Egypt: Market Profile
The Egyptian government has been implementing a transformational reforms program, which, along with the gradual restoration of confidence and stability, is starting to yield positive results. To alleviate adverse effects of reforms on the poor, there has been a scaling up in key social protection measures, including more poverty targeted programs. However, despite government efforts, social conditions remain difficult due to high inflation and erosion of real incomes. The ability of the private sector to create jobs is therefore critical to reap the benefits of the reforms and mitigate the impact on vulnerable populations. Going forward, the economy will continue recovering over the medium-term, as growth increases and the budget deficit decreases.
Source: World Bank
2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections
Muslim Brotherhood fails to win any seats in elections to the Shura consultative upper house of parliament. This was followed by Parliamentary polls held in November the same year which saw protests against alleged vote rigging.
President Mubarak steps down and hands power to the army council. Goes on trial in August, charged with ordering the killing of demonstrators.
Protests continue in Cairo's Tahrir Square over slow pace of political change. Islamist groups come to the fore. Army finally disperses protestors in August.
National unity government headed by new Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri takes office.
Islamist parties emerge as victors of drawn-out parliamentary elections.
Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi narrowly wins presidential election.
Islamist-dominated constituent assembly approves draft constitution that boosts the role of Islam and restricts freedom of speech and assembly. Public approve it in a referendum, prompting extensive protest by secular opposition leaders, Christians and women's groups.
Army overthrows President Morsi amid mass demonstrations calling on him to quit. By December that same year the new Government declares Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group after a bomb blast in Mansoura kills 12.
New constitution bans parties based on religion.
Former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi wins presidential election.
Sinai-based armed group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis pledges allegiance to extreme Islamic State movement, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq. Renames itself Sinai Province.
Ousted President Morsi sentenced to death over 2011 mass breakout of Muslim Brotherhood prisoners, along with more than 100 others. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in April over arrest and torture of protesters during his 2012-2013 rule.
Islamic State launches wave of attacks in North Sinai. In October, Islamic State claims responsibility for destruction of Russian airliner in Sinai, in which all crew and 224 tourist passengers were killed.
Egypt announces that it will hand over to Saudi Arabia two strategic Red Sea islands, sparking public unrest.
IMF approves a three-year USD12 billion loan to Egypt designed to help the country out of its deep economic crisis.
State of emergency declared after suicide bombers kill dozens at two churches where worshippers celebrated Palm Sunday.
In May the Egyptian military carried out a series of airstrikes against alleged jihadist training camps in Libya, after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for ambushing and killing Christians on a bus in Minya province.
Egypt joins Saudi-led campaign to isolate Qatar, accusing it of promoting terrorism.
President Sisi wins a second term in elections against a sole minor opposition candidate. More serious challengers either withdrew or were arrested.
Sources: BBC country profile – Timeline, BMI Political Risk Analysis
3. Major Economic Indicators
Note: e = estimate, f = forecast
Sources: IMF, World Bank
4. External Trade
4.1 Merchandise Trade
Sources: WTO, World Bank WITS database
4.2 Trade in Services
5. Trade Policies
- Egypt has gradually moved towards a more liberal trade regime. It became a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995, and revamped its tariff regime in 2004 as agreed in its accession agreement. The changes in the tariff structure lowered the official tariff rate (weighted average) from 14.6% to 11.8%. According to the WTO, Egypt’s MFN trade weighted average tariff was 11.8% in 2013. More than 88% of agricultural products and 86% of non-agricultural items on the tariff schedule are now charged at less than 15%.
- As a measure designed to protect the local automotive industry, imported vehicles are subjected to a tariff ranging from 40%-135%, depending on the engine size. Vehicles with engines over 2,000cc are subject to an additional sales tax of up to 45%. The Presidential Decree 25 of 2016 also significantly increased import tariffs on a wide range of products such as household appliances, electronic devices, clothing, shoes, watches and some agricultural produce.
- Egypt requires restrictive labeling for imports of food products. All food products should be packed in appropriate packages, which should be clean, intact, and odourless so as to preserve the products and not affect its characteristics. Imported products must be marked and labelled in Arabic. The language requirement is mandatory for all information, including the brand and type of the products, country of origin, date of production, expiry date, and instructions on handling products. For imported tools, machines and equipment, a user manual in Arabic has to be attached.
- There are a total of ten free trade zones in Egypt – Cairo (Nasr City), Alexandria, Port Said, Suez, Ismailia, Damietta, Media, Shebin El-Kom, Qeft and Port Said East Port. Goods exported from or imported into the free zones are not subject to normal import/export customs procedures, duties or other taxes and fees. Likewise all instruments, machinery, equipment, and transportation equipment necessary for establishments authorised within the free zones are exempt from customs and duties.
