Kyiv – To strengthen relations with his country's biggest importer of agricultural products, Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin visited Egypt last week – the first such high-level visit since 2010 – to talk trade, tourism, and terrorism.
Ukraine plays a major role in the revitalization of Egyptian tourism with nearly 800,000 Ukrainians visiting the north African nation in 2017, more than any other country except Germany.
“We have a lot in common”, said Klimkin, at a Cairo press conference. “Our upcoming bilateral meetings will not just bring ministers together, they will build our businesses and bring our peoples together.”
Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry hailed the importance of the country’s relationship with Ukraine and welcomed the resumption of direct Kyiv-Cairo flights.
Ukraine just lifted a ban that was in place since 2016 with Ukraine International Airlines, or UIA, resuming four weekly flights.
“We welcome the return of direct flights between Cairo and Kyiv, and its positive impact on tourism and trade relations between the two countries”, said Minister Shoukry.
More Tourism Strengthens Ties
While tourism has opened up the Middle East and North Africa to holidaymakers from around the world, terrorism poses a challenge.
Klimkin’s Cairo visit is the first since ISIL terrorists downed the Russian Metrojet Flight-9268 in 2015, killing 224 tourists, including four Ukrainians, leading to a ban on flights to Egypt.
Other terror incidents, including the lethal attack on foreign tourists that killed two Germans last summer in Hurghada, a popular tourism destination for Ukrainians, have severely damaged the Egyptian tourism industry. Visitor numbers in 2016 were barely one-third of their pre-revolution levels, dropping from 14.7 to 5.4 million, says the UN’s World Tourism Organisation.
Despite fears over attacks from Islamic militants, Ukrainians haven't stopped travelling to the region. In fact, numbers of visitors are surging.
More than 450,000 visited the country in tourist-depleted 2016. That amount nearly doubled to 800,000 last year.
Klimkin expects that number to grow.
“This year [Ukrainian tourists] will increase to one million,” he told reporters in Cairo.
Trade Grows With Ukraine’s Biggest African Partner
Ukrainian delegates were also keen to further improve trade relations with Ukraine’s most important agricultural importer. The countries had $2.4 billion in bilateral trade in 2017, with Egypt importing $1.328 billion in Ukrainian goods, up from $908 million in 2015.
Last year, there was a hiccup in the relationship as Egypt raised the protein requirement for wheat to 12.5 percent, which some observers believe was intended to favour Russian wheat imports. Now the countries are eager to overcome this bump in the road.
Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, is Ukraine’s second-largest wheat export market. Last year, Ukraine exported about 2.5 million tonnes there, roughly 14 percent of its total wheat exports.
Klimkin also announced that the delivery of Ukrainian Tatra-Yug trams to the city of Alexandria will begin in June. The order of 15 double-sided, high-floor trams will be completed by late 2019. It is the company’s first order of this magnitude in Africa and 250 Ukrainian companies are engaged in their production.
At the same time, Stepan Kubiv, Ukraine’s minister for economic development, announced two other projects between the countries worth $280 million: $200 million to modernize Helwan’s steelworks zone and $80 million to rebuild a coke-oven battery at El Nasr Coke and Chemicals.
Targeting Terrorists Together
Terrorism was also a focus for the meeting of ministers. Both countries have experience in dealing with violent extremism and terrorist activities. In Cairo, ministers pledged their support in combatting the issue.
“The fight against terrorism is not a challenge for one country,” said Klimkin, “but a global challenge”.
In addition to discussing terror-related issues in their own countries, the pair discussed the security situations in Syria and Libya, as well as their efforts to become non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The two promised closer cooperation going forward, with Shoukry advocating for a joint business council to improve trade relations and Klimkin inviting his counterpart to visit Ukraine.
Posted May 8, 2018.