Egypt country brief

Overview

Australia opened its first Embassy in the Arab world in Cairo in 1950. Our relationship is one of mutual respect between two nations. It features strong people-to-people links, a shared interest in the strategic affairs of the region – including a longstanding peacekeeping deployment in the Sinai – and a modest but important trade relationship. We also have a shared military history – over 4,000 Australian soldiers from the First and Second World War are buried in Egypt.

Political Overview

System of Government

Egypt is one of the world’s oldest continuous nation-states, with a written history dating back several millennia. Contemporary Egypt owes its origins to a 1952 military coup, which overthrew Egypt’s last monarch and led to the establishment of a republic the following year.

Egypt is a presidential republic. The President is head of state and head of the executive branch of government. The President appoints the Prime Minister and other Ministers and is Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Egypt experienced significant political upheaval during the Arab Spring. Hosni Mubarak, President since 1981, stood down from power after a wave of protests in February 2011. Democratic elections brought to power President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, who in turn were ousted in 2013 after a popularly-supported movement led by then-Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. President Sisi was elected in May 2014. Parliamentary elections were last held in December 2015 and a Presidential election is scheduled for March 2018.

Economic Overview

Egypt is a lower middle-income country. Egypt’s economy has relatively large tourism, agricultural and services sectors; derives substantial revenues from the Suez Canal; receives considerable remittances from overseas workers; and garners some additional income from the sale of hydrocarbons. Military-owned and affiliated companies, often run by retired generals, have long played an active role in Egypt’s economy.

Significant falls in tourism and foreign investment since 2011 have severely affected the Egyptian economy. In August 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced a three-year loan package worth $US12 billion, intended to stimulate the economy and increase investor confidence. This package of economic reforms, including currency devaluation, is leading to some improvements in trade and investment. 

Bilateral Relations

Australia and Egypt have warm relations based on longstanding ties. Australia enjoys engagement with Egypt on a number of shared regional and international priorities, including counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism.

Australia has 25 Defence Force personnel deployed to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai, under Operation Mazurka. In March, Australian Major General Simon Stuart became Force Commander of the MFO.

Under Operation Manitou, the Australian Government routinely commits a Royal Australian Navy vessel and personnel to the region to support the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). CMF’s main focus is to defeat terrorism, prevent piracy, encourage regional cooperation, and promote a safe maritime environment. CMF’s Area of Operation includes the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.

Trade and Investment

Egypt was Australia’s 53rd largest merchandise trading partner in 2016-17, with two-way merchandise trade totalling $451 million ($408 million in exports from Australia and $43 million in imports from Egypt).

In 2016-17 Australia’s principal exports to Egypt were agricultural products. Key exports included vegetables, wool and other animal hair products and wheat. Imports from Egypt were valued at $34 million, including floor coverings, clothing and motor vehicles.

Australian companies are prominent investors in Egypt’s mineral sector (gold).

Austrade's office in Riyadh is responsible for Egypt. Austrade's web site has information on doing business in Egypt and market profiles of priority sectors, such as mining.

The Australian Government has imposed prohibitions on the carriage of air cargo that has originated from, or transited through, Egypt. This can impact on goods exported from Egypt.

High Level Visits

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove, visited Egypt in October 2017 to attend commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein.

Recent high-level visitors from Egypt have included the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in September 2017; and the Minister for Immigration and Expatriate Affairs, Ms Nabila Makram, in September 2017 and October 2016.

Last Updated: 12 January 2018