- The EU-Egypt Association Agreement entered into force in June 2004. The EU lifted all trade barriers to Egyptian industrial exports, while Egypt committed itself to removing all related trade barriers over a 12-15 year transitional period. In June 2013, the EU and Egypt began an exploratory dialogue on deepening the bilateral trade and investment relations through the possible negotiation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). It will extend largely beyond the existing Association Agreement.
- Besides the Association Agreement with the EU, Egypt has signed a number of free trade agreements (FTAs) to help Egyptian exports gain preferential access to markets of the signatories. Such FTAs include the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA, with 17 members including Egypt), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA, with 19 members including Egypt), the Agadir Agreement (with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan as members), MERCOSUR-Egypt FTA (with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), EFTA – Egypt Free Trade Agreement (with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and the Egypt-Turkey FTA.
- Egypt has also signed bilateral trade agreements with Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Iraq.
Egypt is also negotiating trade agreements with various countries and regions, including Nigeria, Tanzania, India, Sri Lank, Russia, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the CEMAC Group (including Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea).
Egypt also enjoys Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) status provided by Australia, Canada, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Russia, Turkey and the US. Preferential tariff and duty-free treatment on certain items are granted to Egypt by these countries.
Source: WTO – Trade Policy Review
6. Trade Agreement
6.1 Trade Updates
The EU-Egypt Association Agreement entered into force in June 2004. The EU lifted all trade barriers to Egyptian industrial exports, while Egypt committed itself to removing all related trade barriers over a 12-15 year transitional period. In June 2013, the EU and Egypt began an exploratory dialogue on deepening the bilateral trade and investment relations through the possible negotiation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). It will extend largely beyond the existing Association Agreement.
Egypt is also a signatory to several multilateral trade agreements, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), EU-Egypt Free Trade Agreement (Association Agreement) and the country has a trade agreement with EFTA States. The country also benefits from being party to a Turkey-Egypt Free Trade Agreement, the Greater Arab Free Trade Area and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Being party to free trade agreements helps to support trade; however, Egypt does not belong to a customs union, or deeply integrated trade area.
6.2 Multinational Trade Agreements
- Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), comprising Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen – Other MENA states are important trade partners and the reduction or elimination of tariffs has eased trade flows.
- EU-Egypt Association Agreement – in force since 2004.
- European Free Trade Area (EFTA) comprising Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – No states are key trade partners but this facilitates trade with Europe.
- Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), comprising Burundi, Comoros Islands, DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe – Not all members subscribe to the free trade area, and trade flows with other African states remain lower than with Europe, MENA and Asia. There is upside potential for intra-African trade with the prospects of a regional trade agreement brightening (see 'TFTA - An African Common Market By 2025?', November 3 2017).
- Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela) – Trade with Latin America is relatively low, and despite potential for expansion, closer markets in Europe and Asia will remain the major trade partners.
- Jordan – Not a major trade partner but Jordan provides a market for Egyptian gas exports.
- Turkey – Turkey is an important trade partner, providing a key source of refined fuel and a market for textiles.
US – The US is a top trade partner and tariff-free access would provide a boost to Egyptian exporters.
Source: WTO – Trade Policy Reivew
7. Investment Policy
7.1 Foreign Direct Investment
7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy
- Egypt is reliant on external financing and foreign aid to drive its economic development. In April 2015, France signed contracts worth US$1.5 billion with Egypt on various transport and electricity projects. Besides, President Sisi is actively courting aid and investment from Asia including China, Japan and Korea. In January 2016, China announced loans of US$1.7 billion to Egypt alongside US$15 billion of energy, infrastructure and construction projects in Egypt awarded to Chinese companies. In addition to seeking the IMF loan of US$12 billion, Egypt signed a currency swap deal with China for about US$2.6 billion in December 2016 to pop up its official reserves.
- A new investment law passed in June 2017 offers upside with regard Egypt's regulatory environment, which had long been a drag on the market's potential. The law aims to cut red tape and simplify procedures for businesses, through the creation of a new investors' service centre tasked with issuing licences. The law also introduces various tax incentives, including the restoration of a number of free zones, and substantial tax breaks, especially for investments in the country's less developed areas (see 'New Law To Boost Fixed Investment', November 3 2017). Foreign investment increased by 15.9% y-o-y in the 12 months to March 2017. The implementation of Egypt's new investment law will further boost investor confidence and drive fixed capital formation in the country.
