Egypt is turning the tide amid turbulent times, minister Rania Al Mashat says - News

The Minister for International Cooperation tells how the Arab world’s most populous nation aims to power inclusive and sustainable growth

Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation launched the first edition of the two-day Egypt-ICF International Cooperation Forum on Wednesday under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

The forum, which is both virtual and in-person, aims to achieve sustainable development partnerships between Egypt and high-power regional and international participants.

Representatives from a number of major economic and social development institutions, including the United Nations (UN), the World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank Group, and the Arab Fund for Development, are attending the summit.

Several ministers and policymakers from Africa, Asia and Latin America, heads of international financial institutions, representatives of bilateral and multilateral development partners, members of the business community and the private sector, and international and regional research centres are also attending the discussions and workshops.

Egypt’s Minister for International Cooperation Rania Al Mashat spoke exclusively to Khaleej Times in an email interview.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Give us an outline of Egypt—ICF. How can the Arab world’s most populous country engage with the global community and push for a green and inclusive recovery?

We’re turning the tide in these turbulent times. Traditional forms of governance are no longer fit for problems that are cross-border in their impact, and a new concept — Coordinated Governance — is emerging to ensure internationally agreed solutions accord with global principles and fundamental norms. Egypt-ICF is bringing ‘Coordinated Governance’ to life by providing leaders, international development partners, the private sector and civil society with a framework that helps in restructuring and scaling up existing initiatives for new ones.

We need to build a green and inclusive economic recovery. The Covid-19 pandemic, while posing unprecedented socio-economic and health challenges, has led to novel ideas introduced by the international community that can help accelerate sustainable development progress across sectors, and further enhance effective international cooperation.

How can multilateralism and cooperation play a key role in progressing towards the global goals?

Egypt has centered its progress on international cooperation. Prior to the pandemic, there was a concern that the world was heading towards unilateralism and isolation. The health crisis emphasised the importance of collaboration during challenging times, and in moving forward. We’ve charted the path forward with the international community, showcasing our inclusivity and sustainability.

Earlier in 2020, the Ministry of International Cooperation secured $9.8 billion in development financing that will help meet various targets by 2030. More than $6.7 billion secured for financing sovereign projects and $3.1 billion in support of the private sector. Now, we’re expanding our $25.6 billion portfolio in a bid to strengthen partnerships with a focus on digitalisation, entrepreneurship, and a green recovery across vital sectors such as transportation and infrastructure.

What are some of the key messages and issues that Egypt-ICF is focusing on?

The forum aims to foster a sustainable development ecosystem that brings international players together and pave the way forward for a green and inclusive recovery, which aligns with both global and local goals of all countries.

On the first day, we’re highlighting the importance of collective action and multilateralism to navigate global challenges, together as one. Panel one will focus on ‘Multilateralism and International Cooperation in a post Covid-19 world’; panel two will emphasise the ‘Role of International Development Cooperation in accelerating progress towards 2030’; panel three will push for ‘Private sector engagement in development through international cooperation’; and panel four will focus on ‘Climate action after the pandemic crisis blows over: A Twofold Challenge’. The regional recovery strategy; ‘Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Prospects and Challenges of Digital Trade for Private Sector’; ‘Mapping ODA to SDGs: A Tool for Effective Policy Making’; ‘Women in Business: Supporting Female Entrepreneurship in Egypt’; ‘Food Security and Employment in the Digital Age in Africa’; ‘The Demographic Divide: Youth and Innovation for Transforming Africa’; and ‘Triangular Cooperation with Africa’ will be the focus on Thursday.

A panel on ‘Investing in human capital’ will bring the curtain down on the event.

What does Egypt-ICF hope to achieve?

We’re committed to both global goals and Egypt’s national agenda. We aim to continuously enhance the country’s role in the development scene through multilateral and bilateral cooperation. The panels and workshops are highlighting the importance of multilateralism in meeting the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Discussions center on the post-pandemic recovery, embracing a green, digital transformation, climate action, and public-private partnerships, among other topics. The forum encourages an exchange of dialogue among relevant entities to establish clear mechanisms and strategies to enhance multilateral cooperation.

We’ll issue the first Cairo Communiqué, laying down the important decisions and initiatives that have come out of the forum.

Egypt had sold $750 million in green bonds last year, arguably North Africa’s first sovereign offering of such securities. How is Egypt’s private sector engaging in climate finance?

The high ambitions for a greener future in Egypt are based on a strong commitment, as well as the capacity to unlock a green transformation in the country. Our mission has not just been to ‘think green’, but also to ‘act green’ in all our projects and policies that help preserve the people and the planet.

Last September, Egypt sold $750 million in green bonds in what was the region’s first sovereign offering of climate-friendly securities. The issuance was almost five times oversubscribed, attracting some $3.7 billion worth of orders for the bonds, pointing to growing appetites for climate-friendly securities worldwide. More recently, the private sector has also been engaging in boosting climate finance through the issuance of $100 million in green bonds via one of Egypt’s commercial banks in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

During the Egypt—ICF, on the first day, Panel 4: ‘Climate action in a post-Covid-19 context: A twofold challenge’ addresses the importance of implementing climate action economy-wide and across various sectors through projects, programmes and strategies. Our government has set targets for renewables to make up a share of 42 per cent of the country’s electricity by 2035.

Give us a sense about the emergence of Egypt as an innovation hub, thanks to its demographic dividend because of a growing youth population.

Our youth are key drivers of the economy. Egypt is currently witnessing the growth of a thriving economy, reflecting the adoption of technology, creativity and innovation via a youth-led entrepreneurial ecosystem. Coupled with a young population that is both agile and adaptive, our youth are leading in their ability to provide significant contributions and smart solutions, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Joydeep Sengupta

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