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Egypt: NBK bet on the promising Egyptian economy 10 years ago, and we were proven right


National Bank of Kuwait Deputy Group CEO and Vice Chairman representing the Kuwaiti panel of the Egyptian Kuwaiti Cooperation Forum, Ms. Sheikha Al-Bahar kicked off her speech by describing the Kuwaiti Egyptian relation as a unique and distinctive model to the relations and ties binding Arab nations for long decades.

“The bond between the two countries witnesses several  milestones that will be engrained in  history and forever live in the memories of  both countries and their people. No matter how different the era or the phase they are going through, there is a solid foundation that time has not been able to change”. Al-Bahar Said.  

She emphasized, throughout her speech at the Egyptian Kuwaiti Cooperation Forum held yesterday, that Kuwait is the largest country investing in Egypt, with USD 2.8 billion in investments channeled through over 1000 companies in various fields, spreading across most of the Egyptian governorates. She added that Kuwaiti investments in Egypt spreads across  various sectors including services, construction, industrial, agricultural and finance.

 Al-Bahar highlighted that in the last couple of years, Egypt has taken substantial steps towards economic reforms. In late 2016, Egypt adopted an ambitious economic reform program aimed at restoring macroeconomic stability, promoting comprehensive growth and creating employment opportunities, taking into consideration the interests of the lower income class.

Al-Bahar stressed that  Kuwait, along with the international community, praise the efforts exerted by the Egyptian authorities, supported by the prudent directives of His Excellency President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi. She mentioned that Kuwait, as is the case with the regional and the international community, is ready to take a much bigger role in supporting the Egyptian economy.

  Al-Bahar stated that in light of these promising results, most international rating agencies upgraded Egypt's credit rating and the outlook from stable to positive, reflecting their appreciation of the economic reform program implemented by the Egyptian government, supported by receiving USD 12 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

 The attractiveness of Egyptian investments Al-Bahar assured that now is the right time to invest in Egypt and to capitalize on its enormous potential, including its strategic location, low production cost due to labor abundance and the availability of a huge consumer market due to a population of more than 100 million people.

She Pointed out that diversity is the most important characteristic of the Egyptian economy as it provides tremendous opportunities to invest in various economic sectors.

 "NBK has been betting, for more than 10 years now, on the huge potential and great opportunities that Egypt presents. That is reflected through the presence of our subsidiary NBK-Egypt, which has markedly grown to become one of our key overseas branches," Al-Bahar said, noting that our bet on the promising Egyptian was proved to be right, showing the extent of our confidence in the Egyptian market.

“The numbers show that NBK-Egypt’s net profits have grown from EGP 240 million in 2007 (when NBK-Kuwait acquired its subsidiary) to EGP 1.5 billion in 2017.” She confirmed.

 She further explained that NBK-Egypt market share is 2%, ranking as the top 7th or 8th bank in Egypt, which is substantial in the Egyptian market. In the near term, we aim to increase our market share  to reach 5%, pointing out that the bank's indicators confirm that we are moving well and achieving far more growth compared to most competitors. In 2017, we were the fastest growing bank within the sector, up by 77%, compared to less than 60% by most of our peers. 

 She added that the corporate sector currently constitute a huge portion of the bank’s business, as well as retail, which is attracting significant interest and is growing rapidly at a higher rate than corporate services.

NBK is focused on offering quality services to increase its market share. Among the promising sectors within the corporate sector are SMEs, and that is what NBK’s strategy has been focused on since 2014, as we seek to diversify our corporate portfolio and reduce concentration on a limited number of customers.

SME loans account for 17.2% of the bank's total loan portfolio, with a target to achieve a 20% growth by 2020.

"NBK-Egypt aims to expand and diversify its business to cover more geographical locations in order to extend our reach to more customers. This is reflected in growing the number of NBK-Egypt branches to 48 across various governorates," Al-Bahar said.

She stressed on NBK’s keenness to develop banking transactions and improve their quality to respond to the growing market demand. In addition to the great interest in encouraging the private sector through supporting and financing SMEs, which in turn contribute to creating employment opportunities for Egyptian youth in various fields.

"We can provide great potential for the Egyptian banking market to capitalize on our fintech expertise based on our leadership as pioneers in introducing the latest technological innovations," Al-Bahar commented.
Over the past 20 years, NBK has been adopting the latest technologies and digital initiatives, positioning us among the regional leading banks offering the most advanced and sophisticated services since the 1990s.

Al-Bahar affirmed NBK's commitment to supporting digital transformation in the Egyptian banking sector. The Bank is keen to transfer its advanced expertise in digital financial solutions to its Egyptian arm, NBK-Egypt.

