Russian industrial zone to cover 2 square km in Port Said: Egyptian Official

Ahram Online , Monday 1 Feb 2016

Port Said
Container ship Edith Maersk crosses the Suez Canal at East Port Said Port (Reuters)

The Russian industrial zone under discussion between Egypt and Russia will be built over 2 square kilometers near the coastal city of Port Said, the Egyptian official in charge said on Monday.

“The target now is that they want to start with 2 million square metres," most likely in Port Said area of the zone, Ahmed Darwish, chairman of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, told Ahram Online in a phone interview on Monday.

The two countries are set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a Russian industrial zone in the special economic zone covering close to 500 square kilometres around the vital international waterway which links the Mediterranean and Red Sea.

The planned Russia zone will include projects in five different sectors, said Darwish.

Russia and Egypt are taking steps to establish joint ventures in the areas of truck manufacturing, agricultural equipment, construction equipment, ship building, furniture making, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and land reclamation and energy, Minister of Industry and Trade Tarek Kabil told a gathering of representatives from 60 Russian companies in Cairo on Monday, according to an official statement.

There are no estimates yet for the size of the investments expected in the Russian zone, said Darwish.

“Even if we had estimates from the developer, which we do not, we could not talk about it unless we decide together,” said Darwish, though he did say that the area will include industries in five different sectors.

The Authority is in charge of financing and providing water and electricity, said Darwish, while the Russian-appointed developer will be responsible "for infrastructure within the 2 kilometres [squared] and the surfaces for their customers," he said.

The Authority has been approached by “seven or eight” banks interested in providing infrastructure finance, said Darwish, and it will be talking to the African Development Bank and “other donors” for “long-term, low-interest rate financing.”

The Suez Canal economic zone, which will include six ports and extend from Egypt's new administrative Capital in the west to the border town of Al-Arish in the east, is a customs-free special economic zone established in 2015 under the jurisdiction of the Authority headed by Darwish.

To bypass red tape and facilitate investment procedures, the Authority is authorised by law to issue all licenses and permits to investors in the zone on behalf of the Egyptian government, and make decisions independent of cabinet approval, with the exception of the ministries of defence, interior, foreign affairs and justice, according to Darwish.

The Authority is also in talks with investors to establish a petrochemicals industrial complex in the area of Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea, with total investments of $5.3 billion over five years, said Darwish.

The complex would be established in the same area as an oil refinery to make use of it excess naphtha by-product, a core input in the petrochemicals industry, explained Darwish.

Starting this week, Darwish said he will meet with officials and investors from Italy, the UK, the African Development Bank, Japan, Korea, France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and UEM, an infrastructure and services group owned by the Malaysian government’s investment fund, to discuss possible projects and financing opportunities.

Earlier in January, China’s TEDA Corp. announced a $230 million expansion of a joint industrial area near Ain Sokhna Port in the Suez Canal economic zone.

The Suez Canal Economic Zone aims to become a global logistics and industrial hub and is one of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's flagship mega projects, with officials previously expressing the hope that it would eventually contribute about a third of Egypt's GDP. 

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