News Analysis: Egypt's unprecedented rise in exports backed by economic reform, flexible production system: experts

by Mahmoud Fouly, Emad al-Azrak

CAIRO, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) — The unprecedented rise in Egypt’s exports in 2021 came from the economic reform taken by the government over the past few years as well as the country’s flexible production system that made it able to cover the needs under the COVID-19 pandemic, said Egyptian economic experts.

Egypt’s exports in 2021 registered a record high of about 31 billion U.S. dollars, marking the highest export rate in its history and a 27-percent increase compared to its exports in 2020, according to a recent statement from the Egyptian presidency.

Among the most prominent sectors that boosted Egyptian exports were chemical products, construction materials, food industries, engineering and electronic goods, crops, and ready-made garments.

Gamal Bayoumi, secretary-general of the Cairo-based Arab Investors Union (AIU), attributed the unprecedented increase in Egypt’s exports in the past 12 months to the customs exemption that Egyptian commodities enjoy in the Arab and African markets.

“The impacts of COVID-19 on neighboring economies and Egypt’s success in covering the consequent commodity deficit, in addition to the expansion of the Egyptian agricultural and industrial projects, led to the rise of Egyptian commodity exports,” Bayoumi told Xinhua.

He added that the economic reform implemented by Egypt is one of the main reasons for the increasing Egyptian exports.

Supported by the International Monetary Fund, Egypt launched in November 2016 a three-year economic reform program that included liberalizing the exchange rate of its local currency and implementing austerity measures such as the gradual lifting of subsidies on fuel and electricity.

In April 2021, the Egyptian government started the second phase of the reform program, targeting a growth rate of at least 6 to 7 percent over the next three years and a deficit reduction to 5.5 percent.

The AIU chief underscored a significant expansion in the Egyptian agricultural exports, noting that Egypt is a big exporter of oranges, olives and dates, as well as vegetables and fruit, especially to Europe.

“The European market, where Egyptian exports enjoy full customs exemption, is the largest for Egyptian exports, followed by the Arab and African markets in which Egypt has a positive trade balance,” he said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly stressed during a ministerial meeting that the government has adopted a program to boost exports, which significantly contributed to the growth of Egyptian exports.

He noted that Egypt is producing high-quality goods that compete with their counterparts at the global level.

The recent growth of Egyptian exports is also attributed to the flexibility of its production system, said economic expert Mongy Aly Badr, a former advisor to the Egyptian minister of trade and industry.

“The increase in consumption rates in European, Arab and African countries, amid their production freeze due to the outbreak of COVID-19, gave a relative advantage to the Egyptian industries and contributed to the increasing Egyptian exports to these markets,” Badr told Xinhua.

Badr explained that the surge in Egyptian exports will have “a very positive impact” on the country’s trade balance and will lead to a deficit reduction and a GDP growth, as well as an improvement in the solvency of the national economy, which provides access to external borrowing at low-interest rates and improves the credit level of the Egyptian economy. Enditem