Anyone attempting to keep track of the megaprojects opening in Egypt these days may be forgiven for, at some point, losing track. No sooner does President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi open one than we are informed that another will be opened soon, with more to come.
Earlier this month, on 15 August 2018, President Sisi attended the inauguration ceremony of a number of national projects in the governorate of Beni Sweif some 100km south of Cairo. These included an industrial complex for producing cement and marble, expected to be one of the largest in terms of productivity in Egypt and the Middle East.
According to Head of the National Services Projects Agency Major General Moustafa Amin, the project is in line with the comprehensive development plan in Egypt, and aims at supporting housing and construction. Even though Egypt is one of the first countries in the world to produce cement in 1911, local production of affordable cement over the past 10 years did not fulfil the demand of the Egyptian market. The expected consumption of building materials by the end of this year will hit 59 million tons, Major General Amin said, to increase in 2022 to 86 million tons. With this in mind, the President has urged the addition of two production lines to the current two in Arish cement complex.
Cement and marble
The Beni Sweif plant stretches over an area of five million square metres and includes three factories with six production lines that have the capacity to produce a total 12 million tons a year. The new production lines of cement in Beni Sweif and Arish, Major Ganeral Amin said, will add up to 15.3 million tons of cement annually so that the total local annual production would increase from 55 million tons to roughly 70 million tons.
The Beni Sweif project provides up to 1,800 direct jobs and around 8,000 indirect ones, Major General Amin said, asserting that they are in line with the international ecological and health standards. They were both built in just 21 months by the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces in cooperation with the Chinese CDI company and the Italian firm Pedrini.
As to the marble and granite complex in Beni Sweif, Major General Amin said that it taps the huge resources in the Egyptian deserts; Egypt ranks 7th in the world for countries producing marble and granite.
The complex is set up on an area of 200,000 square metres and includes five plants for marble production, and two others for granite; the overall production capacity of the complex is an annual 3.6 million metres. The project provides 750 direct jobs and around 2,000 indirect jobs, and includes administrative buildings plus residential units for up to 300 workers along with recreational places and green areas.
Major General Amin indicated that similar projects are underway in other governorates including five industrial complexes for granite and marble in Central Sinai, Minya, Ras Sidr, Ain Sokhna and Aswan. Their expected opening is scheduled for 2019 in January, February, April and July respectively, he said.
The second most significant mega water project on the River Nile after the Aswan High Dam, Qanater Assiut (Assiut Barrage) was opened by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on 12 August. The project is one of a number of mega development projects recently opened or scheduled to open during the upcoming weeks.
The new barrage in Assiut, some 350km south of Cairo, replaces the old barrage built in 1903. This had been designed by renowned British engineer Sir William Willcocks who also concurrently designed and built the first Nile reservoir, the Aswan “Low Dam”, further upstream about 800km south of Cairo.
A few years ago, engineers observed that the old Assiut barrage had begun to show signs of aging; defects and cracks hit its walls. Renovation and maintenance were too costly and, moreover, could not guarantee for the barrage to re-operate at its original full capacity and efficacy. Four years ago, the engineers decided it would be a much better idea to build a new barrage.
The new Assiut barrage was built by Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation at a cost of some EGP6.5 billion. Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Muhammad Abdel-Aaty, says that the new barrage, which includes a water reservoir, a hydro power plant, and a bridge linking the east and west banks of the Nile, was funded through an agreement between the Egyptian government and Germany represented by the German Construction Bank which offered a number of economic incentives. These comprised an easy loan of 296 million Euros; the bigger part of it went to the Ministry of Irrigation, and a small loan to the Ministry of Electricity for the turbines, generators, and electrical works. They included also 40 million Euros within a debt for development swap agreement between the Egyptian and German governments. The Egyptian government contributed EGP1.25 billion towards the project.
Some 97 per cent of the 3000 workers on the project were Egyptian: the engineers, technicians, and labourers.
The new barrage has eight arch gates 17m wide each; three on the right side of the power station and five on the left. A state-of-the-art control system regulates the performance of the hydraulically operated gates.
Four tubular turbines produce 32 megawatts of electricity, saving around 50,000 tons of fuel and helping to reduce carbon emissions by generating clean, environment-friendly power.
Water for irrigation
The project aims at improving irrigation in Egypt’s central region through diverting the Nile water into the country’s largest irrigation canal, the Ibrahimiya Canal in Minya, during the low water season. That central region represents 20 per cent of the total cultivated area in Egypt; 650,000 feddans that straddle five provinces: from Assiut to the south and northwards through Minya, Beni Sweif, Fayoum, and up to Giza. Around one million Egyptian farmers will benefit from the barrage.
The project also is part of the State’s plan to develop river navigation from Aswan to the Mediterranean, and on the regional level from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean. The new barrage allows for year-round navigation.
Water expert Diaa al-Qoussi, says that some 80 per cent of Egypt’s water resources goes to irrigation. The government, he says, is planning to establish and develop a number of barrages, including those at Esna some 700km south of Cairo, and Nag Hammadi some 550km south of Cairo.
“In parallel to water projects,” Dr Qoussi noted, “we should rationalise consumption of water in general and irrigation water.
“Agricultural projects do not usually bring in such big revenue as industrial projects,” he added, “But agricultural projects are essential since they work to feed people.”
