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UK seeks North Africa trade boost after Cairo deal

Rishi Sunak, the UK's prime minister, greets President Abdel Fattah El Sisi of Egypt at Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. Trade between the two countries rose by a third last year The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via Reuters
Rishi Sunak, the UK's prime minister, greets President Abdel Fattah El Sisi of Egypt at Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. Trade between the two countries rose by a third last year
  • Building firm Hassan Allam deepens ties with export finance agency
  • Partnership aims to work on projects across the region
  • UK-Egypt trade rose to $4.9bn in year to end of June 2022

The British export credit agency has signed a deal with Egyptian engineering and construction company Hassan Allam Holding to increase cooperation on projects across the Middle East and North Africa.

The agreement, signed at the British embassy in Cairo, aims to secure inward investment into the UK and promote cooperation on financing projects and encourage trade between the UK and Africa.

Gareth Bayley, the British ambassador to Egypt, said: “Hassan Allam Holding is one of Egypt’s leading firms and we are proud of our partnership, which dates back to the early days when they imported their first tiles from the UK.

“We look forward to continuing our work together, bringing mutual trade and prosperity to Egypt and the UK.”

Hassan Allam, CEO of Hassan Allam Holding, added that the memorandum of understanding with the agency UK Export Finance would “foster a number of significant projects”. 

The company’s portfolio ranges from solar power schemes to petrochemicals facilities, museums, airports and thousands of kilometres of roads and bridges in Egypt, Algeria and beyond.

Tim Reid, CEO of UK Export Finance, said the agency had supported projects that had “transformed local infrastructure and supported livelihoods” across North Africa. 

“We want to build upon these achievements, and this partnership will help us to identify future opportunities in the region where UK exporters can bring substantial benefits,” he added.

Person, Woman, Adult
The agreement with Hassan Allam Holding was signed at the British embassy in Cairo. Picture: UK Export Finance Twitter

The deal comes as total trade in goods and services between the UK and Egypt rose by more than a third to £4 billion ($4.9 billion) in the year to the end of June 2022.

UK exports to Egypt stood at £2.4 billion, up 29.7 percent, while UK imports from Egypt rose by over 41 percent to £1.6 billion.

Egypt was the UK’s 49th largest trading partner in the period. Top UK exports included metal ores, pharmaceutical products, fruit and vegetables and cars. Imports from Egypt included electrical goods, processed fertilisers, gas and clothing.

Last September, British International Investment (BII), the UK’s development finance institution and impact investor, announced plans to invest $100 million in Egyptian startups.

At the time, Bayley described Egypt as one of the investor’s priority markets, given its growth potential. 

BII has commitments of more than $760 million in Egypt, spanning sectors such as clean infrastructure and energy, healthcare, manufacturing and financial services. Its investments currently support more than 50 businesses and over 32,000 jobs across the country. 

In October, Gillian Keegan, who was then UK minister for Africa, said there were significant opportunities for British investment and expansion in Egypt, particularly in the renewables and green sectors. 

The UK is trying to boost trade worldwide following its departure from the European Union, its largest trading partner and the world’s biggest single market. 

Cairo, Casablanca and beyond

UK Export Finance, which was established in 1919, has contributed in recent years to a number of major projects in Egypt. In 2021, it provided a £1.7 billion guarantee to support the construction of the Cairo Monorail, one of the largest amounts of financing provided for an overseas infrastructure project in its history. 

The agency also has £2 billion available to support other projects in Egypt, according to its CEO Tim Reid.

UK Export Finance announced last October that Moroccan importers could access up to £4 billion in trade finance to help buy goods and services from the UK. The agency has appointed an international export finance executive, based in Casablanca, to support trade between the two countries.

UK exports to Morocco including Western Sahara totalled £669 million in 2021, up from £512 million a year earlier but down from a 2016 peak of £865 million.