Launched in 2016, the Equal Access and Simplified Environment for Investment (EASE) program in Egypt has laid the foundations for making it quicker and easier for local and foreign investors to obtain operating licenses from local governments to set up businesses and secure land for industrial use, such as factories for manufacturing goods.
EASE ended in 2021 but it has made its mark on the General Authority for Investments and Free Zones’ (GAFI) One Stop Shops that act as a window for would-be investors. It also helped the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to simplify, automate, and de-centralize industrial regulations in line with international good practice. And it helped the Egyptian Regulatory Reform and Development Authority expand its capacity to manage reform.
In a country like Egypt, where a large population of school and college graduates enter the job market each year, having an investor-friendly business environment is crucial for allowing the private sector to become an engine for more jobs—and better jobs.
The US$5 million World Bank program helps lay the foundations for this by supporting the implementation of a number of bold government reforms – turning them from laws on paper into practice. This includes the transformative Investment Law, the Industrial Licensing Law, the Industrial Development Authority Law, Amendments to the Company Law, the Modernization of the Investors Service Center, and the First Digital Investment Map of Egypt.
For investors, the implementation of these laws has meant a 91% improvement in the average length of time it takes to get a business license. Previously, this was 320 days; now it is only 28. An investor can register with GAFI in less than a day, compared to eight days before the start of the program. The licensing-by-notification system introduced at IDA has helped reduce the number of days taken to issue even a high-risk industrial license from 640 to 55.
More than 2,080 industrial land plots were allocated through the new GAFI investment map while the program was in place. The investment map also started taking tenders online. The first e-tender, launched by Egypt’s North Sinai Governorate, led to 1,141processed bids for agricultural projects.
“GAFI is the main reason we were able to start our business,” said Mohamed Salama, CEO of Tulima Farms, one of Egypt’s first climate-positive agribusinesses. Based in Beheira governorate, Tulima aims to challenge the belief that nutritious, healthy and pesticide-free produce must be expensive. It also aims to improve local familiarity with environmentally friendly farming techniques. “Being new in the market, not everyone was aware of what we do. GAFI’s policy committee was well-informed and helped us start.”