Jordan News | Latest News from Jordan, MENA
January 17 2022 11:57 AM ˚
e-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Billionaire Sawiris wants ‘level playing field’ for Egypt business

Naguib Sawiris (Photo: Wikipedia).
  • +
  • -
EL-GOUNA, Egypt — Naguib Sawiris — one of Africa’s richest men, with an estimated fortune of over $3 billion — has warned that the Egyptian government’s involvement in the private sector makes for an unfair playing field.اضافة اعلان

“Companies that are government-owned or with the military don’t pay taxes or customs,” Sawiris told AFP from a luxury hotel in the Red Sea resort town of El-Gouna, which his family founded.

“We of course can’t do that, so the competition from the beginning is unfair.”
“The state has to be a regulator, not an owner” of economic activity, said the outspoken 67-year-old, Egypt’s second-richest man after his own brother, Nassef.

Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2014, the former army general has embarked on massive national infrastructure projects, with a new capital in the desert as the centerpiece of his urban vision.

The military’s economic reach has grown under his leadership, partnering up with firms such as the Sawiris family’s Orascom. 

The army has played a key though opaque role in Egypt’s economy for decades, producing everything from washing machines to pasta as well as building roads and operating gas stations.

No official figures are published about its financial interests.
Egypt’s economy “has been given a push lately because of government spending on infrastructure, such as new highways and the new capital ... and the private sector is building these projects,” Sawiris said.

But “you can’t depend on the state forever” to sustain the national economy, the magnate warned. 

“There’s still competition from the government, so foreign investors are a bit scared off. I myself don’t even bid when I see government firms (in the race) because it’s not a level playing field.”

‘Hope after the revolution’ 

A scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family, Sawiris built his fortune in telecommunications by investing in mobile networks in countries such as Bangladesh, Iraq and Pakistan.

Orascom has the only operating telecoms license in North Korea, building the regime’s sole mobile network Koryolink.

Gambling on freedoms that emerged after Egypt’s 2011 revolution that overthrew long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Sawiris founded the liberal Free Egyptians party.

“We had hope in the youth after the January 25 revolution, but they said they weren’t interested in forming a political party. They were more interested in toppling the regime -- and then what?” he said.

“It’ll only come back, and that’s what happened.”

Sawiris was coy about commenting on the current political scene.
“You have a parliament at least. I don’t want to say too much here,” the tycoon said with a wry smile.

His party failed to win a single seat in the latest legislature, stacked with Sisi loyalists.

“No true revolutionary who cares about the lives of people and wants to truly solve their daily problems ever wins,” he lamented.

Read more Business