In his address to the Egypt Economic Development Conference, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al Sisi said the country requires US$200 to US$300 billion in order to see real change.
Sisi reiterated many of the investment deals and grant agreements signed or announced during the conference, which by some estimates could total as much as US$130 billion. This figure includes deals that had previously been agreed to, such as a $12 billion gas deal with BP, and non-binding memoranda of understanding.
During the confernce, the government unveiled plans to build what’s being called New Capital Cairo, an administrative and business center for Egypt, which is to be built from the ground up.
A series of energy projects have been announced, including deals with German firm Siemens and US-based GE, that could add 13 gigawatts to Egypt’s electricity grid, Sisi said.
Sisi recounted his efforts to get contractors to reduce both the cost and the construction time to complete them.
“We said no, we can’t wait 10 years for the new capital because by then we would have increased 26 million people at this rate, and time is critical,” he said. The project is now running on a five-year timeline.
“We are really late, even running is not enough. That’s why in all my conversations with the companies, I tell them we’re in a hurry.”
This echoes past decisions by Sisi, who pushed for the an extension of the Suez Canal to be completed in one year rather than three years as originally planned, a move that experts say increased costs and required the digging to be completed by foreign firms rather than local contractors.
According to Sisi, not only have foreign companies agreed to move faster, they have also reduced their quotes for the project. “I have asked companies to decrease the expenses of projects and they obliged, for Egypt’s sake,” he added.
The president suggested that if developed countries want to help Egypt, they should finance their companies in order to allow them to invest in Egypt. “The commitment of Egyptians to pay back is beyond doubt.”
On Egypt’s side, the president said, “We want to build our country and give hope to people and, to this end, we will do everything legitimate.”
Throughout Sisi’s speech, he was greeted with applause, and cheers of “Long Live Egypt” from the audience. Although he encouraged the “Long Live Egypt” chants, he stopped supporters who tried to change the chant to “Long Live Sisi.” At one point, he invited the young organizers of the conference to join him onstage, creating a stir of excitement, including one young woman who was moaning with happiness on stage.
Against a backdrop of rapturous support from the audience, Sisi alluded to Egypt’s past upheavals, noting the January 2011 revolution that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak and the June 2013 uprising that pushed out Mohamed Morsi and brought in the current regime.
He emphasized that Egyptians were in charge of their own destiny, but that he wouldn’t let things get to the point where they demanded another change in government.
“When Egyptians wanted change on January 25, they made it happen, and again on June 30. If they want to change again they will make it happen, but I would never wait for that to happen,” he said.
While reflecting on the deals sealed at the conference, Sisi also pointed to plans still unrealized, such as the development of new governorates on desert land the government hopes to reclaim.
“We’re doing a lot, but because what’s required is even more, the results haven’t shown yet,” he said.
To this end, Sisi thanked the conference attendees, and announced that Egypt plans to make the development conference an annual event.
“We want to repeat the experience every year, but to include all countries with difficult economic circumstances, and I invite everyone here to return next year,” he said.