CAIRO: As CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, Hisham Fahmy reassured American investors that the revolution’s effects on economic stability will prove minimal as political stability returns, even if it takes a while.
For nearly 30 years, the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham) has provided a forum and advice for American companies operating in Egypt. Founded under orders by then president Hosni Mubarak in 1982, they have brought together business leaders from both countries to promote economic opportunities.
Since the uprising, however, their work has necessarily had to respond to increased economic instability. As various news sources have reported, political uncertainty has been a major factor in American companies’ reluctance to invest in Egypt. “The longer uncertainty over this issue persists,” reported Reuters, “the longer companies will hold off on investment.”
So the Chamber of Commerce has had to provide a source of confidence for wary investors. Fahmy expressed a calm, unhurried perspective on the issue. He explained to Daily News Egypt that American companies doing business in Egypt before the revolution have not left, but new companies looking from the outside in are waiting to get involved.
“We encourage them to take their time,” he said.
He said he tells American companies that “the fundamentals have not changed,” meaning geographically Egypt has not changed. “The Suez Canal is still here,” he continued, “and when you add to that the possibility of democracy, [investment] becomes more attractive.”
He also commented on the role of USAID. In March, James Bever, mission director for USAID Egypt, announced that in the wake of the revolution, USAID would be awarding $150 million in funds for microfinance, youth unemployment, community development, and other areas. Last week, however, US Ambassador Anne Patterson declared that “the future of Egypt lies with the private sector…not with international assistance.”
Fahmy explained that USAID has been a crucial indicator of support from the US government, and that assistance and private investment are not mutually exclusive. In the early 1980s, USAID was one of the main reasons many American companies came to Egypt and began to invest. If and how that dynamic will continue remains to be seen.
Fahmy and AmCham also put prospective investors in touch with current American companies in Egypt, hoping that the latter can increase the confidence of the former in doing business here.
At the same time, the CEO expressed the same uncertainty about the political and economic future of investment in Egypt that one hears a lot these days. “Anybody that tells you about the future,” he said, “is a fool.”