Türkiye and Egypt: For better times with many opportunities

Op-ed by Ambassador Omer Onhon

Ambassador Omer Onhon
Former Turkish diplomat
Former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Middle East.


I have been to Egypt so many times during my career as a diplomat in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on each visit, I appreciate the many beauties and dynamism of this country.

I also see many reminders of our common history in Cairo. In fact, the same is valid in Istanbul with beautiful buildings such as Khedive Kasrı, Sait Halim Paşa Yalısıand the Egyptian Consulate building which was built in 1902 as a summer house for Khedive Abbas Hilmi Pasha.

Diplomatic ties between Türkiye and Egypt were established in 1925.

Throughout these years, at times, there have been fluctuations in relations. In this regard, the last decade in relations has been marked by political strains between the two countries but now, we are witnessing a process of return to normal.

I would like to emphasize at this point that relations between Türkiye and Egypt are based on solid foundations built by common history and deep social and cultural ties.

On 20 November 2022, Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met in Doha, on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup.

Following the devastating earthquake of 6 February in Türkiye, Egypt was one of the countries which came with support. President Al-Sisi telephoned to extend condolences to his Turkish counterpart. Egyptian planes and ships carried relief assistance to Türkiye.

On 27 February, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, was at the port of Mersin on Türkiye’sMediterranean coast, with his Turkish counterpart, to meet the Egyptian ship carrying aid and then they made a helicopter tour over the earthquake hit areas.

The most recent development was the visit of MevlutÇavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye when he came to Cairo 0n 18 March, on the invitation of his Egyptian counterpart. They met with their delegations and held a joint press conference afterwards. They made very promising statements as regards the relation between their two countries. They pointed out that the new era would affect not only bilateral relations but the Eastern Mediterranean and the whole region.

During the last decade when relations were not on a normal track, economic relations continued unhindered and even improved.

Trade volume between the two countries increased every year.

2014: $4.9bn

2018: $5.4bn

2021: $8.2bn

2022: $9bn

Main exports from Türkiye to Egypt are; motor vehicles, iron and steel products, machinery and electrical machinery, petroleum derivative fuels and plastics and products.

Main exports from Egypt to Türkiye are; plastics and various products of plastics (plastic raw materials, polypropylene, polyethylene and PVC), nitrogen and nitrogen fertilizers, industrial oils produced from petroleum and parts of electrical machinery and equipment.

Most of the major instruments and mechanisms in bilateral economic relations are already in place.

The Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2005 and came into effect in 2007.

Turkish-Egyptian Joint Committee, High Level Trade Consultation Mechanism, Business Forum and Business Council are long established as mechanisms to lead economic relations. As these mechanisms function more effectively, economic relations will further flourish.

Natural gas has opened up a potential new area of cooperation. Türkiye has already become one of the major importers of LNG from Egypt and there are ample opportunities for cooperation in this field.

There are around 200 Turkish companies in Egypt with an investment volume of about EGP 2bn. These companies provide employment (direct and indirect) for about 90 thousand Egyptians.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly met on 26 February, with representatives of Turkish companies in Egypt. The Prime Minister stated that this meeting is a step towards stressing the importance of trade and economic relations between Egypt and Turkey.

There are many similarities between Türkiye and Egypt:

-The two countries are two pillars at the southern and northern end of the Eastern Mediterranean.

-Their geographic locations are strategic and central in their importance.

-They are located on transit routes and have favorable global market access.

-With a population of 85 million people for Türkiye and 107 million for Egypt, they are very attractive domestic markets.

-In both countries, a young and dynamic population makes up a strong and competitive labor pool.

-Both are tourism and culture destinations with incredible history, cultural heritage, sun and sea.

The two countries may look as if they are competitors but in fact they complement each other. Cooperation between them would multiply their advantages and gains.

Good political relations between Türkiye and Egypt will have implications well beyond their own borders. Many regional issues will be easier to address. Security and stability in the region will get stronger. Cooperation in third countries will pave the way for new horizons.

