The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is undertaking active discussions on a new project with Egyptian government that will support the digitisation of government services in the country.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, KOICA’s Country Director OhYeonKeum said that KOICA hopes this project will be initiated in the quickest manner.
Additionally, “We are preparing for two projects to be implemented by next year, covering economic development for women, and reducing the gender gap within society, at an estimated cost of $6.5m,” Oh said.
According to Oh, these two projects will be implemented in partnership with multilateral organisations, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and Egypt’sNational Council for Women (NCW).
In the interview, Oh elaborated on KOICA’s work in Egypt, and spoke more on the work the agency has done to support the country through the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
How many projects has KOICA implemented in Egypt since its establishment? What is the total estimated cost of these projects?
Although we established our office here in 1998, KOICA has been working withEgypt since 1991. The total volume of cooperation and finance Egypt received from KOICA stood at around $69m from 1991 and up to 2019. During the same period, we supported 21 projects in Egypt so far, of which 19 projects have been finished, while two are still ongoing.
What sector are most of your projects implemented in?
I would like to mention that through our development programme, we have until now sent around 1,600 Egyptian officials to Korea. We also dispatched around 750 volunteers to Egypt.
Most of the cooperation in Egypt is focused on the vocational education and training sector, representing around 50% of our activities.
As part of this, we have established some vocational training centres in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade so far. Ongoing project in Beni Suef is also a part of this efforts. Additionally, we also support the digitalisation of government services. For instance, we previouslysupported the establishment and automation system for electricity distributionand we are working for the development of electronic patent management service.
Could you tell us more about the two ongoing projects that you mentioned, and their estimated cost? When are they expected to be completed?
First of all, I want to mention that KOICA’s goal is to enhance capabilities for sustainable development management, and to reduce economic and social inequality. We have three pillars for this goal, namely: job creation for the next generation; improving the quality of women’s lives; and strengthening governance to become more effective and for the government to be more transparent.
The first ongoing project is the establishment of the BeniSuef Technological University, which is scheduled to be completed by 2022. It started officially in 2016, but we have seen progress in this project from 2018. KOICA contributed $5.83m towards this project.
Through this project, we aim to achieve the first pillar, which is creating jobs for youth. At the same time, we aim to make an effective link between education and economy.
The project has been set up in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Through it, we aim to provide a quality education facility and train teachers, so that the students gain the benefits of the education and they can actually prepare for their future by themselves.
KOICA wants this project to be a kind of model for vocational education inEgypt. This will ensure that Egypt can enjoy and replicate this model for the future of its education services.
The second ongoing project has seen us start working with the Egyptian Patent Office (EGPO). As part of this, KOICA developed the EGPO’s electronic system, so that they can effectively manage all patent information and requests from the public or the inventors electronically.
Through this project, we aim to organise the information on the flow of intellectual flow within Egypt, so that it can be better managed. This project focuses on a form of e-government, and we have contributed $2.9m to it. The project started last year, and is expected to be completed by 2022.
How did KOICA support Egypt in its fight against the COVID-19 crisis, and how did the crisis impact the agency’s role in the country?
We undertook several activities from the organisational perspective. You may have heard that Korea supported Egypt during the crisis by providing medical supplies through the Korean Embassy in Cairo. As for KOICA’s role, let me first explain our activities before the pandemic.
We have a lot of projects, including some that cover technical cooperation such as dispatching volunteers to local communities so that, for example, they can serve the students during their education.
Every year, we also send some officials representing the Egyptian government to Korea, so that they can gain some capacity development opportunities through the various training programmes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been difficult.
To get around this, we thought about how to carry on these activities, even during the pandemic. This meant that some training opportunities went online. That was actually the first capacity development programme that took place through online measures.
We carried on with the training programme on the gender development issue, which occurred in partnership with the NCW. Another project related to the intelligent transportation system, in partnership with the Ministry of Transportation.
Our volunteer programme has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as we were unable to dispatch volunteers in person. Instead, this is also going online, which can be seen in the work our volunteers are undertaking in Luxor and Aswan.