- The new incentives came into force in June 2017 and include notable amendments such as a reduction in sales tax, a one-stop-shop administration system, reduced social charges and potentially free or reduced land costs which merit consideration by investors. There are provisions that allow the granting of a residence permit to foreign investors throughout the term of their investment projects in Egypt as well as fair treatment to both foreign and Egyptian investors. Investors also maintain the right to repatriate profits and receive international finance without any restrictions. Ratified in June 2017, the new law includes a chapter on investment in technological zones, which will provide dedicated support to businesses working on the design and development of electronics, data centres, outsourcing activities, software development and technological education. Businesses located in the hubs are eligible for tax and customs duty exemptions on the tools, supplies and machinery that they require for their operations. Technology investors will also be covered by other guarantees and incentives featured in the legislation - which is aimed at bringing about a more robust legal environment for foreign businesses - including guaranteeing equitable treatment of foreign and local investors and the right to export the investment project's products without needing to sign up with the Exporters Registry.
- Investors also have the right to directly import raw materials, equipment, spare parts and/or transportation means as necessary for investment projects without registering with the Importers Registry, which can help lower start-up costs. Once operational, investors also have the right to export the investment projects' products, whether directly or indirectly, without registering with the Exporters Registry. The application of a unified custom duty at a flat rate of only 2% of the value of any equipment, machinery and devices that are necessary for the establishment of infrastructure and investment projects is a positive boost to foreign investors. The law also provides exemption from the custom duty that is imposed on importation of some tools for temporary use on industrial projects and to be re-exported afterwards.
- Technological zones can also be established by decree as long as they cover ICT sector-related projects such as designing and developing electronics, ICT education programs, technology development, establishing data centres and other related activities. Furthermore, the tools and equipment that are necessary for the investment projects which are established in the technological zones will not be subject to any taxes and custom duties according to specific requirements and procedures to be stated in the Executive Regulation of the New Investment Law.
- The final system is via free zones that can be established in a form of public or private free zones by virtue of a decree from the prime minister mainly for the exportation purpose. Free zones can be established in all investment sectors except for oil and liquidation or production of natural gas, fertilisers and steel production; transportation, alcohol production; 'heavy energy usage industries' as specified by the Supreme Energy Council, and weapons and explosive production as well as any other products related to national security. All products imported or exported by the investment projects inside any of the free zones, with few exceptions, will not be subject to the importation and exportation regulations applied outside of them, or custom duty or any other tax. Nevertheless, these investment projects are required to pay 2% of the aggregate value of the imported products for storage projects (with the exception of transit goods), as well as 1% of the aggregate value of the exported products (FOB) for production projects and 1% of the aggregate income for any investment project that is not involved in importation or exportation. There is also the requirement of an annual fee at the rate of 0.001% of the investment project's issued capital capped at EGP100,000.
- In the new investment law there are also provisions for tax reductions of up to 80% of the paid-in capital from the starting date of the investment projects in Egypt for seven years that are applied at different rates (subject to the issuance of the Executive Regulation of the New Investment Law). The first rate of 50% of the investment costs applies to investment projects that will be established in the geographic locations most in need of development as determined by the authorities. The second rate of 30% of the investment costs applies to investment projects located anywhere in country as long as they are involved in highly labour-intensive projects and projects focused on small and micro enterprises (and these are intended to have the twin effect of lowering unemployment and growing local industries). This special provision also applies to projects producing new and renewal energy and electricity distribution networks, national and strategic or tourism projects, export-orientated projects, automotive production and its supporting projects, chemicals, food, pharmaceuticals, mineral, textile and leather production, engineering, as well as management of agricultural waste. The prime minister may also grant additional incentives such as the establishment of a special customs gates for imports and exports related to an investment project, including some training costs. The allocation of plots of lands for free of charge for strategic business activities is also available. The prime minister can also grant a refund of 50% of the value of any plot of land that is allocated to industrial projects as long as the operation thereof takes place within two years starting from the time when the land is allocated.
- The implementation of Egypt's new investment law will further boost investor confidence and drive fixed capital formation in the country. An uptick in investment will also create job opportunities, underpinning our view for fixed investment and private consumption to support the acceleration of GDP growth over the coming quarters. With the investment law being part of a wider series of economic measures in the country, Egypt's positive momentum underpins our view for real GDP growth to accelerate. Egypt came back on the radar of foreign investors in November 2016 when it entered a USD12 billion IMF programme, forcing the government to implement a number of structural reforms as a condition for the deal. The currency devaluation of that same month made the country a more attractive place to invest in, a trend which was later compounded with the aforementioned business environment reforms. Illustrating these improvements, Egypt's Purchasing Managers' Index rose steadily from 41.8 in November 2016 to 48.9 in August 2017, and we believe that the modest decline in September 2017 (47.4) will not be sustained going into 2018. Government support for the industrial sector has also helped brighten the outlook for manufacturers with the new investment law, likely to be particularly beneficial.
