Egyptian visit highlights rim opportunities

A recent visit by an Egyptian conglomerate showed the opportunities awaiting WA firms on the Indian Ocean rim.

Cleopatra Group assistant chairman strategic business development Medhat Azzam was in Perth recently to investigate agribusiness opportunities.

That visit has since been followed up by Australian interests, including a delegation from Agriculture WA.

Austrade minister commercial Chris Heysen said the Cleopatra Group was a a $1 billion company.

“In Egypt, in the short-term, agricultural development is being driven by the private sector,” Mr Heysen said.

“All hot climate crops have potential there from cotton to the sort of things grown in Carnarvon such as bananas and tomatoes.”

Cleopatra began in ceramics about fifteen years ago and has since expanded its operations into smart card manufacture, hotels and resorts and agriculture.

It is currently developing a new agricultural project in Egypt’s western desert.

The company has five farms including an aquaculture operation near the Mediterranean Sea.

Cleopatra is looking to establish long-term relationships with Australian firms with a view to being able to offer markets in Europe and Asia a year round supply of fruit and vegetables.

Mr Heysen said Egyptian companies preferred long-term relationships because they were less vulnerable to international conditions.

Mr Azzam said there were also opportunities for value added products that could be spread through the Middle East and Europe from Egypt.

“We have thirty-two bilateral agreements so value added products from Egypt will not draw a duty,” he said.

His company is also a master developer of a ‘free zone’ in the Gulf of Suez. Goods produced in the zone draw no duty when exported.

Mr Azzam said there were possibilities for his company to expand relations with WA companies beyond agriculture to areas such as smart cards.

“Currently smart cards in Egypt are only used for phones,” Mr Azzam said.

“But there are big opportunities to expand into areas such as transit.

“The Metro service in Cairo carries 1.5 million people during peak hour,” he said.

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