Businessmen and economists are abuzz over Qatar's announcement last week that it plans to inject $18 billion in investments into tourism and industry projects in Egypt over the next five years.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar's prime minister and its minister of foreign affairs, confirmed the news on September 6th following a meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
He said officials will initiate studies to implement the investment plan, beginning with technical analysis and feasibility studies.
"Qatari businessmen are expected to invest in the various fields available in Egypt, from the previously publicised tourism, real estate, energy and metal industries sectors, to the financial and banking sectors," Mahmoud Sultan, an economics professor at Cairo University, told Al-Shorfa.
Qatar's entry into the Egyptian market began with the Qatar National Bank's acquisition of 77% of the ownership of Egypt's branch of Banque Société Générale and the Qatari investment bank QInvest's $250 million stake in Egypt's EFG-Hermes, giving it 60% ownership.
"Financial investments, however, will not be the same magnitude as investments in other fields due to the limitations on this type of trading in Egypt," Sultan said.
He said Qatari investments will bring two main benefits to Egypt. First, investment projects, in addition to pumping money directly into the Egyptian treasury, could create at least two million new jobs in industrial and tourist areas, and in energy and iron plants.
"Second, financial investments will naturally pump liquidity and hard currency into Egypt's financial markets, easing the pressure on the Egyptian pound against foreign currencies, especially the dollar," he added.
"This will also help Egypt occupy a vanguard position among Arab and African financial capitals, since Qatari investors are the focus of attention of financial investors and analysts thanks to their carefully-planned financial moves that result in successful investments in Europe, especially in London's real estate," Sultan said.
"The ball is now in the court of the businessmen of the two countries," said Mahmoud Mansour, a member of the Egyptian Businessmen's Association.
He said these businessmen are currently putting the final touches on a joint business council to begin taking practical steps on the ground.
"The upcoming period will focus not only on the entry of Qatari investments into Egypt but also on exploiting Egyptian expertise in various [Qatari] sectors," Mansour said.
"This includes the construction and architecture sectors, with the aim of increasing the number of Egyptian workers in Qatar and [helping Egypt benefit] from its expected real estate boom, since it is hosting the World Cup in 2022," he said.
During a joint press conference in June, the countries' prime ministers announced that work has begun to increase the number of flights between Egypt and Qatar and to ease travel procedures, which will help revive the tourism and aviation sectors and invigorate Egyptian markets, Mansour said.
Dr Shaher Abdullah, an economics professor at Ain Shams University, said he expects the size of Qatari investments in Egypt to reach $30 billion in the coming years.
"In the next five years, Egypt will enjoy an economic boom in every sense of the word in the financial and real estate sectors," he said.
"This would benefit the Egyptian people because their government would have the necessary funds to fulfil its financial obligations in terms of securing salaries for public sector employees and completing the internal economic reform process," he said.
According to Abdullah, many Egyptian businessmen have existing financial ties with Qatari businessmen, "and the coming period will witness the influx of their joint investments into Egypt".