Mr. Abdelrahman A. Raouf, Head of the Commercial Office of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Minister Plenipotentiary for Economic and Commercial Affairs, said in an interview that, in its turn, Egypt can be a hub to Romanian products to be exported to Arab and African countries through GAFTA and COMESA markets.
Mr. Abdelrahman A. Raouf, you have been representing the Arab Republic of Egypt as Counselor for Economic and Commercial Affairs for many years already…
I have been working in economic diplomacy for almost 25 years. Before coming here I’d worked in Brazil. Romania is the fourth country where I represent the Arab Republic of Egypt as an Economic and Commercial representive, after United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
And what of your experience from that part of the world have you brought here?
It’s very hard to compare but, generally speaking, when I came here, travelling a lot out of Bucharest, I found out that Romania has something from every country where I’ve been – greenery, nice people, economic potentialities – but, however, there always seemed to me like something is missing. Romania has the inputs to be one of the biggest EU countries but, as a foreigner I saw things differently, from another perspective. I’m not here to give advice. Romania is a very rich country, rich in wheat, in water, in nature, in land, and in people…
Before coming here, what was your knowledge about Romania?
Generally speaking, I knew Romania as an EU country, but because I didn’t have a lot of other prior knowledge, I did initially find it a problem when I came here. I had to learn, to listen to people, to communicate, after I formed close relationships with people to understand the mentality. It is extremely important for me as a Commercial and Economic representative to know and understand deeply inside the society. I came to Romania almost nine months ago and it is the very first time for me in an Eastern European country. The business community here is very large and very promising. There are a lot of things that I have to do such as a business plan based on sectoral notion, so I started to roam the country given that many of the business opportunities are located outside of the capital, more or less. I’ve been in Constanta , Brasov, Giurgiu, Braila, Galati, Targu Jiu, Oradea and Alba Iulia and for the next period I’m focusing on the north-west and south-west part of the country. In all these roads I discovered that Romania is a very nice country, but I find different flavor from one community to another.
Did political changes and social unrest in the last years from your country affected in any way the commercial exchanges between Egypt and Romania?
Despite some social repercussions, especially those from 2011, Egypt as a deeply rooted country in the human civilization still enjoys social cohesion, GDP growth by the first half of the fiscal year 2013/14 grew 1.2 percent and it ‘s envisaged to reach 2.5 percent at the year end. Standard and Poor’s, as a sovereign rating agency, has recently upgraded Egypt’s credit rating stand from C+ to B-, with a stable future outlook, in the sense of short term foreign and local debt.
We believe that our commitments with the international buyers, including Romania, take the priority. The unrest definitely did have an effect and implicitly the investments fell… But although some of the multinationals in Egypt reduced their production meanwhile, not a single one has left the country but some of them extended their line of production. The export industry is life for us! It may just need some time to patch up the differences.
What was the trade value last year?
According to the official data, the trade volume between the both countries reached EUR 512 million in 2013 with an increase of 12 percent compared to 2012. The trade course is dominated by the Romanian exports that accounted EUR 461 million. Not least, the Romanian direct investments into Egypt have registered by February 27, 2014 almost USD 89 million, reflecting around 48 operative
companies. Romania is considered 39th in ranking as foreign investor to Egypt. Also, there are more than 1,500 companies with Egyptian capital that are in Romania, with few of them working actively on a large scale. Direct investment needs a lot of awarness on macro and micro economics….
Considering the still difficult environment, both economic and financial at international
level, where would you place Romania’s business potential from a scale from 1 (the poorest) to 5 (the best)?
At the moment, I think Romania is placed in the middle, on the top of 3. I say that because I expect Romania to be booming. You have all the conditions. Romania’s future is the agro-industry. I want to export more to your country and it’s about things that you don’t produce. I’m not here to compete with your local production. I am trying, in this position, to make Romania a hub for the Egyptian exports to East and Central Europe through Giurgiu, Constanta, Alexandria a.s.o. and vice versa – Egypt can be a hub for Romanian products to be exported to Arab and African countries. The Romanian companies are very welcomed in Egypt. The value of Egyptian exports is very small as compared with the actual and potential products that can be provided by Egyptian exporters, particularly in the field of fertilizers, chemicals, cables and parenthetical products and equipments, and building material such as clay pipes. Egyptian exports to Romania enjoy the same Zero-Tariffs since 2004, when it goes to EU countries with strong confirmation of competitive edges. Romania can also enjoy Egypt’s free access to COMESA market (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) which includes 19 countries. Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA) is also an opportunity. Consequently, my country can offer many facilities.