Doing Business In Egypt

  1. Egypt is ranked 109thh out of 185 economies in Doing Business 2013, recording an increase of 1 point compared to last year.
  2. According to the most recent Enterprise Surveys (2008), the top 3 obstacles to running a business include Practices of the Informal Sector, Inadequately Educated Workforce, and Tax Rates. However, only 46.7% of firms report competing with unregistered or informal firms, compared with 50.0% of firms in the region and 56.2% of firms in all countries surveyed.
  3. Investing Across Borders reports that of the 5 countries covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators in Middle East and North Africa, the Arab Republic of Egypt is one of the more open economies to foreign equity ownership. The country has opened up the majority of the sectors of its economy to foreign investors. Overt statutory ownership restrictions are imposed on 5 of the 33 sectors measured by the indicators.
  4. According to the World Bank Governance Indicators (2009), Egypt ranks at about the 15th percentile for both the Political Stability and Voice and Accountability indicators. It ranks slightly above the 50th percentile in the Rule of Law indicator.
  5. Egypt’s economic freedom score is 57.9, making its economy the 100th freest in the 2012 Index. Its overall score is 1.2 points lower than last year, reflecting declines in property rights, business freedom, and financial freedom. Egypt is ranked 12th out of 17 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and its overall score is just below world and regional averages.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Most foreigners entering Egypt must obtain a visa. The only exceptions are citizens of Guinea, Hong Kong and Macau. There are three ways of doing this: in advance from the Egyptian embassy or consulate in your home country, at an Egyptian embassy abroad or, for certain nationalities, on arrival at the airport. This last option is the cheapest and easiest of the three.
Visas are available on arrival for nationals of all Western European countries, the UK, the USA, Australia, all Arab countries, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. At the Cairo airport, the entire process takes only 20 minutes or so, and costs US$25 – the seriously old-school stamps are bought from one of the 24-hour bank exchange-booths just before passport control. No photo is required.
Nationals from other countries must obtain visas in their countries of residence. Processing times and costs for visa applications vary according to your nationality and the country in which you apply.
If you are travelling overland, you can get a visa at the port in Aqaba, Jordan before getting the ferry to Nuweiba. However, if you are coming from Israel, you cannot get a visa at the border unless you are guaranteed by an Egyptian Travel Agency. Instead, you have to get the visa beforehand at either the embassy in Tel Aviv or the consulate in Eilat.
A single-entry visa is valid for three months and entitles the holder to stay in Egypt for one month. Multiple-entry visas (for three visits) are also available, but although good for presentation for six months, they still only entitle the bearer to a total of one month in the country.
Sinai entry stamps
It is not necessary to get a full visa if your visit is confined to the area of Sinai between Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba (on the Israeli border), including St Katherine’s Monastery. Instead you are issued with an entry stamp, free of charge, allowing you a 15-day stay. Note that this does not allow you to visit Ras Mohammed National Park. Points of entry where such visa-free stamps are issued are Taba, Nuweiba (port), St Katherine’s airport and Sharm el-Sheikh (airport or port).
Visa extensions & re-entry visas
Six-month and one-year extensions of your visa for tourist purposes can easily be obtained at passport offices, and only cost a few dollars. You’ll need one photograph and photocopies of the photo and visa pages of your passport. You have a short period of grace (usually 14 days) to apply for an extension after your visa has expired. If you neglect to do this there’s a fine of approximately E£100, and you’ll require a letter of apology from your embassy.
If you don’t have a multiple-entry visa, it’s also possible to get a re-entry visa that is valid to the combined expiry dates of your visa and any extensions. A re-entry visa for one to several entries costs less than US$5.
Travel permits
Military permits issued by either the Ministry of Interior or Border Police are needed to travel in the Eastern Desert south of Shams Allam (50km south of Marsa Allam), on or around Lake Nasser, off-road in the Western Desert and on the road between the oases of Bahariyya and Siwa. These can be obtained through a safari company or travel agency at least a fortnight in advance of the trip.

Business Etiquette

Relationships & Communication
  • Egyptians prefer to do business with those they know and respect, therefore expect to spend time cultivating a personal relationship before business is conducted.
  • Who you know is more important than what you know, so it is important to network and cultivate a number of contracts.
  • Expect to be offered coffee or tea whenever you meet someone, as this demonstrates hospitality. Even if you do not take a sip, always accept the beverage. Declining the offer is viewed as rejecting the person.
  • Since Egyptians judge people on appearances wear good quality conservative clothes and present yourself well at all times.
  • Egyptians believe direct eye contact is a sign of honesty and sincerity, so be prepared for disconcertingly intense stares.
  • Egyptians are emotive and use hand gestures when they are excited. In general, they speak softly, although they may also shout or pound the table. This is not indicative of anger; it is merely an attempt to demonstrate a point.
  • You should demonstrate deference to the most senior person in the group, who will also be their spokesperson. This is a country where hierarchy and rank are very important.
Business Meeting Etiquette
  • Appointments are necessary and should be made in advance.
  • Confirm the meeting one week in advance, either in writing or by telephone.
  • Reconfirm again a day or two before the meeting.
  • Meetings are generally not private unless there is a need to discuss matters confidentially. In general, Egyptians have an open-door policy, even when they are in a meeting. This means you may experience frequent interruptions. Others may even wander into the room and start a different discussion. You may join in, but do not try to bring the topic back to the original discussion until the new person leaves.
  • High- level government officials often adhere to more western business practices and hold private meetings without interruptions
  • Business meetings generally start after prolonged inquiries about health, family, etc.
  • If you send an agenda and presentation materials in advance of the meeting, send both an English and Egyptian Arabic translation.
Business Negotiation
  • The social side of business is very important. Egyptians must know and like you to conduct business. Personal relationships are necessary for long-term business.
  • Business is hierarchical. The highest ranking person makes decisions, after obtaining group consensus.
  • Decisions are reached after great deliberation.
  • If the government is involved, discussions will take even longer since approval must often be given by the ministers of several departments.
  • Business moves at a slow pace. The society is extremely bureaucratic. It may take several visits to accomplish a simple task.
  • It is advisable to include older people with impressive titles in your team since Egyptians respect age and experience.
  • Expect a fair amount of haggling. Egyptians seldom see an offer as final.
  • Egyptians do not like confrontation and abhor saying 'no'. If they do not respond, it usually is a negative sign.
  • Always include research and documentation to support your claims.
  • Do not use high-pressure tactics.
  • Egyptians are tough negotiators.
Dress Etiquette
  • Business attire is formal and conservative. Dress well if you want to make a good impression.
  • Men should wear dark coloured, lightweight, conservative business suits, at least to the first meeting.
  • Men should avoid wearing visible jewellery, especially around the face and neck.
  • Women must be careful to cover themselves appropriately. Skirts and dresses should cover the knee and sleeves should cover most of the arm.
Business Cards
  • Business cards are given without formal ritual.
  • Have one side of your card translated into Egyptian Arabic.
  • Always hand the card so the recipient may read it.
  • Make a point of studying any business card you receive before putting into your business card case. 

General Business Hours