The opportunities ahead are really very promising.

I would like to conclude on the note that I am grateful to my friend Moustafa Moharram, a leading public policy expert, for suggesting to me to write this article.



Who Tells the Story of Egypt?

Hesham Shafick

This November, I had a delicious and duly missed English breakfast in honor of H.E Ambassador Gareth Bayley, the British Ambassador to Egypt - courtesy of the British Egyptian Business Association’s unequivocal hospitality.

Like all Scotsmen I’ve ever met, Ambassador Bayley would not let you enjoy your meal without bombarding you with humorous stories. But one story was, to me, a bit of a dark humor - here it is:

Planning a visit to the Middle East with one of his colleagues, the latter emphasised a series of business opportunities in the UAE, encouraging him to talk to investors here and there, and so on. Then when the conversation came to Egypt, his colleague stressed on the necessity of visiting the pyramids and a few museums - and stopped there – (the end).

I dropped my dearly held sausage-stuffed fork and had no thought in mind but “you bloody orientalists! If only Edward Said was here…”

But upon reflection, it seems counterintuitive that the same person who’d see Egypt (historically the first nation to modernise in the region) in an orientalist light, would not see the UAE in a similar light. It seems, rather, that it is the story told about each nation that matters - and the story of Egypt seems to be yet trapped in history.

Investors, diplomats, and policymakers are not sophisticated academics with the luxury of knowledge, time, and headspace to think critically about the stories they are told. They are busy people who don't have the time to actually learn about things - for they would rather use their time and headspace to create possibilities out of what they already know.

Our job as policy advisors is to simplify knowledge for overwhelmed policymakers; and hence part of what we ought to do as Egyptian policy advisors is to postulate an easily digestible story of Egypt, simplifying its complexities, whereby its heroes are not Sphinx and Cleopatra, but Sayyed and Zeinab.

This story must be scripted now, before it is too late; and it should be told by us, policy advisers with a profound interest in encouraging a diverse and long-term foreign investment portfolio, and not by distant media anchors or business and political leaders overwhelmed by the slew of opportunities to exhaust here and now. When asked about what my job at Moharram and Partners is, from now on my answer will be “rewriting the story of Egypt to both businesses and policymakers.”

Writing a Policy Brief

Hesham Shafick

An everything guide on writing a brief that is equal parts compelling and concise


More than ever, analysts today are asked to write briefs. The reasons for that are multiple: there’s too much accessible information out there for policymakers to read, policymakers are becoming busier as working hours escalate unprecedentedly, and efficient reviewing of knowledge material is accordingly becoming both essential and trendy. 

Unlike our community of analysts, investors, businessmen, politicians, diplomats, and all sorts of people we put under the super-modern label “policymakers” lack the luxury of knowledge, time and headspace that allow them to critically evaluate the stories they are told or deeply dig into its core meanings and implications. We are, therefore, asked to do that for them – and that is, precisely what a policy brief is about: digging into the subject, unleashing its core value and implications, and deciding what it could be used for and how it could be best utilized. The analogy to mining is intended: we are strictly and precisely mining to extract value from the piles of sand, dirt and noise that surround it. 


Briefing Process

Extracting value is the endpoint, but what is the process? Here, the mining analogy is even more pertinent. As in gold production, the process is four-fold, and each step paves the way for the next:

