On the occasion of the celebration of the United Nations day in 24 October, the UN offered a series of interviews exclusively for Al-Ahram online.
The UN day marks the anniversary of the entry of the UN chart into force in 1945.
With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.
The fourth Interview in the series is with Giovanna Ceglie, the Director and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Representative in Egypt.
UNIDO and Egypt have been partners for more than 50 years. How has the partnership changed over the years?
Our cooperation with the Government of Egypt is very solid and spans over a number of decades. Not many people know that UNIDO’s first executive director was an Egyptian!Ibrahim Helmi Abdel-Rahman, a previous Egyptian Minister for Planning, led UNIDO between1967 and 1974 and contributed significantly to expanding UNIDO’s global network and outreach.
Even from these early days, UNIDO’s interventions have focused on supporting Egypt in delivering its economic vision for the country. We helped to develop the national industrial infrastructure, upgrade capacities of the industrial labour force and assisted the Government with the major transformation of the Egyptian economy toward a private sector-led one.
In more recent years, with the rapid onset of globalization and trade liberalisation, UNIDO’s efforts focused more and more on technical assistance to increase the competitiveness of Egyptian industries to gain growing access to global markets and supported Egypt pioneering projects in the field of green industry.
Over the years, our organization has assisted thousands of Egyptian companies in several crucial industrial sectors from textile, to leather, handicraft and creative industries, food production, building materials, agro-waste and engineering.
Egypt faces a number of economic and environmental challenges these days, how does UNIDO support Egypt’s development aims?
Our mandate – to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development – is entirely relevant to meeting the current challenges facing Egypt as well described in the Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) 2030. Our technical expertise and capacity-building measures help Egypt respond to youth unemployment, economic diversification, climate change and energy scarcity.
While promoting economic and industrial development we are mindful of the need to extend the benefit to rural populations, for instance in Upper Egypt, to include also small companies and start-ups in our assistance programs, and to promote a model of industrial development that not only does not deplete environmental resources but that uses them in an innovative and strategic way.
This is why, for instance, we are working on solar energy solutions as well as on solutions that allow turning urban and agricultural waste into entrepreneurial opportunities.
Egypt has indeed huge opportunities in its industrial sector and we are closely collaborating both with the government and with private sector partners to turn them into reality. Take the work we are doing in the textile/cotton value chain. The vision is to allow Egypt regain its position as a leader in high quality cotton production and to add manufacturing value and lock more investment in this sector.
Skills upgrading is of great importance in all the work we do in the country. Together with our partners, we invest in raising the capacity of workers, technicians and entrepreneurs, as ultimately, this is one of the main factors determining competitiveness and providing resilience in industrial development.
Can you share with us some examples of how UNIDO’s partnership with Egypt promotes inclusive and sustainable development in Egypt?
Let me highlight a few examples that picture the different aspects of our work and the range of beneficiaries we assist.
One of the main focus areas of our work is Agro-industries. We believe Egypt has a huge competitive advantage in this sector. This is why we have been supporting local farmers, particularly in Upper Egypt, and small and medium-sized enterprises to add value to their produce, improve productivity quality and safety standards, streamline logistics, applying good packaging and storing practices, advance drying and processing methods and accessing new markets.
We are very proud of the amazing results our beneficiaries gained: tripling productivity for horticulture products, increasing profitability and creating hundreds of jobs in rural areas including for youth and women.
Another interesting example is the work we have done in the governorates of Qena and Luxor and that combines the goals of generating opportunities for youth employment with the one of protecting the environment.
We worked with young entrepreneurs who are now successfully running their innovative small enterprises offering waste-to-energy solutions, recycling glass, plastic and electronic waste or turning agricultural waste into compost or highly nutritious silage for animal feed.
A third example relates to the work we are doing to help Egyptian industries improve their resource efficiency and economic performance by adopting circular and cleaner production practices.
Thanks to our assistance, many industrial companies are now able to use energy in a more efficient way, saving up to one third of their energy bill, reduced water consumption (in some cases up to 80%) and are able to produce the same or higher outputs with a reduced amount of raw materials.
This is so very important for Egypt as it not only uses scarce resources, like water and energy, more efficiently, but it also contributes in saving public sector spending (for instance on electricity and fuel) and delivers a cleaner environment for the Egyptian people.