Egypt has recently unveiled an ambitious plan for unprecedented economic development. Daring to target such lofty goals as 6 percent economic growth and a 10 percent reduction in unemployment in just five years, Egypt has positioned itself as the nexus for new business ventures in the Arab world.
Egypt, the world’s largest Arab country, held a much anticipated investment summit earlier this month which attracted business and state officials from around the world. The Egypt Economic Development Conference was a three day showcase of potential business opportunity in infrastructure projects, shipping expansion, energy initiatives and resource development. Speakers for the event included a Nobel Laureate in chemistry, a BBC New anchor, a social entrepreneur and other knowledgeable business officials. In addition to the goals regarding GDP and unemployment reduction, the economic development resulting from these projects will help to stabilize the nation through societal progress and employment opportunity.
The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have pledged $4 billion each, with most going to the central bank but about $1 billion going directly into enterprise investments. Oman has pledged $500 million in grants and investments as well.
General Electric has will invest $200 million in a new manufacturing and training facility near the Suez Canal. While quite impressive, this investment pales in comparison to GE’s commitment regarding Egyptian energy development. GE recently delivered the first 34 gas turbines which will be used in a $1.9 billion energy development project.
All of this coincides with a tremendous expansion of the Suez Canal. The canal is being dredged and widened to allow more traffic which will increase shipping and trade. In addition to the benefit of more shipping lanes, the area around the canal will be developed to support business, logistical hubs and modern infrastructure. $8.5 billion has been raised for the project through the issue of bonds.
These advancements mirror Egypt’s desire to redefine itself and its role in the region. With instability in Libya and throughout the Middle East, nations of permanence, stability and progress are needed. The summit also emphasizes Egypt’s desire to work in concert with other Arab powers both in business and in combating extremism. This focus on regional stability has not gone unnoticed. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked during a recent visit to Egypt, that unfreezing of military aid to Egypt would occur “very soon”. These developments reveal that this North African nation will continue to play an increasingly vital role in the Middle East, Africa and the global community.