Vice President, Middle East Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
April 14, 2021
As a salute to its storied past, Egypt recently staged the Pharaohs' Golden Parade—a livestreamed procession of 22 mummified kings and queens from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the recently opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. The grandiose event featuring Egypt’s ancient royalty was an opportunity to showcase the country’s exceptional history and appeal as a tourist destination with an eye to reinvigorating interest from travelers emerging from constraints imposed by COVID-19.
While Pharaohs and pyramids may dominate Egypt’s past, we are looking to the future and are animated by the economic potential of the U.S.-Egypt relationship. This is if our governments and private sectors can continue to constructively collaborate in key growth areas and build on existing momentum.
The U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Egypt Business Council is part of Egypt’s contemporary history and has played a significant role in advancing the modern economic relationship between our nations. To sharpen efforts moving forward, the U.S.-Egypt Business Council proposes 4 objectives and recommendations to the Biden administration to consider. We had an opportunity to preview these ideas earlier this month when we hosted H.E. President Sisi for a virtual CEO Roundtable.
Objective #1: Focus on Growing Bilateral Energy & Environmental Partnerships
Egypt’s energy sector has seen tremendous development in recent years and continues to be a major contributor to GDP growth. U.S. companies are playing a pivotal role in upstream expansion in the Western Desert, Red Sea and Eastern Mediterranean and a number of significant downstream projects. At the same time, Egypt is investing in projects and embracing reforms to mitigate climate change and promote clean energy.
Recommendation: To sustain the increasing cooperation, the Biden administration should build on the U.S.-Egypt Strategic Energy Dialogue launched in 2019 in order to strengthen partnerships in the energy sector while also ensuring there is a mutual focus on the challenge of climate change. On this last point, we encourage including H.E. President Sisi in the upcoming ‘Leaders Summit on Climate’ and the Government of Egypt in future climate-focused forums.
Objective #2: Build a Long-Term U.S.-Egypt Health Relationship
While a productive collaboration in healthcare between Egypt and the United States already exists, we have more work to do to lock in long-term cooperation, drive innovation and harmonize efforts with the private sector. This is especially true because there are a number of key stakeholders in the Government of Egypt involved in healthcare policies, purchasing, services and strategies, including the Ministry of Health and Population, Egyptian Drug Authority, Unified Procurement Authority, and General Authority for Universal Health Insurance.
Recommendation: Establish a U.S.-Egypt Health Solutions Working Group to create a platform for our governments to regularly discuss key issues and include business leaders as part of the solutions.
Objective #3: Bolster the Growing U.S.-Egypt Digital Economic Relationship
Egypt’s digital economy has seen accelerated adoption of technologies and magnitudes of growth during the pandemic. This was even true pre-pandemic as the ICT sector’s contribution to Egypt’s GDP had steadily been increasing. And while we’ve had valuable engagement on data privacy regulations and other related areas, there is going to be so much more work ahead of us to ensure alignment and to take full advantage of the innovations and technologies of today and tomorrow.
Recommendation: As digital trade and investment grows between Egypt and the United States, it is crucial to advance our technology partnership as our global competitors seek to do the same in Egypt. The Biden administration should establish a U.S.-Egypt Digital Economy Partnership to facilitate a sustained discussion between stakeholders from our governments, business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors on the range of key issues and opportunities in the digital economy. Since these technologies have many applications, this can positively impact our ties in security, health, finance, manufacturing, supply chains, education, and numerous other areas.
Objective #4: Expand Education Opportunities for Egyptians
The existing U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative (HEI) is an investment in Egypt’s future that provides scholarships to talented men and women from underserved communities throughout Egypt to study at premier Egyptian and American universities in fields critical to Egypt’s sustained economic growth and development.
Recommendation: With the lifecycle of current HEI projects soon coming to a conclusion, the Biden Administration should commit to dedicating funding to the ensuring an even more impactful future of the U.S.-Egypt Higher Education Initiative by doubling the number of scholarships available over the life of the projects.
Egypt fittingly honored dynasties dating back more than 3,000 years old with their recent celebration. It really is awe-inspiring. Every time I travel to Egypt I make a point to visit the pyramids in Giza and marvel at these monumental memorials. As we consider what legacy we want to leave future generations of Egyptians, let us aspire to tackle challenges that will pave a pathway for inclusive opportunity, economic growth and shared prosperity.
About the authors
Steve Lutes is executive director Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is responsible for managing the U.S.-Egypt Business Council, U.S.-Iraq Business Initiative, the U.S.-GCC Business Initiative, and serves as executive director for each.