egyptian pound fell steadily, the stock exchange was closed and the country’s credit rating downgraded.