The long-waited Euromoney Conference begins here today, as a host of ministers and macroeconomic experts from both sides of the Mediterranean gather in Cairo's Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel to discuss the latest in regional finance. More than 1500 presidents of companies and investment banks are scheduled to attend the event, which will be Egypt's fourth in as many years.
Prime Minister Atef Ebeid will open the conference, which the Sept.10 edition of Al Alam Al Youm said was "considered the biggest annual gathering of economic and finance experts." Ebeid will talk about the current economic situation in Egypt, as well as its potential, in terms of foreign investment.
The conference proper is scheduled to begin tomorrow, September 12, in the hotel's Cleopatra Ballroom, and will last for three days, concluding on September 14. The theme of the conference this year will be "Emerging Arab Economies: Breaking new ground in the global markets," and will focus on the latest developments in the Egyptian economy and Arab economies in general.
Infrastructure, new service companies and opportunities for foreign investors will also be discussed, as well as the progress made in Egypt's privatization program and its steps towards market liberalization. Much time will also be spent in discussions of the region's burgeoning I.T. sector and E-commerce.
The three-day forum will consist of five primary sessions, nine workshops, and four sessions for special discussions, and invitations to the event state specifically that "all conference proceedings will be in English."
Several ministers - both Egyptian and foreign - will attend, including Youssef Boutros-Ghali, minister of economy and foreign trade; Dr. Midhat Hasanein, minister of finance; Michel Marto, the Jordanian minister of finance; and Dr. Georges Corm, Lebanese minister of finance.
To balance the large number of government officials, a host of businessmen from the private sector will attend as well: Mohammed Taymour, chairman of the Hermes Group, Mohammed Younes, president of Concorde International Investment, and representatives from the European Investment Bank, to name only a few.
Mohammed Shafik Gabr, chairman of the Artoc Group for Investment and Development, told Al Alam Al Youm of September 11 that "a great number of ministers are pleased to participate in the conference, whether merely as participants or as speakers."
Two workshops will be held on the first day, including representatives of the many large financial institutions that invest in the Middle East and North Africa. Companies to participate include Daimler/Chrystler-Egypt, Proctor and Gamble, Amacco Petrol, Phaizer Pharmaceuticals, and MobiNil, amongst others. Workshops, which will focus on specific topics like "Telecoms trends for the 21st century" and "Privatization of monopolies and private sector finance," will deal mainly with direct investment opportunities in the Arab world.
The second day will focus on the role of foreign exchange bureaus and international financial institutions, and will be headed by James Black, head of research in Cambridge's institute for energy research. Dr. Sameh Torgoman, president of the Cairo and Alexandria bourse, is scheduled to speak about "the Cairo and Alexandria stock exchange's role in the region," along with several representatives from the World Bank. The first workshop will be devoted to the subject of infrastructure, and will be chaired by Dr. Ahmed Gelal, the executive manager of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies.
A second workshop, to be held later that day under the titles "Private equity investment in the region" and "Technology and the new delivery channels," will focus on privatization and market liberalization, and will be headed by Taylor Holt, a privatization consultant from USAID.
After this, Midhat Hasanein will address the gathering to speak about market performance and the development of financial institutions in Egypt.
The third day will concentrate almost entirely on information technology and the phenomenal growth of e-commerce, which is affecting every type of business. The day's discussions will be presided over by Ahmed Nazif, Egyptian minister of Communication and Information. Representatives from several prominent I.T. companies will attend, including Saud Blay, of Dubai City Internet, Kassem Fares, of Oracle, and Vincenzo Nesci, of Alcatel.
At the end of the day, Youssef Boutros Ghali will sum up the conclusions and collective aims of the conference.
When asked about the timing of the conference, coming as it does in the midst of Egypt's 'liquidity crisis,' Shafik Gabr told Al Alam Al Youm: "This crisis represents both a challenge and an opportunity, and if one comes to Egypt, he will find big chances for investment in front of him, whether in the form of production, real estate, or tourism, all is ready for investment - both reasonable and attractive at the same time."
He added that the conference was the fourth of its kind to be held in Cairo, under the auspices of the Euromoney Institute. This in turn has made the Egyptian capital a "permanent center, always on the agenda of this international institution, which enjoys great respect for its decision-making at a global level."
But whether or not any of these myriad sessions and workshops will have any real effect on the Egyptian economy is still open to debate. One analyst at a local brokerage firm who had attended last year's Euromoney Conference said pessimistically,
"A lot of foreigners who went last year won't return because nothing was implemented. It's all kelaam (talk) and no action. These things usually have a positive effect on the market, although any change won't last long without additional stimuli. If things of value come out of the conference, it won't be because of the speeches, but because of businessmen meeting behind the scenes." –(Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )