which is more a Dance rather than a Walk as you will see hereunder.
This is in fact a song by Liam Sternberg after seeing people on a ferry walking awkwardly to keep their balance. The opening lyrics state, “All the old paintings on the tombs/ They do the sand dance don’t you know” which reminds of figures in Ancient Egyptian reliefs.
This and much more run through my mind when I was invited to attend the Egypt Day seminar on Tuesday June 2 2009 at our historic Raffles Hotel, Singapore. As a child, I was fascinated in school about the Egyptians, and I must have seen the movie by De Mille umpteen times on The Ten Commandments where Moses worked among the Hebrew slaves first as an adopted Prince of the Pharaoh and then as Deliverer of the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt across the Passage of the Red Sea, a fantastic movie in 1956! I also thought of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, the Sphinx and Pyramids, and last but not least, the camels with their long necks and humps.
I am thankful to Nextview Singapore for organizing this event, a first official delegation of top Egyptian bankers, industrialists and their Stock Exchange, all of whom have come well prepared with meticulous accounts of their mission. I was very impressed that when I walked into the Ballroom of the Raffles Hotel, which was the venue of the Egypt Day seminar, I was warmly greeted by Samuel Zavatti, Senior Advisor-Asia Pacific, of CI Capital. That put me at ease that I would not be discriminated against as a lady attendee, dispelling the myths that Islam would frown on women in business circles! But then Samuel is really Italian. When he introduced me to more of his colleagues in CI Capital, including its chairman, Essam El Wakil, I was equally bowled over by their sincere warmth in extending their hands to me during the pre-seminar event.
The Group CEO of CI Capital, Karim Helal, made a few presentations to enlighten the guests, including their Ambassador of Egypt to Singapore, with well documented facts and figures of Egypt’s economy.When we are bombarded daily with the subprime problems of US top banks, I am very impressed to see that Egyptian banks like the top CI Bank, which is non-governmental, has been practicing (like all good traders) money and risk management , to maintain for the last three years above 50% ratio for the Loans to Deposits, which is remarkable .
Other papers about The Egyptian Stock Exchange, Maridive & Oil Services and El Sewedy Cables were very informative, showing a wide spectrum of the Egyptian economy.
The Chairman of their Stock Exchange, Maged Shawky, gave a brief overview of what their exchange trades in, from stocks in Chemicals, Consumer Goods, Contracting,Engineering & Cables, Fertilizers,Financial & Investment,Metals & Engineering, Paper & Packaging,Shipping, Storage & Trade,Steel,Telecommunication, Media & Technology, Textiles, etc.
From the wide economic activities , one can see the potential for foreign investments in Egypt.
As one delegate, Mark Rorison, CI Capital researcher, commented to me:
“80 million people can’t be wrong” referring to the huge population of Egypt compared to under 5 million people in Singapore. Mark went on more:
“Egypt, the Land of Sun, Red Sea and Sand, and history, is a land of opportunity. Pyramids and Pharaohs are timeless and now the country is shaking years of cobwebs – mummified cloths – to regain its former glories. This is the point about 80M young demographic and low penetration of banking, housing, consumption and wealth. It is only meaningful where there is change. Even in this period of turmoil, as risks have grown, Egypt is proving resilient and offering superior, if below par, growth. CI Capital’s Egypt Day highlights the potential timeless returns if getting it right.
Read on to be convinced if Egypt is the land of opportunity and value as well as history and sun.”
Mark Rorison has certainly made a mark on the audience, by waving his hands like an eagle on stage before making his presentation. For a moment, I thought he wanted the audience to do some exercise as it was a long afternoon! (My mentor Ray Barros, has a habit of making his seminar students get up and move their arms and legs).
Another presentation by Ahmed El Sewedy, CEO of Sewedy Cables, made me sit up with his wind energy paper. I am always thinking of alternative energies since my son, an engineer, has often told me that there are alternative energies that we can work on without total reliance on oil energy. After the presentation and questions from the floor were invited, I could not resist asking the last questions: Are you selling your hardware more than wind energy? How do you see Singapore using your hardware seeing we do not have strong winds as you do in Egypt (the strongest velocity compared to your neighbours in Europe)?
I was heartened to hear Karim Helal of CI Capital and a few others, supporting me with “Good questions!” The CEO of Sewedy Cables summed up with one sentence: “You can always mount the hardware on your rooftops.” Well, we do have very high rise buildings in Singapore, being land scarce.
Among the answers he gave was that energy could be transported inexpensively to faraway places as we could use the undersea cables (laid at great expense by the Americans) to convey energy via cables. He also mentioned that solar energy is viable as the cheaper way.
My parting shot to one of the delegates, Ashraf Shash of CIB, “ I recall in my London days, I chose Egyptian cotton bedsheets, but they were expensive !” His reply was:” It ranges from USD10 to USD60 depending on size, designs and quality. Finally, we compete based on our unparralled quality, especially in terms of softness and durability and for sure proximity to the export markets and availability of raw materials.”Points accepted and fair enough, seeing they now have to compete with China for textiles.
1. The delegates have made a strong case for foreign investments in Egypt especially with such a big population of 80 million.
2. Our Stock Exchanges in Singapore and Egypt could work closely especially in ETFs.
3. Egypt used to look west to Europe and US, but now they are waking up to the vast opportunities in the East, with China evolving as the Third Power now.
4. As Karim Helal sums up: a lot more to Egypt than the timeless Pyramids.
ANA aka IDKIT
RAY ON NDTV PROFIT on Jun 4 2009