King Sal­man Bridge be­tween Saudi and Egypt awaits in­ter­na­tional ap­proval: Bin Mah­fouz


The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page - By Mostafa Fahmy and Bahy Al-Fayed

Since Saudi in­vestors’ visit to Egypt in March, sev­eral com­pa­nies were es­tab­lished sub­stan­tial, said the Head of the Saudi Egyp­tian Busi­ness Coun­cil,Ab­dul­lah bin Mah­fouz, in an in­ter­view with Daily News Egypt dur­ing his visit to Cairo on Mon­day ac­com­pa­ny­ing the Crown Prince of Saudi Ara­bia Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

“We be­lieve that Egypt has achieved the high­est growth rate in the en­tire Mid­dle East, in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE,” he stated

Bin Mah­fouz pointed out that the Saudi in­vest­ments that flowed in the past months were car­ried out by a large num­ber of prom­i­nent Saudi businesspersons, in­clud­ing Ab­dul­rah­man Has­san Shar­batly,Ab­dul­lah Al-Othaim, and Khaled Al-Ghamdi, in var­i­ous fields across dif­fer­ent re­gions, es­pe­cially the Suez Canal and Sharm El-Sheikh.

He said that the del­e­ga­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing the Saudi Crown Prince lis­tened to the speech of the Egyp­tian Min­is­ter of In­vest­ment and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion, Sa­har Nasr, at the re­cent Davos in the Desert, con­fer­ence which briefed the eco­nomic achieve­ments of Egypt, re­cent agri­cul­tural and in­dus­trial in­vest­ments, and the op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able in south­ern Egypt.

“We showed in­ter­est in in­vest­ing in the re­gion,which has tourism and min­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he added.

Bin Mah­fouz noted that,“This is our sixth visit to Egypt since 2013. We want to re­view the achieve­ments of the king­dom’s in­vestors in tourism, real es­tate, and in­dus­trial projects that were im­ple­mented af­ter these vis­its, as well as dis­cuss op­por­tu­ni­ties in other sec­tors, par­tic­u­larly agri­cul­ture, min­ing, health, and ed­u­ca­tion.”

He pre­dicted that Egypt will wit­ness ma­jor in­vest­ments in the health and ed­u­ca­tion sec­tors in the com­ing pe­riod for their great need for de­vel­op­ment. He said that these sec­tors re­quire for­eign rather than Arab in­vest­ment, since for­eign coun­tries have the tech­nol­ogy and knowl­edge, as was the case in Jor­dan.

He added that in­vest­ment in the health sec­tor re­quires a clear in­vest­ment map for the sec­tor that guar­an­tees in­vestors that laws and reg­u­la­tions will not change, such as the new In­vest­ment Law, which is valid for 50 years.

He pointed out that se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions held be­tween the Saudi and Egyp­tian gov­ern­ments on a min­ing part­ner­ship, to which the king­dom gave par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance and al­lo­cated huge in­vest­ments, par­tic­u­larly alu­minium, phos­phate, and gold.

“Saudi Ara­bia has fi­nally re­alised the im­por­tance of phos­phate, alu­minium,and gold min­ing,and in­vested $55bn in this sec­tor.The three el­e­ments are avail­able in north­ern parts of Saudi Ara­bia and south­ern Egypt, and I hope to co­op­er­ate in this field both at the level of gov­ern­ments and pri­vate sec­tor,” Bin Mah­fouz said.

He said that the Saudi pri­vate sec­tor al­ways ac­com­pa­nies Bin Sal­man in his for­eign vis­its to ben­e­fit from in­vest­ments that can be im­ple­mented in var­i­ous sec­tors. The cur­rent visit to Egypt will seize any in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity to im­ple­ment new projects.

Dur­ing its visit to Egypt,the Saudi del­e­ga­tion will fo­cus on in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the tourism and min­ing sec­tors, as well as projects in the New Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cap­i­tal and the Suez Canal.

The Saudi-Egyp­tian Busi­ness Coun­cil is plan­ning to in­crease the king­dom’s in­vest­ments by at least 10% per an­num, but this in­ter­est is ac­com­pa­nied by a stronger de­sire for added value for those in­vest­ments to Egypt, he said.“Saudi in­vest­ments can only be se­cured to out­put high qual­ity that can be ex­ported.”

