Open Briefing attended the Egyptian government’s high-level economic conference held 13-15 March 2015.
The Egypt Economic Development Conference was designed to support President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s intention to strengthen Egypt’s troubled economy. Egypt lacks the funds for the many new infrastructure projects al-Sisi promised during last year’s elections. This conference, nine months later, generated financial support and highlighted important projects, such as the enlargement of the Suez Canal and the new city to be build in five years time with UAE support.
The conference was held in Sharm-el-Sheikh, one of the main cities in the Sinai Peninsula, an area that suffers from frequent terrorist attacks, albeit more in the northern part. The government clearly wanted to underline its resoluteness in the battle against terrorism, while the Apache helicopter overflying the venue and the thousands of soldiers in the city left little room to doubt the seriousness of the security situation.
Leaders from around the world attended the first day of the conference. Thematic informative sessions were held on the second and third days, in combination with plenary discussions with former British prime minister Tony Blair, UAE minister of state Dr. Sultan Gaber, head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, the CEOs of major corporations, such as General Electric and Siemens, and many others.
The atmosphere was optimistic and positive during the conference, and al-Sisi attended every day. During his closing remarks on the final day, the president invited all the young people who had provided logistical and service support to the conference up onto the stage. Photographs of the youngsters taking selfies with the president were shown around the world. Immediately after the conference, ordinary people were out rejoicing like there had been a football match. The conference was extensively covered in the Egyptian media, and every TV screen showed its proceedings. The conference generated clear optimism, and has been interpreted by many as clear proof of the government’s good intentions. However, caution and scepticism prevail among many Western diplomats in the aftermath of the conference.
In the upcoming months, Open Briefing will publish new analysis of the political and economic situation in Egypt.