High-profile attendees, low-profile deals at Africa Business Forum
Courtesy: Africa 2016 conference website
 

Egypt attracted the heads of state of six African countries, along with numerous ministers and businesspeople, to a “Africa 2016” Sharm el-Sheikh summit taglined, “Business for Africa, Egypt and the World.” Yet, despite the high-profile attendees, the summit appears to have failed to yield headline-grabbing deals.

In a speech opening the summit, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi vowed to increase economic links with the rest of Africa, while remarking on the low volume of inter-African commerce, noting that trade between African countries amounts to just 12 percent of the total value of international trade in Africa.

“The volume of our trade with our African brothers hit five billion dollars and we are working at doubling the figure over the coming five years,” Sisi said. In addition, Sisi noted that Egypt’s investments in Africa amount to US$8 billion.

During his visit to the summit, Sisi also participated in a tripartite meeting with the presidents of Sudan and Ethiopia. However, according to a statement from Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam — the hottest topic between these three countries — was not on the agenda. According to a ministry statement, the meeting discussed cooperation in trade and investment, including a proposal from Sisi to establish a joint investment fund between the three countries.

Recent summits and state visits in Egypt — such as the 2015 Egypt Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, and a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping — have been marked by the announcement of financing deals and Memoranda of Understanding worth billions of dollars.

The deals announced at Africa 2016 have been decidedly more modest. The biggest winner appears to be Qalaa Holdings, the Cairo-based investment company formerly known as Citadel Capital. Its subsidiaries announced the signing of several MoUs on Saturday and Sunday, although company statements emphasized that the agreements were the fruit of prior negotiations. Its East African rail carrier Rift Valley Railways, signed an MOU with Egypt’s chemicals and fertilizer export council and with exhibition and conference management Expo One.

Meanwhile, ECARU, the Egyptian Company for Solid Waste Recycling signed an MoU to establish a new joint venture with Ethiopia’s East Afrcian Mining, and a separate agreement to provide fuel to Ethiopia’s Messebo Cement Company.

Slightly more action seems to have happened on the sidelines, with meetings reported between Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and the African Development Bank, as well as the African Export-Import Bank, both of which have recently granted Egypt financing deals.

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