CAIRO: The fourth Business Roundtable with the Egyptian government, a turnkey event attended by the country’s government and business leaders, took place yesterday.
An intensely interactive day of discussions and debates on government policy and future plans for business, the roundtable is a strategic event at which the Egyptian government presents and try’s to convince global government leaders and businesses of the country’s seriousness and newfound capabilities to turn Egypt into the next hot destination for Foreign Direct Investment and ‘must invest’ lists.
The roundtable will also serve to address many questions that still plague foreign and regional investors, such as whether there is room for Egypt to consolidate its role as a regional business hub. The roundtable will also discuss several issues such as how making progress on reforms will impact Egypt’s prosperity, how Egypt is improving the business operating environment, from customs to tax and consumer spending and using privatization as a tool to boost competitiveness and business.
Recently, the government has acted swiftly on its mission to push for further investment in Egypt by showcasing recent developments, policy changes and reform in the country.
On March 14, 2006, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif visited London, where he met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and addressed the Euromoney conference held there, entitled: “Egypt, a commitment to reform.
During his visit, the prime minister emphasized Egypt s commitment to political and economic reform and outlined a comprehensive perspective on the rationale for investing in Egypt in terms of commitment, opportunities, resources and environment (CORE). The prime minister also highlighted investment opportunities in growth-oriented sectors such as infrastructure, energy, tourism and information technology.
Parallel to this, a group of Egyptian businessmen, members of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Egypt, also did their part in advertising the potential of the country during their annual “door knock event in the United States.
Yet, while the Egyptian government has much to be proud of, one central challenge remains unchanged: people’s perceptions. This is a vital issue that will take center stage, with intense discussion on how and where branding for the nation can play a pivotal role in a country’s reform and readiness for greater investment opportunities.
During a gala dinner addressed by Simon Anholt, the British government’s advisor on public diplomacy and a leading authority on place branding, Anholt addressed this issue with Egyptian government heads, in addition to providing solutions and methods to combating the nation’s perception of the changing economic and investment climate.
“It takes 20 or 30 years before the public notices the changes the government has made to the country, Anholt told The Daily Star Egypt. “It’s an incredibly slow process, and that is the main reason countries need branding.
According to Anholt, developing and reforming countries do not realize the importance of branding, of people’s perception of the changes taking place in their nations. In fact, therein lays the root of the problem, he believes, because without the support of its people, a nation bent on growth will not be able to reach its full potential.
“The problem with Egypt, like so many other countries, is they do not realize that this (branding) strategy is fundamental, he says. “Like many other countries, Egypt is thinking of the challenges of the country from an economical standpoint, without thinking of the impact on perception.
In the past, Egypt has relied heavily on public relations, marketing and advertising to communicate and present its future plans, strategies and policies. However, people are still skeptical and many remain in the dark as to how far the country has come and where it plans to go.
“When I talk about branding, I do not mean advertising or marketing, that’s a waste of taxpayers’ money in my opinion. This form of branding is not a clear-cut, straight presentation of where Egypt is going, he says of the government’s makeshift solution. “The problem with Egypt in terms of branding is that, right now, it’s fragmented. You hear about political reforms, economic and investment developments and growth, but they are sporadic, and in no way linked in one concise method that encompasses everything that the government has done.
According to Anholt, due to Egypt’s cultural heritage and tourism, branding must be linked and brought up to par with the rest of the developed world.
“You can have the best country but the worse reputation and, thus, not get any business, he explains in regard to the importance of one single, transparent message that targets people’s perception. “This has to be done through a consistent approach of policy making, because perception and reality are irreversibly linked and a responsible government understands this.
However, Egypt is not completely shooting in the dark. According to Anholt, there are indications that some Egyptian ministers believe Egypt must take a more active view on this front. That belief in itself is a strong indicator that Egypt is finally going about the issue in the right way.