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[Diplomatic circuit] [Meet the diplomat] Egypt is eager for transfer of technology, economic growth: Egyptian envoy

Special committee under Egyptian PM office formed to address difficulties of S. Korean companies



After years of sweeping change in all corners of society, Egypt has embarked on a journey to rebuild the nation, opening doors to foreign entities to capitalize on state-of-the-art technology and reclaim its glory days as an economic hub.

As part of efforts to do so, Egypt is wooing South Korean businesses and leading science and tech institutions, the top Egyptian diplomat said.

“Quite frankly, my humble opinion is that we have such a huge amount of untapped potential in relationship between the countries. … This exercise of match making needs some more focusing and some more facilitation in terms of opening those channels unleash that great potential. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Egyptian Ambassador to South Korea Hazem Fahmy told The Korea Herald in an interview at his office in central Seoul on Nov. 21.

“Of all we are a country that is racing against in terms of development. One very key aspect of that is technology. Korea is very advanced in so many areas that we are hungry to have transfer of technology in. … The issue to transfer of technology is at the center of our foreign policy now.”

Fahmy has been in Seoul for about two years, witnessing the PyeongChang Olympics firsthand and increased contact between the two countries.

“It has been quite an exciting journey. First of all, I didn’t expect so many official delegations to visit me from capital. It’s a reflection that we are having a really energized relations,” he said.

Egyptian Ambassador to South Korea Hazem Fahmy poses during an interview with The Korea Herald at the embassy in central Seoul on Nov. 21. (Kim So-mee/The Korea Herald)
Egyptian Ambassador to South Korea Hazem Fahmy poses during an interview with The Korea Herald at the embassy in central Seoul on Nov. 21. (Kim So-mee/The Korea Herald)

For Korean undergrads to better understand the 2008 and 2013 revolutions that have profoundly impacted the country, Fahmy delivers lectures on contemporary Egyptian history at universities here.

At the core of his mission in Korea, however, is to attract companies and investors with a focus on technology to achieve the ambitious Egypt Vision 2030 launched in 2014 for Egypt to become a top 30 economy by 2030.

Key mechanisms set in place to achieve its goal are the Suez Canal Economic Zone and investor-tailored measures.

“Our ministers of investment, finance and the prime minister himself are committed, if there is a really serious strategic investor in any area, they are willing to provide any incentive that will facilitate their presence even by diverging from existing rules and regulations to attract this foreign direct investment,” Fahmy said.

“We have never been, I think in our recent history, more proactive in these areas. … We are very much determined to attract those kind of FDIs that will deepen the transfer of knowledge.”

As the country makes all out efforts for development, it has started a mega infrastructure project building 14 new cities, including an administrative capital and upgraded transportation system.

“We have a lot of catching up to do. We are currently having mega infrastructure projects in order to pave the road for deepening of industry and absorption of foreign technology,” Fahmy said.

“This requires a lot of regular construction a lot of smart cities you need to wire them with gadgets of new technologies and digital technologies you are very good in.”

The country is not only talking the job to bring in Korean companies. To promptly address complaints frequently raised by Korean businesses concerning Egypt’s bureaucratic system, the Egyptian government has set up a committee under the Prime Minister’s Office last month composed of officials across ministries to exclusively deal with matters related to Seoul.

Fahmy went on to say, “This new mechanism was dealt into give priority for speedy resolution of any problems they might have in that regard. … We are not there yet as we would like to be, but sure we are working very hard on it.”

Egypt is backed by a population of 100 million people and a free trade network that includes Africa, the EU, Turkey and Arab countries that opens access to 1.8 billion people.

According to Fahmy, South Korean companies can cash in on Egypt’s strong growth and positive economic prospects by raising their risk profile to encompass Egypt from their current US and China-dependent portfolio.

“Mainly your partners are either the immediate neighborhood or you have a very heavy concentration on China and the United States … you need to diversify your markets. … So it should open huge opportunities for Korean business and investments whether in Egypt as a springboard or for Egypt itself that is a huge market,” Fahmy said.

Asked about his most memorable moment in Seoul, Fahmy noted his encounter with Korean President Moon Jae-in in January last year when he delivered his credentials.

“I was very impressed. … He (Moon) opened quite a few substantive issues and he was quiet familiar with important details of bilateral relations, which he raised unexpectedly and pleasantly,” Fahmy said.

Indicative of Egypt’s drive to leap forward in the field of science and information and communication technology, Fahmy also touched on his visits to South Korea’s top science and technology university, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and the state-run Korea Institute of Science and Technology, describing it as a “privilege and honor” in which he “takes pride in.”

“Just the presence of science in such a strong way and the inventions that are being done in these institutions and the role they played in building the new modern Korea was so impressive,” Fahmy said.

“We are trying to have a branch of KAIST in Egypt, because we know the role it played in modernizing Korea. We hope to be able to copy that model. We are also having contacts with many of your prime universities trying to have some cooperation with Egypt in that regard.”

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)
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