Egypt hopes to attract $10 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) next year and will automate the process of establishing a company, its investment chief said, highlighting efforts to revive the economy and earn much-needed hard currency.
The most populous Arab country has been scrambling to attract investment needed to restore growth since the 2011 uprising, which ushered in protracted political turmoil and scared away tourists and foreign investors – key sources of hard currency.
Mohmmed Khodeir, CEO of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI), said Egypt drew over $6.8 billion in FDI in the 2015-16 fiscal year and hoped for $10 billion in 2016-17 after big upgrades to ageing road and power infrastructure.
Khodeir said that not all the targeted FDI might come in dollars but all of it would be fresh investment.
"Egypt has had a very difficult five years preceded by a historical baggage of things that needed to be done and were not done, and Egypt has taken a decision to confront this," he told Reuters in an interview. "So you have issues such as subsidies being tackled, issues such as electricity infrastructure, files that have been left alone for so many years."
Egypt's cabinet approved a long-awaited draft law on investment last year aimed at making deals less vulnerable to legal disputes or changes in government, and reducing stifling bureaucracy. But the law was widely criticized over a lack of clarity on issues including taxes and the role of GAFI.
Khodeir said authorities were seeking feedback on the law, and this could form the basis for possible amendments.
"Learning from experience, we are adopting a very inclusive approach, making sure our stakeholders contribute their thoughts. We asked investors for their wish list…"
Khodeir would not say which aspects of the law might change. "There will be amendments if there is consensus within the market and the stakeholders that a new law is needed."
The government hopes a raft of new legislation will help slice through notorious red tape and make it easier and quicker for investors to do business.
Khodeir said the process of incorporating a company had been simplified through the introduction of a one-stop-shop, though securing regulatory licenses remained slow.
"If you're a factory, you need certain specific regulatory approvals…That's the second phase that we're trying to embed into the one-stop-shop."
Khodeir said it would also be possible to incorporate a business online as early as next year. "We're working and doing everything we can to have it automated in 2017."