Egypt’s Minister for Trade said the MENA region needs to create 40 million new jobs in the next 20 years and foster interconnectivity in the Arab financial markets to keep its economy afloat.
“You should create a better future for all Arabs in all of your countries,” Rashid Mohammed Rashid said during a press conference in Sharm el Sheikh.
“Full integration among Arab countries is called for by all these problems” – namely joblessness and the need to attract foreign investment from outside the region.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has failed to keep pace with its rapidly growing population. The country has been plagued by high unemployment levels, housing shortages and soaring food costs.
Close to half of Egypt’s 80-million people live below the poverty line of two dollars a day.
On Monday, an Egyptian man set himself on fire outside parliament on Monday after the same action by a protester in Tunisia sparked an uprising that led to the downfall of the government.
Copycat burnings have also been seen in Algeria and Mauritania.
“We are all in need of economic integration, and without it we cannot sustain... with what is happening across the globe,” Rashid said, alluding to last week’s uprising in Tunisia. “Everyone is for regionalisation.”
Rashid also called for a “real partnership” between the people of the Arab region.
“When we have a free economy it will lead to a customs union and a common market,” he said.
The need for participation between Gulf, Arab and North African nations was apparent, he said.
“This morning we spoke with 13 or 14 heads of state – and there’s a strong representation even from countries where their leaders couldn’t be here.”
Cooperation is necessary in securing non-MENA investment, as is a more stable financial infrastructure.
“The current [political and trade] policies are impeding access to investment. Countries are not investing here because we don’t have a business plan that can absorb all these funds. Egypt is opening a lot of fields of infrastructure – in education, health, and more – for investments. If this spreads through the Arab world then investments will flow in rapidly.”