Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has gained many plaudits for the business reforms he has pushed through since being appointed in 2004.

According to the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank, Egypt is the best performer in the region when it comes to making it easier to do business.

Historically, the regulatory burden on Egyptian businesses has been heavy. Transferring property after a sale took six months, but has now been cut to an average of 72 days. And crucially, the paid-in capital requirements for new businesses have been reduced by more than 80 per cent to encourage entrepreneurship.

Nazif’s reputation as an able technocrat has been bolstered by the way he has successfully removed some of the bloated bureaucracy for which Cairo is renowned.

But some of Egypt’s business community say that while many irritants have been removed, not all the nettles have been grasped and administrative delays remain a feature of doing business in the country.

But Nazif’s flagship reforms in the banking sector are particularly notable. Eight years ago, Egypt was over-banked, with many underperforming institutions.

A legacy of non-performing loans and inadequate capitalisation dogged the sector. But reforms to encourage foreign investment in the sector has resulted in much-needed consolidation and a raising of standards.

Many countries’ banking sectors have been hit by the world financial crisis, but strong liquidity in Egypt’s financial institutions stands out.
Special Report page 49