Egypt new land of opportunity, says DUP'S Jeffrey Donaldson
The fast-growing population of Egypt could provide Northern Ireland companies with lucrative export and business partnership opportunities, UK trade envoy Jeffrey Donaldson has claimed.
The DUP Lagan Valley MP says that he will be working with Invest NI on a trade mission planned for May to ensure that Northern Ireland companies maximise the marKet's potential.
He believes that the best opportunity may lie with Northern Ireland's agri-food suppliers as food exports will be needed to supply the African country's 90 million strong population - which is predicted to grow to 250 million by 2050.
However, infrastructure development construction and development projects, particularly in renewable energy, and education are also two other areas likely to be of interest for opportunities ahead.
The Lagan Valley MP was appointed as trade envoy to Egypt by Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2015 with a brief to develop opportunities for the whole of the UK.
After returning from Egypt on his first week-long visit, Mr Donaldson told the Belfast Telegraph that he will be pushing the country's prospects to Northern Ireland companies.
"Clearly while there are still unease invariably in the Middle East, Egypt as a one of the major Arab nations offers many opportunities for business and partnership development opportunities for growth for companies here at home," he said.
"The country has one of the fastest growing populations in the world so food supplies and infrastructure projects will be vitally important to service this.
"There are 1m young people currently needing to be trained and educated for employment so this also represents a huge opportunity for the UK."
He added that he believed working in Egypt could prove to be a win-win prospect.
"Egypt is a land of real opportunity for British companies.
"I'm excited to spearhead the UK's efforts to deepen our business partnership with Egypt and encourage bold economic reforms.
"This will not only bring great economic benefit to the UK but will also be vital in helping Egypt build a strong, dynamic economy that creates jobs and opportunities for the Egyptian people."
British Ambassador John Casson to Egypt said that the MP's appointment as trade envoy was "a clear sign of the UK's commitment to Egypt".
He added: "Egypt may have suffered several years of economic turbulence, but British companies and British investors have stood firmly committed to this country throughout.
"The UK is an ideal partner for Egypt.
"Whether it is through trade deals, continued investment, or advice about economic reform, the UK can play a vital role in helping transform Egypt's economy."
Mr Donaldson attended the signing of a new £245m renewable energy power station as part of his programme which included events in Cairo, Alexandria, Idku, Port Said and Ismailia.
He also met the Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and the country's Minister of Trade and Industry Terek Kabil.
This year is the British-Egyptian Year of Research, Innovation, and Education.
The year builds on the two countries' strong existing partnership and a wide range of UK efforts to support young Egyptians with education and skills.