Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation has been able to agree on $7.3bn in development funds from multilateral and bilateral partners since the beginning of the year, of which $2.7bn is being directed to the private sector, according to Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation.
Minister Al-Mashat said that the government has worked on several axes to deal with the crisis, including regional integration. As part of this, it has launched a regional gas forum in cooperation with neighboring countries, and has also conducted the first joint higher committee with Iraq in 30 years, that resulted in many memorandum of understanding in vital sectors.
The minister’s remarks came during her participation in the “Turning Crisis into Opportunity: Fostering A Sustainable Recovery for the Future” panel, part of the 6th Edition of the Rome 2020 Mediterranean Dialogues under the theme “Rethinking Prosperity”.
Hosted by Amy Kellogg from Fox News and Karim El Aynaoui, President of Morocco’s Policy Center for the New South, other participants included: Hamad Bin Sulaiman Al Bazai, Deputy Minister of Finance, Saudi Arabia; Guy Ryder, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO); and Jeffrey Schlaegnhauf, Deputy Secretary General, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The discussion revolved around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the successful policies and measures taken to mitigate the socio-economic impact on countries.
“The pandemic was the biggest fire drill in history, with no catalogue. The key to a strong recovery is through resilience coupled with the agility of policy makers, the private sector and people to adapt and innovate,” said Minister Al-Mashat
The minister explained that Egypt has entered the crisis with very strong fiscal and foreign reserve buffers, as a result of the homegrown reform programme that was implemented between 2016 and 2019 in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Egypt’s economy is projected to grow by 2% in 2020, followed by a rebound of 5% in 2021, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), she said.
Minister Al Mashat provided the example of Education 2.0, the initiative led by the Ministry of Education and Technical Education, and supported by the Ministry of International Cooperation with the World Bank.
As the pandemic hit, more than 13 million students quickly adapted to remote-learning through online schooling. She also highlighted the “Takaful and Karama” programme, implemented by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which aided Egypt’s most vulnerable groups before and during the pandemic. The programme has also accelerated the movement of workers from the informal to the formal sector, which has been made possible through the digital platform activated by the Government of Egypt in 2020.
The minister also said that a new law for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) was passed to incentivise and attract informal activity into the formal sector. The Egyptian Government is also working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to see how SMEs can tie into bigger businesses to help push them further.
She said that the reforms carried out by Egypt, which include fiscal, monetary as well structural reforms on a sectoral level, were accelerated due to the pandemic. She noted that the reforms include the transformation to clean energy, which began in 2014 as part of the Sustainable Energy Strategy 2035, and the economic inclusion of women. These sectors, among many others, are in line with Egypt’s 2030 Vision and with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Egypt was one of the first countries to adopt gender-sensitive policies around COVID-19, with the UNDP reporting that the country ranked first in the Middle East and West Asia regions for taking 21 measures to support women during the pandemic.
“This crisis has shown us that green matters. For every country to be able to mobilise, attract investments, and create job opportunities, they have to be part of the ‘going green’ narrative,” MinisterAl-Mashat said.
The Ministry of International Cooperation currently has a total development cooperation portfolio of 34 projects that answer to SDG 7: Affordable and Renewable Energy with a total financing of $5.9m, with an additional development financing secured in 2020 worth $425m.