Saudi Arabia await economic refreshmentEconomic experts anticipate economic refreshment for Egyptian-Saudi relations driven by the already signed agreements with Saudi Arabia, noting that both countries signed in March investment agreements worth $10bn, to develop 1,000 square km of land in South Sinai, and committed the territories to Saudi’s ‘Neom’ project, which aims to build a new megacity. The agreements were signed during Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Egypt.
Moreover, Daily News Egypt exclusively received a document from the General Authority For Investment and free zones upon request, showing that Saudi firms in Egypt number 4,920 companies, offering 123,269 job opportunities, and Saudi investments worth about $6.292bn, covering the period from early 1970 till end of July 2018.
Rakha Ahmed, former assistant to the Egyptian foreign affairs minister, said that the planned projects between Egypt and Saudi Arabia are very important for both countries, including the planned bridge which will connect Saudi Arabia with the Greater Arab Maghreb countries and Atlantic ocean, calling on both governments to announce the implementation of the latest agreements which were declared but have yet to be implemented.
Main stages of political cooperation
Rakha Ahmed said that relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia are historical despite some normal different political views, adding, “following the 25 January revolution in Egypt, joint relations suffered a real cooling period despite continuous communication between both countries’ officials.”
The Saudi foreign affairs ministry affirmed on many occasions its support for Egypt specially after the 30 June revolution, which was followed by threats from some foreign countries to cut their support to Egypt, noted Ahmed, adding, “I remember Saudi’s former Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s announcement in Paris where he said that his country is ready to compensate Egypt if other countries cut their support.”
Ahmed added that both countries have some different views regarding specific regional issues, including Syria, as Egypt believes in the safe solution and respects the Syrian peoples’ choice, while Saudi Arabia thinks that the current Syrian regime must go away, noting, “Saudi Arabia and Egypt are collaborating on the Yemen issue discussions as Egypt views Yemen as a strategic partner because of its importance for the Suez canal’s safety.”
Joint cooperation with Saudi Arabia is diversified and includes economic, trade, scientific, and technical aspects, said Ahmed, elaborating that there are huge Saudi investments in Egypt, countless Saudi nationals studying in Egyptian schools and universities, while a wide tranche of Egyptians work in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia announced its plans to invest significantly in the Egyptian market on the sidelines of both visits by Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince in March 2018, and Saudi King Salman’s trip to Egypt in 2016, said Ahmed.
Saudi Arabia showered Egypt with billions of dollars in aid since 2013, when Al-Sisi ousted elected President Mohammed Morsi from the banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, which Riyadh opposes, according to media reports.
Notably, in March 2018, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi welcomed Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, the Deputy Premier and Defence Minister who paid a three-day official visit to the country. The Saudi crown prince was accompanied by a number of the Saudi ministers and senior officials.
President Al-Sisi and the crown prince then headed for the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis where they held a meeting, followed by expanded talks at the level of the two countries’ delegations. President Al Sisi welcomed the Saudi crown prince’s visit, the first official one since he took over as Crown Prince.
The meeting addressed different aspects of bilateral relations, mainly economic and investment ones. President AL-Sisi and the Saudi Crown Prince agreed to continue facing interference in regional affairs.
It is worth mentioning that President Al-Sisi visited Saudi Arabia several times which affirms the strong ties between both countries.
Experts clarify activating the bilateral signed agreements’ importance
Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed in March investment agreements worth $10bn, to develop 1,000 square km of land in South Sinai, and committed the territories to Saudi’s ‘Neom’ project, which aims to build a new megacity, the media reported, adding that the agreements were signed during Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Egypt.
Al-Sisi and bin Salman discussed launching numerous joint projects, notably in the tourism sector in the Red Sea, aiming to maximise the large potential for touristic developments, stated Egypt’s presidency.
The Neom project was launched by bin Salman in October 2017, and is a promising Saudi project which seeks to build future cities. The project will develop territories within Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia committed a joint fund worth $10 bn for the Neom project’s investment in Egyptian territories. The two countries also signed an environment agreement to embark on establishing projects within the ‘Red Sea Project’, while protecting the maritime environment and preserving coral reefs and beaches.
Saudi Arabia will establish seven tourism projects, 50 resorts on the Red Sea, and four small cities within the Red Sea Project.
The agreement stipulates the development of lands between the Neom project and the Red Sea Project. In addition, three tourist destinations will be established, which will include islands and beaches, as well as over 15 maritime destinations and hundreds of resorts, according to media reports.
Ahmed noted that petrol prices increased recently, which will support Saudi’s economic situation and offer additional liquidity to activate the previously agreed upon projects.
Meanwhile, Youmn Al-Hamakki, an economic analyst, said that Egyptian-Saudi relations are solid and enjoy a great prospect for boasting the economic cooperation, adding that Saudi investments in Egypt are important for offering Egyptians many job opportunities.
Daily News Egypt exclusively received a document from General Authority For Investment and free zones upon request, showing that Saudi firms in Egypt number 4,920 companies, offering 123,269 job opportunities, with Saudi investments worth about $6.292bn, covering the period from early 1970 till end of July 2018. The document added that the number of Saudi firms in Cairo are 2,231 firms offering 29,211 job opportunities with investments worth $2.4bn.
Al-Hamakki mentioned that there were significant agreements signed between both countries, and while there weren’t activated, he called for a follow-up committee to help activate these agreements.
Al-Hamakki noted that the signed agreements with Saudi Arabia are very important and represent genuine opportunities for current cooperation opportunities, adding, “we all notice the increased endeavours of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in terms of the visits and signed agreements.”
Saudi Arabia is the biggest receiver of Egyptian expatriates whose remittances play a vital role for supporting the Egyptian economy, noted Al-Hamakki, mentioning that despite Saudi plans, Egypt can benefit by offering its technical expertise in the industrial sector development, especially for female entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, Al-Hamakki said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia should conduct detailed studies on how they can benefit from one another’s comparative advantage, in order to ensure complementary development cooperation.