At the same time, KOICA implemented a project,in cooperation with the Misr El Kheir Foundation, to support local communities in overcoming COVID-19. Through this joint cooperation, we have provided $25,000 to support 1,600 Egyptian families in BeniSuef, Aswan, and Luxor, whose livelihoods are adversely affected due to the global health crisis.
KOICA also spent around $200,000 for refugees and host communities in Egypt for sustaining their livelihoods during COVID-19 through Plan International.
Truly, there were some challenges in dealing with the activities during COVID-19, but we could handle the situation effectively with our Egyptian counterparts.
How many projects were implemented in 2020?
Along with the projects for Beni Suef Technological university and Egyptian Patent Office, KOICA alsoimplemented two local online trainings for the NCW and the Ministry of Transportation. E-volunteering projects were done in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan for 260 students there, in addition to the projects that is being undertaken with the Misr El Kheir Foundation and Plan International to support the local communities.
What is the total estimated cost for the projects implemented in 2020?And how much of them were spent during COVID-19?
KOICA spent approximately $410,000 for the response to COVID-19 in Egypt.
As 2020 was the first year to cooperate with NGOs and the private sector, would KOICA like to continue this cooperation?
Yes, actually, we mainly work with our counterparts and the Egyptian government. But in this pandemic situation, we partnered for the first time with an NGO, the Misr El Kheir Foundation, to support the local communities in overcoming COVID-19.
Very recently, we partnered for the first time also with a private sector entity, in the form of tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Samsung and Beni Suef Technological University. This came as part of the Samsung Internship Program among the parties. It will provide internship for university students inside the company’s factories.
We are happy with both cooperation protocols, and we will continuously look for additional opportunities for partnerships across Egypt, whether with the government, NGOs, or the private sector.
We want to broaden our scope of partnership in this country, as well as withNGOs and the private sector, as we believe that they can play significant roles in supporting mutual prosperity.
Will there be high-level visits to Egypt from KOICA soon?
I do hope this will happen once we feel comfort with this pandemic.
What do you think of Egypt’s economic performance especially amid the pandemic?
I think we all have to admit that the year 2020 was very unusual and extraordinary. As we all know, countries around the world suffered greatly from the kind of shattering economic and social circumstances caused by the pandemic.
But, I think that Egypt has performed very well, even in the middle of this pandemic. We see that advanced economies, as well as the developing economies, are showing negative growth rates in 2020.However, different international financial intuitions expect Egypt to achieve positive growth rates, despite the adverse factors caused by the pandemic.
So, yes, I think the response from the Egyptian government in fighting the economic repercussions of the pandemic have been quite effective. Even if we meet some adverse factors, we have to admit that overall the government managed the pandemic situation.
What is your evaluation of Egypt’s investment climate?
Despite the challenges caused by this pandemic, KOICA has a positive perspective on the overall investment climate inEgypt.
How do you evaluate the Korea-Egypt relationship, especially as this year marks this partnership’s 25th anniversary?
I think the importance of the relationship between the two countries will continue to grow economically, socially,and culturally. This has suffered a slight slowdown this year, due to the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the limited social interaction it has caused. But we have a lot of potential to share for the mutual prosperity of both countries.
I know that Egyptians are very friendly. And, even during the global health crisis, the Egyptian government is making continuous efforts to enhance the investment climate and maintain macroeconomic stability. The government has been quite successful in this regard, and global financial institutions have a good perspective, as we all witnessed.
So when suchefforts continue, and more Koreans are interested in Egypt, and in the collaboration of the two countries, I think there will be a bright future.
As this year marks Daily News Egypt’s 15th anniversary, I really wish for its continued prosperity and to remain as KOICA and Korea’s partner so that we can reach out to the Egyptian public.
I think that over the next 15-25years the interaction between the two countries will increase. Once we come out of the pandemic, we are going to see more people interacting together, and we will also see more opportunities for economic relationships.