A new era

Harshavardhan Neotia | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 30, 2016

Revamping India-Egypt relations

Today India and Egypt are at the cusp of a larger transformation, which captures economy, businesses, science and technology and several other areas. The opportunities will be closely watched as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattahel-Sisi arrives in India soon.

Today, a rapidly transforming Egypt has embarked on a journey of democratisation and restructuring. The IMF has observed that “Egypt is a strong country with great potential”. As a $286-billion economy with around 89 million consumers — the second largest in Africa — the potential and scope of Egypt as a market is immense. Significant changes are also taking place in India that augur well for a more proactive cooperation agenda. India is on an ambitious track of economic and tax reforms. The initiatives include developing a unified tax structure through Goods and Services Tax, the opening up of crucial sectors like defence, aviation and pharma to FDI, a larger focus on manufacturing and innovation, coupled with higher public investment in infrastructure.

Strong potential

In short, the India-Egypt dynamics has all the components of a very strong bilateral engagement. It is time to take the next leap forward.

The starting point could be trade. Egypt has traditionally been one of India’s most important trading partners, and currently we are the second largest destination for Egypt’s exports. However, this can be increased significantly. We have yet to fully tap sectors like textiles, apparel machinery, automotive components, chemicals and consumer goods.

Manufacturing, too, offers some great prospects. In positioning India as a manufacturing and R&D hub under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, some serious exploration is required of the biggest strength of Egypt, which is also its key business driver — the country’s geo-strategic location. A manufacturing base in Egypt would allow our industry to access markets in Europe, Africa and West Asia.

Infrastructure is another area of opportunity. India’s experience in developing economic corridors, metro projects, housing and urban development would be valuable to Indian players interested in participating at the Suez Canal Economic Zone and other similar projects.

A key partner

The Digital India Programme could be useful in Egypt’s development needs such as e-government solutions, new banking platforms, information management and low cost IT parks among others. There are also emerging areas such as solar energy where India and Egypt come across as natural partners since the two countries already have an MoU on Renewable Energy Cooperation. There is tremendous scope for enhancement of such cooperation. India could also tap Egypt with its huge gas resources as a top priority source of fertilizers like urea, and make it an important partner in its quest for food security.

Further, the two countries can work together on sectors such as SME and pharma as well.

Nurturing of entrepreneurial habits is critical today to fuel the economic engine of any economy and Egypt is no exception. The ‘Startup India’ movement to boost entrepreneurship at the grassroot levels paves the way for collaboration between India and Egypt. Educators and capacity building institutions from both sides could collaborate to find mechanisms to foster entrepreneurship and instil competitiveness.

The writer is president, FICCI

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Published on August 30, 2016
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