Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1283, (18 - 24 February 2016)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1283, (18 - 24 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Investing in Upper Egypt

A trade fair in Sohag is highlighting investment opportunities in Upper Egypt, reports Ahmed Kotb

Al-Ahram Weekly

Businessmen, manufacturers and service providers gathered this week to participate in the “Made in Sohag” trade fair, held to exhibit various products and services and attract investors to the Upper Egyptian governorate.

According to Ahmed Al-Nazer, head of the Sohag Chamber of Commerce, the fair showcases products from the craftsmen and local industries in the Sohag governorate, including garments, carpets, furniture and food products.

“It is a good opportunity to attract investors who can help develop local industries and provide job opportunities,” he said.

The governorates of Upper Egypt have been searching for investment after a development conference scheduled for the summer of 2015 to highlight investment opportunities in the region was delayed to an unknown date.

Like the Egypt Economic Development Conference, which took place in March 2015, the Upper Egypt Investment and Development Conference sought to attract a large number of investors to the southern governorates by presenting them with exceptional opportunities.

“Upper Egypt is rich in resources, and its development has become essential after decades of negligence,” said Al-Nazer. The Sohag governorate, he added, has succeeded in preparing its infrastructure to be ready for new projects in different fields.

Investments in Sohag, and Upper Egypt in general, should not wait for the outcomes of the conference, he added.

According to the Ministry of Investment, some 100 investment opportunities were prepared for unveiling at the conference, which was also delayed in November because of the parliamentary elections.

Government officials have repeatedly said that Upper Egypt has been significantly “marginalised”, in regards to investment and development opportunities, despite its having huge potential backed by manpower and land.

The conference was seen as an opportunity to mark a new phase for this “neglected” part of the country, as experts prefer to put it.

“The conference was important in order to draw needed international and local attention to Upper Egypt, but we do not have to wait for it in order to start developing projects and infrastructure,” Al-Nazer said, adding that there are currently 22 industrial zones in Upper Egypt and these could be increased with proper management.

“Four industrial zones currently exist in the Sohag governorate alone, and these are expanding with new projects underway,” he added.

Al-Nazer explained that four solar plants are being established, in addition to a steel factory, ceramics and cement factories, and a “massive amusement park”.

 However, it is not easy to start a business in Sohag in comparison to other governorates, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2016 report. The report says that Sohag ranks 12th among 15 Egyptian cities when it comes to starting a business. It also comes 9th in dealing with construction permits and 6th in registering property and enforcing contracts.

The main obstacle to doing business in Upper Egypt has often been the transport infrastructure, but Al-Nazer said that the main roads in the Sohag governorate have been repaved recently and new hotels established for accommodating investors. The governorate’s airport had also been developed.

“The services needed for investment and businesses in Upper Egypt are getting better all the time,” he said, adding that he hoped the trade fair will attract investors from all over Egypt.

Ashraf Salman, the minister of investment, told the media at a recent press conference that investment in Upper Egypt is expected to reach LE400 billion through 100 projects to be unveiled at the future conference.

According to the minister, the projects will encourage trade and the agricultural and industrial development of Upper Egypt, which contributes approximately 15 per cent of Egypt’s GDP.

Investors would be even more encouraged, he said, after new incentives are introduced in hitherto remote areas, including allocating land for investment at zero cost.

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