by Maye Kabil
On a seven-day Asian tour, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi started Sunday a visit to Singapore, a first-of-its-kind visit that coincides with the south-east Asian country’s 50th anniversary of independence.
El-Sisi’s visit to Singapore, which is the first by an Egyptian leader since mutual ties were established in 1966, aims to enhance relations and benefits from Singapore’s wide experience in a number of areas, including port development and management, improving the quality of public and technical education, and management of water resources and water desalination, according to a presidency statement.
Singapore ranks high on key measures of social progress. It leads Asia, and is 9th globally on the Human Development Index in education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, and housing. Although income inequality is high, 90 per cent of citizens own their homes and the nation has the one of the highest per capita incomes.
El-Sisi is accompanied on the trip by Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Eldin Moghazy, Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman, and Suez Canal Authority Chairman Mohab Mamish.
The president started his tour by visiting Singapore’s largest desalination power plant. The Suez Canal Authority signed during the visit an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Singapore’s Hyflux Ltd for water desalination and the generation of electricity, state-owned news agency MENA reported.
The MOU was signed by Mamish and the CEO of Hyflux Olivia Lum, in the attendance of El-Sisi.
Hyflux is a leading provider of integrated water management and environmental solutions. The company operates in several places, including in Singapore, Southeast Asia, China, India, the Middle East and North Africa.
Bilateral talks took place on Monday between El-Sisi and Singaporean President Tony Tan, followed by an expanded session of talks attended by delegations from the two countries.
The delegations from the two sides discussed cooperation in a number of sectors, including ports management, water desalination, capacity-building and training of employees, SMEs, and vocational education and training.
El-Sisi explained during his visit foreign investment policies to investors in Singapore, especially the opportunities for investment in the Suez Canal Axis. In a speech at a business event, he said that his visit “opens the door for bilateral cooperation and mutual benefits for both countries”.
The trade exchange between the two countries amounted to $671m in 2014, according to Singapore’s ambassador in Cairo, S. Premjith.
During his Asian tour, which is still taking place, the Egyptian president visited China to meet President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang. He will also attend China’s Victory Day celebrations tomorrow at Tiananmen Square, marking 70 years since the end of World War II.
An Egyptian delegation is signing several business agreements with China, according to announcements by Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour.
The agreements include one regarding a light train, which will link Cairo to 10th of Ramadan City and Belbais, and another that aims to raise the efficiency of Egypt’s electricity network.
Abdel Nour added that the delegation will sign an agreement with the Chinese side regarding the development of Ataka electricity station.
He also said that China Development Bank (CDB) would provide a loan of $100m to the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) to finance small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A further grant of $30m will also be provided by China’s Ministry of Commerce for remote satellite sensing equipment.
The total volume of trade exchange between Egypt and China reached $11.16bn in 2014, an increase of 13.8 per cent compared to 2013. Egyptian exports to China represent 10 per cent and Chinese exports to Egypt represent 90 per cent of these figures, according to China’s embassy in Egypt.
There is also cooperation between Egypt and China in the sectors of electricity, petroleum, natural gas, railways, highways, ports, metallurgical industry, building materials, chemical industries, lighting supplies, textiles, and household appliances.
This visit is El-Sisi’s second to Beijing in nine months. During his first visit, he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and a number of Chinese officials. The visit resulted in the raising of the relationship between the two countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
El-Sisi will end his tour by visiting Indonesia for the first time by an Egyptian president since 1983. His visit will include the signature of MOUs in different fields.