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Saudi visit a sign of ‘optimism and hope’, says Egyptian minister for international cooperation

CAIRO: Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman is on a tour of the Middle East, where he will visit Egypt before continuing on to Jordan and Turkey. Discussions during the next visit will cover the areas of economy, tourism and bilateral investment.

Arab News has obtained an in-depth interview with Egypt’s Minister for International Cooperation, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, who described relations between the two countries as “very strategic”.

She said, “It’s very old. And whenever there is a summit, there is always a sense of optimism and hope, and alignment when it comes to the debate about the future.

She added that the visit is “extremely meaningful”.

Al-Mashat said, “The other point is that this visit comes at a time when the world situation is very complicated. It’s very difficult. There are winners, there are losers. There are concerns that everyone is thinking about: global economic growth, global employment, global inflation. So I think such a summit involves a lot of anticipation. But, as has happened in previous visits, there are always very favorable results for both nations.

Egypt is the president and host of COP 27 of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in November. Al-Mashat said Egypt, as the host, will pursue the goals set out at last year’s COP 26 conference held in Scotland. “We want this COP to be one of implementation. Many promises were made in Glasgow,” she says.

She added that there were three key points on the agenda: “First, of course, Egypt as president is impartial. But adaptation and resilience are extremely important. And that’s become even more true with what’s happening globally, given what we’re seeing in terms of food security and what we’re seeing in terms of how food relates to any vulnerability , including water-related issues. Egypt being in Africa, adaptation and resilience for Africa is quite important. So it will be an opportunity. »

The fact that COP 27 is chaired by an African country is also of great significance to Al-Mashat. “The voice of the (global) south is more present in the G20, as well as that of Indonesia, another country in the south. So between the G20 and COP 27, two great nations, two voices, will speak on behalf of middle-income countries, on behalf of developing economies,” she said.

Al-Mashat added that the focus of the upcoming conference will shift from taking pledges to implementing. “Implementation here includes how we can see all of the funding commitments work their way to investable projects in middle-income and low-income countries, in countries that don’t just focus on mitigation, but on adaptation, given the climate risks related to water scarcity and desertification, which also represents a significant risk for countries.

On the joint bilateral Gulf committees, Al-Mashat said that “there are always discussions around different types of strategic investments.

“So what we saw over the months of March and April were directions in line with what Egypt wants to do in terms of further opening up the private sector to foreign investment.”

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Gulf investments in Egypt are a very strong sign of confidence, Al-Mashat said, adding that the priority given by the Gulf countries to the diversification of the economy, purchasing power and technology is a good news for the continued development of foreign investment in Egypt.

“Gulf investments are always looking for good opportunities, and this also opens the door to other investors. So this is a very positive step forward,” she said.

Arab tourists, especially those from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, could also play a vital role in Egypt’s economy. The number of Russian and Ukrainian tourists – who make up 40% of beach holidaymakers in Egypt, according to the Ministry of Tourism – has declined since the start of the war in Ukraine.

However, Al-Mashat said an “influx of tourists from Europe, other than Russia and Ukraine, has been extremely supportive and positive.”

As the world slowly recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, “everyone wants to travel”, Al-Mashat added.

“Different countries have seen an increase, of course, relatively speaking compared to before, in tourism. On that front, there has been some mitigation of the impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict,” she said. said, adding that markets other than Ukraine and Russia have helped mitigate the drop in tourist numbers.

Although the number of European tourists has been particularly high, Arab tourists in Egypt still play an important role, “especially Saudi and Gulf visitors, who will hopefully continue,” Al-Mashat added.

Noor Nugali, deputy editor of Arabic news, with the minister in Cairo. (A photo)

Before the pandemic, Saudi Arabia ranked fifth in terms of the number of tourists visiting Egypt. Being a female minister in the Arab world is not an easy task.

However, Al-Mashat gracefully rose through the ranks into senior positions at distinguished economic institutions, first earning his master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park.

She worked as an adviser to the chief economist of the IMF from 2016 to 2018, after which she became Egypt’s first female tourism minister in January 2018. Her journey to becoming one of the most influential women in the economy Egyptian woman did not stop there, as she was appointed Minister of International Cooperation in December 2019.

As for the future, Al-Mashat said, “I don’t know what the next step is. But I know that in everything we do now, we try to meet all the challenges and all the problems to always move forward in a positive way, and try to accomplish and achieve this goal for men and women. .

“Have faith and stay as positive and optimistic as possible, because each of us has many who look up to them or try to find strength in what they do. So we shouldn’t decline or feel defeated, even though our world looks like a very difficult place right now.

Al-Mashat said she believes in “the power of collaboration and the power of cooperation, and the power of trying to do things together so that we can overcome the negative risks that we may all face today.”

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