Egypt Independent

Egypt the Future: A Saudi idea sponsored by the UAE

Eyes are turning to the Egypt Economic Development Conference, scheduled to take place in Sharm el-Sheikh from

13 to 15 March, where Egyptians hope their economy will be rescued with the help of fresh investments and international support.

The idea of the conference initially evolved from an invitation by late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in May 2014, coinciding with the assumption of the Egyptian presidency by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The invitation followed a 3-year-long political conflict after the 2011 uprising, which proved exhausting for the economy.

The conference brings hopes for an influx of finances for a number of major projects that could diminish unemployment and eliminate poverty.

After the death of the late Saudi King, the United Arab Emirates took the lead in pushing the conference forward, with UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan declaring that his kingdom was going to contribute to all efforts aimed at enabling Egypt to achieve economic prosperity.

As Saudi and Emirati support for the event was clearly voiced, the conference was first set for September 2014, with the name “Friends of Egypt”. The name, however, did not appeal to a wide sector of Egyptians who did not feel comfortable with the idea of inviting “donors”, believing that the term carried an unfavorable connotation, at odds with the conference’s objective of mutual cooperation with Arab states. Hence, the name was changed to “Egypt Investments”.

The government has also embarked on executive measures seeking to settle disputes with local and Gulf investors, while enacting laws meant to facilitate investors' access to and exit from the Egyptian business market. It was those measures that delayed the conference until February. Eventually, and given the Chinese New Year celebrations, the government preferred to postpone the conference once again to 13-15 March, giving it its final slogan: Egypt the Future.