The Egyptian president has suggested listing military-owned companies on the stock exchange so that Egyptians can buy shares.
“The offerings being prepared by the Egyptian state should include a change [for] the armed forces companies. In this way we will have opened a door for the Egyptian people and society to these companies,” Al-Sisi said at an opening ceremony for two new army-owned chemical factories in Abu Rawash.
“It is important for Egyptians to know that the armed forces have taken on this [economic] role, not to the detriment of the private sector.”
Al-Sisi’s comments appear to be aimed at appeasing criticism that the army has created a parallel economy in Egypt.
It is estimated that the army owns between 40 and 60 per cent of the Egyptian economy. Its business enterprises span hotels, steel factories, the media, home appliances and construction.
The army goes to great lengths to flush out competition, for example in 2016 it signed an agreement with the Chinese group Galanz to manufacture air conditioning units then placed restrictions on the import of other units.
The profits gained from these ventures are not open to independent oversight and the defence budget is a state security. Former officers have been appointed as ministers, governors and top administrators.
A series of videos released by the former army contractor Mohamed Ali sparked protests across Egypt in September after he detailed corruption and the mismanagement of state funds by Al-Sisi, his family and his closest circles within the army.
At the centre of the revelations was that Al-Sisi had spent millions of dollars on new presidential palaces at a time ordinary Egyptians are reeling from austerity measures rolled out across the country in line with a 2006 IMF programme.
Nearly one third of Egyptians live below the poverty line.