Solar powered water wells in New Valley
The same day, 12 August, President Sisi opened through videoconference 25 water wells operated by solar energy in the New Valley oases region in the Western Desert. At a cost of EGP37.5 million, the new wells are located at the village of al-Rashda in al-Dakhla oasis.
Watani’s correspondent in the New Valley, Fouad Saad reports that the second phase of the project to operate water wells by solar energy is underway, and targets 33 other wells in Dakhla, at a cost of EGP69 million.
According to Muhammad Erfan, head of the Administrative Control Authority, these wells are part of a programme by the Ministry of Irrigation to convert underground wells from diesel-operated to solar powered.
The army, health, and education
The sixth National Youth Conference was held over two days on 28 – 29 July at Cairo University. As has become customary, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi participated in all the conference sessions.
During the first session of the conference, the President talked about the intimate relation between Egyptians and their Armed Forces, Egypt’s sons, many of whom have laid down their lives for Egypt. He announced the promotion of Defence Minister Muhammad Zaki from the rank of Lieutenant General to General, the second-highest rank in the Egyptian Armed Forces. Two young participants in the conference pinned the new rank on General Zaki.
The conference came under the title “Strategy of building the individual”, with the sessions focusing on the topics of modernising education and health care, so they would be upgraded to international standards.
Special attention centred on implementing a health insurance system that covers all Egyptians, also on the Health Ministry’s new project of using a huge digital database to put an end to waiting lists of patients requiring surgery. President Sisi, who was visibly moved by a documentary screened on the waiting lists, said that the project cost the State EGP1 billion.
On the public education front, the Ministry of Education is implementing a new, modern education system that starts with the new scholastic year in September 2018. [http://en.wataninet.com/features/education/education-reform-here-we-come/23823/] The new system should take Egyptian education from one based on tedious rote learning to one focused on building skills, nurturing creative abilities, and fostering critical thinking. Education Minister Tarek Shawky and Health Minister Hala Zayed attended the respective sessions.
“The national project for the information infrastructure of the Egyptian State” was among the topics that warranted a session for discussion.
“Shouldn’t I feel hurt?”
The final session announced the conference resolutions as:
Declaring 2019 a year of education; youth expert training at the National Academy for Training; enhancing artistic, cultural and sports activities in universities; launching the national project for developing education; allocating 20 per cent of scholarships for teaching staff for 10 years; establishing a state-of-the-art centre for teaching and training teachers according to international standards; and assigning the Cabinet and the Supreme Council of Universities with sponsoring sports and cultural and artistic activities in Egyptian universities.
The last day of the conference saw the session “Ask the President” during which the young people posed to the President any questions they wished to ask.
President Sisi was candid in expressing his grief at a hashtag launched by activists calling for him to leave. “We are a needy nation,” he said, “needy on several fronts: the economic, social, and security fronts. I have been working so hard for us to get out of this needy condition. Then I find people saying ‘Sisi, leave!’ You don’t think I should feel hurt? Well, I do!”
Empowering persons with disabilities
Another conference held a day later, 30 July, under the title “Merging, Empowerment, and Participation was organised by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (CIT) organised in Cairo, under sponsorship of President Sisi, with the aim of empowering persons with disabilities. It featured an exhibition on ‘Assisting Technology’, the technological tools that facilitate the daily lives of people with disabilities.
The president honoured a number of successful persons with disability: Tarek Hossam Eddin; Islam Saber; Amr Abdel-Aziz; Asmaa Muhammad; Ahmed Zakareya; and Nada Ahmed. He said: “We are looking forward to a society where all are equal in rights and duties. We cannot realise this without using assisting technology. Hence the exhibition on ‘Assisting Technology’.
“The Egyptian State,” he added, “would certainly do much more effort to create a suitable climate for our sons and daughters with special needs so that they will be able to launch their creative abilities and become active members in all fields of life.”
The President announced the establishment of a ‘technical centre for services for disabled persons’ to be the first of its kind in Africa. The centre would enable people with hearing or speech disability to use assisting technology to communicate through mobile phones. He also announced the establishment of a ‘national academy for information technology for people with disabilities’ which would be a regional hub for training persons with disabilities from Arab and African countries. It would qualify them for decent employment opportunities; and stimulate their innovative capacities.
A documentary screened took viewers on a tour of the home of engineer Tarek Hossam Eddin, a quadriplegic and one of the honourees, who works at a communications company. Engineer Hossam Eddin succeeded in setting up a control system for everything in the house through cell phones; sensors; and a security circuit.
Rising from the ashes of the Arab Spring
Earlier in 2018, on 24 July, Watani reported extensively on the opening of eight power plants in various sites in Egypt. The new power plants produce 14.4 gigawatts of clean energy, boosting Egypt’s power generation by 50 per cent.
In March 2018, President Sisi inaugurated the first phase of the coastal city of New Alamein, a city resort set to be the gem of Egypt’s Nort Coast on the Mediterranean.
And on 14 February 2018 Watani attempted to give a roundup of the mega projects in Egypt ever since 2014, after the July 2013 overthrow of the Muslim Brothers who had come to power on the wings of the 2011 Arab Spring, and who had seen Egypt’s economy tumble. It may do well to point that that it was almost impossible to list them al; we had to do with a good representative sample.
22 August 2018