As the Middle East’s most populous country, Egypt’s domestic issues will invariably have significant regional ramifications as the country weathers the COVID-19 pandemic. Both domestic and international trade are likely to suffer, and international supply chains are already being disrupted. The international reverberations will hit some of Egypt’s main revenue streams hard, particularly trade via the Suez Canal, remittances from Egyptians working abroad, and the tourism sector.
While the economy is taking major hits at the macro level, things are likely to be as bad at the micro-level. The government appears to be trying hard to get a handle on both the spread of the virus through mitigation efforts such as early school closures, curfews, and other measures. It has also implemented a raft of economic relief measures in order to reduce pressure both on the market and on individuals, all while pressing as many people to work remotely as possible. However, millions cannot afford to work remotely; over 11 million people work in Egypt’s informal economy, without pensions or contracts and limited access to the country’s overburdened health system.
Given these vast and converging challenges, what does Egypt’s economic future hold?
CIB Professor of Practice, School of Business, American University in Cairo
Blair has a long and successful career in investment banking and financial services, with award-winning expertise of the Middle East and North African economies and capital markets particularly, leading to a deep insight of the long term trends across the MENA region. He helped lead many of the major equity capital market (ECM) transactions which aided in the opening up of the MENA region’s capital markets, including the first GDR in Egypt (CIB) to list on London Stock Exchange and the first fund to allow foreign investors into the Saudi Arabian market (the $250m SAIF Fund) amongst others, as well as the best-rated research on the region. He was rated “Emerging Markets Superstar” by Global Finance magazine and was given the prestigious number one position for his coverage of the MENA region's markets by Institutional Investor magazine. He worked for ING Barings and ABN AMRO in the City of London, where he led these groups in their investment banking business and sales and trading in the Southern European and MENA region markets, as well as at Beltone Financial and Pharos Investments in Egypt. Blair has working relationships with many of the region’s international and local private sector investors, including business leaders and ministers, in addition to continuing to advise major international direct and indirect investors into the MENA region.
Former Minister for Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements, Egypt
Laila Iskandar has held two cabinet portfolios, she was Minister of State for Environment Affairs and then Minister for Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements. She has worked as a researcher, speaker, and consultant with governmental and international agencies as well as with the private sector in the fields of gender, education and development, environment, child labor, and governance. Her consultation work encompasses grassroots issues and policy matters. Laila Iskandar was consultant to the Minister of Environment on solid waste management issues in Egypt. She has worked with the informal waste sector for over 30 years and has designed, developed and implemented community-based solid waste projects. She has liaised with various global networks of recycling organizations to survey, research and advocate for the informal waste sector in policy analysis, national strategy and global aid programs. She is chairperson and founding board member of CID Consulting, an Egyptian consulting firm pursuing holistic growth solutions by bridging corporate and developmental objectives. She is also a trustee at Alfanar, the first venture philanthropy organization in the Arab region. She served as a jury member to UNESCO’s International Literacy Prize and acted as UNESCO’s UNLD Resource Person for the Arab region (2005-07). She was named “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2006 at the World Economic Forum by the Schwab Foundation. Laila Iskandar was a speaker at the 6th International LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction held in Cairo, Egypt in April 2019.
CEO, EN Investment
Ambassador Elnaggar is a MEI non-resident scholar and CEO of EN Investment. Previously, he served as CEO of the Chemical Industries Holding Company (HIHC) and prior to that as Egypt's Principal Deputy Minister of Planning, Monitoring, and Administrative Reform and Principal Deputy Minister of Investment. Ambassador Yasser Elnaggar has more than 25 years of experience as a career diplomat. From 2010 to 2014, Elnaggar served as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington, DC and was a voice for his country during this time of transition in Egypt. Elnaggar has significant experience serving in or working with multilateral institutions. He was Senior Policy Adviser to the Presidents of the 61st and 64th sessions at the General Assembly of the United Nations, Director of the Department of United Nations Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Egypt, Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations as well as Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt and to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States. He continues to advise a number of influential leaders
Mirette F. Mabrouk, moderator
Director of Egypt Programme, MEI
Mirette F. Mabrouk is an MEI senior fellow and director of the Institute's Egypt Studies program. She was previously deputy director and director for research and programs at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. An Egypt analyst who was previously a nonresident fellow at the Project for U.S. Relations with the Middle East at the Brookings Institution, Mabrouk moved to D.C. from Cairo, where she was director of communications for the Economic Research Forum (ERF). Formerly associate director for publishing operations at The American University in Cairo Press, Ms. Mabrouk has over 20 years of experience in journalism. She is the founding publisher of The Daily Star Egypt, (now The Daily News Egypt), at the time, the country’s only independent English-language daily newspaper, and the former publishing director for IBA Media, which produces the region’s top English-language magazines. She recently authored "And Now for Something Completely Different: Arab Media’s Own Little Revolution," a chapter in the new book on the Arab transitions, Reconstructing the Middle East.