Economic reforms undertaken by the Egyptian government have been key to the country’s progress since 2016. With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis hitting economies worldwide, this progress is more relevant than ever now, as different countries compete to attract investments, says Haitham Sadek, General Manager of Danone Egypt.
Speaking to Daily News Egypt, Sadek discusses Egypt’s investment climate and how the pandemic fallout has affected Danone Egypt’s work.
How do you view Egypt’s investment climate?
Danone Egypt is a subsidiary of Danone, which is present in over 120 markets around the world, and which last year achieved €25.3bn of global sales with a growth of 2.6%.
In Egypt, we have a leading position in the essential dairy category and in early life nutrition, where we offer the well-known brands of Danone Yogurt, Danette, Activia, HiPro, Dango, Bebelac, and Aptamil.
With this in mind, the importance of a business-friendly environment is key to ensure the sustainability of our business and to continue to attract more investments. Over the past few years, we have seen how the Egyptian government prioritised creating an investment friendly environment through solving problems that investors could face.
In 2019, Egypt was ranked Africa’s number one investment destination for the third consecutive year, according to the Rand Merchant Bank’s 2020 investment report released this year. The reforms undertaken by the Egyptian government were behind that ranking, and now with the current COVID-19 situation, this progress is more relevant than ever now as different countries compete to attract investment.
Do you plan to increase investments or production lines at your Egypt factory?
Since our initial investment in Egypt in 2006, in a dairy production plant in Obour City, we have continued to grow and expand. We have set up a world class dairy farm, which is the second largest in Egypt, to provide high quality milk for our products, and established 10 milk collection centres to support small farmers. We are also upgrading and establishing new production lines on a regular basis. We will continue to invest and innovate, whilst launching new products that excite the Egyptian market.
How do you see the future of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) market in Egypt in the light of current crisis?
We believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has really shown consumers how important it is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to bolster immunity. Many people were quarantined at home, cooking healthy meals for themselves, many for the first time, and carefully selecting the food they buy. Being a company committed to positively impacting the health of people and planet, our products, services, and initiatives have become even more relevant.
Has the pandemic changed your business plans in Egypt?
Obviously COVID-19 has impacted our operation, as our focus from the start was the safety and health of our people. Our strict hygiene and health standards were further modified to implement additional sanitisation protocols, social distancing of our front-line workers, regular health checks, and support and work from home for the rest of our employees. Our focus remains the same, as we will continue to ensure availability of our products to the market and will continue to innovate to meet the needs of our customers.
Some economists expect that FDIs will be rationalised post COVID-19. Do you think that will happen to French investments in Egypt?
As mentioned, the steps taken by the Egyptian government to attract investment and create an investment-friendly environment are very encouraging. The current situation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges, meaning that we as businesses remain agile, adapt to the new reality imposed on us and look for opportunities to differentiate and meet the needs of our consumers. At Danone Egypt, we are continuing to invest, provide employment opportunities and launch new products.