Elite networks in Egypt are gearing up for a big year in 2018. The presidential election will capture headlines; but power plays - that reveal much about Cairo’s incumbent decision makers and their intentions if they win a second official mandate - will continue to fly under the radar.
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As an attempt to draw upon the populist political platform erected by Abdel Fatah El Sisi in 2014, the Tahya Misr Fund was set up to breathe life into a faltering economy. Three years on, questions remain about its raison d’etre of Tahya Misr as well as those who stands to benefit most from it.
Sources suggests that Egypt’s ‘deep state’ is lobbying to improve its reputation in the United States. By agreeing contracts with various PR firms, the mukhabarat is now assuming a role that was once upon a time the remit of official state institutions. This highlights the bloated role Egypt’s intelligence community now plays, which may have profound implications on the economic and investment prospects.
As legitimate actors in the tobacco industry clamp down on the illicit cigarette trade, under regulated enclaves such as the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone in Dubai continue to award space for contraband and counterfeits. This may be fuelling international terrorist groups and presents a severe business risk to investors.
As GCC countries lock horns over the direction that regional policy should take, a geopolitical realignment could feasibly crystallize in the Persian Gulf in the period ahead. Should Saudi and Emirati divestment across certain sectors occur, Qatar’s elite will invariably turn towards a cadre of new partners to plug the gaps in its economy. Enter Iran.
With Youssef Chahed ramping up the fight against corruption in Tunisia, many questions are left unasnwered. Chief among them is the Prime Minister’s intentions behind the crackdown and to what end it will be pursued going forward. The fate of the country’s businessmen exposed to the previous regime will also be determined.
Historically, Syria has represented a safe space for armed groups that follow the regime’s line with regards to domestic and international policies. These groups are somewhat of a double-edged sword that have spread terrorism and instability in the region, to the detriment of even the Syrian regime.
Depending on which stance is adopted, Egypt and Sudan are simultaneously the best of friends and the worst of enemies. It is no secret that these countries have their differences, with notable issues playing out publically. However, there is much that binds these two African nations and the recent friction must be understood in context, to gain a deeper understanding of the impact this may have on investments.
In Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the tribal Bedouin are more influential than the state. This has a bearing on both the types of businesses flourishing in the region as well as the overall security dynamics.
The Kurdish energy sector faces important security threats from Sunni militant groups, namely ISIS and the PKK. As such, investors should monitor their operations closely.
Saudi and UAE are two of the most lucrative MENA markets, but must simultaneously ward off extremist elements from tainting their reputations. Violent extremism should be viewed as a central tenant of any Middle Eastern investment strategy. This is to say that investors would do well to concern themselves with the overtly political developments in addition to building a strong commercial understanding of the region – given that actors and institutions from both spectrums are sufficiently intertwined.
Focusing solely on reaching a political agreement in Libya to restore a national authority and stabilise the country would only fix some of the problems the region suffers from. While Algeria and Egypt project their diplomatic powers in the region and lock horns on achieving the best outcome in Libya - in their respective eyes – one key player, Rached Ghannouchi, preaches compromise and stability both in his native Tunisia, but also in Algeria and in Libya; both contexts where he has become heavily involved as a key power player.
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