Bin Mah­fouz ex­pressed his de­sire to boos co­op­er­a­tion in the petro­chem­i­cal sec­tor.“Egypt is the king­dom’s gate of ex­port­ing to Eu­rope by virtue of its for­eign agree­ments. If Aramco and SABIC suc­ceeded in tak­ing an im­por­tant and strong po­si­tion in Egypt, the Saudi pri­vate sec­tor can in­vest in medium-sized projects with $50-100m.”

He added that the cur­rent pe­riod is see­ing joint talks for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and petro­chem­i­cal projects. The com­ing days will wit­ness the sign­ing of some agree­ments and co­op­er­a­tion pro­to­cols be­tween Aramco and SABIC, as well as other com­pa­nies in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor.

He ex­plained that the Saudi and Egyp­tian com­pa­nies, if agreed, will im­ple­ment large projects in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor aimed for ex­port­ing to Eu­rope and Africa.

“As a Saudi busi­ness com­mu­nity, we are wait­ing for Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man’s visit be­cause we know that it will wit­ness the sign­ing of sev­eral ma­jor agree­ments that will be an­nounced dur­ing the visit,” Bin Mah­fouz stated.

“We are now us­ing Egypt to en­ter the Euro­pean and African mar­kets.We have been very late in ex­pand­ing in Africa, al­low­ing other coun­tries to reap most of the ben­e­fit and re­place us.”

He pointed out that there are many ar­eas for part­ner­ship, in­clud­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in Egypt.

He re­marked that Egypt is pro­duc­ing high qual­ity medicines but its ex­ports are still very low, and that there are dis­cus­sions un­der­way to reg­is­ter Egyp­tian medicines in Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE at dif­fer­ent prices.

Egypt’s medicine ex­ports reached about $300m an­nu­ally to dif­fer­ent coun­tries that pur­chase the pro­duc­tion at lo­cal prices.

Bin Mah­fouz dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion of the sus­pended agree­ments be­tween Egypt and the king­dom which were signed dur­ing King Sal­man’s visit to Cairo in mid-2016, which wit­nessed pledges of in­vest­ments worth $23-25bn.

He said that about $1.5bn out of $2.5bn have been al­lo­cated for Si­nai de­vel­op­ment projects,while the re­main­ing funds will be dis­bursed in 2019 and 2020.

The Si­nai de­vel­op­ment project agree­ment in­cludes the con­struc­tion of a three-phase waste­water treat­ment plant, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ties in Phase II, and the con­struc­tion of the 90 km-long de­vel­op­ment axis, as well as four road links with a to­tal length of 61 km,link­ing the de­vel­op­ment axis to the coastal road.

The agree­ment also in­cludes the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Taba Road, King Sal­man bin Ab­dul Aziz Univer­sity in Al-Tur in Phase II as well,AlGady Road,13 agri­cul­tural projects, and a canal for trans­port­ing wa­ter to the penin­sula.

Bin Mah­fouz pointed out that the agree­ment on the con­struc­tion of a bridge be­tween the two coun­tries, which will be named King Sal­man Bridge, re­quires an in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal ap­proval, stress­ing that it will bring about a qual­i­ta­tive leap in the joint re­la­tions be­tween the king­dom and Bahrain.

He added that in or­der to im­ple­ment the bridge, some de­sign and con­struc­tion pro­ce­dures still have to be com­pleted, not­ing that all this re­quires an in­ter­na­tional res­o­lu­tion and co­or­di­na­tion with sev­eral coun­tries such as Rus­sia, Amer­ica, China, and In­dia be­cause it is an in­ter­na­tional cor­ri­dor.

“We need to co­or­di­nate with those coun­tries be­fore pro­ceed­ing with im­ple­men­ta­tion. The date for this will be de­ter­mined by the gov­ern­ments of Egypt and Saudi Ara­bia.”

The agree­ments signed dur­ing King Sal­man’s visit in­cluded the con­struc­tion of a bridge con­nect­ing Egypt and the king­dom with a length of 30 km and a width of 36 me­tres, in ad­di­tion to a dou­ble rail­way line in the mid­dle of the bridge with a width of 11.30 me­tres al­low­ing the pas­sage of trains at 250 km/h.

Ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment, the bridge ex­tends from the north of the Egyp­tian city of Ras Nas­rani, near Sharm El-Sheikh, to the east­ern shore of Ras al-Sheikh Hu­maid, north of the port of Daba, pass­ing through Ti­ran Is­land in the Red Sea.

Bin Mah­fouz ex­pected to ac­ti­vate the Egyp­tian-Saudi in­vest­ment fund, which is in­cluded in the agree­ments, soon, with­out spec­i­fy­ing a date.

