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The reasons why you should think about opening a business in Egypt

Egypt is found in North Africa and it is bordered by Sudan, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Libya, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Its terrain is mostly desert plateau, and it is only interrupted by the Delta and the Nile Valley. Three percent of the lands are arable, while around three percent of the entire land area is being mechanically irrigated. The land that can be cultivated is being lost because of the windblown sands and urbanization.

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Egypt is known to maintain good diplomatic relations with the countries that are found in the United Nations, and it is a member of the African Development Bank, the Arab Monetary Funds, the Arab League, the Council of Arab Economic Unity and the International Monetary Fund along with other organizations that are related to the African Unity.

In the year 1998, Egypt became a member of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa called COMESA, which reduces the tariff for the members up to 90 percent and also established the custom union in 2004 to view and establish the monetary union until 2025.

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In 1999, Egypt started a partnership with the United States through the investment and trade framework agreement called TIFA, which enhances the co-operation between the two different countries and facilitates the reciprocal access of the respective markets for the countries by getting rid of non-tariff barriers together with impediments of trading and investment flow.

In 2011, Egypt entered into negotiations and initiated the partnership agreement together with the European Union so that they may enter into an agreement before the end of that year. This agreement would permit Egypt to join the proposed European Mediterranean zone that was established in 2010.  This agreement set a 12-year transitional period during which the non-tariff barriers are going to be phased out.

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Egypt plays an important diplomatic role in the Middle East. Egypt has been the home of the headquarters of the Arab League since it was returned to Cairo from Tunis.  The country is most concerned about how to enhance the regional stability and how to continue working in strengthening the relationship of the Arab League with Iran and Turkey. They also want to help in lifting the sanctions of the United Nations for Iraq so that Iraq can be reintegrated.  Egypt has now started to implement the agreement that has been reached by the members of the Arab League regarding the Arab common market treaty, which involves phasing out the existing tariffs in 10 years.  The members are Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia, Turkey and Egypt. The countries agreed that they will abolish the custom duties so that they may encourage the development of the free zone in the Arab countries.

If you want to start doing business in Egypt, you will also find that Egypt has trade agreements with other countries like Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Italy, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Morocco, Sudan, Romania, Greece and many others.

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The Law of Banks in Egypt for Foreign Businesses

The law of the banks is under the regulation of the Central Bank, the monetary and banking sector with its executive regulation and banking laws that supersede all others.  The upervisions of the banking sector has been relegated to the Central Bank of Egypt or CBE.  According to the banking law, the banks that have been licensed under the CBE are allowed to practice banking activities and are allowed to offer banking services in Egypt. The banking services, as defined by the banking law, include primary and customary solicitation together with obtaining financing and investments as well as accepting deposits and other services like solicitations of the deposits. It also includes participation in the sharing of investments of these funds or other activities considered as banking activities according to the customary banking practices.  As a general rule, the licensed banks also conduct some activities that are regulated under capital market law and the custody of the depository law as long as they have approval from the CBE together with the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, which is considered the capital market authority. These activities include underwriting of the custodian and security activities.

Banking-Law

The banking law says that the minimum issued with the paid capital of the EGP of 500 million for the bank has to be established in Egypt as a joint stock company. It provides the minimum capital of $50 million with its equivalent in the foreign currencies for the branches of the foreign banks.

The banking law allows the foreign banks to deal with the Egyptian currency, and it guarantees equal treatment as what is given to the national banks. Banking law has the principle of the market that is determined by the foreign exchange rate, and it has to be defined by the government and the CBE according to monetary policy.  It also has a number of prudential measures meant to protect the banking sector, including a substantial increase in the minimum capital requirements with tight rules for the clients that are lending to get special interest.

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The banking law agrees that foreigners may have up to 100 percent of the shares of the Egyptian bank, but none are allowed to have more than 10 percent shares of the Egyptian bank if the CBE does not approve it.  The private sector companies may own the shares in the banks that are owned by the state.

Banking law allows the people or legal entities the freedom of maintaining their foreign currency, and they can conclude the transactions in the foreign currency. This includes the transfer of these currencies from or in Egypt as long as the transactions are being executed within the banks and other entities that are authorized in dealing in the foreign currency and are listed within the executive regulations of the banking law.  Doing business or buying goods or services in Egypt has to be done in Egyptian Pounds, but there are some circumstances where exceptions are allowed.

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Different options you have when it comes to opening a business in Egypt

If you are looking to open a business in Egypt, you should know more about the different entities that are allowed to be established by foreigners in Egypt.  While Doing Business in Egypt, you can open a limited liability company, joint stock companies, branch office company or representative offices. All these options fall under the legal entities and are subjected under the general law of the applications. The law talks about corporate governance, regulation, rules and control issues along with fiscal policies and the fiduciary duties and other corporate requirements like extraordinary general meetings and the meeting of the directors.

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Foreign companies may be allowed to have a representative office under the companies’ law or under the law of commercial agencies, which requires the user to submit an application to the company department of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones. The application has to specify the company objectives, nationality and name. Where the company has their head offices and its capital also has to be included.  The applicant should include all the necessary information about the parent company as well as the notarized authorization of the board of the directors for the establishment of the representative office so that it can be delivered to the Egyptian consulate, where such authorization is being given.  It should be accompanied with a certified Arabic translation.

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The foreign company can register the branch office when the company is granted the contract with the Egyptian public or private sector to commence operations in Egypt. Contrary to the representative office, the branch office can engage itself in industrial, financial, commercial or contractual activities even when the contract that allowed it to come into the country has ended.

The joint stock companies are usually used when there is a manufacturing project to be established in the country that requires the owner to invest too much money. The joint stock company may have an organized management structure, and it has more stringent requirements for the corporate governance. Even if it does require a significant investment, there is no need to pay the full capital at the time it is established. Instead this can be paid over many years, based on the project at hand.  The rule is that there should be no restrictions when it comes to complete foreign ownership, but there are some restrictions when it comes to ownership of the Banks of Egypt, insurance companies and aviation companies. The companies that deal with the importation or the representation of foreign companies should be managed and also owned by the Egyptians.

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A limited liability company is normally formed for small projects, and they do not need too much financing like the companies that are involved in the services and trade activities. These companies have the same rule on foreign ownership of the JSC, and it should be applied for this type of the company. The limited liability companies should not be engaged in deposit taking, savings, banking or insurance. Other areas where they are not allowed to work are investment funds, portfolio management and security brokerage.