Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated a giant $1.1 billion cement and marble complex south of Cairo on Wednesday as part of the government’s development drive.
The 5 km² industrial complex, which Egypt says is the largest in the Middle East, is located in the northern Upper Egyptian governorate of Beni Suef and is comprised of three cement plants with a total production capacity of 12 million tonnes annually and 37,000 tonnes daily.
Egypt, through the Armed Forces Engineering Authority (AFEA), worked together with 20 local and international companies to carry out the megaproject, including the Chinese company CDI. It took 21 months to be completed.
During the unveiling ceremony, which was broadcast live on state TV on Wednesday, El-Sisi praised such industrial projects, saying they help to reduce imports while saving foreign currency and offering thousands of job opportunities.
"Do you know why we [the army] have created cement plants? To [keep] a balance in market prices," he said.
His comments came in response to remarks by the AFEA head Kamel Al-Wazir who said that the army's Al-Arish Cement Company has lowered cement prices per tonne by 25-30 percent (from EGP 1,300 to EGP 900-1,000) to help reign in high market prices despite a local production surplus of 11-12 million tonnes.
Egypt's cement exports went up by 13 percent to reach $57 million from January to June, compared with the same period the previous year, according to data released last month by the General Organization for Export and Import Control.
The army and the housing ministries are Egypt's highest consumers of cement, according to Al-Wazir.
The cement site has an output storage capacity of 360,000 tonnes in 12 silos to ensure "continuous production flow and cope with local emergency problems," according to documentary footage aired during the ceremony.
The giant industrial complex also encompasses five marble plants and two granite factories built on an area of 200,000 square metres with a production capacity of 3.6 million metres a year.
The project offers 1,800 direct and 8,000 indirect job opportunities mainly for people in Upper Egypt.
The site is also home to a large administrative zone comprising of a major conference hall, 14 residential buildings for engineers and workers, and a 220 megawatt power station.
El-Sisi had previously said that the military’s economic activities are equivalent to two to three percent of Egypt’s GDP and that the army often assists in infrastructure projects to help complete them at an accelerated pace, and in the supply of food commodities in order to keep rising prices in check.