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Doing Business in the MENA Region: Egypt

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions represent an area of growth opportunities for businesses planning to expand global operations. But, it can be daunting to navigate the nuances of doing business there.

In this blog, I will focus on Egypt and cover some brief, but important facts for doing business in this North African country.

Doing Business in Egypt
  • Anyone looking to expand their business to Egypt should be aware that Islam is the dominant religion and it has significant influence on the personal, political and economic lives of the Egyptian people.
  • Egypt plans to develop the construction and infrastructure sectors and create an efficient retail environment to support the growing economy.
  • The World Bank has a list of the documents you will need to file and how long the process takes when starting a business. You can find that here.
  • Economic growth will average around 4.6% annually in 2017-21.
  • The primary industries are agriculture, automotive manufacturing, construction, steel manufacturing, textile production, tourism and petrochemical.
  • Egypt’sĀ mainĀ exportsĀ consist primarily of natural gas and non-petroleum products.
Business Languages
  • The official language in Egypt is Arabic.
  • Most Egyptians’ business transactions are done in English and Arabic.
Political Environment
  • Egypt has aĀ semi-presidential system of government and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the President.
  • Egypt has been the target of terror attacks and the country’s safety remains questionable.
  • According to the Egyptian Constitution, political parties are allowed to exist, but religious political parties are not. Religion must remain in the private sphere in order to respect all beliefs.
Business Challenges
  • There is a lack of legal and contractual certainty.
  • Bribery to get your business dealings done widely exists.
  • The rate of unemployment is high.
  • Customs procedures take a long time.
Business Etiquette
  • During the Islamic holy month, Ramadan, business hours are shortened because Muslims fast during this period.
  • Titles are very important to Egyptians. You should use a person’s title followed by their surname when addressing someone. If someone’s title isn’t known, using Mr., Mrs. or Ms. is appropriate.
  • The dress code in meetings must be a formal or semi-formal.
  • Making eye contact with your counterpart is viewed as a sign of trust and sincerity.
  • When sitting in front of people, don’t cross your legs because showing the bottoms of your shoes is considered disrespectful.
  • Business cards should have two sides, one side in your native language and one side in Arabic.