This week, French train manufacturer Alstom announced that it has secured a $ 1 billion contract to upgrade Cairo’s oldest subway line.
It follows a contract that the same company signed in 2019 to design, implement and operate two monorail lines between the new capital and eastern Cairo and another between the city on October 6th and Giza, the 2nd $ 7 billion.
The news of Alstom’s victory comes as French beauty company L’Oreal announced it is expanding in the Egyptian market and plans to invest $ 50 million in its factory in 10 Ramadan, a city on the outskirts of Cairo.
France and Egypt have made no secret of the fact that they are strategic economic partners. Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly recently on a visit to Paris urged French companies to increase their investments in Egypt.
In May, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire to discuss prospects for maximizing French investment in Egypt.
Around 160 French companies are active in various fields on the Egyptian market. According to the Egyptian state press, France’s investment in Egypt exceeds US $ 5.8 billion and the volume of trade between them is US $ 3.5 billion annually.
READ: Freedom Initiative Launches Campaign To Highlight US Right-Back Targeting
In the past, human rights groups have urged France to put human rights at the center of its relations with Egypt and accused President Emmanuel Macron of marginalizing the rule of law in favor of building economic ties.
The Alstom and L’Oreal announcements come after attorney Ahmed Helmy was arrested in Egypt and charged with insulting the judiciary after soliciting solid evidence in the investigation of his client, a female political prisoner under investigation on terrorist charges would have.
Tawqa Abdel Basser Abdullah is being held in Al-Qanater Women’s Prison, where inmates have complained about torture and physical and sexual abuse. In recent years, several human rights lawyers have been arrested in Egypt while defending political prisoners, in violation of a fair trial for prisoners like Tawqa.
In 2019, France sold over $ 1 billion worth of arms to Egypt. In a joint statement the following year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and 17 other organizations stated that “French diplomacy at the highest level has long yielded to the brutal repression of all forms of dissent by President Sisis.”
The letter was published prior to Al-Sisi’s visit to France, but it hardly changed. When Macron was confronted with the issue, he said he would not push the issue of human rights as he had referred to Al-Sisi as a friend in the past.
READ: Egypt puts female political prisoners in a cell with criminals, reports ENHR
Macron also reiterated that he believes al-Sisi is vital to regional security and that on that basis a tougher stance in the fight against terrorism would be counterproductive. “I will not base defense and economic cooperation matters on these human rights disagreements,” Macron said.
Al-Sisi added: “You cannot portray the state of Egypt, with everything it has done for its people and for the stability in the region, as a dictatorship.”
Egypt Sisis Prisons – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
Among Egypt’s 65,000 political prisoners is the Palestinian-Egyptian Ramy Shaath, who was arrested in 2019 for his ties to the Coalition of Hope, a political alliance of youth leaders, politicians and journalists who wanted to run in the 2020 general election.
At the forefront of his release efforts is his wife, Celine Lebrun Shaath, who is French. While Macron raised his case at last year’s press conference with Al-Sisi, Celine said she was disappointed to find that France has not conditioned its strategic partnership on human rights.
In August this year, Egyptian razor maker Lord International laid off 84 workers within a week after participating in a strike over wage increases and warned them of further protests that would lead to tougher punishments.
A month earlier, the International Trade Confederation had listed Egypt as one of the ten worst countries in the world for workers. Independent labor unions are banned and sit-in strikes are stopped before they start.
When deciding to pour money into Egypt, companies like L’Oreal and Alstom simply turn a blind eye to how the Egyptian government treats its workers.
The views expressed in this article are the property of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of Middle East Monitor.