Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the presidential palace Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 28, 2019. (Reuters photo)
by Marwa Yahya
CAIRO, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Egyptian and French officials signed 40 agreements worth 1.8 billion U.S. dollars during French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Egypt, according to an Investment Ministry statement.
The agreements covered infrastructure projects for the new administrative capital, electric vehicle production, education, economic and social development, healthcare, culture, women empowerment and energy.
Macron, who wrapped up his three-day visit to Egypt on Tuesday, pledged a further 1.1 billion dollars in financial support over the coming four years.
"I urged the French businessmen to take opportunities in Egypt," Macron said during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart on Monday.
"Macron's first visit to Egypt will propel the joint relations forward particularly in economic vistas including investments and trade as well as the political and military fields," said Rashad Abdo, economic professor with Cairo University.
French investments in Egypt are estimated at 5.15 billion dollars according to the French embassy in Egypt. It includes agricultural industries, information technology, construction, new and renewable energy, transportation, banks, aviation, water desalination, infrastructure and tourism.
Abdo said Macron's visit will enhance the French investments in Egypt.
However, the economic expert noted that cooperation between Egypt and France is less than what it should be, adding "Egypt owns the necessary factors to lure French investments and increase the volumes of Egyptian exports to the French markets which are still very limited."
French foreign direct investments to Egypt declined by 55.1 percent in fiscal year 2017/2018 reaching 24.3 million dollars from 535.8 million dollars in 2016/2017, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.
Moreover, the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and France hit 1.4 billion dollars in the first eight months for 2018.
Egypt's Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr said the government had worked on creating an encouraging investment climate, adding that Egypt aspired to attract more French investment and to partner with French companies to carry on national projects including the Suez Canal Axis, the new administrative capital and smart cities.
France was the sixth-largest foreign investor in Egypt, having around 160 companies that employ more than 30,000 workers, according to government data.
The investors are encouraged by the size of Egypt's domestic market as well as its multiple free-trade agreements with the Arab and African countries that provide them with customs-free access to these markets, said Gamal Bayoumi, head of the Cairo-based Arab Investors Union and Egypt's former assistant foreign minister.
He also sees Macron and his wife's visits to the tourist sites in Egypt would also help to boost tourism as it pictured Egypt as a secure destination.
Five important memoranda of understanding were signed to establish five off-grid electricity projects using solar panels in five villages in Upper Egypt and South Sinai.
The French side was very keen on the development of rural and remote areas, like Sinai Peninsula, the stronghold for terrorist groups, Bayoumi added, pointing out that the anti-terror cooperation topped the priorities of the French and Egyptian presidents' talks.
Macron also paid a visit to Egypt's new administrative capital, which he said "will create an opportunity to boost Egyptian-French cooperation on infrastructure and culture among others."
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt welcomes French companies and their participation in mega national projects to benefit from the promising opportunities in the various sectors of the Egyptian economy.
He said that he is personally keen on supporting and promoting foreign investments in Egypt in general and French companies in particular.
The Egyptian president expressed his hopes for having the business forum between heads of major private companies from both sides, which will enhance joint interests.