Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tarek Kamel said Wednesday that Egypt will sign its first triple-play license with a Vodafone-led Egyptian consortium, Teletech.
A second license will be signed in a few weeks with Link — a consortium including Orascom Telecom (OT) and Mobinil — to provide cable, telephone, internet and voice services in residential compounds.
Kamel, speaking at the Euromoney conference Wednesday, said he expects the licenses to bring in $1 billion in investments within five years, Reuters reported.
The country’s growing ICT sector has been a major contributor to Egypt’s growth in recent years, Kamel said, adding that the ministry has been able to develop infrastructure for mobile and broadband.
Mobile penetration in Egypt is at 75 percent with 60 million users and the number of broadband users has increased to 1.1 million. Fixed broadband and also mobile broadband have grown rapidly.
“During last 12 months the mobile market has been maturing. The board for regulatory authority is no longer part of any pricing decisions and for the first time there is full competition between Egypt’s three operators,” said Kamel.
“This free market will be of great benefit to the customer,” he added, “We are convinced that in the future the ICT sector will be driver for growth.”
The rapid evolution in off-shoring and outsourcing are the pillars and main drivers of growth in this sector. “I was explaining earlier to [Trade] Minister Rachid that our exports do not only go through customs, and do not only come through trade deals, but we export ‘brainware’ and value-added services in different sectors,” he said.
Through outsourcing and off-shoring activities, the sector is creating more than 40,000 jobs annually — but added that this was not enough.
Innovation and entrepreneurship must pick up, he said, “and we are introducing a strategy to be announced later this year on making Egypt part of [the] intellectual property market and knowledge economy.”
Incubation programs are a possible solution to help Egyptian entrepreneurs find the financing and support they require, which raised a question about the role of education in cultivating this culture of entrepreneurship, shifting the discussion to competitiveness.
Angus Blair, head of research at Cairo-based investment firm Beltone Financial, acknowledged the role of education, which is intrinsically linked to competitiveness in all sectors.
Vodafone’s CEO, Hatem Dowidar; Ericsson President in North East Africa Carlo Anlloni and other ICT insiders concurred that Egypt has huge potential when it comes to human capital, and stressed the importance of capitalizing on this asset through training programs and incubators.
But, Bassel El-Hini, managing director of credit and retail banking at Banque Du Caire, said, “People that have access to our companies are the cream of the crop and are only a small percentage of Egyptian youth. For the vast majority, education is not good enough to get them jobs in our companies. People are leaving and sending their children abroad and this makes them want to stay abroad.”
“This is the greatest blow to the competitiveness of this country. If you are talking about competitiveness, this can hold this country back forever,” he added.