After a period of political and financial turbulence, there are strong signs of recovery in the Egyptian economy and this week, the country’s positive transjectory was highlighted when representatives from more than 500 technology companies – including Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Cisco, Samsung, Lenovo, Vodafone, Huawei, HP, Dell, Visa, IBM, Qualcomm, EMC and Xerox –gathered in Cairo for the 19th annual Cairo ICT Summit. The event has been hailed as a milestone in Egypt’s resurgence of Egypt as the hub for the Middle East and Africa’s IT sector and the top country in the Middle East Africa and Europe in Offshoring and Outsourcing.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb told delegates: “Egypt is moving on with a strong economic reform programme and at the heart of that is IT. The work we are doing to take our country forward – working on new economic systems, changing fuel prices, reforming our social insurance systems, increasing access to government services, improving technology education and access in rural communities – none of this would be possible without a strong IT system.”
The number of ICT companies in Egypt has now reached 6,564, rising from 5,428 in 2012/2013 and there are clear indicators that the IT industry could prove a key driver in reviving the country’s economy. ICT is expected to contribute 4.1% to the country’s overall GDP in 2014/2015, increasing from 3.8% in 2013/2014 and 3.4% the year before. The ICT sector GDP in Egypt is currently worth EGP 65.9 billion ($9.2bn), with a current growth rate of 13%.
“The ICT sector must remain at the forefront of our reforms, and is fundamental to the growth of our country in the future,” said Minister Helmy. “We recognise that the challenges are numerous; we must invest in our infrastructure, develop our mobile networks, and continue to train and develop our people, but the building blocks are in place. With the support of our partners that are here today I am confident that IT will be at the heart of the new, modern Egypt,”
The Digital Economy is one of the central themes of this year’s event. Visa is one company which is investing significantly in Egypt, transforming the country’s electronic payments infrastructure. Highlighting the role of IT infrastructure as an enabler of cross-sector growth and collaboration, Vish Sowani, Vice President, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, Visa, Inc. said: “Competition drives innovation, and partnerships drive growth. There is no better example of that than here in Egypt, where there is the right mix of talent, opportunity and political will to make technology a growth engine for the economy.”
In addition to the digital economy, Minister Helmy identified the roll out of e-government services, access to high-speed broadband, infrastructure development and training as key priorities for the sector in order to attract foreign investment and create jobs. With a target set for the ICT sector to contribute 8.43% of Egypt’s overall GDP by 2020/2021 (equivalent to EGP195 billion $27.26bn), the government is hoping for a major increase in both direct and indirect job opportunities as a result of this sector growth, with the hope of creating between 250,000 and 750,000 jobs by 2020/2021.
“Through collective, consistent and concerted policy efforts we can get results for our people. We must use IT to increase the productivity of the state at large,” said Minister Helmy. “The new Egypt must be a digital society, an inclusive society that meets the needs of all our people. Technology is a key enabler of that. If you provide the technology, people will be equipped with access to education, access to skills, access to banking, access to society and access to government services.”
The Middle East magazine will run a special six page report on Egypt’s economy and its future prospects in the December issue. An edited version will also appear at The Middle East Online . . .