Egypt and Switzerland’s trade balance stood at CHF 1bn in 2014, according to Markus Leitner, Switzerland’s ambassador to Egypt.
Of this amount, 90% of exports come from the Swiss side, with only 10% from the Egyptian side, Leitner added.
“There is obviously a huge gap, and we need to fix that to enable Egyptian exporters to take advantage of the framework agreements and the free trade agreement between Egypt and Switzerland. There’s work to be done, we’re aware of that and we’re working on this issue,” Leitner told Daily News Egypt.
Egypt’s exports to Switzerland include the very basic agricultural and textile products. Swiss exports, on the other hand, include machinery and pharmaceuticals that come in bulk, amongst others.
Leitner indicated that in terms of development cooperation, the Swiss side has invested approximately CHF 25m in three pillars: democratic transition; economic development; as well as migration and protection.
Most of the aforementioned amount went into economic development projects, he said.
We have long-term projects here in Egypt, and among the projects we have participated in are the upgrading of radiology centres and the development of blood banks, amongst others, Leitner noted.
Since 2011, the Swiss have increased their cooperation with Egypt in the area of water sanitation and irrigation, he specified.
“Migration is also an important topic, as this is the biggest industry that Egypt has, and no other industry provides more foreign exchange than the Egyptian migrants abroad. We help them get protected and get their rights, and help channel their money back into Egypt. We further help them to invest here in Egypt,” said the ambassador.
Leitner also discussed a programme launched by the Swiss embassy in late November 2014 in Aswan. The programme aims to provide employment opportunities for youths outside of the tourism sector, and encourage entrepreneurial projects in the area.
There are projects that the Swiss embassy is currently studying, although funding for specific projects has yet to be made.
The embassy has allocated some CHF 5m for the programme in collaboration with Care organisation, a leading humanitarian company fighting global poverty, Leitner said.
“Among the projects we’re looking at now are in the fisheries sector, where we see good potential,” Leitner said. He added that they are looking to support national ideas in the agricultural and basic industrial sectors.
Through the Aswan programme, the embassy aims to help young entrepreneurs develop their business ideas, help them grow, and provide help to existing entrepreneurs to make them viable. It is a long term project covering the whole production chain, starting from the idea and carrying on through to the funding.
It also targets helping young entrepreneurs in expanding their businesses and sell their products domestically and abroad.
Leitner indicated that they chose Aswan in particular because there is not so much international focus in this area.