Egyptians truly are a friendly bunch, as you’re sure to discover almost within moments of arriving in the country. In fact they’re known across the African continent for their openness and welcoming nature. Even faltering attempts at speaking a little bit of Egyptian Arabic, the language of modern-day Egypt, will be greeted with the deepest of respect and choruses of delight. But if this is not your first trip to the Middle Eastern country, you’ll already know that from experience. If it is your first trip then you may be pleasantly surprised. Any stereotypical imaginings will be quickly consigned to the mental dustbin.
Of course, you’re more interested in international payment services from HSBC or from any of the other major multinational banking giants for that matter which operate throughout this country of some 82 million people. After all, this is a business reconnaissance trip and not a two-week holiday in the Egyptian sun. Having said that, it’s hard not to mix a little bit of pleasure with business in a country where the ancient and the modern sit so comfortably side by side. Come on, this is Egypt, land of pharaohs, pyramids, deserts, bustling markets and 21st century business banking!
Recently, the whole world watched intently as radical change swept through the country. The political landscape, though still peppered with difficulties, has quietened down a great deal now and business is once more attempting to reassert itself and to adjust to the new realities. The signs are looking good. Yet despite the trials and tribulations, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 3.3% in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the same period last year, a reflection of the country’s strong economic diversity. Indeed, the agricultural, industrial and service sectors continued to contribute to GDP growth in relatively equal measure.
Tourism, part of the services sector and a jewel in the crown of the Egyptian economy, remains a good business and investment opportunity. Not surprisingly, visitor numbers were greatly affected by the recent events in the country. However, all the latest indicators point to a recovering industry giving a much-needed boost to the country’s foreign currency earnings.
According to news agency Reuters, Egypt’s tourism minister Hisham Zaazou is confident tourist numbers next year will match the pre-revolution levels of 2010. Then, 14.5 million people visited Egypt, earning the country $12.5 billion. Now the Egyptian government is aiming even higher, with ambitious plans afoot to attract some 30 million tourists by 2020. Forming part of this is the auctioning of 28 million square meters of land for tourist developments in order to expand the vital industry. “I will start auctioning (the land) maybe next month, and before the end of 2013, all of the 28 million square metres will have been put on offer,” Mr Zaazou told Reuters, adding that the offer had already been met with interest from European and Gulf investors. Some of the sites to be auctioned are to be sold while others will be for lease. Sites due to come up for auction will include Red Sea resorts such as Ain Sokhna and Marsa Allam.
@africanbrains by Marc Mcilhone