7.3 Free Trade Zones and Investment Incentives
|Free Trade Zone/Incentive Programme||Main Incentives Available|
|Public Free Zones – Alexandria, Nasr City, Port Said, Suez, Ismailia, Dmietta, Media, Shebin, Qeft, and Port Said East Port||– Exemption from customs duties and sales tax on imports of capital goods, raw materials and intermediate inputs|
– No restrictions on capital transfers
– Relaxed labour regulations
– Simplified customs procedures
|Sokhna SEZONE||– Reduced income tax rate of 10% for businesses and individuals|
– One-stop shop for completing bureaucratic procedures
– Special customs service
8. Taxation – 2017
- Value Added Tax: 14%
- Corporate Income Tax: 22.5%
8.1 Important Updates to Taxation Information
The passage of a new investment law in 2017 provides a raft of tax breaks and rebate incentives and reduces red tape, allowing foreign investors the necessary avenue by which to capitalise on Egypt's brightening economic prospects.
A drastic reduction in subsidy payments, coupled with a steady uptick in revenues as real GDP growth improves, will see Egypt's fiscal deficit steadily reduce over the next several years. This is in line with a broader economic readjustment in the wake of its 2016 IMF deal which will see investor sentiment towards the country improve and borrowing costs moderate in the medium term.
8.2 Business Taxes
|Type of Tax||Tax Rate and Base|
|Corporate Income Tax||– 22.5% on profits|
– 40.55% on profits of companies engaged in oil and gas exploration
– The Suez Canal Company, the Egyptian General Petroleum Company and the Central Bank of Egypt are subject to tax on their profits at a rate of 40%
|Withholding Tax||– 10% on dividends|
– 20% on interest
– 20% on royalties
– 20% on services
– 5% branch remittance tax
|Capital Gains Tax||– 10% on sales of securities|
– 22.5% on sale of other assets
|Social security contributions||– Employer contribution - 26% on basic salary, 24% on variable salary (each reduced by 3% for medical scheme) for sums up to EGP1,370|
– Employee contribution - 14% on basic salary, 11% on variable salary (each reduced by 1% for medical scheme), for sums up to EGP2,430
– 18% on basic salary for contract labour
|Value Added Tax||– Rates may vary on certain goods, generally 14% on sale of goods and services|
– 5% on machinery and equipment
– 0% on exported goods and services
9. Foreign Worker Requirements
9.1 Localisation Requirements
- The Egyptian government encourages investments in sectors that create employment, generate foreign exchange and create forward and backward linkages with rural areas.
- Labour regulations continue to restrict the employment of foreign nationals, particularly in low-skilled sectors. Labour rules prevent companies from hiring more than 10% non-Egyptians (25% in Free Zones), and foreigners are not allowed to operate sole proprietorships or simple partnerships.
- Work permits are required for all foreign nationals intending to work in Egypt. The visa and work permit approval process is slow, and sometimes bribes are solicited to speed up the process - which in turn raises legal risks.
9.2 Migrant Labour Regulations
Regulations on employment conditions and the access to basic social services - such as healthcare, education and justice - are somewhat discriminative towards regular migrant workers and they are basically non-existent for undocumented migrant workers.
These problems are strongly connected to the fragmented system regulating different residence status for third-country nationals, especially when it comes to labour rights and guarantees.
9.3 Visa/Travel Restrictions
- A foreign national must obtain a work permit to be able to stay and work in Egypt.
- In 2011, Egyptian authorities enacted regulations designed to restrict access for foreigners to Egyptian worker visas, though application of these provisions has been inconsistent. Visas for unskilled workers will be phased out. For most other jobs, employers may hire foreign workers on a temporary six-month basis, but must also hire two Egyptians to be trained to do the job during that period. Only jobs where it is not possible for Egyptians to acquire the requisite skills will remain open to foreign workers.
- The procedures are easier for managers than employees. A joint stock company or a limited liability company operating under the umbrella of the Investment Law can appoint a number of managers commensurate to the value of its capital. It usually takes around two months from application to obtain a residency visa, and it costs around EGP3,000.
Though foreign language skills, especially in English, are widespread, language barriers may be a problem for foreign workers, especially those working in rural areas.