He said:“This fund is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to both coun­tries, be­cause it will push the joint in­vest­ment to record lev­els, es­pe­cially as it will be one of the largest Arab in­vest­ment funds.”

He added that the ac­ti­va­tion of the fund is an eco­nomic de­ci­sion and not a po­lit­i­cal one, and it will in­clude ma­jor as­sets of both coun­tries, so was de­layed.

The agree­ments signed dur­ing King Sal­man’s visit in­cluded one to es­tab­lish a Saudi-Egyp­tian in­vest­ment fund with a cap­i­tal of SR 60bn, to be fi­nanced by the Saudi In­vest­ment Fund, its affiliated en­ti­ties, and the Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment, and its affiliated en­ti­ties.

Bin Mah­fouz re­vealed the de­ci­sion of Saudi busi­nessper­son Sheikh Saleh Kamel and 32 other in­vestors in the king­dom to liq­ui­date Gosoor El Ma­haba com­pany, whose es­tab­lish­ment be­gan in 2014 and was com­pleted at the end of last year with a cap­i­tal of EGP 6bn.

He said that the com­pany’s op­er­a­tional steps showed no eco­nomic fea­si­bil­ity, so it was agreed to be liq­ui­dated and al­lowed all its in­vestors to form smaller com­pa­nies and in­vest in all the lo­gis­tics ser­vices pro­vided by the Suez Canal.

“In­stead of one com­pany, there are more than 30 smaller com­pa­nies with a col­lec­tive cap­i­tal of EGP 6bn which will af­ford more suc­cess,” he added.

“The com­pany was es­tab­lished with a large cap­i­tal based on good sen­ti­ments and in­ten­tions. But the busi­ness process showed bad eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity, so we de­cided to liq­ui­date, and leave Saudi in­vestors to make in­di­vid­ual in­vest­ment de­ci­sions alone with for­eign part­ners to im­ple­ment projects in the Suez Canal.”

The com­pany was es­tab­lished to in­vest in Suez Canal ser­vices, ship main­te­nance, and the ex­ploita­tion of ship­ping lines,trans­port­ing goods be­tween the Suez Canal and Arab and African coun­tries, and pro­vid­ing var­i­ous lo­gis­ti­cal ser­vices.

He pointed out that the king­dom of Saudi Ara­bia con­tin­ues to in­crease its in­vest­ments in the Egyp­tian mar­ket, and when it an­nounced in 2017 that there was an in­crease in in­vest­ments, it was mar­keted as a “me­dia talk.” But the fact is that these vis­its re­sulted in the es­tab­lish­ment of 229 new com­pa­nies in the pe­riod from March and Novem­ber with re­mark­able cap­i­tal.

“Egypt was granted an at­trac­tive en­vi­ron­ment for in­vest­ment, at­tract­ing Saudi and for­eign coun­tries and has a great po­ten­tial­ity for growth,” said Bin Mah­fouz.

“Peo­ple may not feel the im­pact of these long-term eco­nomic re­forms,but we as Gul­fis look at them and see that they are on the right track, even with the prob­lems of ris­ing prices and for­eign cur­rency short­age, but the sit­u­a­tion is be­ing prop­erly ad­dressed,” he said.

He con­tin­ued: “We be­lieve in in­vest­ing in Egypt more than the Egyp­tians, who do not be­lieve in it. We achieve greater suc­cess. Peo­ple can fol­low the re­sults of the work of Gulf com­pa­nies . Ev­ery pound in Egypt is fruit­ful.”

He pointed to some of the mea­sures taken by the king­dom un­der its 2030 plan,in­clud­ing the trend to­wards Saudiza­tion of some pro­fes­sions and its im­pact on Egyp­tian labour. He said that the num­ber of Egyp­tians in the king­dom is about 1.9 mil­lion, and if some of them re­turn, they will bring ben­e­fits to Egypt thanks to the ad­van­ta­geous ex­pe­ri­ence they gained in Saudi Ara­bia.

“Coun­tries do not ben­e­fit from for­eign cur­rency re­mit­tances abroad as much as they have ben­e­fited from the ex­pe­ri­ence they have gained in de­vel­op­ment,” he added.

He urged the need to amend the Arab-Arab co­op­er­a­tion strate­gies and should be in large and huge in­dus­tries such as petro­chem­i­cals and min­ing, while other sec­tors such as tourism and real es­tate have not achieved any suc­cess at the level of em­ploy­ment.



Head of the Saudi Egyp­tian Busi­ness Coun­cil, Ab­dul­lah bin Mah­fouz

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