Approximately a year-and-a-half past the date of the historic revolution of Egypt, its people celebrate their National Day this year under the leadership of its first-ever democratically-elected president. With the swearing in of Dr. Mohamed Morsy on June 30, 2012, Egypt, being the most populous Arab nation and the beacon of development in its geographical sphere, again regained its role as the model for other states in their democratization process.
With such celebrations of the event, the people of Egypt realize that the process is still long, yet the rewards of transforming this historic country into a modern democratic State are clear, especially as calls and expectations are for the application of the universally-accepted norms of social justice and freedom. Throughout 7,000 years of recorded history, the people of Egypt have always shown persistence and diligence, and at this time of formation of the second republic they are evermore determined to put these traits to use to achieve all calls made by the January 2011 Revolution.
There is an understanding that challenges are plentiful, especially for the institutionalization of democracy, for the rethinking of means to achieve social security and welfare for the people, as well as a dire need to regain the momentum of economic growth, which prior to the revolution hovered around 7 percent but declined in the year-and-a-half since. It is understood that Egypt has to help itself before others can assist its development, and that it is a major challenge to gain competitiveness in the fierce international market to attract direct investment. To regain the faith and trust of international capital, it is a priority for the new regime in Cairo, as reflected in its political rhetoric, to pursue full restoration of security and the development of a well-functioning means for investment promotion inclusive of efficient institutions for economic dispute settlement, and full transparency in investment regulations.
|The panoramatic view of a modern holiday resort in El Gouna nearby Hurghada|
In this regard, Egypt maintains the following, which act as attractive reasons for investment:
― A well-founded economic infrastructure, which, when coupled with transparent and non-corrupt norms and practices as a result of the revolution, can be a major factor in attracting foreign investments, which in turn reflects positively on the rate of economic growth, and generation of income and wealth.
― A vibrant and dynamic society, with the majority of the population still in their prime and youth, which provides a base for a skilled and talented work force able to adapt to the needs of industrialization, and at lower wages than competing markets.
― A new post-revolution spirit of hope for a brighter and more prosperous tomorrow shared among all sectors of society, which is reflected in the commitment to build a new and modernized Egypt.
Looking back at its own relatively recent democratic transformation and economic development, the Republic of Korea is one of the most suited countries to understand the current position and aspirations of Egypt and Egyptians. In Cairo, the Korean example is among the first models of development being studied to make use of this experience where and when applicable in the Egyptian case.
This scrutiny of the Korean model led to the belief that education and vocational training should be at the focus of social restructuring. During the visit of the minister of foreign affairs of Egypt to Seoul in March 2012, to chair Egypt’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit, bilateral meetings were arranged to pave the way for the direct engagement of competent authorities in both countries to share the Korean example for education and vocational training, as well as in other fields of interest for further cementing of relations between Egypt and Korea.
Seventeen years since the exchange of diplomatic relations, it is clear that both countries share excellent relations in all possible spheres of interaction, and post revolution Egypt for sure has a lot to learn and gain from the Korean side. In return, Egypt offers to Korea a source for raw materials and energy that are needed to fuel its economic growth, as well as a consumers’ market of 90 million Egyptians, reaching up to more than a billion consumers in Africa, Europe and the Middle East when thinking of Egypt as a gateway to those markets while benefiting from free trade agreements Egypt maintains.
Since the Republic of Korea officially became a donor country, Egypt has been the leading African recipient of official Korean Development Assistance, especially in the form of technical assistance for capacity-building and human development. Egypt appreciates receiving this assistance, and is keen to maintain its position as the leading African recipient of Korean aid, with the view to diversifying the beneficiary sectors to assist in post-revolutionary Egypt planning, and in line with the commitments agreed during the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which was held in Busan in November and December 2011.
Likewise, Egypt encourages the Korean government to formulate three-way partnerships in aid assistance to other needy Arab, African and Islamic countries. Egypt maintains such successful programs with other donor countries, and is hopeful to cooperate in such a manner with the Republic of Korea for the benefit of third countries in need of foreign assistance, and where understanding and catering for social and religious structures might be of special emphasis.
In addition to the official aspects of the relationship of both countries, cultural cooperation and exchange is of great importance, and in the Egyptian Embassy in Seoul we try to make it a pivotal point of focus, mindful that the Korean public at large has much enthusiasm to learn about and explore Egyptian culture. By this understanding we maximize participation in all official cultural exchanges hosted in Korea, and welcome dearly all Koreans traveling to Egypt to enjoy its multi-faceted tourist attractions, and remain confident that over the coming years the number of Korean tourists to Egypt can exponentially increase. It is also worth noting that recent approval has been granted to establish a Korean cultural center in Cairo to promote its rich culture to the people of Egypt, and perhaps at a later stage, a similar Egyptian specialized center can be opened in Seoul. Until then, the embassy invites the Korean audience to enjoy the taste of Egyptian culture in the annual events such as Hi-Seoul, the Seongbok festival, and the Korean Arab Society World Travel Fair. Furthermore, this year in the Egyptian booth at the Yeosu Expo, one of Egypt’s top traditional dance troupes will perform during the celebration of the Egyptian National day there, and all Koreans are welcome to share this moment of celebration and enjoy a taste of Egyptian folklore.
Much to the pride of the embassy, more and more Egyptian students are coming to Korea through scholarships or direct application in pursuit of post-graduate studies to benefit from the well-founded universities and educational institutions. The embassy encourages such exchange of students as it is viewed also as a means to bridge and connect the peoples at both ends, allowing for the sharing and understanding of each other’s values and traditions. We have a deep belief that people-to-people connections are the basis of healthy and fruitful country-to-country relations.
In conclusion, I direct a word to all Koreans, whether officials, business men or the public at large: Keep your eyes turned toward Egypt. It is currently the focus of the Arab Spring, and is sure to be the focus of development in the Middle East and Africa as progress is made on the path of democratic transformation.
In the second Egyptian Republic there is a resilient will to re-assume the natural role as the beacon of development and enlightenment in the Arab world, and as a leader in the developing world especially when it comes to matters of social justice and welfare as well as freedoms. In confidence I say we as friendly countries have much to benefit from one another, and the scope of cooperation is virtually limitless regardless of the geographic distance. I wish the people of Korea ever-increasing progress and prosperity, and look forward to benefiting Egypt from my exposure and knowledge of this dynamic country.