How the Union for the Mediterranean is focusing on Egypt and the energy transition

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Nasser Kamel, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), spoke exclusively to Julian Walker, Editor-in-Chief of Energy Connects, about the work of the intergovernmental organisation with Egypt and why the energy transition is important.

How is UfM contributing to creating jobs and attracting new investments in Egypt?

The role of the UfM is to enhance regional cooperation and dialogue between the 43 UfM Member States, including the 27 countries of the European Union (EU) and 15 countries in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean. The UfM is consistently committed to fostering employment, in a variety of fields. The energy transition is a domain in which we're proud and happy to be engaged, as it is a crucial subject that will be discussed at EGYPS in Cairo.

Many of our efforts around employment are directed to the main Southern Mediterranean countries, and Egypt is one of them. Its demography, its size, its GPD, amongst other factors, make it a major actor in the region, reminding us of its potential. We have helped to create 100,000 jobs in the region in the last few years and I am very excited about a new initiative we are launching this year: the UfM Hub for jobs, trade and investment. With a 11 million euros budget, this initiative will contribute to further creating jobs in the region, including in Egypt, as well as helping the countries develop trade and enhance the conditions and regulatory frameworks for the trade flows.

We help SMEs in Egypt and beyond in terms of connecting them to potential customers in Europe and providing capacity building on the use of E-commerce and digitalisation as a tool to reach further markets.

We are also working specifically on gender equality because we do realise that in Egypt and other countries of the region, women's participation in economic life can be strengthened for the benefit of all - particularly in the transition to formal employment. Women entrepreneurship also needs to be further encouraged: we provide capacity building and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and we support them in hosting networking sessions and exchange on best practices, especially at the SME level. Our projects and initiatives also help them know how to address the needs and requirements of the markets in Europe and beyond.

What do you see as the main challenges facing the Mediterranean region when it comes to the changing energy landscape?

The global COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have accentuated the search for reliable energy and resulted in an enhanced cooperation between the Southern Mediterranean countries and Europe. These crises have shown some of the vulnerabilities and fragilities that exist in our region, in terms of lack of interconnection between the North and the South. But the situation has also reminded us that the Southern Mediterranean is extremely rich in resources, notably gas, which is a good transitional source of energy.

It has also shown the great, almost limitless potential of renewables, especially in Egypt. During COP27, we witnessed the interest shown by the industry and by the business community in Europe and beyond for green hydrogen, as a potential source of clean energy to be produced in order to supply Europe and beyond.

There is an opportunity to explore the different sources of energy and focus on the transition to a more renewable source in the next few years. Egypt occupies a privileged position on this topic and is set to become the regional hub for gas. The country also has potential in terms of green hydrogen, wind and solar energy. That makes it quite an important partner for the European Union when it comes to the energy transition.

How are you looking to increase your collaboration with Egypt especially in the areas of energy and the environment?

Over the next few years, the cooperation between Europe, the EU and Egypt in these crucial area will increase: therefore, the UfM’s cooperation with Egypt is going to be a top priority, especially in terms of energy.

Egypt has a unique position as the centre of the very exciting East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) and what it intends to achieve in terms of securing gas trade around the region and to Europe. At a time when Europe is looking for alternative sources of energy, gas will play an increasingly important role, but Egypt is additionally a potential provider of clean sources of energy (solar and wind), that will only grow in significance. As a matter of fact, a lot of key stakeholders in Europe who are looking at Egypt are also looking to other parts in the region -such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia - as potential important providers of gas on one hand, but also of clean and renewable energy, on the other hand.

So the next few years will see an important number of projects initiated by the UfM and also by the EU in Egypt. The UfM is following with great interest those projects for they lead the way to a new energy cooperation in the region. To begin with, the first electrical interconnection between Greece and Egypt, in which the former will be importing electricity from renewable energy produced by the latter. Moreover, there will be an additional interconnection between Italy and Egypt, whose implementation phase will hopefully start in the next few months. Both these projects will see Egypt becoming a major provider of electrical power to Italy and Greece and beyond, through the European grid at large. I see a fascinating pace of Egypt’s integration into the wider energy market of Europe. The UfM will stand ready to offer its expertise in this field, to Egypt and all countries in the region embarking on this path full of opportunities.

You are a key supporter of the Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS) - what are you most looking forward to at EGYPS 2023?

Last year saw my first participation at EGYPS and I was hugely impressed by the size, weight and quality of participation from the industry: I was pleased to see all the major players  from around the world there (Asia-based  stakeholders, major American firms as well as the traditional European companies). This shows how important EGYPS is for the industry at large and for the region more specifically.

Another impressive factor was the importance of the participants, there were Secretary Generals from many organisation like OPEC and energy Ministers from many countries. Everyone was there to talk to each other and look into ways of cooperating more.

I really believe it is a unique meeting place for the energy industry’s decision makers, but it is also a hotspot for witnessing the latest innovations at a very impressive exhibition, which has the latest technology on display for everyone to see and interact with.

Finally, I think having an energy event in Egypt is important as the country is – as mentioned - at the forefront of creating sustainable sources of green energy, but at the same time it is an important hub for gas in the European Mediterranean region.

Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Secretary General Nasser Kamel is speaking at the EGYPS 2023 Strategic Conference in Cairo on Monday 13 February, contributing to the discussion on fostering enabling strategies, policies and frameworks across the industry.

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