CAIRO: Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul Naga signed agreements with China s Ambassador to Egypt Wu Sike yesterday to build a one-stop shop for investors in the industrial zone northwest of the Gulf of Suez as well as a school in 6th of October City.
The Chinese government will contribute $10 million toward the construction of the investor center; the industrial zone northwest of Suez already has a number of businesses from China and elsewhere.
China s relationship with the zone is not new, says Ziad Bahaa El Din, chairman of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI). It began when the law establishing this zone was issued and during planning for the zone.
The center will provide a range of commercial services. This building will operate as a one-stop shop, says Bahaa El Din. We started implementing this concept in Egypt at GAFI, but we are pleased with Chinese cooperation to transfer their experience, not only in the construction of the building but also in the method of its use and of services to investors.
Wu explains that the facilitation of Chinese investment in Egypt was one of the items discussed with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif during a recent visit by senior officials from China. I hope this building may play a role in encouraging investors from around the world to invest in Egypt, in this zone and elsewhere, says Wu.
Bahaa El Din, who took over responsibility for the zone last month, adds that the lack of direct contacts between Chinese and Egyptian businesses may have historically restrained investment and anticipates that recent intensification of visits in both directions, together with the establishment of the investment center, will help make the zone a more significant industrial location.
Language has also been an obstacle, and Wu cites the difficulty of obtaining information on procedures as one of the major challenges faced by Chinese businesses. GAFI currently provides its publication in Arabic and English, but it is starting to translate some of its material into Mandarin in an effort to improve the flow of information to Chinese investors.
In terms of education, the Chinese government will contribute $3.7 million for the construction of a school that will provide regular primary and secondary education as well as courses in Mandarin.
This school will teach the Chinese language and also Chinese culture and history, explains Minister of Education Yousry El-Gamal, as a starting point for openness towards China and as a starting point also to increase understanding of Chinese culture and language, which is the most important key to culture. This is a very important step and we hope that this will be followed by further steps so that we can indeed find educational institutions [in Egypt] that reflect Chinese thought and culture.
China previously supported a project for distance learning that connected 40 locations electronically. We hope that this will be expanded, because the development of technology and educational methods require cooperation in this regard, says El Gabal.
This month marks 50 years since Egypt officially recognized the Chinese government in Beijing.
Egypt was the first Arab country and the first African country to establish diplomatic relations with China, says Abul Naga. President Mubarak visited China eight times, and this reflects the importance the political leadership and government in Egypt attaches to relations with China … The two agreements we just signed moments ago are an important indication of the strengthening of these ties.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is scheduled to visit Cairo on Jun. 17 and 18 as part of a tour of African countries.