10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings
|Rating (Outlook)||Rating Date|
|Standard & Poor's||B||11/05/2018|
Sources: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings
10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators
|Ease of Doing Business Index ||131/189||122/190||128/190|
|Ease of Paying Taxes Index||104/189||111/190||167/190|
|Logistics Performance Index ||49/160||N/A||N/A|
|Corruption Perception Index||108/176||117/180||N/A|
|IMD World Competitiveness||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Sources: World Bank, IMD, Transparency International
10.3 BMI Risk Indices
|Economic Risk Index Rank||178/202|
|Short-Term Economic Risk Score||40 ||44.2 ||52.3 |
|Long-Term Economic Risk Score||47.2||49.1||49.9|
|Political Risk Index Rank||140/202|
|Short-Term Political Risk Score||53.3||53.3||53.3 |
|Long-Term Political Risk Score||52.4||54||54|
|Operational Risk Index Rank||117/201|
|Operational Risk Score||42.9||45.2||45.8 |
Source: BMI Research
10.4 BMI Risk Summary
Egypt's medium-term growth is relatively positive but growth will remain far below potential over the coming years. We expect investment to increasingly drive growth on the back of low base effects and pent up demand while government and household spending growth slows. The long-term outlook is more positive given significant growth opportunities in banking, housing and infrastructure. However, political risks will weigh on growth over the next decade.
Egypt has numerous inherent advantages that make its long-term growth story compelling. These include a strategic geographical, political and cultural position in the region, a large and growing working age and consumer population, a strong infrastructure project pipeline and a well-developed financial sector. Furthermore, the underdeveloped private sector combined with the progress of structural economic reforms provides ample room for expansion through value addition. However, Egypt's operating environment holds myriad risks that encumber the market's potential - the most prominent of which are the rigid labour market structure and the significant threat of domestic terrorist attacks underpinned by an uncertain long-term political outlook and structurally high import reliance. In addition, the utilities networks suffer from frequent disruptions and capacity limitations, particularly for water and electricity, which disrupt business activity.
10.5 BMI Operational Risk Index
|Operational Risk||Labour Market Risk||Logistics Risk||Trade and Investment Risk||Crime and Security Risk|
|MENA Average||47.4 ||49.3||48.4||48.1||43.9|
|MENA Position (out of 18)||10||11||8||11||11|
|MENA Position (out of 18)||10||11||8||11||11|
|Global Average||49.8||49.8||49.3 ||50.0||49.9|
|Global Position (out of 201)||117||124||80||118||140|
Note: 100 = Lowest risk, 0 = Highest risk
Source: BMI Operational Risk Index
|Country||Operational Risk Index||Labour Market Risk Index||Logistics Risk Index||Trade and Investment Risk Index||Crime and Secruity Risk Index|
|UAE||73.8 ||67.8||72.5 ||79.6||75.1|
|West Bank And Gaza||33.7||46.4||30.2||36.8||21.5|
|Emerging Markets Averages||46.8||48.0||45.8||47.5||46.1|
|Global Markets Averages||49.8||49.8 ||49.3||50.0||49.9 |
Note: Higher score = Lower risk
Source: BMI Operational Risk Index
11. Hong Kong Connection
11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Egypt
|2016||Growth rate (%)|
|Number of Egyptian residents visiting Hong Kong||17,380||4.09|
|Number of Egyptian residents in Hong Kong||N/A||N/A|
Sources: Hong Kong Tourism Board, Hong Kong Immigration Department
11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong
|2016||Growth rate (%)|
|Number of Egyptian companies in Hong Kong||N/A||N/A|
|- Regional headquarters|
|- Regional offices|
|- Local offices|
11.3 Chamber of Commerce (or Related Organisations) in Hong Kong
The Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ARABCCI)
The Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ARABCCI) was established in Hong Kong 2006 as a leading organization at promoting commercial ties between Hong Kong/Greater China and the Arab World. From a base of 8 founding member companies, ARABCCI has now evolved to include an ever-growing number of members. The Chamber is run by business experts for business professionals, dedicated to opening enormous trade opportunities by providing extensive information and professional services to our members.
Source: Directory of Hong Kong Trade and Industrial Organisations, Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department
The Arab Republic of Egypt Consulate General Hong Kong
Address: Suite number 1, 22th Floor, Sino Plaza, 255-257 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong or
Flat A, 40/F, Tower 5, Bel-Air on the Peak, No.68 Bel-Air Peak Avenue, Island South, Hong Kong
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Hours of Business: 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Consul General: Mr Alaaeldin Kashef
Tel: (852) 2827 0668
Fax: (852) 2827 2100
11.4 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents
For most visitors the necessary Egypt travel docs are a passport and a visa. However, there some travelers who do not need a visa to enter Egypt. Citizens from Bahrain, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Macao, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates can enter without a visa (for periods of up to 3 months).
Source: Visa on Demand