  1. Prospecting: We screen all available sources to determine which areas and fields are worth drilling into, and which are irrelevant.
  2. Drilling: Once we know where the gold lies, we drill as deep as is necessary to reach it. Note that both over-drilling and under-drilling would not help us find the substance we are after. Similarly, a brief should neither be too shallow to provide value nor too sophisticated that it takes up more time and space than the value it provides – aim to strike just the right balance. 
  3. Extracting: Now that you’ve drilled down to the layer where the substance lies, not more and not less, you’ll find the information you need – extract it and run away before its market price goes down. Beware that the information stock market is becoming super time elastic. In an information age marked with cloud sharing, once someone else delivers the information to the cloud, the once invaluable knowledge becomes as cheap and easy as one google-search away. So, once you have the validated resources, take it and create with it.
  4. Creating the Jewelry: Creating is key. A raw diamond ore is significantly more expensive than a diamond ring; yet we use the latter to propose to our beloved ones for a reason. That is because it is more usable – your beloved one would not be able to wear a diamond ore around, but she’d wear the diamond ring and it will help her fingers shine. She’d also use it to show others she’s engaged to you and to start conversations about your love story. That is what we’re after in a policy brief as well: putting the information together in a way that is usable to the policymaker, that would help her shine, that would show communicable value to others, and that could serve as a starting point for fruitful policy conversations.


So, what is a policy brief?

A policy brief is a concise summary of complex, inter-related issues presented in an order that renders them both understandable and actionable, thereby allowing policymakers to know the subject and act upon it.


A policy brief should have the following:

  1. A sticky title. Think of the policy brief as an advocacy tool – an advertisement to the solutions you recommend. In advocacy, you want to grab attention. You also want to use the title as a conversation starter, quenching your reader’s thirst about what you have to say.
  2. Executive Summary: Now that you’ve grabbed the attention of your reader, tell her in a few sentences or bullet points “what is up”; i.e. why are you writing this brief and why they should read it, what problems does it address and what solutions does it recommend. These aspects should be outlined in the summary, then detailed and evidenced in the body of the brief.
  3. Problem/Rationale: This section should provide details on why the question or problem addressed in the brief is worthy of attention, and contextualizing it vis-à-vis other policy issues and surroundings.
  4. Background: Seems self-explanatory, but beware of providing too much background. As mentioned earlier, you need to dig to the exact level where the knowledge value is created – not less but also not more.
  5. Policy Options: What strategies are put to address the problem? This section should include both practiced and unpracticed policy options, including international standards. Make sure to evaluate every policy option, providing its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  6. Policy Recommendations: What do you suggest we do? This could be selecting one of the policy options provided or coining a new one. In both cases, it must be evidence-based and could be argued for on proven results, previous experiences, and crude evidence.
  7. Relevant Illustrations: Provide graphs, stat tables, footage, and images, etc – the more visual, the better.
  8. List of References: Cite all references that you’ve used and those that could provide more in-depth details into the issues covered in the brief.
  9. Contact Details: What if the policymaker has been convinced with what you propose and I want to discuss it further? This means that your brief has succeeded – your advocacy campaign is halfway through on the way of influencing policy decisions. But for the next step to take place, the policymaker must be able to contact you. So please, do not forget to put your contact details.


A policy brief should do the following:

  1. Provide enough background for the reader to understand the problem
  2. Convince the reader that the problem must be urgently addressed
  3. Provide evidence to support specific alternatives/resolutions
  4. Stimulate the reader to make a well-calculated, evidence-based decision


A policy brief should be the following:

  1. Concise. It should focus on a particular problem or issue. Do not go into all the details. Instead, provide enough information for the reader to understand the issue and come to a decision.
  2. Based on firm evidence. It should draw evidence from various sources – preferably from different areas, scholars or organisations. It should not be opinionated or too argumentative.
  3. Relate to the big picture. The policy brief may build on context-specific findings, but it should draw conclusions that are more generally applicable. 
  4. Relevant and timely. It should be written to a specified target audience, addressing an issue they are currently having and answering a pertinent question.
  5. Professional, not academic. You are not writing to scholars invested in your area of expertise, but to policymakers looking for practical solutions. Give them the problem, the solution, and the evidence that the solution would work - all in simple, straightforward, jargon-free language.
  6. Actionable. Policy briefs are not meant to be read for general knowledge; they are rather written and read with a policy outcome in mind. Hence, it should be practical, feasible, and in touch with the real world. 


Final note:

Finally, write with passion. You are the expert in the policy field, and you provide a major push to the policy dynamics by briefing policymakers on the course of action you advocate. So act as such, it will show on your work.