She pointed out that there are many Kuwaiti companies that may offer innovative digital financial solutions to  Egyptian banks. That may be implemented through specialized Egyptian companies, which in turn will create employment opportunities in Egypt. In the meantime, Egyptian mobile banking companies have an opportunity to expand its investments in Kuwait to contribute to the development of this field.

She explained that the difference between the nature and needs of the financial sector in the Egyptian and Kuwaiti market creates a good opportunity to cooperate and exchange experiences between the two countries for sustainable development by capitalizing on the differential advantages of both countries.

Al-Bahar pointed out that, with all the ongoing fundamental reforms being implemented in Egypt, Kuwaitis in general are more eager to increase their investments and contributions towards the Egyptian economy.

She stressed that there are many promising sectors such as tourism, which is expected to grow significantly, providing ample opportunities for GCC investments, besides, there are the financial services, education and energy sectors that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Continuing challenges

Al-Bahar highlighted some of the challenges facing investing in Egypt, pointing out that despite its sizable population, there is skills mismatch, which is the gap between an individual's job skills and the demands of the job market; that in turn affects the productivity level and raises challenges to the business sector and economic growth in general.

 She pointed out that the structural challenges, namely bureaucracy and poor governance, are the main obstacles facing the private sector as they present massive challenges to private local investments, especially with government institutions still playing a key role in the economy.

She also noted that there is a need to gradually pave the way to the private sector, to take the helm as the main contributor to the labor market and economic growth. In this regard, the Egyptian government's determination to move forward with the privatization program of some state-owned enterprises to attract private investment should be commended”.

Al-Bahar said that administrative corruption continues to be one of the greatest obstacles to foreign investments, pointing out that the Egyptian government has been exerting commendable efforts in that regards, sending clearly positive signals to investors. We welcome those efforts and would like to see that trend move forward. 

"Rising to those challenges, Egypt needs to adhere to its path of structural and economic reforms. Those are vital steps since empowering the private sector, attracting foreign direct investment and promoting exports present the only way to meet these challenges, stimulate economic growth and sustainable development," Al-Bahar concluded.

Bold Measures

In her response to a question on the impact of the Egyptian measures to enhance the investment environment, Al-Bahar said: "The structural reforms implemented by Egypt in recent years have contributed significantly to the improvement of the business environment and managed to steer more investments towards some vital sectors. Take for instance the energy sector, based on the recent gas discoveries, the oil sector is projected to received USD 4.5 billion in net foreign investments in FY2017-2018.

Meanwhile, adopting a free floating policy contributed to a surge in the foreign exchange market’s liquidity and attracted foreign investors towards the Egyptian debt market, in conjunction with more flexible polices introduced by the central bank to remove the restrictions on foreign exchange movement, which has been posing challenges and hindering the flow of investments into the Egyptian market.

She highlighted that the measures taken by Egypt over the past couple of year helped in increasing the direct net foreign investment to USD 7.7 billion in FY2017-2018.

The results of Egypt's reforms were also reflected through a significant improvement in its ranking by about 8 positions in the World Bank's Doing Business report, which would boost foreign-direct investment growth in the near term.

Egypt's adoption of a number of stimulus packages in the legislative and legal environment, including the new investment and bankruptcy laws, will undoubtedly make the investment climate more favorable and encouraging to foreign investment.

Egypt has passed several stimulus packages to enhance the legislative and legal environment, including the new investment and bankruptcy laws, which will undoubtedly make the investment environment more favorable and encouraging to foreign investment.

She added that the most pressing challenge presenting itself is population growth and how to integrate an estimated 700,000 employees in the work force on annual basis to mitigate unemployment.

Kuwait: NBK Academy Celebrates Graduation of 20th Batch of Employees


The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) celebrated the graduation of its 20th batch of newly recruited employees from its annual NBK Academy which develops the skills of university graduates and qualifies them to work in the banking sector.

The ceremony was attended by the Chief Executive Officer - Kuwait at the National Bank of Kuwait, Mr. Salah Al-Fulaij, the Deputy CEO - Kuwait at the National Bank of Kuwait, Mr. Sulaiman Al-Marzouq and other members of the Executive Management.

Graduates who have ranked first this year were awarded for outstanding efforts in the duration of the program, attending lectures, practical training and on-site visits to branches.

During the four-month period of the program, the training phases of the Academy covered the various aspects of banking such as banking principles, risk management, teamwork, financial accounting, marketing, negotiation, consumer and commercial lending, in addition to practical trainings in rotating departments within the Bank during which they were mentored by internationally-accredited trainers to enable employees to gain specialized banking skills.

NBK Academy is designed to develop the theoretical and practical skills of trainees to prepare them to the banking sector and arm them with hands-on experience, as well as familiarize them with the Bank's business structure and culture to support their career development goals.